Why did they have to rain on our party?

May 14, 2013 in Blog

On Tuesday 23 April 2013, at about 3.00pm, serious youth violence in London claimed two lives, that of Derek Boateng who turned 16 that very day and of his 15 year old assailant (who cannot be named for legal reasons). Derek was stabbed to within an inch of his life on the 393 bus and had to be airlifted to a specialist trauma unit in hospital where he died the following day, surrounded by his family. He was an only son and had two elder sisters.

The air ambulance landed on the Astroturf pitch of Highbury Grove School on Highbury New Park, not far from the 393 bus stop.

Born in Homerton Hospital, Hackney in 1997, Derek lived all his short life with his family. His schooling career was clearly troubled. Having attended Brook Community Primary School in Hackney, he joined the Jack Petchy Academy, also in Hackney. He moved to Highbury Grove School two years ago but was excluded after just one year.

He later started attending Camden JobTrain, a vocational training facility catering for excluded students and run by Westminster Kingsway College. He had been at JobTrain for 15 months until 23 April when, having shared a birthday cake with students and staff at that centre, he left to start his fateful journey home.

His father, Davis Boateng, is reported as saying: “He was practical, rather than academic, but he was bright. He did distract the class sometimes, but it was a phase. He was starting to fulfil his promise, he wanted to be an engineer, and at his last parents’ evening the teachers praised him. He was starting to think about making a life’. Read the rest of this entry →

My highlights: History, Education, and Policing

March 1, 2013 in Blog

The week of 18 February 2013 offered many opportunities for reminiscing, reflection, critical analysis and for planning collective action on a number of fronts, history, education and race and policing and community security among them.

On Wednesday 20 February, Global Hands and DeMontfort University, Leicester, hosted a one day symposium on Police Reform and Developing the Community Security Sector in the Emerging and Developing World, looking at police practices, community policing, non-state policing and policing and national security in Britain, Nigeria, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

My contribution to the symposium was ‘an overview of policing and human rights issues in the developing and emerging world’.  In that presentation I examined a number of issues that are common to Britain, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, to name but a few.  Age old notions such as policing by consent and the centrality of public confidence in the police and in the structures that hold them accountable for their actions are under serious strain in many countries.  This is a consequence of police routinely abusing their power without being held to account, as well as weak government and compromised politicians being seen as incapable of protecting the citizen and upholding the rule of law.  Read the rest of this entry →

Play the accordion with Sir Michael Wilshaw

February 28, 2013 in Blog

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, is passionately committed to closing the gap between high performing schools and those struggling to deliver meaningful and saleable schooling outcomes to children. He rightly identifies school leadership as a key factor in this. But, he appears to want to widen an already existing and pernicious knowledge and skills gap within the membership of governing bodies in the very attempt to raise school standards and narrow the achievement gap. Clearly, one of his lesser known abilities is his prowess with the accordion.

Ofsted's channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/Ofstednews)

Ofsted’s channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/Ofstednews)

There is though a certain logic in Wilshaw’s position. If the nation’s schools are increasingly multimillion enterprises run by magnates or entities capable of putting up a couple million pounds of their own to be matched by 15 to 30 times that from the public purse while they retain control of the lot and are answerable to no one but themselves, then surely the composition of the corporate boardroom (the non-executive directors) must match up to the task of ensuring that the enterprise produces value for money and could beat off the competition.

The ordinary parent, shopkeeper, grassroots football coach or bus driver cannot be assumed to have the knowledge, understanding, skills or social and cultural capital to monitor or direct what the captains of that marketized schooling industry do, far less the temerity to hold them to account. Read the rest of this entry →

Moving English Forward?

March 14, 2012 in Blog

I find this latest Ofsted report both interesting and worrying.

It comes at a time when there is a focus on the disproportionate number of black young people unemployed and the number getting 3 A Levels – 1 out of every 50 as compared to 1 in 8 whites.

Ofsted’s chief inspector,  Sir Michael Wilshaw is concerned about literacy levels in primary schools and wants to introduce a ‘no excuses culture’.  Among other things, he wants the Government to consider lifting the Level  4 benchmark at Key Stage 2 .

Interesting, because I remember well how badly the 50 experienced teachers I recruited from Trinidad to teach in Hackney’s primary schools (mainly) when I was director of education and leisure services there (1989-1996) were treated by headteachers and their UK trained colleagues, including black teachers.  Those Trinidad teachers were rightly appalled at how poor children’s reading, writing and spelling skills were and set out to teach them those skills by tried and tested methods, especially the use of phonics.  I had to discipline one headteacher who had walked into a class to observe a lesson and in the presence of 30 children had remonstrated with the Trinidad teacher and rubbed her work off the blackboard saying:  we don’t use these teaching methods here.  Read the rest of this entry →