Monday, 21 April 2014

PCC complaint re Mail on Sunday article on Foodbanks

Recently, The Mail on Sunday ran an article by Simon Murphy, Sanchez Manning and Ross Slater entitled "No ID, no checks... and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims" .

Comment on the article has been widespread, and much better written that anything BFTF could do, so please have a butchers at these articles at The Guardian, Trussell Trust(pdf) and a legal blog considering whether Ross Slater actually committed fraud

No, this post is being written because the article broke the PCC code of Conduct, hence this complaint to the PCC:
Inaccurate : A box in the article is headlined "HOW MOS REPORTER GOT 3 DAYS OF GROCERIES... NO QUESTIONS ASKED" and the text within it clearly shows that the reporter was asked a number of questions Subterfuge : The reporter lied and fraudulently obtained food that had been given for people in need. There were many other (much more effective) means available to him to determine the percentage of claimants that did not have documented referrals



Project Trojan Horse

The Daily Mail (and its on-line presence www.mailonline.co.uk) have been running a series of stories recently on an alleged "Project Trojan", as shown below:

7th March 2014 : Revealed: Islamist plot dubbed 'Trojan Horse' to replace teachers in Birmingham schools with radicals

14th April 2014 : Did Muslim hardliners try to infiltrate and takeover TWENTY FIVE Birmingham schools? Probe into 'Trojan horse' plot expands

The article contains a text box stating that "Former headteacher Noshaba Hussein...told the Mail she "was the victim of a pernicious, well orchestrated smear campaign" carried out by "a dangerous, well organised and sinister group"

But a mere 10 seconds of Googling brings up a 1994 article from the Local Government Chronicle that descibes how Ms Hussein "was criticised on her appointment because she had no previous experience with primary pupils. It later emerged that there had been allegations of financial mismanagement against her in her previous job. Mrs Hussain was eventually sacked when education chiefs found inaccuracies on her application form". Further, more detailed, information can also be found here.

BFTF send the following complaint to the PCC (form here):
"Section (1i) of the code was breached by the article stating that "Former headteacher Noshaba Hussein...told the Mail she "was the victim of a pernicious, well orchestrated smear campaign" carried out by "a dangerous, well organised and sinister group". This is inaccurate and misleading as it does not include the, easily available, information that she was sacked due to lack of experience, a flawed recruitment process and inaccuracies in her application. More info can be found here"


Also sent this complaint to the PCC:
Article is misleading in that it fails to point out that Park View school (at least) is extremely high performing (75% A*-C GSCE, inc Maths and English), especially given its disadvantaged intake. According to Dave Hughes, governor of Park View on 6th April "The school is closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils and preparing them to become economically active citizens. And yet the media is full of bitter accounts from disgruntled ex-members of staff rather than the current, hard-working talented teachers who are making this possible."

The MailOnline article also failed to mention that (in relation to Park View)
i) Complainant Mr White dismissed for unprofessional conduct - did not complain of a "Muslim plot’, until now.
i) Complainant Mr Sloan resigned while suspended and did not complain of ‘anti-American assemblies’ in the late 1990s, until now.
iii)Staff complaints that ‘a senior colleague’ had endorsed the views of Anwar-al-Awlaki when addressing pupils have not said when, where or who was a witness.

20th April 2014 :Schools at the centre of Muslim Trojan Horse plot 'to be put on special measures' amid fears number affected has reached 25

6th April 2014 :In very marked contrast, Dave Hughes, a White, practicing Anglican, director and governor of Park View School (a school mentioned repeatedly in the above articles) wrote an open letter on 6th April. Some of the key points are shown below, with the full text at the foot of this post.

i)72% of pupils qualify for free school meals
ii) 99% of Pupils are Muslim
iii)Yet in 2013 75% of pupils gained 5 A*-C (inc Maths and English)
iv) Ofsted judged school excellent in all categories only 18months ago
v) Mr White dismissed for unprofessional conduct - did not complain of a "Muslim plot’, until now.
vi)Mr Sloan resigned while suspended and did not complain of ‘anti-American assemblies’ in the late 1990s, until now.
vii)Staff complaints that ‘a senior colleague’ had endorsed the views of Anwar-al-Awlaki when addressing pupils have not said when, where or who was a witness.
viii) The school is closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils and preparing them to become economically active citizens. And yet the media is full of bitter accounts from disgruntled ex-members of staff rather than the current, hard-working talented teachers who are making this possible.

Open Letter re: Park View School from a Governor 06/04/2014
From: Dave Hughes

As a Park View Trustee and Governor at Park View School for over 15 years who is a white, practising Anglican Christian, I am writing this open letter to all those people who appear to have joined in the witch hunt against the most successful school in England in in its kind of neighbourhood – one of the most deprived in England: 72% of our pupils are eligible for Free School Meals - under the pretext of concerns about extremism and threats to the education of pupils.

Contrary to what Khalid Mahmood MP would have people believe we governors are not Salifists or Wahabis, in my case, not even Muslim. But really, how could we expect Mr Mahmood to have an accurate picture of what happens in governors’ meetings? He’s never attended one, nor ever even visited the school as far as I can recall.

In all my time as a Governor we have not received a single complaint about ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalism’. If we had we would have investigated it openly and thoroughly. Up until this point the attention and support we have appreciated from Ofsted – who judged the school as outstanding in all categories 18 months ago, the Department for Education and numerous well-respected school improvement partners such as Teach First and Future Leaders has focused on how we are making a difference to our students when they come from such disadvantaged areas.

In 2013 75% of pupils gained 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including English and Maths; 81% of pupils attained a grade C or above in English and 83% attained a grade C or above in Maths. So how have we done this? As you would expect,through hard work and dedication; through attention to detail; through a relentless focus on driving up standards of teaching and ensuring that everyone who works with us and for us has the same high expectations of our pupils that we have.

Fifteen years ago when I first became a Governor the school was a much different place. Less than 20 per cent of pupils were gaining 5A*-Cs and in one year just one out of 90 pupils gained a grade C or above in Maths. Just one! Governors found that completely unacceptable and made it our business to make a concerted, sustainable change.

Unfortunately some of those former staff members who are now sharing fictitious allegations with the media are the very same staff whose performance and expectations of pupils proved that they weren’t along for the journey. If they had shown the same enthusiasm for making sure their pupils got a good education as they have for smearing the school in the media, Park View would have been a much different place. They’re trading on their supposed ‘insider’ status and hoping that no-one can remember that far back to actually challenge their accounts.

Well, I chaired the Disciplinary Panel that recommended the dismissal of Michael White for his unprofessional behaviour as a senior teacher. At no time either during that panel, or subsequently, has he made allegations of a ‘Muslim plot’, until now.

Equally Mr Sloan, who claimed in a Sunday newspaper this weekend that he saw ‘anti-American assemblies’ in the late 1990s that were ‘mind-blowing’,made no complaints at the time and has not done so since, until now. Mr Sloan was suspended from Park View while complaints from parents that he had referred to their children during lessons in the most derogatory terms could be investigated, not simply because (as he alleges) he made a comment about the wearing of a headscarf. He resigned before a full investigation could be conducted.

Similarly, as well as remaining anonymous, the staff complainants who allege that ‘a senior colleague’ had endorsed the views of Anwar-al-Awlaki when addressing pupils have not given any specific details of when and where this happened or named any witnesses to the allegation, which the school strongly denies.

And let’s not forget, while the school has been the subject of numerous inspections, media queries and speculation our teachers are still working hard towards this year’s GCSEs. We’re aiming high again and we’re confident that our pupils will achieve good qualifications, which will allow them to move onto sixth form or college and from there to university and work. The school is ticking two of Michael Gove’s most important boxes – closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils and preparing them to become economically active citizens.

And yet the media is full of bitter accounts from disgruntled ex-members of staff rather than the current, hard-working talented teachers who are making this possible. I am immensely proud of what has been achieved in the past 10 years by pupils, staff, should be equally proud.

When I started as a governor here over 15 years ago no recognition was given to the fact that over 90% of the children were Muslim. In fact it was resisted sometimes in the strongest terms:
- no Halal food served
- there were no facilities or arrangements for student prayer, for those who wanted it
- girls who wanted to wear headscarves were not allowed to
- and the school refused to apply for a religious part-determination to allow its collective act of worship to be Islamic in nature

All these things are now in place. I am immensely proud of the fact that Park View honours, respects and supports the cultural and religious background of all our children – who are still predominantly (99%) but not exclusively Muslim – while preparing them to be part of 21stcentury multi-cultural Britain.

Finally, the Ofsted inspections and Education Funding Agency review. I am appalled that whilst Park View governors and trustees have respected confidentiality, others clearly haven’t and alleged outcomes have been leaked to the media. Are there areas to improve at the school? Yes of course, as there are at most schools. The governors had hoped that the report from the initial inspection would support us with these. However, I strongly suspect that is now very unlikely. The revisit of the inspection team gave every indication of having no wish other than to condemn the school – even the outstanding features.

The vision of the Park View Education Trust is to enable the pursuit of excellence, recognition of abilities and talent, and the realisation of ambitions for all of our learners. In so doing, we aspire to break the link between demographics, deprivation and destiny. And we are achieving that in Park View Academy, and starting to in Golden Hillock and Nansen Academies. That work has been, and continues to be, seriously threatened by these specious and unfounded attacks whose impact is so socially divisive and dangerous for a settled, stable, multi-cultural Birmingham.

David Hughes
Director and Governor,
Park View School Trustee and Vice Chair,
Park View Education Trust 6th April 2014

Useful plants in The Forest Recreation Park

Whilst attending the "Melting Pot" Food and Culture Festival at the New Art Exchange, BFTF was introduced to artist Rebecca Beinart (see also here) and immediately signed up for the free tour of The Forest Rec that she was doing later to show people what kinds of useful plants were growing there.

It proved to be a good move....

[Note : BFTF is not a herbalist. I repeat, BFTF is not a herbalist - so please do use the information in this post to go and pick your own herbs. Instead, use it as a starting point and do your own research to ensure you do not pick the wrong plant by (your or my) mistake.]

Rebecca's art installation at the event, with lots of items made from herbs etc


Rebecca inspecting the seed head of the Ribwort Plantain


A rather handsome Ribwort Plantain


More info on the Ribwort Plantain here. The related (and very common) Broadleaf Plantain is also well known as a medicinal herb and was called the "Whitemans foot" in North America for reasons explained here.

Mallow

The whole of the Malva can be used in various ways (see here). Worth mentioning that the above example is not a particularly handsome one). Further info here.

Sorrel

Even BFTF knows that Sorrel can be used in cooking. Info here.

Yarrow

Yarrow is a herb known for its ability to stauch bloodflow from wounds, hence its other name of "Carpenters Weed", although that is not perhaps an entirely positive testimonial for the skills of old woodworkers. Info here.

Stickyweed

Kids like it for its stickiness to clothing. Adults like it for its culinary and medicinal properties. Info here.
One of the exhibitors at the New Art Exchange Event

Rebecca mentioned quite a bit else besides what is described in this post, so take the chance to go on one of her walks if the opportunity comes your way! And then we all went back to the New Art Exchange where the festival was still in progress!

Image Sources
All BFTF's own

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Mums and Tots at BMCC

BFTF has previously been hugely impressed by the Mums and Tots group based at Wollaton Mosque and Community Centre and run by HR consultant Saema Mohammad (see here and here).

So it was great to hear that Saema has managed to organise a similar group at the Bobbers Mill Community Centre (512-514 Berridge Road West, NG7 5JU, enter via Nursery entrance)

The BMCC Mums and Tots group will meet on Fridays at 10.30am-12noon every two weeks, with initial dates being 25th April, 9th May, 23rd May, 6th June and 20th June.

Cost is a very reasonable £1 per visit.

Contact Saema on 07899882385 or saemam@hotmail.co.uk for more information.

Or visit their FB page.

BFTF looks forward to being able to report on some of the exciting events at the BMCC Mums and Tots group in due course!


Saturday, 19 April 2014

New York Architecture - Skyscrapers

BFTF recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend walking around Manhatten, New York and was fascinated by the architecture there.

This is the last in a series of posts about Manhatten and its buildings. The other posts in the series are :

1)Introduction,
2)Oddments and Wall Street Pictures
3)Old Buildings Pictures
One World Trade Centre (link here)


8 Spruce Street (link here)


375 Pearl Street (link here)


Rockefeller "XYZ" Buildings (link here)


The Empire State Building (link here)


The Rockefeller Centre (link here)....


...from the top of which one gets this view looking south in daytime....


...and this view looking south at night.


Financial district as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge


And yes, BFTF did see the Statue of Liberty !


New York Architecture - Old Buildings Pictures

BFTF recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend walking around Manhattan, New York and was fascinated by the architecture there.

This is the last in a series of posts about Manhatten and its buildings. The other posts in the series are :

1)Introduction
2)Oddments and Wall Street Pictures
4)Skyscrapers Pictures

 "Niketown"


Initially thought that "Niketown" was a converted Fire Station or similar, but it turns out it was built by Nike, from the ground up, to resemble an early 20th century gymnasium. Further information can be found here and, but the architect no less, here. The numbers on the front of the building (which are what led BFTF to surmise that this was an old Fire Station, with the code being that of the fire crew) is in fact the touch dial code for "Nike".

James Farley Post Office Building


This post office, which occupies such a huge area and is being redeveloped into an Amtrak rail station is rather classically built. Above the columns are a number of tributes to historical figures who have developed key aspects of the postal process. The "Untapped Cities" blog describes how these inscriptions range from Cardinal de Richelieu to the Persion Emperor Cyrus).

Times Square, not as big, or as square, as you might think


Times Square, so called because it used to be the home of the New York Times newspaper, is famous for being the place to congregate as the New Year begins, and for its dazzling electronic billboards. It is also the start (or end, depending on your point of view) of the Lincoln Highway, which stretches all the way across the US to San Francisco on the west coast.


Loved these old business signs


BFTF was facinated by the old advertising signs painted onto some of the early 20th century brick covered buildings, and wondered what had become of these firms and what their stories were.

So imaging my joy at finding out that there is a website that has catalogued many of the signs in New York - and has a picture and information on this specific building!

Clearly, the 1970s were a tough time for the garment industry in NYC. A little digging reveals some research by economists Jason Bram and Michael Anderson showing that, shockingly, between 1969 and 1999, NYC lost however 69% of jobs in the apparel business.

Crikey


St Thomas Church


A striking juxtaposition of very old and very new.


Rougher looking area in mid-town


Odd that there can be any run down looking parts of a place as expensive as Manhatten, but there you go.


Another example of old against new


Bit annoyed I can't tell you exactly what where the above, or below, buildings are located at...

Beautiful ornate gilded stonework


Nice!
More lovely old stonework


Very Nice!
Residential flats in Manhatten - people do actually live here too.


Image Sources
All BFTF's own

New York Architecture - Oddments and Wall Street Pictures

BFTF recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend walking around Manhattan, New York and was fascinated by the architecture there.

This is the second in a series of posts about Manhattan and its buildings. The other posts in the series are :

1)Introduction,
3)Old Buildings Pictures
4)Skyscrapers Pictures

First picture, having just come out of the Port Authority Bus Station
(just south of Central Park)


THIS is how you park cars in a limited space.


A Rickshaw? Didn't see that coming!


Took this, quickly, while crossing the road, possibly around 42nd Street



Southern end of Central Park, showing outcrops of the Manhattan bedrock
and buildings in the background 


New York Stock Exchange


Wall Street looking east. Narrow, isn't it?


Wall Street looking west.
Oh, the irony of having a church so promimently close to a place like Wall Street.


Wall Street Subway Station, not as smart as one might expect....



....but then, the very rich have the option of arriving at this Heliport
just a few hundred metres from Wall Street


Image Sources
All BFTF's own