Confronting the Government on Inequalities –pre-conference memorandum to the opposition

Subject:      Labour Party Conference – put equalities back on the agenda

To:               Kate Green MP, shadow minister for women and equalities

Cc:              Stephen Twigg MP, shadow secretary of state for education

Date:          17 September 2013

From:          Thousands of concerned citizens

 

EXTREMELY URGENT

1)   Thank you, Kate, for your fiercely forthright response on 12 September to the government’s review of the public sector equality duty (PSED) ‘This,’ you said, ‘was an unnecessary and wasteful exercise in PR by a government which is turning the clock back on equalities.’

2)   Referring to the committee that produced the report on the PSED you noted it ‘seems to have endorsed a “do as little as possible” approach to promoting equality, at a time when disabled people, women, black and ethnic minority groups are being hit especially hard by this government. At a time when many people are worried about paying their next bill, the government should be concentrating on tackling the inequalities and discrimination that continue to hold people back rather than seeking to water down existing equalities laws.’ What, Kate, are you going to do to follow this up? Read more of this post

‘Let’s Cut Out Equality’ The independent steering group’s report of the public sector equality duty (PSED) review, September 2013

Robin Richardson 

Image © Evan-amos

On Friday 6 September a new report crept out from the government equalities office (GEO). It emerged without the company of an official press release and the only media coverage on that day was in the Telegraph and the Mail. Both these papers had apparently been influenced by a private, off-the-record briefing about how the authors of the report (or, anyway, some of them) wished equalities legislation to be trivialised, ridiculed and dismissed. ‘How many lesbians have you disciplined?’ asked the headline about the report in the Mail. The headline was followed by a summary of the report which it purported to be describing: ‘Pointless red tape condemned in new report into how public bodies have become obsessed by equality’.

The Telegraph headline was marginally less sensationalist: ’Red tape “overkill” leaves public bodies counting number of lesbians disciplined’. The heading continued: ‘Equalities rules have sent public bodies into a pointless “red-tape overkill”, a landmark report commissioned by David Cameron will warn today [6 September]’.  Incidentally, there is no reference in the report itself to lesbians, nor does the word overkill appear, nor is there any claim in the report that it was commissioned by the prime minister. It seems clear that the coverage in the Telegraph and Mail was based essentially on an unofficial briefing, not on a reading of the actual report. Read more of this post

Oh what a circus, what a show…

Legal Eagle

Image © Alastair Rose

The Administrators (TSAs) carrying out the consultation process into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, held a meeting last night before a massive audience. The traffic congested near the County Showground, an apt venue for this consultation circus, which has apparently; thus far cost many millions of pounds. It would be interesting to get a break down of the figures, easy enough to organise an audit, after all bean counters are dominating this process. No doubt some of the money went into producing the slick twenty-minute video, which the audience was subjected to and the administrators hid behind (a shield as well as a sword). The video a weak attempt to pacify the multitude, it only increased the anger; it simply highlighted what everybody already knew, provision reduced, or abolished. Maternity gone and Stafford will no longer have an Accident and Emergency department after 10pm. Read more of this post

Review of new pamphlet from the Socialist Education Association

Robin Richardson

Image© Keith Edkins

‘We hold,’ say the Tories and Lib Dems with their actions, though not with their exact words unless behind closed doors, ‘this truth to be self-evident, that human beings are born unequal.’  They continue – again with deeds rather than with explicit policy discourse – along lines such as the following: ‘It is urgent that we should return the education system to the essential role which it always played in the past, which is to prepare children and their parents for inequality, and to accept and appreciate inequality. Those who deserve to prosper will do so, for our desire is simply to set people  free from state intervention and control. Those who do not deserve to prosper, due to their lack of intelligence, energy or aspirations, will be treated with compassion, in so far as resources permit. But basically we say to them, tough, that’s life. In these various ways we are making the world safe for capitalism in its neoliberal variety. Everyone will benefit, of course, even if some do not yet realise this.’ Read more of this post

EQUALITIES AND ACCOUNTABILITY – THE PUPIL PREMIUM

Bill Bolloten, Sameena Choudry and Robin Richardson 

Image © Chris Ensell

The pupil premium grant (PPG) is a flagship government scheme for schools. Next week it will be praised and celebrated at the 2013 pupil premium awards ceremony organised in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE).

An independent panel of experts has judged which schools have best used the PPG to make a real difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

However, almost two-thirds of the 48 schools that have been named as regional winners or commended for the awards ceremony have so far failed to comply fully with regulations relating to accountability. Also, about four-fifths of them appear to have ignored or misunderstood the regulations concerning accountability in the Equality Act 2010.

‘Take it and use it as you think fit. But …’ Read more of this post

Michael Gove: Poor listening skills are education department`s core problem…

Dan Walsh  

So our education secretary has unveiled his tremendous plan to repair British education. He believes in more rigour. I’m with you Mr Gove. Driving up standards? Yes with you there too. But your utter inability to listen to what people are saying means your policies have the opposite effect from that which you allegedly intended. The man has a very legitimate point when he talks about grade inflation and so forth. British exam results have been colossally high for a long time yet our standards of literacy, numeracy and other key skills lag behind much of the rest of Europe. This is a direct result of a curriculum and statistic obsessed approach which means children are taught to pass exams rather than to learn. Exams have become almost a glorified memory test which doesn’t necessarily equate to a well rounded and capable person. I say this without remotely intending to belittle the great efforts many students undoubtedly make at school and I’m not suggesting that exams are simply ‘easy’ but schools strategically teaching to boost their league table results is not the approach that should be taken to educate a child. I’m not completely blaming the schools – politicians looking to make cheap political points are the root cause of this educational problem. If the prime minister can stand at the dispatch box and say ‘results are up by such and such a percentage’ it sounds good even if it overlooks the fact that our actual standards comparable to Europe are not so good. Read more of this post

EQUALITY AND THE DRAFT HISTORY CURRICULUM

Katherine Edwards 

Image© John Addison, Print, Government Office, East India Co St Helena

At the recent memorial service to mark the twentieth anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Prime Minister spoke of Stephen’s death as having brought ‘monumental change’ to British society.  Those of us concerned about the implications for equality and multiculturalism in the proposed new history curriculum found the irony of this comment hard to take.

One of the recommendations of the 1999 Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence case was a ‘National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society’. Yet although there are good grounds for thinking that this aim has been taken seriously in the education system up to now, we need to be clear about what a stark reversal the new draft national curriculum for history represents.  If it comes into force, it is very likely to set the recommendations of the Macpherson Report back by at least a generation.  Read more of this post

The UK is hungry for change…

Legal Eagle  

Image© Derek Harper

You will eat by and by, in the glorious land in the sky, way up high, work and pray and live on hay, you`ll get pie in the sky when you die…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of EP Thompson`s The Making of The English Working Class, which Phillip Dodd recently described as a formidable account of class development. This is rather ironic, given that in 2013 we are witnessing the pauperisation of this very same, once proud class. Last Saturday, the Guardian ran an excellent piece on `The human cost of recession` by Chris Menon and Sophie Robinson-Tillett. The article dealt with the seemingly paradoxical situation of comparatively low UK unemployment levels coinciding with a drastic drop in the standard of living for many in work. People it seems are in employment, though frequently engaged on temporary contracts, usually part-time with sporadic adjustments in hours. Workers are increasingly denied a contract of employment. If an individual is paid an income which barely meets their needs, what are they expected to do if they are denied further support? Read more of this post

PRIDE, GUILT AND POLITICS IN THE HISTORY CURRICULUM: A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE

Katherine Edwards 

Image© Department for Education

Should history be about encouraging national pride, or perhaps facing up to collective guilt?  The emotive nature of this question might explain some of the vehemence behind the current controversy over the new curriculum.  There are some who perceive that history lessons are currently ‘denigrating this country’, such as Chris McGovern, Chairman of The Campaign for Real Education.  One the other hand the idea of a curriculum designed to ‘celebrate the distinguished role of these islands in the history of the world’ as Gove put it, has provoked outrage among many who feel that it is not the place of the history curriculum to encourage patriotism.  History teachers and academics have emerged from their classrooms, libraries and lecture rooms to enter the public debate in the press, online and on the airwaves as never before, and formed pressure groups such as Defend School History, the Facebook campaign Save School History and an e-petition to scrap the changes and ‘Keep the History Curriculum Politically Neutral’. Read more of this post

What if Jim Callaghan had won the 1979 election? – education and society in multi-ethnic Britain, an essay in subjunctive history

Image © Allan Warren

Robin Richardson

‘Thinking about what might have happened,’ says a character in The History Boys by Alan Bennett, ‘alerts you to the consequences of what did.’ Another character replies: ‘It’s subjunctive history … The subjunctive is the mood you use when something might or might not have happened, when it’s imagined.’

‘We told Rampton,’ reflected and rejoiced people of African-Caribbean heritage in Britain in 1981, ‘and Rampton told the world.’ Anthony Rampton’s report, West Indian Children in our Schools, had been warmly welcomed by the prime minister, James Callaghan, and by the secretary of state for education, Shirley Williams. The report’s essential message was that England’s education system was institutionally racist. Day by day in schools, it declared, a perfect storm of customs and policies worked against the interests of Black people and to the advantage and benefit of white people. This was an uncomfortable message for Mr Callaghan, who had not said anything remotely similar in his celebrated Ruskin speech in 1976. But his positive response to the Rampton report, supported and reinforced by Mrs Williams, laid the foundations for one of the most exciting and sustained  revolutions in education and society that these islands have ever seen.

Rampton’s document was the interim report of a committee of inquiry set up by Mrs Williams in 1979. Her decision to create the committee had been informed by a report published in 1977 by the House of Commons select committee on race relations and immigration; by the damning claim in 1969 by E J B Rose (co-founder of the Runnymede Trust) in his magisterial Colour and Citizenship that African-Caribbean children  were ‘a source of bafflement, embarrassment and despair in the education system’, and that they ‘often presented problems which the average teacher was not equipped to understand, let alone to overcome’; and by a seminal essay published in 1971 by a young teacher in London named Bernard Coard, who had been born in Grenada. Read more of this post

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