Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Layer 218 . . . Remembrance, Spiritual Intelligence, Education, Finland, Ofsted, Haringey and Role Models.

It's 11.00am on the 11th November and all over the country there's a 2 minute silence. Harry Patch, the last surviving soldier who fought in the trenches is now dead. But still we remember.

Is there really a place in a cathedral service for God Save The Queen? Have all our monarchs really been gracious and noble? And will they be in the future? I wonder who decides these things.

Archbishop Rowan Williams looks splendid in his robes as he preaches about poverty and injustice, political stability and international cooperation. He's talking about the recreation of shattered idealism. He's talking about facing life with vision and courage. He's talking about powerful moral clarities. He's talking about value and meaning. He's talking about selfishness and superficiality. He's talking about honesty and dishonesty. He's talking about trust and hope and love. And then he talks about bringing the reality of God closer.

No wonder we fail to develop proper measures of spiritual intelligence in ourselves and others when the issue is continually muddied and confused by talk about God - as if we can't have spiritual intelligence without this primitive urge to invoke a God.


Here's a report on how a proper system of education works:

It's by Warwick Mansell.

Finnish schools succeed because teaching is valued

Innovation in Education conference In Finland, just one in 10 applicants wins a place to train as a teacher, and all take master's degrees
Truly comprehensive schools that do not set or stream pupils and see teachers as valued experts form the basis of the world's most highly-regarded education system, a Guardian conference was told today.

Finland, whose pupils have been the top performers in international tests run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, puts equity in the way it treats children as among its top priorities.

It also benefits from the popularity of teaching in this country of only 5.3 million people. Just one in 10 applicants for teacher training is successful, and all teachers take masters' degrees.

Timo Lankinen, director-general of the Finnish national board of education, told the first Innovation in Education conference in London that much of the country's success stemmed from its decision in the 1970s to introduce a comprehensive secondary structure.

He said: "This has been our biggest innovation, and it is one of the reasons for our success."

The key to promoting innovation in education was trust in teachers, said Lankinen, pointing out that Finland has no inspection system, national tests or league tables.

He added: "We see that this creates a virtuous circle around teaching. It means that teachers are very active in the development of education. Nationally and locally, we want to support them at every stage."

The 200 conference attendees were asked to vote electronically on what they thought were the biggest obstacles to innovation in education.

They listed "fear" at the top, followed by "government policy", "Ofsted" and "lack of money", although two thirds were optimistic overall about the potential for creative thinking.

Lord Puttnam, the film-maker, Labour peer and former chairman of England's General Teaching Council, told the conference that ministers' fear of tabloid headlines should also be on the list.

He said: "Another obstacle occurred to me: government fear of the Daily Mail, which is real. I have seen several potentially very innovative and very interesting things sadly thrown into reverse because of fear of an unwanted and unwarranted headline."

Ofsted in Need of Special Measures?

Meanwhile, our appalling Ofsted regime, and its discredited HMCI Christine Gilbert, stagger on into further disrepute:

Ofsted apologises for initial failure to find report drafts in Shoesmith case

Regulator ordered to explain delay by judge in case over sacking of children's services head following Baby P death
The children's services watchdog was forced to apologise today for making a "serious and deeply regrettable" mistake in failing to disclose potential evidence in Sharon Shoesmith's high court case over her sacking in the wake of the death of Baby P.

A judge described the late emergence of the documents from Ofsted as "very unsatisfactory" and ordered the regulator to give him "chapter and verse" on why it had said no draft versions of a scathing report into children's services at Haringey council, in north London, could be found, only for them to turn up last week.

The evidence includes 70 pages of handwritten notes by one of the inspectors. They were already with the regulator but were only discovered by an in-house lawyer working on a freedom of information request after the hearing in October had ended, the court was told.

In her judicial review , Shoesmith said the way the Joint Area Review was carried out breached the rules of natural justice. She alleged that Ofsted failed to allow her to comment on the report before publication, and that the way the body handled it reflected pressure from the children's secretary, Ed Balls.

At a specially convened hearing today Mr Justice Foskett gave Ofsted two weeks to ensure there was no other material that should have been presented to the court. He had planned to rule this week on Shoesmith's attempt to have her sacking from her £130,000-a-year post last December declared unlawful, but said the documents meant the judgment would be delayed until nearer to Christmas, or possibly later.

"It's not fair on any of the parties ... and frankly it's not fair on me either," he said of the possibility that not all the information was available.

Ofsted said : "We very much regret that this has happened. We have apologised unreservedly to the court and other parties. Unfortunately mistakes sometimes happen and whilst this is a serious one and deeply regrettable, we have nothing to hide." Foskett ordered Ofsted to pay the legal costs of today's hearing and said the taxpayer-funded regulator must also meet the cost of Shoesmith's lawyers going through the newly disclosed evidence.

He demanded "a full explanation" about the way requests from Shoesmith's lawyers for information about the existence of the draft reports were dealt with. First they were "batted away", then the reports were said not to exist, "and now they do", Foskett said.

The court heard that Shoesmith's legal team had twice requested drafts of the Jar and been told they were not relevant. They asked a final time on the last day of the court hearing last month, after the Guardian reported a whistleblower's claim that a separate report had been secretly downgraded, but were told Ofsted had been "unable to locate any further drafts".

The emergence of the documents was a "source of very considerable concern", he told the court, and Ofsted's submissions showed "very serious failings" over its duty of candour and response to requests for information.
So is there any chance that Ofsted might now be put into Special Measures and its Chief Inspector forced to resign? Taking into account the way it was hoodwinked by Haringey Children's Services into giving them a favourable report, when all along Haringey's social services and child protection system were a shambles?

Don't hold your breath. Don't forget HMCI Gilbert's married into the New Labour mafia.

Though I don't blame Shoesmith for suing for damages, since she was clearly someone on a steep learning curve who was doing her best in a tough job. Not unless she was party to Haringey's hoodwinking of Ofsted, that is.

The Value of Role Models

On a more positive note, I've been thinking about the importance of having sporting heros who are positive role models that exemplify physical, spiritual, emotional and social intelligence. I've written previously about my admiration for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, and also about Stuart Broad.

In the Guardian this week there's another major article on Broad, who could become not only a brilliant all-rounder but also be a beacon of intelligence and decency for any young person who comes across him.

In the same centre page spread in the sports section there's a feature article on the new WBA heavyweight champion, the amazing David Haye. I heard him speaking on the radio a couple of days ago, after his remarkable victory at the weekend, and it was obvious that he's someone who resembles his own hero, the incredible Muhammed Ali, in more ways than one.
Never mind the actual sporting prowess - the importance of these people as role models is seen by how well they match up with Maslow's list of the characteristics of fully evolved human beings - see Layer 20 -

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