Education Secretary fails to name any respected educational expert who wants more grammar schools | The Independent

Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, has failed to name any respected educational expert or institution that supports extending grammar schools as she prepared to launch a consultation into the policy.

Ms Greening also refused to rule out introducing quotas for the most disadvantaged children in England to attend to grammar schools, saying the Government would not elaborate on details before publication of a White Paper on the controversial policy.

The Education Secretary’s comments came as she outlined in a speech on Thursday how the Government will introduce a new model for grammar schools – championed by Theresa May – to “work for everyone”, including children from “ordinary working families”

But when asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether she could name any respected educational figure or institution that actually wants more grammar schools, she failed to do so.

Source: The Independent

“Brexitland: With pay so low for this long, no wonder there’s anger in Sheffield” | Owen Jones 

Kelham Island Quarter in Sheffield, now partly regenerated. ‘It is naive to dismiss the role of the great wage squeeze in Britain’s biggest political upheaval since the war.’ Photograph: Alamy

Thursday 13 April 2017

Is it any wonder that Britain bubbles away with frustration? Not since Napoleon ruled France has the country suffered such a protracted squeeze in wages. Of the 35 major industrialised OECD countries, only Greece has endured such a steep fall. British workers are still, on average, poorer than they were when the banks plunged the global economy into chaos, and the respite of the last two years is juddering to an end. In February real wages fell once again. And no, this crisis didn’t start under the Tories: in the last half of New Labour’s reign, wages began to stagnate or fall for the bottom half of Britain’s underpaid workforce. Over a decade of decline has left Britain simmering with anger.

The story behind Brexit is a tale of competing and contradictory factors. Many low-paid workers opted for remain; millions of relatively comfortably-off Britons with no economic grievances, like those I met in the well-to-do market town of Fareham, voted to leave. The youngest have been hardest hit by the crash and the cuts, but they voted remain; older Britons have been largely protected, but they opted for leave.

Source: The Guardian

School nutrition programme deserves praise | Education | M&G

We fail to praise South Africa’s national school nutrition Programme’s success in producing graduates for South Africa, because we dwell too much on failures.

Let us stop the culture of seeing the negative in everything and applaud when tasks are executed successfully.

For the past 15 years, the nutrition programme has enhanced the learning capacity of schoolchildren by providing one healthy meal a day at low-income schools.

More than half the learners at public schools in the country are from low-income families. Unable to afford lunch boxes, the majority of them would go to school empty-handed and go hungry during lunch breaks.

Nothing can distract a learner in a classroom as easily as hunger and starvation.

I don’t care how much you enjoy being inside school premises, once you are hungry you are likely to lose concentration and become drowsy, and that’s a barrier between you and your learning process.

This was the story of poverty and hunger in our nation’s schools, as witnessed every day by teachers, principals and staff.

Source: M&G

Optimism Is Good For Your Heart | Psychology Today

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that about 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each day. This is an average of one death every 39 seconds. Stroke causes about one of every 18 U.S. deaths.

What can you do to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis) or having a stroke? Traditionally, the emphasis has been on healthy lifestyle choices based on diet, exercise, non-smoking, etc. that improve overall physical well-being.

While daily habits that maintain and improve physical health are obviously important, new research shows that your psychological state of mind and explanatory style significantly impact the health of your heart.

Optimism Is Good For Your Heart


Source: Psychology Today

Tory election spending: MP admitted to police some claims were wrong | Politics | The Guardian

A Conservative MP admitted in a police interview that some of his election expenses were wrong but excused the errors on the grounds that he had no previous political experience, according to a report on how police handled the inquiry.

Johnny Mercer, Tory MP for Plymouth Moor View, was investigated by police after the general election in 2015 and a file was handed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). It was decided, however, that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with any offence.

A Devon and Cornwall police report from the time states that Mercer had acknowledged during an interview that “some of his claims had been wrong” but had argued that they were minor, did not take him over election spending limits and that this was understandable given his lack of political experience.

The admission calls into question the Conservative party’s claim that “the local agents of Conservative candidates correctly declared all local spending in the 2015 general election”.

Source: The Guardian

Analysis: Marching entropy threatens ANC’s future | Daily Maverick

In a polity as fast-moving as ours, it can sometimes be difficult when to know that things actually have fundamentally changed. Sometimes, the yardsticks are easy – Thabo Mbeki lost to President Jacob Zuma at Polokwane, and we knew life would be different. Sometimes, they are unexpected, such as the ANC’s loss of three metros in the 2016 local elections. And sometimes, they come about as a result of unpredictable events, say, a memorial service. The marches on Friday were massive. The reaction of the ANC wa


Source:Daily Maverick

Whatever happened to compassionate Conservatism? | British Politics and Policy at LSE

Ahughs with David Cameron before her, Theresa May took office as Prime Minister offering a government for all, rather than for the ‘privileged few’. Hugh Bochel reflects on the fate of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ during the Coalition government, and asks if it provides any clues as to how the May government might address social policy.

Both before and following his election as leader, Cameron and his allies sought to portray the Conservative Party as different from how it had been widely perceived under his immediate predecessors. In particular, they suggested that on a variety of topics, particularly in relation to social issues, such as the NHS, inequality, social mobility and family structure, the Conservative Party would take a different approach. However, the extent of any new or different approach by the Conservatives and the Coalition government have been widely questioned.

One of the major challenges in seeking to understand ‘compassionate Conservatism’ is the range of broadly interchangeable terms that were used by leading Conservatives, their critics and commentators to describe such ideas, including ‘civic’, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’ Conservatism. Here the term is used for those positions that implied an approach to social issues that differed from a primarily neo-liberal approach to economic and social policy and from Thatcherism, with proponents including David Willetts, Greg Clark, Jeremy Hunt, and even Iain Duncan Smith after his ‘epiphany’ in Glasgow. Critics, however, noted that while talking about social issues and policies in a different way, Cameron and his allies continued to promote ‘traditional’ Conservative views on subjects such as crime and families, and to emphasise taking responsibility from the state and giving it to individuals, families and communities, while following the financial crisis there was a rapid shift towards massive reductions in public spending.

Compassionate Conservatism in this period has frequently been seen as an electoral tool, which, with the combination of symbols and substance associated with it, was useful in the attempt by Cameron and others to ‘detoxify’ the Conservative Party, while also helping, both in opposition and in government, with critiques of Labour’s (and indeed the Liberal Democrats) position, and highlighting differences with Labour on the role and responsibilities of state, individuals, communities and society.

Source:  British Politics and Policy at LSE

“With a little help from my friends..”

Scrub that.

Not ” a little” but “a lot” of help from my friends.

When I wrote recently about my late wife’s struggles with mental health, and her final, nearly completed, suicide attempt a friend who had known us both well at that time, wrote to me, saying,

“ you coped with it I will never know!”

My response was

“how I coped with it” – one day at a time, and with a lot of help from my friends.

I wrote previously about what was (almost) the end of our difficulties together, but there was also the beginning. In some ways at least, this was almost more difficult, because it was all so new and unfamiliar terrain, and because the children were so much younger, aged just 18 months and three years.  I could not have come through that time without extensive support from both friends and family.

This support was crucial again, through all the crises during the marriage, and at its end. After the marriage finally broke down, there was the help of a support group for divorced people: I was at home one afternoon, when a stranger appeared at the door. She was the Polish mother of a daughter’s classmate, and instructed me, forcefully, “You come Divorce Workshop Group!” So I did – and found it immensely valuable, for the hard information I gained, and for the friendships formed.

Later, when I moved from to Johannesburg to Cape Town and finally came out to myself and then to others that I was indeed gay, again I found that simply meeting other gay men, and forming friendships with them, was helpful – as was my membership of a gay/lesbian support group, “Gasa Rand” (i.e., Gay Association of South Africa, Witwatersrand region). I joined their committee and introduced an adaptation of the tools used by the DWG, that I had found so helpful for divorced people in Cape Town. These proved to be equally successful, in supporting gay men and lesbians in Johannesburg.

Still later, after moving to London, I was faced with the challenge of coping with living once again as a single gay man, and attempting to reconcile the apparent contradictions in being both gay, and Catholic. During this time, the support, resources and regular LGBT-affirming worship services of what were then known as the “Soho Masses” were yet another lifeline.

More recently, in my journey with GIST, it’s been the GIST Support UK who have been invaluable, with the information on their website, the listserve email group, and their biannual conferences.  Conversely, during my major surgery last February to remove the tumour and with it my stomach, I was acutely conscious of the support and prayers of this GIST support group, but also of my LGBT friends in queer faith communities worldwide, as well as my local parish community.

I am now more conscious than ever, that in times of difficulty, I “get by with a little a lot of help from my friends,”

Nebraska court slams policy that banned gay foster parents | Nation |

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Supreme Court says a former state policy banning same-sex couples from serving as foster parents or adopting wards of the state was akin to hanging a “Whites Only” sign on a hiring-office door.

The court on Friday ruled that a judge’s 2015 ruling striking down the policy will stand.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by three same-sex couples in 2013. A judge ruled in the couples’ favor, declaring as unconstitutional the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services policy.

The state’s high court rejected state attorneys’ arguments that Lancaster County District Judge John Colburn’s finding should be reversed because DHHS had quietly stopped enforcing the ban in 2012, making the matter moot.

Its ruling slammed the 1995 administrative policy, which remained on the agency’s website until February 2015, as evidence “that ‘heterosexuals only’ need apply to be foster parents.”

“It is legally indistinguishable from a sign reading ‘Whites Only’ on the hiring-office door,” Justice John Wright wrote.

Source: Nation |

A New Kairos Moment for South Africa – The Jesuit Institute South Africa

Two very different kinds of leadership. This is what we have seen dramatically highlighted through the events in our country over the past ten days.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius asks us to reflect on the opposing leadership strategies of Christ versus that of Lucifer. He paints a graphic and metaphoric picture of Lucifer seated in that great plain of Babylon, on a throne of fire and smoke, a horrible and fearsome figure. He uses three strategies to ensnare people: the desire for riches, the desire for honour or status and pride. Once they are hooked by any, or all of these, they will do whatever they need to in order to protect them, whether lies, corruption, theft or manipulation of people.

In the second image we are invited to imagine Christ standing in a great plain in a lowly beautiful and attractive spot. His strategy is the exact opposite: simplicity instead of riches, service instead of honour, and humility instead of pride.

In our political landscape we have seen both kinds of leadership clearly in the last week.

Source: The Jesuit Institute South Africa