Saturday, June 30, 2007

Do you really want to know how they dumbed down A-level maths?

Education think tank Campaign for Real Education published a short document in 2004 summarising what has happened. You can find it on

It shows exactly what was ripped out of the syllabus and the disastrous results for students taking university courses with a substantial mathematical content.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mayor’s action over Fire Authority appointments reported to race and sex watchdogs

London mayor Ken Livingstone has blocked the appointment of every Conservative and Liberal Democrat white male nominated to the governing body of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. He has acted claiming that their nominations failed to tackle the under representation of women, black, Asian and ethnic minority Londoners. He has asked these parties to reconsider their nominations except for one Conservative female councillor acceptable to him.

At a press conference on Tuesday he confirmed that he had not sought advice from either the Equal Opportunities Commission or the Commission for Racial Equality and that there were contradictory legal views of his powers in this area.

These appointments are well paying with a basic allowance of £7,206 a year to every borough representative. Special responsibility allowances bumped up the average payment to over £11,000 in 2005/2006.

By discriminating in favour of Conservative Cllr Rebekah Gilbert in her appointment and against her white male colleagues it is thought that Mr Livingstone may be in breach of both the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act.

Civil rights group Liberty and Law has asked the EOC and the CRE to investigate urgently the action of the Mayor to determine whether it conforms with equal opportunity legislation.

Director Gerald Hartup said:“ This is not just a quarrel between the Mayor and the political parties. It raises important issues about the nature of our democracy. It is too important to be just left to them to sort out".“

The mayor argues in a press release of 15 June: "It is crucial that important public bodies such as the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority represent London’s diverse communities. This year’s nominations offered a real chance to improve the profile of the authority and address the serious under-representation of women and black and ethnic minority Londoners but sadly this has not been acted on.

‘The nominations that have been made by groups within London Councils and the London Assembly are unrepresentative of London’s diverse communities.

"I just do not believe that it is impossible to find more black and Asian people to serve on the fire authority, or that there are not more women who wish to participate.

"It is unacceptable that when there are 1,861 councillors in London, of which 555 are women and 293 from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority groups, all seven Conservative nominees to the fire authority are white and include only one woman, and all three Liberal Democrat nominees are white men.

"To fulfill my duty to promote genuine equality I have decided not to accept these unrepresentative nominees for the fire authority and to ask those who are making these nominations to ensure that they reflect London as it really is.

"I have written to the Chair of London Councils, Cllr Merrick Cockell, Conservative Assembly leader Angie Bray AM and Liberal Democrat Assembly leader Mike Tuffrey AM to ask them to reconsider their nominations.

"It is absolutely crucial that the body which runs the third largest firefighting organisation in the world is far more representative of the people it serves and I will use all the powers of my office to promote equality and tackle under-representation.”

Merrick Cockell Tory chairman of London Councils (formerly the Association of London Government) responded : "It is disappointing that the Mayor has rejected two pensioners, an openly gay councillor and a councillor under 30 as being 'unrepresentative' of London's diverse communities. The fact remains these councillors were democratically elected by London's diverse communities."

Lib Dem leader of the London Assembly Mike Tuffrey raises the fundamental question to be answered:"It is not for the Mayor to dictate to the other parties who they appoint."

This remains to be seen.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Chancellor reported to race watchdog over jobs for Brits speech

Following Gordon Brown's speech to the GMB union on 5 June in which he indicated that he wanted a claimed 200,000 new jobs to go to what he called "British workers" civil liberties group Liberty and Law has reported him to the Commission for Racial Equality [CRE].

It has asked the CRE to make a statement explaining that any job discrimination based on nationality is against the Race Relations Act and to investigate the policy of the government to ensure that its employment policy is not designed to privilege British job seekers over any other people entitled to seek work in this country.

It has also asked the CRE to obtain a statement from Mr Brown clearly indicating that nothing he has said was intended to suggest that British workers were to be given any priority whatsoever in obtaining employment over foreigners seeking the same work.

Headlines in the media showed clearly Mr Brown's message.

British workers for British jobs, Daily Telegraph
Brown pledges ‘British workers for British jobs’ Daily Mail
Get British jobless doing British jobs Daily Mirror
Brown to put British workers first in jobs queue The Herald
Brown promises Britons first refusal on jobs The Independent

Colin Brown of the Independent explained: “Gordon Brown promised his union backers for the leadership of the Labour Party that as Prime Minister he will ensure British people get first refusal of jobs in Britain.”

Oonagh Blackman of the Daily Mirror summarised his position as:"Gordon Brown yesterday pledged to give jobs to British workers ahead of migrants.”

These headlines were eerily similar to a British National Party campaign posted by its South West Correspondent a few days earlier on 26 May.

"A new leaflet sized poster is starting to “mysteriously” appear on works notice boards in a growing number of Somerset factories - particularly those increasingly employing migrant labour in preference to local people. The posters have the basic design as shown in the example below - but are “customised” by the addition of Party contact details and a strap line depending upon location - such as “British jobs for British workers at Bloggs Foods".

Mr Brown's policy would seem to be similar to that of the BNP. He has given the clear impression that employers can and should discriminate in recruitment between British people and people who are not British but have come to Britain to work and live either permanently or temporarily.

Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup stated "He must be aware that non- British citizens from the European union have an absolute right to live and work in this country without being subject to discrimination by employers. His speech appears to be xenophobic and gives reason for foreigners to fear for their safety in this country as well as for their employment rights, apparently facing a government under his leadership that will attempt to discriminate against them. The BNP website does not yet contain an article trumpeting the fact that the government is now belatedly following its lead. No doubt it will. Mr Brown is doing its job for it."