ContactPoint counters terrorism…

June 5, 2007

Another miracle wrought by the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda:

Information sharing is helping to combat Islamic radicalisation of teenage boys and tackle gang culture, Lambeth’s director of children’s services said last week. Phyllis Dunipace explained the approach at Children Now’s information sharing conference in Manchester last week.

She said information sharing was allowing schools in the south London borough to raise concerns about individual pupils who teachers suspect may be involved with Islamic extremists or criminal gangs.

Her final comment is spot-on:

“We’ve got to recognise there are some things happening in our society that we ignore at our peril”


New-fangled technology

June 4, 2007

This video clip is the funniest I’ve seen in months.

The Queen of Antisocia

June 2, 2007

An absolutely cracking post from Not Saussure on the subject of Louise Casey, the ‘respect tsar’. No point in wasting words when we couldn’t possibly better NS, so we’ll settle for reminding you what we last said about her instead.

Tellus to clear off

June 2, 2007

There’s quite a furore over the latest Ofsted ‘Tellus’ survey:

Parents expressed their anger after discovering that Ofsted is asking children as young as 10 personal questions about their home life.

About 120,000 pupils have already been questioned on how often they get drunk or smoke, and whether their mothers are in paid work – for an online survey.

Ofsted has told schools they do not need to ask parents’ permission before pupils complete the survey, which will create a national database to be used by 145 English councils.

The survey was first carried out 2 years ago, when it was designed simply to elicit the views of children about their school and the quality of leisure provision in their area. It contained 14 straightforward questions and seemed a pretty sensible ‘horse’s mouth’ strategy to us.

This time, ‘Tellus2’ asks 39 questions and tips over from asking for children’s views to asking for their personal data as well. Did someone just say ‘function creep’?

Why are they doing this? The BBC has got it right:

The inspection watchdog said the results of its Tellus2 survey – covering home life, health and bullying – would be used to help local authorities assess their success in meeting the needs of children and young people.

Ah. It’s back to the ‘Outcomes Framework’ – those 26 Public Service Agreement Targets and 13 ‘Key Indicators’ that have been imposed upon local authorities by the government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda. We always wondered how on earth they would actually manage to measure how many children were meeting the fruit’n’veg’, smoking prevention and working mother targets.

If schools and parents are angry now, we must warn that things can only get worse: LAs are planning to issue their own surveys in order to gather performance-indicator data, on top of the information already gathered by ‘Tellus2’. The Q & A sheet on the Ofsted ‘Tellus’ site contains this:

Q4. This is going to overlap with LA’s own surveys. Should we run separate surveys or can Local Authorities add their own questions to the national one?

A4. We are aware that some local authorities already have plans in place to run their own surveys of children and young people in schools this year. We sincerely regret instances where there has not been enough notice given to prevent overlap between any such surveys and Tellus2. For this year there will be no provision for LAs to add their own questions to Tellus2 or to run the survey more widely. However, we are actively considering whether the survey could be expanded next year to incorporate such options.

If the NUT is worried by ‘Tellus’, then it’s to be hoped that they will be as opposed to LA surveys as they are to this Ofsted offering. LAs will then have to work out how to collect their wretched perfomance data by other means – or accept that it’s none of their damned business anyway.

Alternatively, children will soon get questionnaire-fatigue and make up the answers. So long as the results show an upward trend, it seems unlikely that LAs will object. They will keep the government off their backs, children will maintain their privacy, and the government will have lots of statistics to show how their policy has improved children’s lives. If you exclude the bamboozled electorate and the council-taxpayers who foot the bill, it’s a win-win situation.

NB the easiest way to find copies of the questionnaires is to Google (sorry) “Tellus survey” and “Tellus2 survey”

Not as guilty as you thought

June 1, 2007

A very significant judgment in the High Court about ‘doli incapax’ – the presumption that a child aged between 10 and 14 cannot commit a criminal offence, which must be rebutted by the prosecution. In other words, they must show that the child could fully appreciate that they had done wrong. Not as knee-jerkingly simple as it sounds – see one of our earlier posts on the subject of moral consequences.

It was widely believed that s4 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 had abolished doli incapax, but not so, says the High Court:

Although there may not in the past have been any clear recognition that the defence existed separately from the presumption by which it was applied, it seemed that the defence must have been capable of existing without being attached to the presumption.

…as a matter of general principle the burden should remain on the Crown to prove that the child had the requisite understanding. Morever, the standard of proof should be the usual criminal standard.

The full judgment is here. I can’t imagine that the government is too pleased, but perhaps this country will now lose the stigma of having one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in Europe.

Silver rings and STIs

June 1, 2007

On Slate, there’s an interesting review of a new book on the ‘abstinence’ school of sex education in the US, and the potentially dangerous results:

When evangelical parents say they talk to their kids about sex, they mean the morals, not the mechanics. In a quiz on pregnancy and health risks associated with sex, evangelicals scored very low. Evangelical teens don’t accept themselves as people who will have sex until they’ve already had it. As a result, abstinence pledgers are considerably less likely than nonpledgers to use birth control the first time they have sex. “It just sort of happened,” one girl told the researchers, in what could be a motto for this generation of evangelical teens.