Repeating the lessons of History by failing to learn from them

January 11, 2013 in Blog

On Monday 29 December 2012, just as many in the nation were reflecting on the closing year and hoping that better would come in 2013, the Daily Mail published an article indicating that worse would continue and be compounded.

In that article, Jonathan Petre commented on ‘leaked drafts of the new history curriculum to be published in the New Year’ under the headline:

Screen capture from the Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/10n5A2j)

Screen capture from the Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/10n5A2j)

Highlights of the article included:

• Historic figures, including Winston Churchill, Oliver Cromwell and Lord Nelson will again feature in history lessons;
• The ‘back-to-basics’ shakeup will see overhaul of social reformers like Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole;
• Fears that the reforms, spearheaded by Education Secretary Michael Gove, could anger equality rights activists;

The Daily Mail was itself fuelling the ‘war with equality activists’ by singling out Mary Secole and Olaudah Equiano and making them and ‘politically correct’ teachers who teach about them in the history curriculum the thrust of its story.

‘The likes of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill had been dropped from history lessons under the last Labour Government in a move critics said was driven by ‘political correctness. But under a new ‘back-to- basics’ shake-up, pupils will again have to study these traditional historic figures – and not social reformers such as Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole and former black slave Olaudah Equiano, who were introduced into the 2007 curriculum’.

Directly beneath this statement, however, are the images of Mary Secole, William Wilberforce, Amy Johnson, Olaudah Equiano and Florence Nightingale.

Commentary I have seen and heard about these proposed changes to the curriculum have rather missed the seriousness of what Michael Gove is seeking to do, i.e., to write out of history the evidence that we do not all subscribe to the narrative of history involving Britain that this nation and its schooling and higher education system has been ramming down our throats for generations. Read the rest of this entry →

CEN releases its annual report

October 15, 2012 in Blog, Briefing note

Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) has spent another year supporting vulnerable children and their often bewildered parents in the face of institutional practices in schooling that are often demeaning, unfair, discriminatory and damaging to the life chances and well-being of children and to the confidence of parents and families in the schooling system.

This year’s Annual Report (covering the period from April 2011 to May 2012) provides details both of the range and extent of the interventions CEN is called upon to make and of the disproportionality of exclusions involving African and African Caribbean school students. It is now an all too familiar story and one that has a history of which the entire nation should be ashamed. But, rather than looking at the systemic reasons for the continuing over-representation of African heritage students in exclusion statistics, the Government is hell bent on removing the only recourse they and their parents have to an independent scrutiny of headteachers’ exclusion decisions.

As the report points out, even under the former regime that pre-dated the Education Act 2011 which took effect in September 2012, only a very few exclusion decisions were overturned with a direction from the Independent Appeals Panel that the student be either reinstated within the excluding school or assisted by the school to find an alternative place elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry →

Gus John calls for regrading of 2012 GCSEs

September 20, 2012 in Blog

Professor Gus John joins a number of eminent academics and campaigners for children’s education rights in calling for a regrading of papers in this Summer’s examinations fiasco. Gus John says:

I believe that however much Michael Gove pleads ‘no interference’, he cannot dissociate himself from the political and policy context in which the examining boards shifted the goalposts and the time they chose to do so. It is devious, morally reprehensible and gruesomely demotivating to hardworking students and teachers to play such a nasty trick.

Last Thursday night, I attended a most uplifting awards ceremony at Featherstone High School in Southall and handed over awards and spoke to the school community. The high ambitions of the students, and of the staff for them, was so evident and so clearly reflected in their results and in the destinations of their Year 13 leavers, that it was heartbreaking to hear some of the personal stories both staff and students had to share.

I have said repeatedly that is my perennial regret that there is not a strong, organised and disciplined national school students movement and corresponding parents movement that could mobilise themselves and join forces with teachers in protesting such cynical abuse of power by the Executive and their satellites. Read the rest of this entry →

Gus John pays tribute to Gerry German

May 3, 2012 in Blog

It is with deep, deep sadness that I inform you of Gerry German‘s passing.  He died at 03.00 this morning of a heart attack at home.  I am sure that, like me, you will be shocked at the suddenness of his death.

Gerry was a life-long campaigner for children’s education rights and an unwavering supporter of all our struggles.  Having been a former headteacher and Principal Education Officer at the Community Relations Commission/Commission for Race Equality, he helped to establish the Working Group Against Racism in Children’s Resources and 13 years ago invited me and a couple others to join him in setting up the Communities Empowerment Network (CEN).

Over those 13 years, CEN has dealt with an average of 1,000 school exclusion cases per year, providing advocacy to school students and their parents and representing them at School Governors Disciplinary Committees and at Independent Appeals Panels.  Each year, we have taken some deserving cases to Judicial Review and won most of them.  Gerry remained the main case worker for CEN and its unpaid Director until yesterday.  I am currently Chair of CEN for the second time, having been its Founding Chair.On Monday 30 April, Gerry introduced and made the closing remarks at a session at Lambeth Town Hall:  The Power of Love  –  Spiritual Leader Dadi Janki (age 96) of the Brahma Kumaris in Conversation with Professor Gus John.

He was 84.

We give thanks for his extraordinary life and his giving and compassionate spirit.

Peace and Hope!

A tribute on Facebook

Picture (homepage):

Yellow Blooms” by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton (Flickr)

Comment: Boris Johnson and youth violence in London

April 24, 2012 in Blog

"Stop n Search at Notting Hill Carnival 2011", by belkus (Flickr)

On April 23rd, The Guardian published an article entitled “Boris Johnson ‘has done virtually nothing to tackle youth violence’“. Professor Gus John commented on the news story, saying:

Ron Belgrave is finally lifting the lid on the sham that passed as Boris Johnson’s engagement with the issue of serious youth violence in London and in particular the relentless spate of killings of young black people by their peers.  The ‘Time for Action’ strategy had a grand title but was never going to deliver very much because the Mayor was clearly committed to two courses of action that are typical of the political class, irrespective of the colour of their rosettes.

The first was to treat young black people’s involvement in knife and gun enabled crime as if it arose from their congenital propensity to evil and had nothing to do with the state of Britian and the material conditions and structural marginalisation in which that generation and their fathers before them were nurtured and continue to exist.  The second was to indulge in a crude form of benign racism by attaching to himself a black special adviser who had already been publicly discredited and made to resign his post as Deputy Mayor, someone who had no proven expertise to match the complexities of the task facing any Mayor in getting to grips with the scandalous number of murders of black young men and the similarly troubling number of their assailants being given life sentences for those murders.  Read the rest of this entry →