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A week in a special needs primary school “requiring improvement” in London

Heaven knows what a school must be like that is ranked as “inadequate”.

Background: after a great 2 months working in a college for young adults with autism and LD, (labels/categorisations of course), the author of this site is now spending a week in a primary school for young people with autism and LD. The school is ranked as “requiring improvement” by OFSTED. But I didn’t need to read the government web page to realise that. It was obvious from the first few minutes that something was badly wrong.

Day 1

I arrived at reception as requested by the recruitment agency. (Like a  lot of these schools this one makes heavy reliance on temporary agency staff such as myself; something which OFSTED criticises in their report on the school). Reception did not seem to be expecting me. They managed to take my passport and DBS check (criminal records check – all schools require sight of this these days) – which will please OFTSED. I was told to sign in – and left to work out that that meant interacting with their electronic signing system. No assistance was given with this – perhaps because the receptionist had vanished to copy my passport. (When she vanished she left the student risk assessments on the counter even though there was an “unchecked” person from a rubbish disposal firm waiting in the reception area. This would not have pleased OFTSED). The electronic signing system produced a label (the sort you stick on a parcel) and I was enjoined to stick it on myself. Nice to see that they are respecting their agency staff.

I was welcomed into the class by a teacher (well; I had to ask her if she was the teacher as there were a lot of people milling about and no one obviously identified themself as being in charge). But, to be fair, she did welcome me. Students (aged 4) were milling about in a room. Chaos reigned as it did for most of the day.

Some events I found quite surprising;

I was asked by the teacher to work with one young person outside during a play break. This seemed to be going fine. Then someone who I think was another teacher but I don’t know – came and grabbed the young person I was working with and whisked them off to take a ride in a buggy. Fine that she wanted to include the young person in some particular activity; but I would have expected her to say something like “we’re just going to take M. in the buggy”. Or something. In fact I might as well not have been there – she simply didn’t acknowledge my presence at all. Leaving me standing around at a loose end. What do they want me to do I wondered.

This same person then repeated the stunt a little while later. During a lesson (when all the students were sitting in a circle in a room) I had been asked to sit next to and work with a young girl. I had (of course) been trying to interact with her and support her in participating in the lesson. At the end of the lesson this same teacher simply marched up and grabbed her. As she marched the girl away I could see the girl looking back at me – as if to enquire what had happened to me. (I.e. this 4 year old “with special needs” had a better sense of how to conduct normal human relations than this teacher). Again; my presence simply wasn’t even acknowledged. This is unprofessional. (And, you could say, it raises questions about Safeguarding since good, professional communication between staff must surely by a part of “Safeguarding”).

During lunch I was asked to sit at one table but then asked by staff on the  other table to support a student on that table. Where is my attention supposed to be? I noticed that two boys on my table were developing some kind of altercation but I didn’t concentrate on it because I was busy following instructions to keep the boy on the other table in his seat – which meant I was looking in completely the wrong direction. Suddenly I felt someone lunge across the table to my left (on my blind side). I assumed it was a student (albeit a large one). But, when I turned round I saw that it was a support worker (apparently someone trusted and established in her position), let’s call her heffalump, who had launched herself across the table apparently to break up a very small problem between the two boys. (I also noticed that when handing out the lunch and the drinks heffalump seemed to more or less throw them at students; not give them in a nice way).

During a session in the afternoon (of what appeared to be entirely unstructured play with children left to wander about and pick toys at random) two escaped. The door to the outside area (a large play area and a wood) could be opened simply by dropping a fire-door handle. One member of staff noticed and called out and I flew across the room and after them. It is amazing how far a determined 4 year old can get in 3 seconds. I managed to recapture the first one and (hoping that I wouldn’t be investigated for Safeguarding because of the way I physically handled him) brought him back to the door. I asked the other staff member to take care of him – she hadn’t moved from the door, perhaps because it was cold outside – and set off after the other one. I caught up with him just in time to stop him eating a handful of mud. I wondered why there was no serious lock (e.g. a fob system) on this critical outside door. Indeed the lock system on the internal door of this classroom was also easily circumvented by several of the children who’d discovered that all they had to do was jump up and press the clearly marked Exit button. There were multiple escape attempts via the internal door during the afternoon, necessitating constant vigilance from staff. It crossed my mind that surely someone might have noticed this problem and put on a secure system (fob, combination lock – there are plenty of simple systems). But no.

During an afternoon lesson I was asked to sit with one student. He kept leaving his chair. Under the law (Education and Inspections Act 2006) it is permitted to use physical restraint to maintain “good order” in a school so, possibly I could have legally restrained him to sit in his chair. But (not least because of my experience at the adult college where students were never restrained other than for clear and real safety reasons) I thought it correct to ask for advice. I asked heffalump “he keeps leaving his chair should I try to hold him or let him go”? Heffalump hedged her bets and said “encourage him to stay”. A few moments later she suggested I let her sit next to this boy and go and look after another one. I noticed after a while that heffalump’s conception of “encouraging” this boy to remain in his seat was to drape her huge fat leg over his body. It looked pretty crude. (I think my method of placing my hand in his chest was a lot more tasteful and caring).

At the end of the day the class teacher gave me a radio and asked me to listen out for bus 13 to be called so we could then take the students who travelled on this bus from the class to the door. Fine; except she gave me completely the wrong information about which students in the class belonged on which bus. Another support worker realised that we had come adrift (which at least was a good thing) and that the students still in the class probably should already have been taken to their busses. But instead of saying something to me politely about this she simply grabbed the walky-talky from me. Again I had the slightly upsetting feeling that my presence was being ignored. (This was a regular pattern throughout the day – on multiple occasions I was asked by one member of staff to do something or work with a particular student and then another member of staff would just take the student away without even making any kind of contact with me; as if I had not been there). The college where I worked before this was run in a completely different way. Agency support staff were welcomed, properly briefed, instructed and included every step of the way. When one member of staff wanted to take over they would do so in a professional manner e.g saying “swap”). A complete difference.

The lack of leadership in the school was physically palpable. After about two hours of this I found myself looking around asking myself “where is the leadership here?”. Their absence was a concrete reality. No one seemed to be in charge particularly in the class and it was clear that in the school as a whole anarchy ruled.

 

Breaking people on the wheel 21st century style

Foucault’s Discipline & Punish starts with a harrowing description of someone being broken on the wheel in early modern or medieval France. If I’ve understood correctly the point Foucault is making is this: we consider our modern criminal justice system with its near exclusive use of imprisonment as enlightened – a progressive and humanistic development from the cruel Middle Ages. But, this is not the case. There is a kind of inner cruelty in this disciplinary system which mirrors the vivid cruelty of the Middle Ages.

Sometimes UK judges give sentences which appear devoid of all of the following: mercy, compassion, psychology, love. Maybe judges in the 18th century actually had more compassion when then sentenced young people to transportation.

A case in point as reported by the Guardian. A young man of 19 (mental age 10?) has been sentenced to 3 years for making hoax calls. Look at the picture of the boy. He looks like a child. The judge accepted (apparently) that the young man is autistic.

I wouldn’t want this to be misunderstood but sending an autistic boy to jail for making hoax phone calls is on a par with the Medieval practice of trying and convicting animals.

Ironically we live in an age when we are enjoined (by law in fact) to be continually hyper-sensitive to the feelings of everyone around us. But this should not be confused with understanding and love which appears, if anything, to be even further away.

Update 8/12/18

This is a tragic case in the same vein: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/dec/07/death-in-prison-of-man-with-aspergers-raises-serious-concerns

The case concerns a young man who was jailed in 2009 for 18 years for trying to blow up a restaurant. He was a British man who had become “radicalised” online and converted to Islam. Except that he had an Aspergers diagnosis. He was 22 when he attacked the restaurant. He had been in mental hospital and had a history of self-harm. The “bombs” he used were amateurish homemade devices that could have caused a “huge fireball”. (I.e. no explosion). In the event he failed to even manage this. Again; look at his picture. This is a photograph of a confused and immature young man – not a terrorist.

In October 2016 Nicky Reilly killed himself in jail. But, don’t worry, the coroner has raised concerns and a report has been sent to someone.

 

What kind of country sends young people with autism to jail?

Police violence in France

Disgusting scenes of police violence in Paris.

The police do not appear to be making an attempt to make an arrest. At least one of the people is repeatedly struck even though he is clearly doing nothing other than defending himself.

The end of the film has the person filming it being threatened as he tries to say that he is a journalist and offers to show a media card.

The text on the YouTube page explains that the protestors have broken into the Burger bar (allegedly to take refuge). But – that does not/should not justify a police beating. In the EU where we follow “the rule of law” (ha ha ha) in theory police beatings are not permitted.

I think we can safely assume that there will be no cries of outrage from the Western capitals e.g. London and Bonn. But imagine that this was Kiev before the coup – or Moscow. The Guardian at least would have a field-day.

MI6 and morality

A zero sum equation.

This is a report on a recruitment binge by the current head of MI6.

A word to the students he is trying to recruit:

When Mr Younger waves the flag of a moral crusade don’t believe it. When he talks in comic book terms about defending the country from ‘evil’ don’t believe it.

In 2003 the UK took part in an illegal war in Iraq killing thousands of women and children – tens of thousands more died in the aftermath. MI6 played many parts in that no doubt – one of which was manipulating votes at the UN by changing perceptions in non-aligned countries by planting data leaked by spies in the UN Weapons Inspectors teams. [1] This is in reality what MI6 gets up to.

MI6 played a key role in the destruction of Libya as a functioning country in 2011. This one was, rarely, permitted by the UN – if you allow a large measure of sophistry.

MI6 is involved, illegally, in the attempt to destabilise Syria. Here they have succeeded simply in prolonging a terrible civil war.

The chargesheet is much much longer than this. If you want to take part in bloody murder for profit and imperial grandeur join MI6. But if you want to defend “morality” and fight “evil” – consider perhaps these words of warning from noted environmentalist David Attenborough.

 

Notes

  1. Scott Ritter. War On Iraq.

Making the subjective objective

Having reified everything (Russia reified as the devil; schooling as a natural process; psychiatry as science; and so on) the liberal capitalists of the West are now engaged in a curious re-inversion. In this new gambit of mystification and alienation subjective feelings are given the same status as objective facts. In policing this finds expression in new laws which define the crime in terms not of what was done measured by an objective standard, but in terms of how the “victim” felt. It is enough that someone felt harassed for a crime to have been committed. This then develops further; in this world once allegations have been made the accused is automatically guilty. – If someone was upset enough to make allegations then, by definition, they have in fact been abused.

This new standard comes out in a recent poll (much trumpeted by the Guardian) which makes, at least in its treatment in the Guardian, dramatic claims about the extent of racism in the UK today. This is some of the twisted logic:

The survey found that 43% of those from a minority ethnic background had been overlooked for a work promotion in a way that felt unfair in the last five years – more than twice the proportion of white people (18%) who reported the same experience.

Of course this finding in a poll does nothing to show that racial discrimination exists in the workplace. It could equally show that those from a “minority ethnic background” are more likely to interpret not getting a promotion as being unfair. People reporting an “experience” of how they felt is not an objective or meaningful measure of anything other than itself; more people felt it to be unfair. One can extrapolate anything one wants from that but there is no logical connection to the claim – that this reflects actual racial bias.

Ironically; it would be perfectly possible to conduct a study, valid in social science terms, in the UK. Data on ethnicity is often gathered in employment situations and could be gathered in internal promotion applications. Some kind of a study which compared promotion outcomes with qualifications and experience could produce something at least approximating to a meaningful result. (Since much of this data probably already exists we are talking here of a meta study).

But this poll shows nothing – at least relating to promotion at work. That the claim is made based on subjective feelings simply reflects a cult of the subject which is very much promoted by liberals in the West at the moment.

Radical socialism

Apart from the mysterious “shoogly peg” this is an excellent call from former Ambassador Murray and one we fully support.

Large privatised industries are always run in the interests of their shareholders. Often the shareholders live in other countries. Or – in “another country” in the sense of a different social world. In any event this model can never deliver social justice and a reasonable amount of equality. The only factor that determines decisions in large publicly traded firms is ROI.

It is also true that a socialist economy – with nationalisation as the norm – will not generate as big a cake as capitalism. Socialists do need to own that fairness and wealth are not necessarily mutually 100% compatible. A more equal society is likely to be overall somewhat less wealthy than a purely capitalist one. But; there are intangible (at least not fiscally measurable) benefits to a fairer society – which compensate for the reduction in material standards that would accompany socialism.

Anyway; it is now a truism that the world needs to reduce its overall consumption for environmental reasons.

 

 

 

More Guardian anti-Russia prop.

Sadly I don’t have much time to update this site at the moment. However I cannot let the Guardian continue its shameless and dishonest anti-Russia propaganda pass without registering some kind of protest. Not because I am a Russophile (though it is quite possible I am) but because I care about truth and I think the media should tell the truth.

This is an article by someone called Andrew Roth – one of the many people who appear to be employed by the Guardian solely for the purpose of writing propaganda about Russia.

Russia holds de facto control over the waters of the Kerch strait. It is bound by a 2003 treaty to allow Ukrainian ships access to the Sea of Azov. But since completing construction of the Crimean bridge, which took three years and cost $3.9bn (£3.05bn), Russia has implemented draconian checks on ships bound for Ukrainian ports, sometimes holding them for days.

The treaty referred to makes the Azov sea a common sea shared between Ukraine and Russia. Both countries can access the sea and both can run regimes of checking navigation in the sea. The “draconian checks” carried out by Russia are lawful under this treaty. Ukraine can also carry out such checks.

After Russia’s coastguard engaged three Ukrainian ships, Russia swarmed the strait with military jets and helicopters, and even parked a container ship in front of the bridge under which ships pass, effectively shutting down the strait in a show of force.

The Russian version is that the cargo ship was used to block passage under the Kerch bridge after two separate groups of Ukrainian military craft approached it – one from the Black Sea side and one from the Azov sea side in what must have clearly looked like a provocation of some kind.

Russia may or may not be actively trying to interfere with Ukrainian trade to ports in the sea of Azov as the article claims. – The article is strong on claims from the Ukrainian side and weak on any objective data. In any event Ukraine and Russia are engaged in a sanctions war – which has seen Russian ships impounded in Ukrainian ports. This is necessary context.

Journalism requires evenhandedness. Journalists should get “both sides of the story”. They should also be diligent in separating out claims (especially by one side in an argument/conflict) from facts. In reality of course all facts are contested. But all sources are not equal. For example a UN office may be more reliable than a government spokesperson when it comes to providing information about a war. On Ukraine though the Western media (in this particular case the Guardian) has an established pattern of treating information provided by the regime in Kiev as unquestionable objective truth. The Russian version is – as is the case in this article – often simply omitted altogether, or, if present, is treated with the utmost scepticism – with liberal use of quote marks and so on. This isn’t journalism. It is war propaganda.

It is dismaying to see the 90% of the “free press” re-casting itself as a war propaganda machine totally voluntarily. Of course the fact that the Western press in largely owned by Western finance capital – an interested party in the contest with Russia – is a major part of the reason. However, the Guardian is owned by an independent trust – so it is strange that the Guardian cannot tell the truth. In this case it seems to be some kind of ideological group-think problem. Sad though for anyone who expects the media to tell the truth.

Update 2/12/18

This is another example. This one is interesting because it shows the desperation that these “journalists” have to produce anti-Russian stories at any cost. It is almost as if their careers depended on it. “Journalist” Julian Borger writes:

In his more detailed account, Putin also seems to concede that the Ukrainian boats were fleeing when they were fired on

This is his evidence:

“The border guard told them: If you go through the Kerch strait you should hire our pilot. They said no, and they went straight for the strait. And that’s when the ships collided after that, because our border guard started squeezing them out,” Putin said.

He added: “Prior to that they said they were going to blow up our bridge so what do you expect our border guards to do?” – an apparent reference to Moscow’s earlier claims that Ukrainian radicals planned to blow up a new bridge between Russia and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Putin said the Russian coast guard “told them to stop and they did not respond”.

“They started running away, so that’s it,” the Russian president said.

But a second’s analysis of this text shows that Putin is saying that the collision (which preceded the firing) happened when the Ukrainian boats “went straight for the strait”. His “running away” doesn’t mean away from the bridge/strait. It means from the Russian vessels.

In this attempt to cheat and misrepresent Putin’s words journalist” Julian Borger betrays his anxiety to produce an anti-Russian story out of nothing. He then goes on to cite Bellingcat – a notorious blogger who produces scientifically flawed pseudo-forensic material which the Western press then uses to indict Russia – describing Bellingcat as an “investigative journalism agency”. (This coordinated use of Bellingcat by the anti-Russia Western press is something of an organised conspiracy). Shoddy journalism and supported by a “investigative journalist” who demonstrably does not understand the standards required of a proper forensic analysis. But – anti-Russia – and that’s the main point.