Baverstock Academy shoes fracas!

This is not the first time young people have been sent home from schools because they do not meet the required uniform policy in some way and I am sure it will not be the last but is it the right course of action to take?

Although a school uniform policy can be beneficial to schools pupils and parents this is only when it is correctly implemented. If it is not, and where changes are made part way through a year then there is the risk of marginalising and disadvantaging both young people and their parents.

The cost of school uniform, particularly for senior school years, is already high with the majority of items having to be purchased from specialist shops. Bringing in a change to the current policy, even with a six week notice period, can cause financial hardship to parents, especially where they have more than one child in that school. If you are going to change uniform policy then this needs to be done sensibly and with due regard to parents and young people.

[1]DSCF guidance stated:

Consideration surely should be given to the timeframe for introducing a new uniform policy or amending an existing one. Factors should include the length of time before the pupil leaves the school and a transitional period for phasing out the old uniform and introducing the new one should be considered.

Where a pupil is not adhering to school uniform policy, a school should be considerate and discreetly try to establish why not. There may be good reasons why a pupil is not attending school in the correct uniform. For example, their uniform may have been lost, stolen or damaged. Sending the pupil home or excluding them may not be appropriate in every case. If a pupil is not wearing the correct uniform because their parents are in financial difficulties, a school should be sensitive to the needs of the pupil. A school should give parents time to purchase the required items and/or consider whether a school or local authority clothing grant can be supplied. A pupil should not be made to feel uncomfortable, nor discriminated against, because their parents are unable to provide them with the required items of school uniform.

In 2010 Michael Gove, the then Secretary for Education for the Tories renamed the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to the Department of Education and with this change he sanctioned [2]new guidelines:

Pupil non –compliance

Teachers can discipline pupils for breaching the school’s rules on appearance or uniform. This should be carried out in accordance with the school’s Published behaviour policy.

A head teacher, or a person authorised by the head teacher, may ask a pupil to go home briefly to remedy a breach of the school’s rules on appearance or uniform. When making this decision schools need to consider the child’s age and vulnerability, the ease and time it will take, and the availability of the child’s parents.

This is not an exclusion but an authorised absence. However, if the pupil continues to breach uniform rules in such a way as to be sent home to avoid school, or takes longer than is strictly necessary to effect the change, the pupil’s absence may be counted as an unauthorised absence. In either case the pupil’s parents must be notified and the absence should be recorded. If a school is considering excluding a pupil in response to breaches of uniform policy then this must be in line with the legal requirements for exclusion.

Sending young people home, or rather barring young people from the classroom and putting them in ‘holding pens’ (as reportedly happened at Baverstock) until they are collected by their parents is a ridiculous over reaction that undermines any level of rapport and respect between head teacher and pupil and potentially damages the relationship between home and school.

I really do hope that school governors examine this action and revisit their school policy to question if the prescribed treatment of young people is really conducive to ensuring the very best education that they can possibly provide for our young people in Birmingham and perhaps energies should rather be put into the development of a policy and practice around school uniform that removes stigmatisation and contributes to the wider target of the eradication of child poverty and disadvantage.

[1] DCSF – bit.ly/1OuRdvw

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/269113/school_uniform_guidance_2013.pdf

PSPO’s – an extra weapon in police armoury or another way of stigmatising young people?

Youth_2324745b

Birmingham City Council is the first council in the region to use a public space protection order (PSPO) in a crackdown on anti-social behaviour in Sheldon, Shard End, Gospel Farm in Acocks Green, and Bankside near Springfield.

The order bans:

  • the riding a motorcycle or quad bike “antisocially”
  • Groups of three or more people from ‘engaging in activities which are likely to cause nuisance, annoyance, harassment, alarm or distress’ including vandalism, littering and threats of violence.
  • Alcohol, graffiti and the taking of intoxicating substances
  • The wearing of face coverings in an attempt to conceal identity including scarves, balaclavas and masks

Whilst I agree with some of the banned activities that do create real problems for the residents in our communities like the inconsiderate riding of motorcycles and quads, alcohol, graffiti and drug taking which are real problems across many of our Wards, I have real concerns with some of the other activities banned, and that could have serious consequences for some young people.

Each PSPO creates new criminal offence, which can be punished by an on-the-spot fine of up to £100, or a fine upon conviction of up to £1000 and these offences can be determined by a police officer, a PCSO or by an officer of the Council.

How you ‘determine’ anti social activity is subjective and these PSPO’S could result in young people being criminalised merely for standing in a group or wearing a scarf that covers their face. I wear a scarf that covers my mouth and nose in this cold weather; will I be the subject of a PSPO?

The creation of these unnecessary new offences such as ‘causing an annoyance’ is unlikely to increase young people’s respect for the criminal law or public authority. Such behaviour might merit a telling off, not a fine and potential criminal record. Young people will be stigmatised, stereotyped and labelled.

Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe and whilst on the one hand we are working hard to champion the rights of young people it seems that on the other we are creating more and more rules and laws to control and even criminalise our young people. Drawing young people into the criminal justice system will have long lasting and negative affects and as a council, we must look at other options and other ways of tackling ‘problem’ behaviour.

My vote for #brumleader

  I’ve only been a councillor for little over 18 months, but already this is my third chance to cast a vote for who I want to be leader of my group and of the council. I didn’t expect to be picking a leader next week, and like many others I’m sure had this task tucked firmly away, ready for next May. But with this election, we have a lot to lose, and a lot to play for.
  I know many of my fellow councillors made their minds up quickly, without it seems encountering the trouble I have found in separating the candidates and identifying the chosen one! Not that surprising as we are all colleagues from the same party, with common principles and values. Above all, we all hold Birmingham’s future very dear and we all care deeply about the City and its citizens. That said, this was always going to be a difficult decision to make.
  I have held back from coming out to publicly support one candidate over another. I’ve sat back and listened, I’ve spoken to candidates and colleagues, and I’ve asked questions… lot’s of them.
  I deeply believe that the choice we make on Monday evening is not something to be rushed. It shouldn’t be an easy decision, it shouldn’t be one made for personal gain and it should not be one that we make under duress. But I’m ready to make that choice.
  Penny Holbrook is a great Cabinet member who has proved herself as being a smart cookie, and has boxed clever in her dealings around the Library of Birmingham. She has worked hard to ensure that there are opportunities for our young people, found ways to mitigate against frontline youth service cuts this year and has fully supported me in my role as Youth Champion. But, and it’s a big but, I don’t think she’s ready for the enormity of the task ahead and I think that deep down she knows this too.
  John Clancy, another colleague who has plenty of drive and passion and who is overflowing with ideas and policy suggestions. Having been that singular opponent over the past years he has shown strength and audacity in the face of ridicule and I respect him greatly for that. But my worry is that this is not a time to wipe the slate clean and start again. We need stability and focus to progress the priority areas that we as a council must address. I think John could be a good leader, one day – but not this day.
  We have unpalatable decisions to make about cuts to services because of the relentless drive for austerity by the government resulting in the disproportionate reductions to our funding. We have to demonstrate that we can take forward and make real progress on the multitude of recommendations placed upon us by Kerslake and we must prove to the Improvement Panel that collectively we can make the changes necessary.
  As a council, we face many challenges ahead of us. This will be no easy task, with no time for on the job learning, and no room for mistakes. If we are going to get through these critical times, then I firmly believe we need someone with the skills and experience to get on with the task. I believe Ian Ward is the only one who can offer us this.
PM2151859  Ian has promised “change, but not too much change“. But it is change in the areas that need it and this is crucial to what the Improvement Panel has highlighted many times – the need for a change in the culture and that as a council the need to be open and transparent and working in genuine partnership.
  As backbenchers, many of us have felt frustrated over the past year and have felt left out of the decision making processes that are so important in the democracy of local government. Ian has promised a style of leadership that draws on the talents of all, that consults and involves and recognises that there is the need for the Council to have a genuine relationship with all. This recognition extends to include partners and stakeholders, working together to form a collective solution to the immense challenges that we face.
  Our young population is a huge an asset to Birmingham, yet too many young people do not have the opportunities they need to grow, thrive and achieve the great things of which they are capable. In the hustings on Friday night, Ian gave us a brief glimpse of his vision for the young people of Birmingham and I found this inspiring and refreshing. Ian recognises and values the services supporting young people across the City and offers something that had been lacking –  genuine opportunities for all of our young people and not just a few.
  Ian understands the need for a city wide approach, a shared vision for what a Birmingham that is great for all our young people can and should look like. A vision that continues to empower young people, that works with them to ensure that they become the very best that they can be. And a vision that draws in all partners, stakeholders and business to make a meaningful and long lasting contribution to supporting the dreams and aspirations of our young citizens.
  The timing of this election could not be at a more critical juncture for us as a Council and for the City. I will be voting for Ian Ward. I believe he is the only candidate who can lead us safely along the treacherous path we must now take whilst championing the needs and interests of our great city and of all its citizens. I know that many of my fellow colleagues will be voting for Ian for many of the same reasons that I have outlined and will have reasons not touched upon here.
  This leadership is so vitally important for the Labour  group and for the Council to ensure that together we can work on and identify the solutions needed to tackle the huge issues that we face. I truly believe that we all wish to play our part in collectively taking forward Birmingham’s vision for all of its citizens and this can only be achieved if the leadership election on Monday results in Ian Ward becoming #brumleader.

The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’ | Lisa McKenzie | Society | The Guardian

Lisa McKenzie writes “…my research, my book, and my own journey as a working-class woman who has earned a career at the London School of Economics, shows how wrong the mainstream politicians have got this. I have fought hard to get to a place with the networks that will allow me to have a platform to speak and to be heard. And I will continue to fight.”

via The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’ | Lisa McKenzie | Society | The Guardian.

British values?

Have a read of Paul Bernal’s blog and his take on Gove’s “British values” – I’m with Paul on this one…

Paul Bernal's Blog

Whenever I hear the words ‘British values’ it sends shivers down my spine – and gives me a deep sense of suspicion as to the motives of those using the words. Michael Gove’s evocation is the latest but he’s far from alone – a good deal of UKIP’s ‘appeal’ rests on some kind of a sense of ‘British values’, while Labour are just as guilty of it as the Tories.

Perhaps I’m jaundiced – and perhaps it’s something about my age – but I’m also always reminded of the excellent Tom Robinson song ‘Power in the Darkness’, which sums it up for me. The key part is this:

“Today, institutions fundamental
To the British system of government are under attack
The public schools, the house of lords
The church of England, the holy institution of marriage
Even our magnificent police force are no longer safe
From those who would undermine…

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One of Britain’s holy cows?

I stayed in a violent marriage for 16 years and if you pay any credence to Messent’s argument that makes me one of Britain’s holy cows.

I met my first husband when I was just 18. By the time I was 23 we had become a family of four. The violence started just after the birth of our first child and I was beaten on an almost daily basis for the following fourteen years.

Messent’s article suggests that women who stay in abusive relationships are somehow to blame for their abuse. She victim blames by suggesting that ‘women allow themselves to be used as punch bags’ and fails to identify the very real fact that many women feel that they have no real choices.

Messent ends by asking “Why, then, is it also the offence so many women baulk at taking to court, their silence perpetuating the evils used to control them?”. This statement in itself provides the answer to her argument but she fails to recognise it and her article does nothing more than assist in perpetuating the common myths associated to domestic violence.

The tons of research undertaken over the years shows that women in violent relationships are more often than not isolated from family and friends and usually left financially dependent on the abuser.  We also know that even if women were able to leave, they are too scared to leave. This fact is totally ignored by Messent and the fact that more than 70 percent of violence happens after a woman has left. Messent’s statement that “The women who allow themselves to be used as punch bags are often their own worst enemies.” clearly shows this.

The reality of abuse and more importantly the reasons for staying in an abusive relationship are far more complex than Messent’s simplistic argument offers. But using this simplistic approach – women in abusive relationships have no power.

The effects of domestic violence touches every aspect of your life. If being beaten, bitten and kicked on a daily basis isn’t bad enough, then there is the sexual violence. Beaten, raped and made to feel worthless. You are isolated. You are humiliated. If someone tells you enough times that it is your fault…you start beginning to believe it. You become an unwilling accomplice in hiding it from others. Yes there are days when you want to be beaten – as this is better than waiting all day for the inevitable beating. There are days when you want to be beaten so that your kids don’t witness it when they come home from school. There are days when you want to be beaten so that you don’t get dragged out of work, humilated and then beaten.

It is far too easy to question the reason that women ‘choose to stay’ and to blame women when they don’t report the abuse to the police but when you are living in a violent relationship there are quite simply no easy solutions.

The 1 in 5 Myth: Are youth services value for money?

charl

It is easy to look at the figure that only 1 in 5 young people (20%) use youth clubs and think something is wrong, but there’s a lot going on beneath a simple headline. Statutory youth services are only one part of an offer to young people, and that in fact the highest use of youth clubs in the E.U is Ireland where ‘26% of young people in Ireland participate in youth clubs or organizations.’ (NYCI, 2012) Yet the same report found youth service were excellent value for money. So what lies behind the 1 in 5 number?

Read more from Informally Youth

Conservatives Condemn Themselves to Opposition

An interesting read from The Political Idealist

The Political Idealist

Press stories are circulating this morning about David Cameron’s determination to avoid a second-term coalition with the Liberal Democrats. It is said that Cameron wants a firm commitment in the Conservatives’ 2015 manifesto to rule out a power-sharing coalition in the event of another hung parliament. In the event of the Conservative Party failing to secure a majority, it would seek to form a single-party minority government. It’s fully understandable that Cameron feels the need to placate his party after it has spent the past 4 years having several of its favourite policies vetoed by the Lib Dems (or the “yellow peril” as one Conservative backbencher described them). Yet in doing so, Cameron has almost entirely eliminated the prospect of a second Conservative-led government.

There are several assumptions which lead to this conclusion. They are assumptions, but they are valid ones. Firstly, the Conservatives’ popularity peaked in 2010. After half…

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Stop unscrupulous employers exploiting loopholes

An interesting read from Gordonlyew…

Please listen to this important broadcast

I have to say that I fully concur with Ed Miliband when he said that he wanted to stop unscrupulous recruiting agencies from hiring cheap foreign labour well below the national minimum wages or living wage which most recruiting agencies and some industries which are guilty of and the cheek of the CBI to make claims that it would cripple the recovery of the economy. Yet they were the same organization with their bedroom partners the conservatives were heavily criticizing a Labour Government for introducing the national minimum wage.

The Confederation of British Industry(CBI) in my opinion cannot have its cake and wanting to eating at the same time as CBI has always been a strong opponent of Labour and they say that they are a politically free organization yet half of its membership are large donors to the Conservative party which they fail…

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