Archive for the ‘academies’ Category

In the light of this it’s fairly clear that open data as a project is now over. (Hey, it was the week it turned out the government wants to just throw away the Forensic Science Service’s archive, you know, just hire a skip because who wants a load of old stuff, right?)

Tory plans seem to require that eventually, with full implementation of free schools and any-qualified-provider, the entire health and education sectors be excluded from either the Freedom of Information Act or any requirement to gather standard statistics. At the same time, presumably, we are all expected to exercise “choice” among ’em.

It ought to be obvious that the purpose of this is that your local community school, or “school school” as I think of them, will still have to be listed in league tables and whatnot while your local twat-madrassa will be able to bullshit without limit about its results. It is worth remembering that, years later, Kenneth Baker admitted to the Grauniad‘s Nick Davies that he deliberately tried to make the state schools awful so people would go private.

Another thought: what happens to that funny “Dr Foster” thing that sort-of privately mined NHS data to provide doctors with best-practice recommendations if they’re not going to bother with boring data an stuff and just hack away?

Extremists. ur doin it rong

I can’t help but think this is a contribution to the ongoing debate about hero-of-the-blog Diego Gambetta’s work on engineers and terrorism. If stuff is upside down before you start the riot, fire, explosion, etc., your extremist cell could probably do with more engineers. Meanwhile, the SELF THOUGHT SPIRITUAL SCIENTIST guy next to him looks like he’s on a demo to demand that ordinary decent schizophrenics can de-compensate without the EDL lowering the tone.

Due to the 30th birthday, I didn’t cover this at the time, but there’s a really nice piece on the Bradford EDL rally and counter-demo here. “It’s the middle of Ramadan, as if we’re bothered about this lot”, indeed. And the EDL were the only people ever to decide that the Rubble Zone was a great place to hang out.

Something else I missed, except for the last 15 minutes: the Challenge Cup final. Lee Briers got the Lance Todd. Kevin Sinfield got his third runner’s up medal. He must be really desperate to escape the fate of another Loiner, Garry Schofield, who played in four finals and never won, a record.

Elsewhere: I’m sticking the boot in over at Stable & Principled again. What is it about the Blair/Gove academies that makes them so suited to influence peddling?

What is the legacy of the so-called “loony left”? The conventional wisdom is clear; it was all their fault, for panicking the swing voters and preventing a sensible, Newish Labour solution emerging earlier. Well, how did that work out?

And it has always seemed disingenuous for the Labour Party establishment to blame local councillors for a period when the party’s central institutions were regularly totally out of contact with the public mood and spectacularly incompetent; it certainly serves the interests of the top officials and MPs to push responsibility onto an amorphous and vague stereotype essentially based on hostile newspapers’ take on the 1980s. Arguably, believing hostile newspapers’ take on itself has been the fundamental mistake of the Left since about 1987; the entire Decent Left phenomenon, after all, was all about demonising anyone who was right about Iraq in identical terms. Does anyone imagine that the Sun in the Kelvin McFuck era wouldn’t have savaged and libelled any non-Tory power holders?

In a comment at Dunc’s, Paul “Bickerstaffe Record” says:

I want to kick off a bottom up meets top down economic analysis of how Labour /Left leaning local authorities should now be challenging the Thatcherite orthodoxies of cost control/rate capping in a sort of ‘1980s no cuts militant’ meets 2000s grassroots-dictated economic policy. The institutional/legal framework has of course changed out of recognition since 1984, but heh, that’s a challenge rather than an insurmountable problem

He has a point. Consider the position; it’s still conceivable that Labour might luck into a hung parliament next year, cue Liberal and Nationalist (of various types) rejoicing, but any realistic planning has to include a high probability of a fairly rabid Tory government in the near future. Further, the financial position is not great – it’s nowhere near as bad as Gideon Osborne makes out, as a look at the gilt rates shows, but it’s very far from ideal.

So whoever is in charge will be looking for cuts, and it is a reliable principle of Whitehall politics that one of the best ways to get a policy implemented that you want for your own ideological aims is to attach it to a supposed saving. Only the special relationship and the police-media complex can beat this principle as all-purpose justifiers.

The possibility space includes a Labour government in coalition or under a toleration agreement with the Liberals, which is likely to still be strongly influenced by the Blairite stay-behind agents, a Conservative government heavily influenced by products of 80s Tory culture (the mirror image of the London Labour party in the same period), and some sort of grand-coalition slugthing. It is clear that the balance of risks is towards an effort to legitimise a lot of ugly hard-right baggage through an appeal to cuts.

The Tories are planning to make all spending departments justify their budgets at line item level to none other than William “Annington Homes” Hague; it’s certainly a first in British history that the Foreign Secretary will control the public spending settlement, if of course he finds the time to show up.

Therefore, even though there is a need to steer the public finances back towards balance once the recession is clearly looking over, there is a strategic imperative to push back and push back hard against the agendas the cross-party Right will try to smuggle through. After all, the nonsense industry is already cranking up.

Which brings me back to the importance of being loonies, and a bit of politics by walking around. One thing that strikes me about North London is how much stuff in the way of public services here was visibly built in the late 70s and the 1980s; there is a reason why Ken Livingstone hopped right back into the Mayor’s office. Despite all their best efforts, the Thatcherites were never quite able to shake the core welfare state; was it, in part, because down on the front line people were still pushing out its frontiers and changing its quality?

A lot of ideas (service-user activism, notably, environmentalism, a renewed concern for architecture and urbanism, and the whole identity-politics package) that were considered highly loony back then are now entirely orthodox and are likely to stay that way, especially given the main parties’ obsession with putting taxpayer funds into the “third sector”.

I fully expect that anyone who talks a good game about making black schoolboys click their heels in front of teacher – you know the stuff they like – will be able to secure reliable venture capital funding in the million class from a Cameron government, just as they have been able to from Boris Johnson’s City Hall, with remarkably little monitoring. William Hague will be snarky. Let him. Nobody cares what the Foreign Secretary has to say.

This creates both opportunities for action – perhaps someone should prepare a Creative Commons or GPL toolkit for citizen-initiated delivery quangos and thinktanks – and also targets for ruthless mockery, when the Tories’ preferred third sector entities fuck up. We’ve already had some very fine examples of this courtesy of Boris Johnson. Clearly, the only rational response to the times is to go mad.

OK, remember this post on the Labour Party’s “Faith Task Force”, academies, and the PR man to the Saudis, BAE, and HIV-quack dictator Yahya Jammeh? For a start, it’s drawing referrals from the Conservative Party’s network. This story in the Torygraph gives more detail: it’s the PM’s pet priest, Michael Seed, who introduced Bailey and two other plutocrats to Blair via “two senior Downing Street officials” as long ago as December, 2002.

Between them, they fronted up £8 million of donations to academies (presumably the ones controlled by Bailey’s United Learning Trust) plus – fascinatingly – a million-pound cash contribution direct to the Labour Party from Iranian exile Mahmoud Khayami. The other two payers were Jasper Conran and the chief investment officer of super-venture cap fund Apax Partners, Adrian Beecroft.

Khayami is a member of Bailey’s Catholic order of chivalry, and was responsible for selling the old Hillman Imp tooling to Iran in the late 70s. He paid up for the academies (if he did – many of the donors have been very slow to come up with the cash) back in 2005, but the cashdump for the Labour Party was on the 3rd of June this year.

What interests me, though, is Beecroft’s role. Now, we know that Gordon Brown’s best mate in business is Ronnie Cohen, the founder of Apax. But here’s a question. Am I right, or am I right, in saying that the decision to extend taper relief from capital gains tax, from which so many private-equity/VC guys have personally profited, came after 2002? I’m aware that taper relief began in 1998, and it was extended in 2002, but this seems to have predated the events detailed above.

And I’m also aware that someone’s googling for “Tony Blair’s personal meetings with Jammeh of the Gambia”. Somebody got disappeared from there, y’know.

Ah, those fine Blairite institutions. South Maidstone is apparently to be blessed with a school where some rich person gets 51 per cent of the votes for 20 per cent of the money, but something has gone terribly wrong. Specifically, the Tory-run Kent county council is trying to do something unfashionable.

According to our sources, Kent is selling something called “Senacre”. It is meant to get £18 million from this. Out of this, the council is meant to pay the traditional 80 per cent share that the public put into the new academy. Kent is concerned, though, that they may not get more than £16 million – but surely, property values only ever go up? Heavens forfend! – but there’s worse.

Kent, we hear, intends to use £2m of the “capital receipt” from “Senacre” to provide facilities for children with special needs and a workshop for vocational trainees. But central government considers this to be “backtracking”. According to DFES, “SEN (special educational needs – tyr) and Vocational is not a priority in the Academies context.” Academies will have better exam results, because chavs and mongs will be eliminated. It’s nice to see it put so clearly.

It gets worse. One might recall that the whole point of this policy was that the god-like private sector would bring expertise and cash in. But in this case, the Sponsor doesn’t seem to be quite the man he said he was. A certain DFES minister is trying to set up “an acceptable mix of sponsorship” with £1 million – so half the figure these folk are meant to find according to the law of the land – and another mill, to come out of Kent’s capital receipts. To put it another way – south-eastern suburban churchgoers’ status needs will be subsidised by force from the disabled and the working class.

Kentish readers, or readers of Kent, are requested to identify what Senacre is. (Update: it’s a well-respected special school.)

Ah, those fine Blairite institutions. South Maidstone is apparently to be blessed with a school where some rich person gets 51 per cent of the votes for 20 per cent of the money, but something has gone terribly wrong. Specifically, the Tory-run Kent county council is trying to do something unfashionable.

According to our sources, Kent is selling something called “Senacre”. It is meant to get £18 million from this. Out of this, the council is meant to pay the traditional 80 per cent share that the public put into the new academy. Kent is concerned, though, that they may not get more than £16 million – but surely, property values only ever go up? Heavens forfend! – but there’s worse.

Kent, we hear, intends to use £2m of the “capital receipt” from “Senacre” to provide facilities for children with special needs and a workshop for vocational trainees. But central government considers this to be “backtracking”. According to DFES, “SEN (special educational needs – tyr) and Vocational is not a priority in the Academies context.” Academies will have better exam results, because chavs and mongs will be eliminated. It’s nice to see it put so clearly.

It gets worse. One might recall that the whole point of this policy was that the god-like private sector would bring expertise and cash in. But in this case, the Sponsor doesn’t seem to be quite the man he said he was. A certain DFES minister is trying to set up “an acceptable mix of sponsorship” with £1 million – so half the figure these folk are meant to find according to the law of the land – and another mill, to come out of Kent’s capital receipts. To put it another way – south-eastern suburban churchgoers’ status needs will be subsidised by force from the disabled and the working class.

Kentish readers, or readers of Kent, are requested to identify what Senacre is. (Update: it’s a well-respected special school.)

Scienceblogs.com has rapidly become one of the best things on the Web, and today I saw this post of Pharyngula’s regarding a crazed god-nut college in the US where you can be disciplined for “making eye babies”, touching a person of the opposite sex (your own is fine, though homosexuality is a big no-no), or not giving an accurate account of your movements off the campus. What you can’t be is qualified to do anything, really, as the place isn’t accredited and hence its degrees are worth slightly less than the paper they are printed on – probably a good thing as the library is censored.

What I thought was especially creepy, though, was that there are students who happily rat on their colleagues:

Lisa Morris was walking to class with her boyfriend last October when something happened. At first Ms. Morris, a sophomore music major, is reluctant to divulge the details. Eventually, however, the truth comes out: He patted her behind.

Someone who witnessed the incident reported Ms. Morris and her boyfriend. At Pensacola any physical contact between members of the opposite sex is forbidden. (Members of the same sex may touch, although the college condemns homosexuality.) The forbidden contact includes shaking hands and definitely includes patting behinds. Both students were expelled.

Of course there would be. There always are. A surveillance culture breeds finks like a gold mine (according to Hunter S. Thompson) breeds its own army. From outside, of course, or afterwards, the psychology is incredibly difficult to penetrate; what did that person actually think when they ratted Morris out? That they were doing God’s work? That if they didn’t do it first, someone would do it to them? Or did they just feel warm and fuzzy with contentment at conforming so well?

But they always do it. Which is a long way of getting around to the point that the Tories in the Lords just did, and caved on the ID Cards Bill. That’s going to be a goldmine for the buggers, no? Not only that, but 250 MPs didn’t bother to vote in the Commons. That almost made me feel for Labour MP David Taylor, who voted in both lobbies to show that he really, really didn’t care. He was so keen on floppy indecision, he voted twice in order to cancel himself out!

And I should really mention these three, none of whom could be bothered to show up:Keetch, Paul
Oaten, Mark
Taylor, Matthew

Scienceblogs.com has rapidly become one of the best things on the Web, and today I saw this post of Pharyngula’s regarding a crazed god-nut college in the US where you can be disciplined for “making eye babies”, touching a person of the opposite sex (your own is fine, though homosexuality is a big no-no), or not giving an accurate account of your movements off the campus. What you can’t be is qualified to do anything, really, as the place isn’t accredited and hence its degrees are worth slightly less than the paper they are printed on – probably a good thing as the library is censored.

What I thought was especially creepy, though, was that there are students who happily rat on their colleagues:

Lisa Morris was walking to class with her boyfriend last October when something happened. At first Ms. Morris, a sophomore music major, is reluctant to divulge the details. Eventually, however, the truth comes out: He patted her behind.

Someone who witnessed the incident reported Ms. Morris and her boyfriend. At Pensacola any physical contact between members of the opposite sex is forbidden. (Members of the same sex may touch, although the college condemns homosexuality.) The forbidden contact includes shaking hands and definitely includes patting behinds. Both students were expelled.

Of course there would be. There always are. A surveillance culture breeds finks like a gold mine (according to Hunter S. Thompson) breeds its own army. From outside, of course, or afterwards, the psychology is incredibly difficult to penetrate; what did that person actually think when they ratted Morris out? That they were doing God’s work? That if they didn’t do it first, someone would do it to them? Or did they just feel warm and fuzzy with contentment at conforming so well?

But they always do it. Which is a long way of getting around to the point that the Tories in the Lords just did, and caved on the ID Cards Bill. That’s going to be a goldmine for the buggers, no? Not only that, but 250 MPs didn’t bother to vote in the Commons. That almost made me feel for Labour MP David Taylor, who voted in both lobbies to show that he really, really didn’t care. He was so keen on floppy indecision, he voted twice in order to cancel himself out!

And I should really mention these three, none of whom could be bothered to show up:Keetch, Paul
Oaten, Mark
Taylor, Matthew