The Last Acrimonious Word

A wife got so mad at her husband she told him to get out. As he left she yelled, “I hope you die a long, slow, painful death.”

He turned around and said, “So, you want me to stay?”

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Educational Achievement and Disadvantaged Children: towards a Paradigm Shift

When children do well at school it’s because they had great teachers. When they do badly it’s because they’re disadvantaged.” Staffroom comment


Covid-19 has heightened awareness of disadvantaged children. Firstly, Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign galvanised support. Secondly, school closures emphasised the digital divide. Both got quick fixes. School meals were financed for 2020 and about half a million laptops have been provided, without an internet connexion. Fully meeting the twin challenges will be a long overdue paradigm shift.1

Disadvantaged children usually under-perform, “Overall if you’ve needed contact with a social worker at any time since year 5, on average you are going to score 20 grades lower across eight GCSEs.”2 Another report says, “…the most academically able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are most at risk of under-performing.”3 Many British schools fail the educational challenge. The government’s invested £2.41 billion in Pupil Premium (PP) in 2020-214 yet the achievement gap remains (Addendum one).

Towards a Paradigm Shift

Covid-19 exacerbated hunger and the digital divide. School closures meant no weekday meals. This was collateral damage for disadvantaged children. Closures also meant they were expected to learn whilst hungry. Trussell food banks provided nearly two million utilitarian meals in 2019-20, a sad commentary on our decrepit welfare system. Worse, food banks corrode self-esteem, another factor in low achievement.

School closures meant teaching ceased for disadvantaged children. The government recognised this and funded laptops. Many schools bought laptops for those who weren’t disadvantaged ‘enough’.

Not accepting negative feedback means schools are blind to the attainment gap. On many websites the GCSE results avoid mentioning grades 1-3. These students are ignored as if the school had nothing to do with their under-performance, which continues despite PP funding. Schools should critique themselves and challenge failed learning strategies.

It is for schools to decide how the Pupil Premium [PP], allocated to schools per FSM1 student, is spent, since they are best placed to assess what additional provision should be made for the individual pupils within their responsibility.”5 (my emphasis) The individuality of disadvantaged children includes living in chaotic and troubled environments. Additionally 700,000 have caring roles, leaving them physically and emotionally challenged. (Addendum two)

PP provides funding for the needs of disadvantaged children. Remote learning and readily available specialist websites should be utilised. Disadvantaged children might not fit in with school-time for compelling reasons. This is especially true for 700,000 children who are carers. Schools should focus on the needs of the individual disadvantaged child, thus fulfilling the government’s aims. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged the paradigm of classroom based learning and is thereby an opportunity.

Addendum one: the lack of impact of Pupil Premium on achievement

Addendum two: young carers

The BBC estimates that there are about 700,000 young carers in the UK. Being a young carer often means looking after a family member who is ill, or helping them by looking after the other members of the family while they can’t.

Young carers (


1 A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions. The best example is the change from believing the sun rotated round the earth to the earth rotating round the sun.

2 New measures to support disadvantaged children in schools – GOV.UK (

3 Pupil premium – GOV.UK (

4 SN06700.pdf p7

5 This statement appears in every school website that receives the Pupil Premium


For government supplied laptops see Get laptops and tablets for children who cannot attend school due to coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (

For the pupil premium see Pupil premium – GOV.UK (

For the achievement gap in UK see Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils ( p5

For supporting disadvantaged children see Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils (

For the impact of reductions in other school budgets on the disadvantaged see School budget cuts undermining pupil premium, says watchdog | Education policy | The Guardian

For the cost nationally of the pupil premium see SN06700.pdf

For Trussell food banks see Our aim is to end hunger and poverty in the UK | The Trussell Trust

For the impact of poor diet see 1_NFS_Report_spv_ExecSummary-web.pdf ( The full report is a profitable read but the executive summary is a very good place to start.

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Selected Quotes: Covid-19 Debate 6th January 2021

Boris Johnson (Con)

We are in a tough final stretch, made only tougher by the new variant, but this country will come together. The miracle of scientific endeavour, much of it right here in the UK, has given us not only sight of the finishline but a clear route to get there….and every needle in every arm makes a difference.

Kier Starmer (Lab)

We had a tiered system that did not work, and then we had the debacle of the delayed decision to change the rules on mixing at Christmas. The most recent advice about the situation we are now in was given on 22 December, but no action was taken for two weeks until Monday of this week.

Chris Grayling (Con)

The Prime Minister is also only too well aware that thousands of businesses,… face desperate times.

Ian Blackford (SNP)

Finally….yesterday morning the Scottish Conservatives were busy making memes about an extra £375 million of Treasury support that they said was on its way to Scotland. Can the Prime Minister explain to Scottish businesses why, by the end of the day, it turned out there was no new money at all?

Jeremy Wright (Con)

…so I thank him [Johnson], in particular, for the access he has given Members of this House to the Government’s medical and scientific advisers so that we can understand them better. Does he agree that just as it is important that everyone understands the reasons why we have gone into a national lockdown, it is just as important that everyone understands the circumstances that will allow us to leave it.

Ed Davey (LibDem)

….will the Prime Minister instruct the Chancellor to publish an emergency Budget and to include a business rates holiday next year, an extension to furlough until at least the summer and support for every self-employed person in the UK, including those he has so far so unfairly excluded?

Liz Saville Roberts (PC)

Yesterday, it appears that the Chancellor….unwrapped £227 million of already announced funding as new for Wales. This is, and I choose my words with extreme restraint, wilful misrepresentation, which deliberately misinforms desperate businesses in Wales.

Caroline Lucas (Green)

It is extraordinary that, yet again, the Prime Minister did not say a word about the Government’s test, trace, isolate and support system. Vaccination and lockdown are essential tools but they do not replace the need to trace infections and isolate cases to help break the chain of transmission. It is an enduring scandal that we still do not have an effective contact tracing system, despite a whopping £22 billion being thrown at private companies and consultants….

William Wragg (Con)

Will the Prime Minister ensure that he blasts away any bureaucratic barriers that are getting in the way and ensure that vital vials and other such equipment are in abundant supply, because, frankly, there will be no excuses for any hindrance to this supreme national effort?

Sammy Wilson (DUP)

Prime Minister, for the third time in nine months, the Government have introduced a damaging lockdown policy, which we know will cause thousands of businesses to go bankrupt, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, damage children’s education, lead the national debt to soar and remove basic liberties from people…all because the Government say….that we need to suppress the virus, protect the national health service and protect the vulnerable. Since those objectives [failed]…Is there some firm evidence for it or are the Government just hoping that it will be third time lucky?

Sir Desmond Swayne (Con)

Notwithstanding the assault on liberty and livelihoods, why are the regulations pervaded by a pettifogging malice?

Lucy Powell (Lab)

….will the Prime Minister urgently tell his Chancellor to come to the House with a proper plan for jobs and businesses? I say to him, please do not insult us by re-rehearsing what he has already done, because honestly, it is just not enough.

Carol Monaghan (SNP)

We have had Christmas on, Christmas off; schools in, schools out; eat out to help out; and stay at home. It is simply impossible to decipher the Prime Minister’s covid strategy.

Dr Liam Fox (Con)

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting a world-leading vaccine strategy going?

Tracy Brabin (Lab)

…when will the Chancellor be coming to this House…so that those taxpayers do not feel that they are completely abandoned by this Prime Minister?

Dr Ben Spencer (Con)

Once we have vaccinated the high-risk groups…what will be the metrics in decisions made on moving areas down the tiers and reopening schools?

Lucy Allan (Con)

Will my right hon. Friend make this roll-out a dynamic, can-do, logistical British miracle, saving lives and livelihoods and not wasting a single day in taking us out of this lockdown hell?

Derek Twigg (Lab)

Cancer treatment has again been delayed; even though four-week delays are associated with increased mortality, many cases were delayed for longer than four weeks in the first lockdown. Today, the Health Service Journal reports that the NHS is having difficulty in agreeing payments with private providers for surgery and treatment. Will the Prime Minister take action to stop any profiteering and ensure that private providers use their capacity for NHS patients requiring urgent surgery?

Sir Edward Leigh (Con)

Will the Prime Minister tell people…that there has to be an element of self-reliance, self-isolation and looking after our own health, and that we cannot just rely on successive lockdowns?

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Lab)

Does the Prime Minister agree that the constant last-minute U-turns and this erratic approach to policy making are not conducive to assuaging the anxieties of people who are desperately seeking stability, certainty and assured leadership?

Dame Margaret Hodge (Lab)

My local hospital, Queen’s [Romford], is one of many that is facing critical pressure on the supply of oxygen to patients. Demand for oxygen is running at 100% or more of the supply available. Will the Prime Minister assure me and my constituents that action is being taken to ensure a safe and secure supply of oxygen?

Boris Johnson replied….I will immediately look into the matter that she raises about oxygen at Queen’s Hospital.

Alyn Smith (SNP)

….according to the House of Commons Library…the UK Government have chosen to spend £3.3 billion of borrowed money on the stamp duty freeze, which is a vast subsidy to the middle classes who are buying and selling domestic property, who do not need subsidy.

Sir Christopher Chope (Con)

May I ask my right hon. Friend what the public health justification is for criminalising gatherings held exclusively between those who have already been vaccinated for more than three weeks, where there is no risk of infection or transmission?

Pete Wishart (SNP)

I wonder whether the Prime Minister has had a cursory glance at Scotland and seen the massive approval ratings for our First Minister and her handling of the covid crisis. Has he observed the clear leadership she has offered our nation? Does he ever think about comparing his poor performance with hers and wish that he could offer the same type of leadership to the UK?


Covid-19 – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament

John Redwood (Con)

I am very worried about the loss of liberty. I am very worried about the economic damage. I am very concerned about all those small businesses that have been shut down, and their livelihoods undermined. I want the Government to introduce a more urgent, convincing exit strategy…

Andrew Rosindell (Con)

….I cannot justify such a fundamental assault on their liberties and livelihoods. Removing people’s most fundamental rights and freedoms and confining them to their homes is a political decision.

[These are typical of those MPs opposing the third lockdown.]


There were further debates during the day this one attracted Conservative MPs who wanted to distance themselves from the Covid-19 restrictions Public Health – Wednesday 6 January 2021 – Hansard – UK Parliament

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Anti-Vaxxers satirised

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Book Review: Michael Connelly ~ Black Echo (1992)

It’s always interesting to read the first of a series of books. Why has this character become captivating? Why do the reading public want more of it? It’s difficult to know and indeed if one did know then the recipe for best sellers would be cracked. Rankin’s Rebus (28 books), Child’s Reacher(24) and Connelly’s Bosch (24) have hit the literary goldmine. A brand!

Once you reach a certain age finding an author who’s made it big and is unread is a surprise. Harry Bosch was my surprise. Initially I found Black Echo tedious.

“‘Patrol’s out. ME, SID notified. My people don’t know what they got, except a DB. Stiff’s about thirty feet into this pipe there. They don’t want to go all the way in, mess up a possible crime scene, you know?” pp5-6

Connelly is big on detail. He’s done research and flaunts it. This includes the tunnels of the Viet Cong and the USA’s response to that challenge. But. But. But. Buried within the homework is a genuine readable storyline with a plausible (flawed saint) character.

During a lockdown having a good corpus of readable books to go at is a plus. Harry Bosch might be the one for you.

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Why doctors should be avoided

“Check-ups are, in my experience, a grave mistake; all they do is allow the quack of your choice to tell you that you have some sort of complaint that you were far happier not knowing about.”

John Mortimer, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders

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The Curious Death of Corporal Punishment in British Schools, 1996


Corporal punishment in British schools wasn’t regarded as ‘assault’ until the late 1970s when political and social momentum built up against it. Two Scottish parents supported their children’s refusal to be beaten with a tawse. The case finally reached the European Court of Human Rights in 1982. They ruled for the parents and this judgement accelerated moves towards abolition, which happened in 1986 in England and Wales. Interestingly, that legislation permitted independent schools to use corporal punishment, which they continued to do until 1996. Some Christian schools felt they should use corporal punishment as it was endorsed by God. The subsequent court case ruled against them and corporal punishment was abolished in 1998.


“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” Proverbs 23:13

In Britain, teachers are in loco parentis. British parents had the right to physically chastise their children and therefore so did teachers. The corporal punishment envisaged wasn’t vicious,

…in this case we are concerned with carefully controlled, mild and loving discipline administered in the context of a clear moral code.”**

The judgement said that, The legislation is intended to protect children against the distress, pain and other harmful effects this infliction of physical violence may cause. That corporal punishment may have these harmful effects is self-evident.”***

Lord Walker added,

Countless thousands have suffered cruel deaths because at different periods during the last two thousand years parts of the Christian Church thought that the Bible not merely permitted but enjoined them to torture and kill apostates, heretics and witches.”****

The judgement was unanimous and they put to one side the religious views of the parents because in a democratic state the child’s interests came first. The possibility that a child could be harmed by corporal punishment meant that legislation was entirely proper and religious beliefs were superseded. Baroness Hale commented, “There can be no doubt that the ban on corporal punishment in schools pursues the legitimate aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of children.”v She goes on to meet the Christian schools objections, “Even if it could be shown that a particular act of corporal punishment was in the interests of the individual child, it is clear that a universal or blanket ban may be justified to protect a vulnerable class…”vi


The death throes of corporal punishment ended in 1998. Christian schools felt sincere religious beliefs should be recognised by exemption from national legislation. This was rejected by the highest British court.

Bending over backwards to meet parental rights the Secretary of State, “…contended that section 548 did not interfere materially with the claimant parents’ manifestation of their beliefs. He submitted that section 548 left open to the parents several adequate, alternative courses of action: the parents could attend school on request and themselves administer the corporal punishment to the child; or the parents could administer the desired corporal punishment when the child comes home after school; or, if the need for immediate punishment is part of the claimants’ beliefs, they could educate their children at home.”vii This was rejected outright as being entirely impracticable by Lord Nicholls.

The death throes took sixteen years after the original 1982 decision of the European Court of Human Rights. And thus ended institutional brutality in British schools.


* House of Lords – Regina v. Secretary of State for Education and Employment and others (Respondents) ex parte Williamson (Appellant) and others ( para 74 Baroness Hale

** ibid para 77

*** ibid Lord Nicholls para 49

**** ibid Lord Walker para 56. See para 57 for a development of the principal point being made.

***** ibid para 80

vi loc.cit.

vii ibid para 40. This was rejected in para 41 by Lord Nicholls


For the anti-corporal punishment campaign see STOPP press! | Newsam News (

For the European Court of Human Rights judgement see BBC ON THIS DAY | 25 | 1982: Parents can stop school beatings

For the judgement on corporal punishment in Christian school see House of Lords – Regina v. Secretary of State for Education and Employment and others (Respondents) ex parte Williamson (Appellant) and others (

For the tawse see Tawse – Wikipedia

For in loco parentis see What ‘In Loco Parentis’ Means to You (

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Social Workers change a light bulb

They empower it to change itself!

The light bulb is not burnt out, it’s just differently lit.

They set up a team to write a paper on coping with darkness.

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Book Review: Peter Pist’anek ~ Rivers of Babylon (Translator Peter Petro) (1991)(2007)

I never imagined I’d warmly recommend a Slovak novel but here we are. The storyline relates to the break-up of communist east European countries in the late 1980s and the emergence of gangster-capitalism. As British people know full well the fall of communism led to oligarchs and to their shift into, principally, London and the Home Counties. Behind these gangster-capitalists has come inflated house prices in prestige areas; football teams as trophy possessions; and murderous ‘sorting-out’ of enemies from the Old Country (Russia, and eastern Europe).

The principal character, Racz, is an ignorant farmer from a small village. He’s ignorant but he has primeval cunning. His eye for the main chance is unerring and with a mix of brutal strength and bribery he finally achieves an unofficial ownership of a state owned hotel. He meets, intimidates and ultimately controls, all the petty criminals feeding off foreign tourists. The sale of the hotel in the great privatisation plus adroit use of the western banking system means he owns swathes of Bratislava.

This is the first of a trilogy. The review which led me to it in the first place says this is his masterpiece. I wouldn’t know. But I do know that if you want to spread your wings this is a very good place to start. About £2 from Kindle.

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Bridge is a sport

Private Eye 18th July 2020
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