Reposted from Union Solidarity International
The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote. They would not have been elected had the same criteria been imposed as strike ballots
Half the members of the new Tory Cabinet were elected on less than 40% of the electorate – failing the government’s own trade union legitimacy test.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, himself elected by 38.3% of the electorate, yesterday announced new rules concerning strike ballots.
The proposal is that a ballot result would only be valid if: (1) at least 50% of members vote in them and (2) at least 40% of all members vote to support the action.
Therefore, the bare minimum will be 80% yes with a 50% turnout. meaning trade union strike ballots would no longer be declared by a simple majority, but would only become valid if 40% of members voted in them.
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Failed Durham Free School (DFS) was a “haven for every crap teacher in the North-East”, a Commons debate was told last night.
Ministers were told that staff who had left other nearby schools – after “competency procedures” – had been given new jobs at the controversial Durham City secondary.
The allegation came as city MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said most people fighting its closure – ordered by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, last week – had “no direct knowledge of the school”.
Instead, they were relying on “very selective comments from the Ofsted report”, amid a national newspaper campaign claiming the watchdog is “waging war on Christian schools”.
In fact, Ms Blackman-Woods said, DFS had been “rated inadequate across all categories” – which was “highly unusual even for a free school”.
But, in reply, schools minister Nick Gibb defended the decision to open DFS, in September 2013, insisting it had passed “rigorous” tests set by the Department for Education (Dfe).
He told MPs:
“We were satisfied that the governing structure had the capability to deliver an outstanding education to its pupils.”
The debate was held eight days after the Education Secretary sprung a surprise by announcing DFS would be shut because “what Ofsted found is enough to shock any parent”.
But, in the Commons, North West Durham MP Pat Glass said:
“I was aware that there were very high levels of teachers working at Durham Free School that had already been through competency procedures with other local authorities.
“A head teacher in the region told me that the school had become a haven for every crap teacher in the North-East – that’s what he said to me.”
And Ms Blackman-Woods set out in detail the school’s key failings, which had made the closure decision “obvious”. They were that:
* “Students’ achievement is weak”.
* “Governors place too much emphasis on religious credentials when they are recruiting key staff”
* “Teaching is inadequate over time”.
* “Teachers’ assessment of students’ work is inaccurate and marking is weak”.
* “The behaviour of some students leads to unsafe situations”.
The Durham City MP said the school had promised to be “caring”, but added: “It had moved from being caring to possibly scary for those young people.”
Of 43 letters she had received opposing the closure, only 18 had come from parents at the school.
Mr Gibb said DFS had received “£840,000-odd of revenue and capital funding” for its 92 pupils – plus a ‘pupil premium’ top-up for poorer youngsters.
Source – Durham Times, 28 Jan 2015
A committee of MPs will today call for tougher rules before the setting up of ‘free schools’, to prevent a repeat of the Durham Free School fiasco.
The Department For Education (DFE) is urged to impose stronger checks before giving the go-ahead in areas with surplus places and a large number of outstanding, existing schools.
And it is told to publish the impact on neighbouring schools – not only when an application is made, but after a free school is opened.
The recommendations go to the heart of criticism of Durham Free School (DFS), which has been condemned as inadequate by watchdog Ofsted and will close within months.
Critics, led by Roberta Blackman-Woods, Durham City’s Labour MP, argue DFS should never have been opened, in September 2013, and is a scandalous waste of money.
It attracted only about 90 pupils – in a city with high-quality schools, with empty places – and was expected to take another eight years to reach its target size of 630.
And it angered local people by opening temporarily in the former home of Durham Gilesgate Sports College, in Gilesgate, which had been controversially closed amid budget cuts.
The saga will be raised in the Commons tonight, in a debate led by Ms Blackman-Woods, who will demand that ministers reveal the full financial details behind the DFS failure.
Ministers are also under pressure to come clean about the role of Michael Gove’s former adviser, Durham-born Dominic Cummings, and his mother, in establishing the school.
Before that debate, today’s report by the Conservative-led education committee also accuses the Government of “exaggerating the success” of academies and free schools.
“We are saying the DFE needs to look very carefully before it agrees to set up a free school in an area that already has sufficient good places and good schools.
“Durham Free School was a waste of public money – £4m was thrown away – and Michael Gove did absolutely nothing about it.”
Free schools have the same freedoms as academies, but have been typically set up the charitable arms of private firms, or groups of parents, or teachers.
There are now 1,884 secondary academies (60 per cent of the total) and 2,299 primaries (13 per cent), after outstanding schools were encouraged to convert.
Source – Durham Times, 27 Jan 2015
> Another victory for privatised education…
Education chiefs have put the second North East free school into special measures in a fresh blow to the government’s flagship schools policy.
Following their latest visit to Grindon Hall Christian School, in Sunderland, Ofsted inspectors said the school is inadequate and needs to urgently improve the quality and impact of leaders.
The news comes less than 24 hours after Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced Durham Free School is to close following an equally damning Ofsted report.
Both schools have been heavily criticised by inspectors for failing to help students understand “British values” or “prepare them for life in modern Britain”.
However, parents and staff at both schools have vehemently defended the institutions and accused Ofsted of getting it wrong.
Headteacher at Grindon Hall, Chris Gray, who recently made an official complaint to Ofsted about the ‘hostile’ questioning of pupils, said the report lacks any sense of proportion.
“The Ofsted report issued to us today will come as a huge shock to our parents, pupils and staff because they – along with anyone who knows us – will not recognise the school portrayed there.
“To issue a report that grades the best performing secondary state-funded school in Sunderland (latest published GCSE results) as the worst defies all common sense and logic.
“We take any criticism seriously and aspire to the highest standards for our pupils. We continually strive to be better, but this report, prompted by the new “British Values” rules, lacks any sense of proportion.”
More than 30 parents gathered at Durham Free School on Tuesday in a fight to keep their problem-hit school from closing.
After a two-day visit in November, Ofsted inspectors rated the school, which is currently advertising for a new headteacher, inadequate in all areas.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said children at Durham Free School were being “let down by a catalogue of failures” with no “imminent prospect of improvement”.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mrs Morgan confirmed the Coalition government will close the school and will work with the local authority to ensure every child is found a place at another local school.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Jan 2015
The number of women in the UK who don’t have a job has soared to record levels under the Tory-led coalition government, a new report reveals.
According to figures from the Fawcett Society, a leading charity who campaign on advancing equality rights for women, nearly one million (946,000) remain unemployed while others struggle to get by on poverty wages.
The charity is calling on the government to back its campaign for all workers to be paid the living wage, which currently stands at £8.80 per hour in London and £7.65 per hour across the rest of the UK.
The minimum wage for those aged 21 and over is set to increase by 19p per hour to £6.50 from October 2014. The rate for 18-20 year-olds will increase to £5.13 an hour and £3.79 for 16 and 17 year-olds. Apprentices will get a meagre 5p extra, taking their earnings up to just £2.73 for every hour worked.
The definition of ‘low pay’ (two-thirds of the median full-time average salary) set by the OECD currently stands at anything below £7.71 an hour.
Deputy Director of the Fawcett Society, Dr. Eva Neitzert, said:
“From cleaners, dinnerladies and care assistants to supermarket workers and admin assistants, women undertake crucial work that helps to hold the fabric of society together.
“But rather than benefitting from the economic growth we are seeing, the situation for these women is declining. We urgently need to tackle the low wages paid to women by increasing the value of the national minimum wage.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added:
“The alarming shift in the UK’s job market towards low pay and casual contracts is hitting women hardest and risks turning the clock back on decades of progress towards equal pay.
“Unless more is done to tackle poverty wages and job insecurity, women will be excluded from the economic recovery.”
Gloria De Piero, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said:
“It’s clear that this isn’t a recovery for working women. Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, more women are struggling on low pay, in insecure jobs and not getting the hours they and their families need.
“Only a Labour Government is committed to tackling the scandal of low pay by significantly increasing the minimum wage, providing incentives for employers to pay the living wage and delivering on the promise of equal pay for women and their families across the country.”
Women’s Minister Nicky Morgan said the pay gap is too high, but argued: “It is narrowing – and for full-time workers under 40 is almost zero.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 17 Aug 2014
A North-East MP apologised last night after branding leading Conservative women MPs “puppets” who are interesting only for their clothes.
Helen Goodman, the Bishop Auckland MP, faced fierce criticism after backing a newspaper’s controversial “catwalk” coverage of the new Cabinet.
The Daily Mail has come under fire for sexism after a double-page feature focused on the hair, clothes, shoes, handbags – and even the legs – of promoted female Cabinet ministers.
But, yesterday, Ms Goodman tweeted: “#Mail’s page on Tory women was fair: all are puppets who’ll change nothing and their appearance really is most interesting thing about them.”
The comment triggered a major Westminster row, with immediate demands for Labour’s culture spokeswoman to withdraw the “demeaning slur”.
Anna Soubrey, the defence minister, said: “Helen Goodman’s comments were deliberately insulting. She should personally apologise to every one of the talented women she has chosen to cheaply slur.
“Ed Miliband needs to make clear that these comments are absolutely unacceptable otherwise once again we will see that he is too weak to stand up to his own shadow ministers.”
And Nicky Morgan, the new Education Secretary, said: “Helen Goodman’s comments were disgraceful and there is no place for them in modern politics.”
A letter sent to Mr Miliband demanded that the Labour leader “take disciplinary action” against the Bishop Auckland MP, unless she backed down.
Initially, Ms Goodman attempted to ride out the storm, arguing the comment had been meant as a joke and saying: “I’m very sorry my last tweet offended some people. I intended it as a light-hearted remark.”
“He said a third of all his ministers would be women – fewer than one in four are. It is David Cameron who has failed.”
However, more than three hours later – as criticism intensified – Ms Goodman tweeted: “I was wrong in what I tweeted about Tory women ministers and I apologise to them unreservedly.”
> Sigh – another capitulation.
In the much-ridiculed Mail feature, Elizabeth Truss, the new Environment Secretary, was described as looking “bright and sensible but a little bit too eighties air hostess”.
And the newspaper called work minister Esther McVey a “thigh-flashing vision in grey check by Vivienne Westwood”.
> Considering how Fester McVile gets described in blogs…
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg poked fun at the Mail, posting a photo of himself wearing a suit, shirt and trademark Liberal Democrat yellow tie – and joking that he hoped he did not look “too 80s cabin attendant”.
> No Nick. You just look like a prat.
Source – Northern Echo, 18 July 2014
Depending on who they were, Ministers in David Cameron’s Government were either celebrating promotions or mourning the end of their political career after being invited in to Downing Street to hear their fate in today’s re-shuffle.
With a ruling Coalition that has only four North East MPs – all on them on the backbenches – any re-shuffle is not likely to have an obvious immediate impact on the region.
Yet Mr Cameron’s various moves on the chessboard, widely seen as part of his strategy to try and win the next election, will have been followed by many in the region.
It is a fair bet that many a champagne cork will have been popping in school staffrooms at the re-shuffle’s largest casualty, the Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Being unpopular with teachers is almost a job requirement for Education Secretary, but Mr Gove seems to gone above and beyond that brief, not least with teachers in part of the North East after he attacked schools in County Durham with the slightly odd comment that “when you go into those schools, you can smell the sense of defeatism.”
The re-shuffle effectively saw Mr Gove sacked from his Education job. Instead he will become Chief Whip, responsible for imposing discipline on Conservative MPs, and will represent the Government on television, according to the Prime Minister’s official spokesman – which led to him being dubbed “Minister for TV” at Westminster.
Although Mr Gove is popular with sections of his party, and hailed as a hero by supporters of his school reforms, his departure from the education brief is likely to please some North East teachers and heads.
The new Education Secretary is Nicky Morgan, who became in MP in 2010 and was previously a Treasury Minister. After making it into the Commons in 2010 at the second attempt, the former corporate lawyer was quickly earmarked by Mr Cameron as a potential star and was made a ministerial aide within months, a whip in 2012 and a junior Treasury minister last October.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 July 2015