Michael Gove is to announce a new primary school curriculum.
Apparently, this will involve five-year-olds being required to learn poetry by heart and recite it aloud. According to the Telegraph:
“Education Secretary Michael Gove will promise a new focus on the traditional virtues of spelling and grammar when he sets out his plans for the teaching of English in primary schools later this week.
At the same time, Mr Gove will put forward proposals to make learning a foreign language compulsory for pupils from the age of seven.
Under his plans, primary schools could offer lessons in Mandarin, Latin and Greek as well as French, German and Spanish from September 2014.
The Education Secretary is said to be determined to make the teaching of English at primary school ”far more rigorous” than it is at present. …
It will also emphasise the importance of grammar in mastering the language, setting out exactly what children should be expected to be taught in each year of their primary schooling as well as lists of words they should be able to spell.”
Whilst I am not convinced about the value of reciting poetry, nor about learning Latin and (ancient) Greek, I do think that there is much to be said for instilling the basics of language in all primary age children.
There will also be a commitment to making sure pupils have some basic skills in maths and science:
“Pupils will be expected to memorise their tables up to 12 times 12 by age nine, and be able to multiply and divide fractions by the end of primary school under a major shake-up of the national curriculum.
Using decimals and basic arithmetic are also set to be a main focus of maths lessons in the future, a move which ministers said will help to raise standards in England’s schools.
In science, primary school children will be taught about key concepts such as static electricity, the solar system and how to name and classify objects in biology.”
That too is welcome. But does it go far enough?
Earlier this year, John Naughton argued in the Guardian that:
“Starting in primary school, children from all backgrounds and every part of the UK should have the opportunity to: learn some of the key ideas of computer science; understand computational thinking; learn to program; and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence in these activities. …
We need to face up to a painful fact. It is that almost everything we have done over the last two decades in the area of ICT education in British schools has been misguided and largely futile. Instead of educating children about the most revolutionary technology of their young lifetimes, we have focused on training them to use obsolescent software products”
Seven and a half years ago, I warned in a debate in the House of Lords about the risk to the nation’s critical national infrastructure of a concerted cyber-attack, saying:
“As a nation, the systems that are essential for our health and well-being rely on computer and communications networks – whether we are talking about the energy utilities, the water and food distribution networks, transportation, the emergency services, telephones, the banking and financial systems, indeed government and public services in general – and all of them are vulnerable to serious disruption by cyber-attack with potentially enormous consequences. …
The threat could come from teenage hackers with no more motivation than proving that it could be done, but even more seriously it could come from cyber-terrorists intent on bringing about the downfall of our society. “
“there are also terrorists who would challenge and seek to undermine democratic society using any methods within their grasp. It is not complacent to say this; but perhaps it should be made plain that at the moment they do not appear to be interested in attacking us electronically.”
“British intelligence picked up “talk” from terrorists planning an Internet-based attack against the U.K.’s national infrastructure, a British official said, as the government released a long-awaited report on cyber security.
Terrorists have for some time used the Internet to recruit, spread propaganda and raise funds. Now, this official said, U.K. intelligence has seen evidence that terrorists are talking about using the Internet to actually attack a country, which could include sending viruses to disrupt the country’s infrastructure, much of which is now connected online. The official spoke on condition of anonymity and didn’t say when the infrastructure threat was detected and how it was dealt with.
Terrorists, however, are still more focused on physical attacks that lead to high casualties and grab attention. “For the moment they prefer to cover the streets in blood,” he said.”
I have just returned from seeing “Posh” at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I regret to say I was disappointed. The acting is good and the play itself is quite powerful, but the reviews and write-ups had led me to expect something funnier with more pointed satire and a clearer political message.
However, don’t let me put you off – it is still worth seeing.
And it is certainly a potent reminder of the social background and early lives of those currently running the country. The “Riot Club” is clearly based on the Bullingdon Club and you can draw your own conclusions as to who is meant to be the David Cameron or the Boris Johnson character in the play ….
It may not always be obvious, but I do try to be fair to the Government. However, I do find that their arguments about the BSkyB bid are becoming increasingly convoluted.
To recap, after the Telegraph sting on Vince Cable the Prime Minister ruled that Cable’s comments to two undercover reporters were “totally unacceptable and inappropriate” and prejudiced his ability to act in a quasi-judicial role in determining whether to accept any Competition Commission decision that the News International takeover of BSkyB could go ahead.
The quasi-judicial responsibility was then transferred to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and its Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt.
Now it transpires that Jeremy Hunt had sent a memo to the Prime Minister saying that the UK’s media sector “would suffer for years” if the deal was blocked.
However, the Prime Minister is now arguing that these comments did not prejudice Jeremy Hunt’s ability to act in a quasi-judicial role.
Is that because the Prime Minister knew about them?
Or is it because the personal views were ones he agreed with?
And, of course, as the Prime Minister knew when he appointed Jeremy Hunt to his quasi-judicial role that he was apparently already prejudiced, the Prime Minister too was complicit in undermining the process.
Apparently, it is “totally unacceptable and inappropriate” for a Minister acting in a quasi-judicial role to have views opposing the bid, but there is nothing wrong in knowingly appointing someone to the same quasi-judicial role if he has expressed the contrary views.
Is that clear?
Of course, if Jeremy Hunt – by behaving as unacceptably and inappropriately as Vince Cable – were forced to resign, then that would call into question the judgement of the Prime Minister who had appointed him in the first place, particularly if that same Prime Minister knew about the behaviour in question. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the Prime Minister thinks that Jeremy Hunt’s behaviour WAS acceptable (especially as his non-prejudicial views mirrored his own).
I know that some of my readers may find this difficult to believe, but I think I should make it clear that I am not – nor have I ever been – a very athletic person.
Moreover, for the avoidance of doubt I want to make it clear that the Toby Harris who is bearing the Olympic Torch through Walkerburn on the 14th June is not me.
He is clearly a very worthy torch-bearer. However, if any one wants to catch sight of me in a tracksuit running or jogging or even walking slowly, they will be disappointed….
However, I wish my namesake (and indeed all the other Torch-bearers) my best wishes.
A powerful 90-minute drama unfolded before a packed cross-section of teenage Londoners at the Unicorn Theatre in Tooley Street (just by City Hall) this afternoon.
The drama was provided by the able cast of Hull Truck’s production (directed by Anthony Banks) of Dennis Kelly’s “DNA” with tension mounting as a group of young people try to cover up the death of one of their friends whom they have been bullying (“it was a joke – he was laughing – and crying”).
The interplay between Phil (James Alexandrou) and Leah (Leah Brotherhead) is particularly entertaining but it is the group dynamic that is absorbing.
The play was originally commissioned for the National Theatre in 2007 as part of the Connections youth theatre programme and is a reminder why financial support for the arts matters.
“DNA” is at the Unicorn until 28th April when it resumes its country-wide tour.
I have been delighted to contribute a foreword to a guide produced by my good friends at The Risk Management Group for parents to help them keep their children safe online.
The guide “The A to Z of Safe Children Online” is available here.
My webmaster, the excellent Jon Worth has posted on the row that has developed about Boris Johnson usurping the Mayor of London Twitter account for his political campaign.
And as usual he talks a lot of good sense:
“The issue here essentially boils down to your answer to one question: is there any longer any point in insisting on the separation of party political and governmental (i.e. supposedly impartial) communications?
If your answer is that there is still a need for a separation, then Boris is clearly in breach of the rules. The Twitter account in question was established after the 2008 elections, staff time from officials at the GLA was used to maintain it, and – prior to the username change – the account was prominently displayed on the GLA website, a site maintained by the administration that is supposedly above party politics.”
He even offers a solution:
“It would actually not be hard to separate the party political and administrative comms for someone in Boris’s position. A party political, personal Twitter account could be maintained by the politician and his political staff (even if these are taxpayer funded – i.e. SpAds and equivalents – and you could even make the case for there being more of them), and linked to the politician’s political website. A further administrative account (@LondonGov or something like that in this case) could then be used for the governmental comms. If the political account chooses to RT something from the governmental account, so be it, but the administrative account would not RT the political account. When the politician leaves office, his/her followers stay with him/her, while the governmental followers transfer to the next administration. Everyone would know where they stand. Too much to ask?
As for the Boris Johnson case: the account should be returned to the GLA and should not be used by anyone during the election campaign as resources from the impartial administration have clearly been used in its creation, production of content, and increasing its reach, and the two account solution put in place thereafter (of course applying to @ken4london and not Boris!)”
The episode, of course, has displayed an arrogance and a belief that rules are for other people – which it could be argued has been something that the present Mayor has displayed though out his life. Of course, it may not be a personality trait that uniquely applies to Boris Johnson, it may be the case for other Old Etonian Tories ….
One of the difficulties in combatting terrorism is maintaining public support and vigilance over time as the memories of atrocities on mainland Britain fade. The recent conviction of nine men who plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp is a reminder that the threat has not gone away. However, the Metropolitan Police campaign, “It’s probably nothing, but…“, will help reinforce the message that public vigilance is going to be essential – particularly in the run-up to the Olympics.
As the Met says:
“Everyone who works, lives and visits London has a role to play in helping to counter the terrorist threat which remains real and serious.”
The four week campaign consists of a 40 second radio advert to be aired on Kiss FM, Capital, LBC and GOLD, and press advertisements in local publications and minority media titles. The activity will also be supported by a digital presence on Spotify, and in excess of 1.4 million leaflets being delivered to households across London.
The radio advert recognises that some people may be reluctant to report suspicious activity or behaviour, such as someone paying for a car in cash but not taking it for a test drive, because ‘Chances are, it’s probably nothing’.
But it goes on to encourage people to think ‘But what if it isn’t'?
Just one piece of information could be vital in helping disrupt terrorist planning and, in turn, save lives.
The press advert seeks to reassure Londoners that if they see or hear something that could be terrorist related, they should trust their instincts and call the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline.
A Police Service with a sense of humour?
How would the Met shape up if their website was hacked?