Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The school governance review

"We are seeking your views on how education is run: who should take decisions in relation to the education of children and young people and how the funding of education can be made fairer. We know that teachers and practitioners need support to do their jobs and that they need opportunities for high quality professional development. The governance review also seeks your views on how this can be improved."

Now that they have dismantled Scottish education with Curriulum for Excellence, a misnomer if ever there was one, the Scottish Government intends to finish the job by handing school budgets to each Named Person. There`s a nice bribe for playing along with the establishment.
This will be followed by setting up non-elected regional boards ensuring that education is taken out of local authority control. These new schools will not be called academies - the Scottish people would not accept that Tory policy - but the effect will be the same: it will create a pathway for private companies to move in and grab bigger slices of the education budget.
Think of public/private partnerships, Agenda 21, joined up working, the Eurozone all moving in the same direction, strangely enough. In this instance it is being done in the name of `listening to children` when it is obvious that ministers have already made up their minds. Or should we say, rather, that they have already had their minds made up for them ?

Any sign of the recovery ?

Not likely.

Asked what would be the effect on consumers in the EU economy at large if banks were able to just dump their bad loans, Professor Michael Hudson had this to say:

"Its really very simple mathematics. You have to abolish pension plans. You have to abolish social spending. You have to raise taxes. You have to have at least fifty percent of the European population emigrate, either to Russia or China. You would have to have mass starvation. Very simple. That’s the price that the Eurozone thinks is well worth paying. It’s the price that it thought Greece is worth paying. To save the banks, you would have to turn the entire Eurozone into Greece."

"You’ll have to have the governments sell off all of their public domains; sell off their railroads, sell off their public land. You’ll essentially have to introduce neo-feudalism. You’ll have to roll the clock of history back a thousand years, and reduce the European population to debt slavery. It’s as simple a solution as the Eurozone has imposed on Greece. And it’s a solution that the leaders and the banks are urging for responsible economists to promote for the population at large."

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

I, Daniel Blake

The social determinants of health

"The relationship between poverty and health inequality has been clearly established and well documented (Hirsch, 2005; Roberts, 2002). Children born into low-income households are more likely to experience developmental and health problems from birth, and to accumulate health risks as they grow older (Roberts, 2002)."
The Scottish Government`s answer is to pay particular attention to the early years of life.
"We have always known the earliest years of life are crucial to a child’s development. However, it is increasingly evident that it is in the first years of life that inequalities in health, education and employment opportunities are passed from one generation to another. The early years framework signals local and national government’s joint commitment to break this cycle through prevention and early intervention. In short we aim to give every child in Scotland the best start in life."


A report into the `Glasgow Effect` which is often extrapolated to the `Scottish Effect` explores a wider range of social issues which depress communities. Its conclusions draw doubt on the wisdom of the Scottish Government`s focus.

Although Glasgow shares many socioeconomic characteristics with cities like Liverpool and Manchester, the health inequalities are greater. Certainly poverty will weaken any community but the `Glasgow Effect` cannot be explained simply in terms of poverty or deindustrialisation; there must be other factors too.

One of those factors was the establishment of new towns in the greenbelt like East Kilbride and Cumbernauld which took a large proportion of young people, particularly families, from the decaying city. Investment was channelled into the new towns but little was available to bring new jobs into Glasgow.

Overcrowding has always been a serious problem in the city which has very serious health consequences. Part of the answer was to build high rise flats - hardly suitable for children - and huge housing estates on the periphery. These estates had few amenities, no jobs and hardly a bus out of the place after a certain time at night. They became dumping grounds full of demoralised people. That in itself has health implications. Meanwhile the city dressed itself up along the Clyde so that visitors could enjoy going into its new shopping malls.

The point is that these decisions were taken at the macro-level. The individuals who were at the receiving end of these policies had little to do with decision making. Any government that focuses on the first few years of life as if that explains everything about poverty and health is reneging on its responsibilities.

It is nonsense to blame parenting. The cycle of deprivation has higher order explanations.

Read the report:

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Breadline Britain

From The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Robert Tressell)

'Let us begin at the beginning,' continued Owen, taking no notice of these interruptions. 'First of all, what do you mean by Poverty?'

'Why, if you've got no money, of course,' said Crass impatiently.

The others laughed disdainfully. It seemed to them such a foolish question.

'Well, that's true enough as far as it goes,' returned Owen, ' that is, as things are arranged in the world at present. But money itself is not wealth: it's of no use whatever.'

At this there was another outburst of jeering laughter.

'Supposing for example that you and Harlow were shipwrecked on a desolate island, and YOU had saved nothing from the wreck but a bag containing a thousand sovereigns, and he had a tin of biscuits and a bottle of water.'

'Make it beer!' cried Harlow appealingly.

'Who would be the richer man, you or Harlow?'

'But then you see we ain't shipwrecked on no dissolute island at all,' sneered Crass. 'That's the worst of your arguments. You can't never get very far without supposing some bloody ridclus thing or other. Never mind about supposing things wot ain't true; let's 'ave facts and common sense.'

''Ear, 'ear,' said old Linden. 'That's wot we want--a little common sense.'

'What do YOU mean by poverty, then?' asked Easton.

'What I call poverty is when people are not able to secure for themselves all the benefits of civilization; the necessaries, comforts, pleasures and refinements of life, leisure, books, theatres, pictures, music, holidays, travel, good and beautiful homes, good clothes, good and pleasant food.'

Everybody laughed. It was so ridiculous. The idea of the likes of THEM wanting or having such things! Any doubts that any of them had entertained as to Owen's sanity disappeared. The man was as mad as a March hare.

'If a man is only able to provide himself and his family with the bare necessaries of existence, that man's family is living in poverty. Since he cannot enjoy the advantages of civilization he might just as well be a savage: better, in fact, for a savage knows nothing of what he is deprived. What we call civilization--the accumulation of knowledge which has come down to us from our forefathers--is the fruit of thousands of years of human thought and toil. It is not the result of the labour of the ancestors of any separate class of people who exist today, and therefore it is by right the common heritage of all. Every little child that is born into the world, no matter whether he is clever or full, whether he is physically perfect or lame, or blind; no matter how much he may excel or fall short of his fellows in other respects, in one thing at least he is their equal--he is one of the heirs of all the ages that have gone before.'

Some of them began to wonder whether Owen was not sane after all. He certainly must be a clever sort of chap to be able to talk like this. It sounded almost like something out of a book, and most of them could not understand one half of it.

'Why is it,' continued Owen, 'that we are not only deprived of our inheritance--we are not only deprived of nearly all the benefits of civilization, but we and our children are also often unable to obtain even the bare necessaries of existence?'

No one answered.

Benefit of Named Person scheme remains unproven

"Those who shout the loudest or who have preferential access to officials are able to influence the legislative and policy-making processes, while those with other perspectives are too often ignored. That is why it is essential that in the development of new legislation or Government policies, a sound evidential basis is established. One issue which highlights this problem is the ongoing saga of the Named Person scheme. The Scottish Government claimed that owing to the success of the scheme in the Highlands in reducing referrals to the Children’s Panel, the scheme should be rolled out across the country. It worked closely with various children’s charities in developing the legislation. Understandably, these groups are keen to support any measures which they think might improve the outcomes for disadvantaged children. "

"Now that the information sharing aspects of the Named Person scheme has been found to infringe children’s and parent’s rights, the Scottish Government has asked these groups which supported the initial draft of the scheme to suggest how to rectify the problem. In his appearance before the Education and Skills Committee recently, education secretary John Swinney said that the Named Person scheme would still be rolled out and that the pilot scheme run by Highland Council was, in his view, responsible for a 68 per cent decline in referrals to the Children’s Panel between 2007 and 2013."

"The problem is that a closer look at the data shows that the results in Highland Council area are far from exceptional. Over the last ten years there has been a decline in referrals across the whole of Scotland by 72.6 per cent. Highland ranks only 11th out of 32 local authorities in its track record on reducing referrals. Other councils which piloted the Named Person scheme, such as Angus and South Ayrshire, performed much worse, with Angus sitting at 20th and South Ayrshire at 30th in the ranking. Councils which did not pilot the scheme, such as Aberdeen and Glasgow, performed better than Highland with drops in referral rates of over 80 per cent. It appears, therefore, that the decline in referrals to the Children’s Panel is due to other factors, such as the fact that the police no longer routinely refer all domestic abuse cases. Moreover, the claimed benefits of the Named Person scheme in improving outcomes for children remain unproven. This suggests that a more robust evidential basis should have been established before the Scottish Government legislated for the scheme; that too cosy a relationship exists between the advocates of the scheme and Scottish Government officials; and that more attention should have been paid to dissenting voices."

Read more at:

A summary of the Children and Young People Bill Scotland by Phil Raines - Head of Child Protection Policy [ March 2013]

Concerns over child abuse cover-up

"Theresa May faces claims of a cover-up after she admitted knowing about concerns over how the child abuse inquiry was being run weeks before any official action was taken to address them."

"The Prime Minister accepted there had been `stories around` about the troubled probe when she was Home Secretary, but that it had been impossible for her to act on hearsay."

"It follows a string of resignations from the inquiry into historic child abuse allegations, including that of former chair Dame Lowell Goddard who quit earlier this year amid concerns about her professionalism and competence."

"Downing Street had said the first Ms May officially knew about concerns was in late July, but inquiry staff revealed issues were raised with the Home Office months earlier."

"After being confronted with the new information, No 10 officials admitted Ms May knew about concerns when she was still Home Secretary, some weeks before the end of July."

"Following the revelation, Labour MP Lisa Nandy said: `For far too many child abuse survivors, cover-ups, secrecy, institutions that act in denial will be far too familiar`."

"`And I’m not the first person to say that this feels like a cover-up. In fact there are a number of child abuse survivors who have been involved in the inquiry who are voicing those concerns as well`."

"Speaking to Sky News, she added: `If Theresa May is serious about allowing the truth to emerge, and for people to have confidence in this inquiry, then she needs to come clean about what she knew and when`."

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Highland Investigation and Children`s Services

I`m placing this slide from the UK Column News [21 October 2016] out of context just in case people do not want to read any further:

There will be a meeting of the Highland Investigation at the Royal Highland Hotel, Station Square, Academy Street, Inverness on Wednesday 24 October 2016 at 7pm.  Anybody who is interested in helping the investigation or who wants to find out more is welcome. David Scott will be attending.

"Right," Mike Robinson begins: "To lead into David`s stuff mainly we`re just going to highlight this little article from Demos here:
Commissioning in Children`s Services - What Works? So Demos the think tank, what are they saying? They`re saying:"

"Despite significant policy attention and political action, looked after children and children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) remain some of the most vulnerable children in the country with their later life outcomes - social, educational and health related - remaining stubbornly poor. It is no coincidence that in Ofsted`s inspections of local authority children`s services departments from November 2015 to March 2016, three-quarters were given one of the two bottom ratings: `requires improvement` or `inadequate`. These failings have profound impacts on the lives of children and young people."

"Two sets of pressures are putting children`s services departments under considerable strain. First, demand for children`s social care is rising. Between 2008 and 2015, local authorities saw a 22 per cent rise in referrals and a 16 per cent increase in the number of children in care. - That statistic alone is spectacular Brian. - It is not only the volume of demand but the kind of demand that is exerting pressure: the needs of looked after children are becoming more complex, and the introduction of Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs), although a positive move forward, require local authorities to think more creatively about how they will meet the needs of children with SEND."

"Of course, part of the problem there is that demand particularly for children with special educational needs is being driven by the fact that extra benefits are given and there`s pressure on parents to actually register their children as requiring special educational needs. And second they say local authorities are facing continued and severe cuts to their budgets. And so what do they go on to talk about ? They basically go on to talk about the privatisation of care in children`s services. And this is particularly dangerous of course because once that type of thing ends up in private hands we get even less oversight..."

Brian Gerrish joins in: "Well, of course, at the moment some of the most vulnerable children with multiple special needs are being looked after by private companies [because they] can be earning 230, 40, 50, 60 thousand pounds a year per child. So this is big money business." David Scott is asked what he thinks about that.

"Well all these things - when you`re dealing with a government that has coercive powers of taxation - so they`re taking money essentially at the pointy end of a bayonet and then that`s being distributed, not controlled in any way by the people for their collective benefit, but being siphoned off to well connected private interests. You have really the worst of both worlds. You have all the drive of the private sector but rather than being a drive towards satisfying customers, the customers, in fact, become a commodity and their only drive is to satisfy politicians. [It] is an invitation to corruption on a vast scale."

"Now let`s start here with the Inverness Courier. Now this is going back a few years, 2011. Janitor charged with showing indecent images to pupils. Now this is an introduction to the Highland Investigation and you had a number of articles here on this particular school. School janitor is placed on sex offenders` register - the fact that children were being shown indecent cartoons and this one from the Highland News saying: Bullied girl (9) tries to strangle herself with ties."

"This is one of the first areas we have been looking at in the Highland Investigation," explains David Scott. "And we`re putting this up here today just as an indication of the sort of information we`re seeing. We`ve got a huge amount of information coming forward and we hope to have more when we meet folk next week ... in Inverness..."

"Now Ardesier is a very interesting case: one small primary school and one example. The janitor, Mr Thomas Brown, he was the janitor at more than one school. He had been showing indecent images to children in Ardesier primary school playground but it was [after] his conduct at another primary school that he was [then] charged and convicted and put on the sex offenders` register. Now the parents at Ardesier found there was no investigation or even acknowledgement publicly for what he was doing in Ardesier primary. The whole thing seemed to be hushed up. So one of the themes we`re seeing at Highland is that problems, embarrassing incidents etc, rather than having the disinfectant of sunlight, are concealed and hushed up and there is no proper investigation."

David Scott says that the reason the Highland Investigation is going back a few years is because it takes in the period 2006 to 2009 which was the time of the trial of the Named Person scheme and the GIRFEC approach. He states: "So what was happening in Highland then is being rolled out across the whole of Scotland now."

"Now the second case you mentioned there which was also at the same primary... the girl there was being very badly bullied."


"But the incident left several pupils at Ardersier Primary School traumatised, according to her mum, and Brooke has now been offered a place eight miles away at Croy Primary. But the family is still angry at education bosses who are now refusing to meet transport costs to her new school. Her mum Pauline MacGregor (36) told the Highland News: `The bullying had gone on for months and nothing was done about it despite us reporting it to the head teacher. We moved to the area in 2007 and Brooke was enrolled at Ardersier Primary. The bullying didn't start until March or April that year. It was incessant. One boy was the ring leader, but she has been targeted by both boys and girls in the class`..."

"The final straw for the family came two days before Brooke's ninth birthday when they say the youngster tried to kill herself in front of her classmates. When single mum Ms MacGregor went to school to collect her daughter, she said Brooke's teacher met her in the playground. `She was very upset. She was in tears when she told me what had happened. She said there had been an incident and explained Brooke had put a tie round her neck and was trying to choke herself.` Other pupils were standing around chanting `Go Brooke, go` and that's what alerted the teachers. `We were told her lips were blue and her teacher got a terrible shock. I just felt sick. You hear about young teenagers being driven to suicide by bullying but Brooke is only nine.`"

"Brooke's grandfather John Masson (63) said his granddaughter had no problems at her previous school before moving to Ardersier for family reasons. `We have letters from her previous head teacher describing her as a bright and happy child. But that changed since she came to Ardersier. She has some friends but now she is afraid to leave the house. We kept her off school for a few days after she tried to choke herself and the school gave her a support worker. But Brooke told us all she was asked was about her home life. She never got asked about the bullying`..."

"Education chiefs claim one of the boys accused of bullying Brooke has been excluded from the school, but Mr Masson insists that boy was not responsible for the bullying... The family have now been told a place has been found for Brooke at Croy Primary but because it is at their request they are responsible financially for her transport arrangements. Ms MacGregor is on benefits and is a carer for her father who has health problems. `We can't afford to get taxis to take her to school,` said Mr Masson. `The authorities seem to forget she is the victim here yet the boy who has caused this nightmare is still in school.` A Highland Council spokesperson said: `We cannot comment on any individual pupil's circumstances`..."


David Scott does not actually read out the emboldened section but I think it is highly relevant since the Named Person pilot was on the go at the time. It looks more like the authorities were trying to find something `on` the family rather than dealing with the bullying.

Brian Gerrish is asked by David Scott if he would be interested to hear what Her Majesty`s Inspector of Schools had to say about the school just a few months after that incident.

"Well, of course, I would be extremely interested. I may suspect I know what`s coming."

"Well here we go: Now bear in mind the scene that`s just been painted there. This is what HMIE after a thorough examination of the school said: `Children behave well in and around the school. Most are confident the school will deal effectively with any incidents of bullying. Children feel safe and valued in school and know what to do if they have any concerns. Staff have a very positive relationship with children. They`re committed to the wellbeing and support of all children and have appropriate awareness of child protection issues`. So that gives you an idea about how much you can rely upon the government, upon the state, regulating itself. This is of course garbage."

Brian Gerrish agrees: "It`s a pattern we see across the country, wherever you go. If you try to expose there`s a failing within a public body, all that happens is there`s a closing of ranks and they defend themselves."

"There`s more to come on the story of that little girl but we`ll keep that for following weeks; but actually it gets worse, the way the family was treated subsequently by the Highland Council; it gets worse."

"Well the Scottish National Party seems to be having a problem with what? What are we talking about here? - references to the holocaust?"

"Well possibly the worst judged political stunt in the history of political stunts," David Scott thinks. "And this is the very famous Brain family. You will appreciate that we all know that the Scottish government will not get involved in individual cases, except of course when they do, and they`ve got hugely involved in this case. It`s obviously been in their political interests to do so. The Brain family faced deportation having contravened the requirements of their visa. The Home Office in London it would seem was actually being quite lenient with them and trying to find a compromise but this was seized on by the Scottish National Party, made into a political issue."

"And in came Mr Brain to the Scottish National Party conference. Now bear in mind Nicola Sturgeon doesn`t get involved in individual cases. Here he is on the stage at the Scottish National Party conference and he`s wearing a little badge... memories of the holocaust. It`s yellow and it`s a diamond in this case with the letter `F` on it which he explains stands for foreigner... So it`s not subtle but I`m sure you see what they`re trying to do in terms of painting the British state as evil and themselves as good..."

"Here you have a family actually being fairly well treated over a fairly minor dispute over a visa and that`s the metaphor you go to. It`s crass; it`s embarrassing and it cheapens the political language and it coarsens the political language as well because everyone goes running around calling everyone else a Nazi and all of a sudden you don`t have any sort of exchange of ideas or examination of the facts... Mental activity closes down and it becomes simply a matter of abuse and grandstanding, which this was."

The Docherty family

"Now these points David I think we consider them in relation to the failure of the Scottish state to do anything to protect the Docherty family. As far as I know there`s no communications with the family. Can you give us a sort of update and also say what if anything Nippy Sturgeon has been doing to help the Dochertys."

"She`s done nothing to help the Dochertys. She may have been doing quite a lot to harm the Dochertys; we`re not quite sure because obviously it`s all secret; but certainly nothing to help. Now we haven`t heard from the Dochertys for three weeks. We`re getting very concerned about their safety; whether they are... ok and breathing the free air of Ireland, or not. We don`t know."

"It illustrates ... here you had a family who`ve had their four children violently seized... without any lawful excuse by a foreign state; Nicola Sturgeon does nothing. We have one family who has a minor dispute over a visa application and Nicola Sturgeon puts them on the stage at the party conference. She takes part... She leads a standing ovation as they walk on to the stage... "

"Can you imagine the impact which she could have had in the Docherty case? With that degree of power, with that degree of media attention, with that degree of focus on her; she could have stopped the Docherty case right now. She could have sorted it because if she had brought Brian and Janice Docherty on to the stage in that way, what would have happened? I tell you this, their kids would have been back very quickly... It`s almost certainly the case that the mere threat of doing that would have seen all of the government agencies involved resolve this situation."

"But she will not move; she will not act. She will not act in order to make sure that entities charged with behaving in a lawful manner are doing their job; and that`s the very excuse she`s given for acting in individual cases in the past."

Raising concerns: is it going to be enough ?

I wrote to Deputy First Minister John Swinney in September to express my concerns about the Named Person scheme and his consultation, described as an intensive engagement, which seemed to be for selected stakeholders only.

I asked for a non-generic response and this is what I got: "John Swinney has asked me to thank you for your email to his MSP account. It has been passed to his ministerial office for attention."

That was a month ago. I can`t say that I feel engaged with at all really. It`s particularly worrying given the NHS Tayside leaflet fiasco which does raise the alarm about what other unlawful practices are going on under the radar.

From the Courier:

`Named Person` debate far from over

"When the Supreme Court sent the Scottish Government back to think again on its Named Person legislation, blinkered and sometimes hysterical rhetoric was swift to be blurted out both by those who oppose the scheme and those who are in favour of it."

"It is worth remembering exactly what the most senior UK judges ruled on an act they deemed to be `unquestionably legitimate and benign` overall."

"It was decided to be incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights in relation to family life and privacy because of its information-sharing provisions. This is crucial to NHS Tayside`s decision to withdraw a leaflet informing patients data about them could be shared with other public bodies."

"The health board will now `carefully reconsider` its data sharing procedures as it looks to stay within the law whilst still able to inform relevant agencies if they feel there is a risk to a child`s wellbeing."

"If one public body is required to do this, it is more than likely others should be following suit."

"The Scottish Government has insisted the Supreme Court judgment `does not relate to current practice in relation to information sharing`."

"It had best keep its fingers crossed because NHS Tayside`s move casts doubt over this statement."

"The key aim of the Named Person law was to protect children*.  Its devil is now being pulled from the detail."


* This is misleading: Scotland already has a child protection system, now under review; so there is plenty to be worried about.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The resilience scheme embedded in Curriulum for Excellence

Or should we call it more indoctrination of children?

As Theresa May, former Home Secretary, and now unelected UK Prime Minister has clarified: she wants to tackle non-violent extremism. Why?

As she explains about potential extremists: "They`re conducive to terrorism and can popularise views that terrorists exploit."

Obviously, non-violent extremism is a concept  difficult to define.

But that is no worry for governments - of any description - and that includes the Scottish government which has played along with the absurdity of  Theresa May`s views.

Child protection, the children`s hearing system, governance of schools, are [systems] all being transformed in Scotland at the moment to accommodate PREVENT into GIRFEC and the Named Person scheme. Everything they are doing is about managing the itsy bitsy detail of personal life.
They intend to run a very tight ship. 
I  have been challenged on my recent assertion of those facts. 
`PREVENT`, of course, is the Westminster strategy to deal with terrorism by tackling non-violent extremism before it escalates into violence.  So proactive is it, that it expects nursery carers to report on toddlers if they have suspicions about a little child`s behaviour.

As I have linked above there is a document, supported by Education Scotland, which embeds `PREVENT` within Curriculum for Excellence. Given that GIRFEC and wellbeing are at the heart of the school curriculum, it stands to reason that this resilience education, as they call it, is at the heart of the curriculum too, with the Named Person there to coordinate these government objectives.

 It`s one big surveillance system.