Friday, March 07, 2008

School's bizarre ploy to beat internet perverts - masking pupils with Acid House smileys

A primary school has been accused of being alarmist for covering up the faces of pupils on its website - apparently to protect them from paedophiles. Bizarrely, the images have been altered with the type of smiley faces popular during the Acid House dance craze of the 1980s. The decision was taken at Cann Hall Primary School in Clacton, Essex. Headmistress Clare Reece said yesterday: "The public nature of the internet is an issue we feel strongly about. "Not all parents want their children's picture on there. "You can't say what is going to happen with any of those pictures."

She said that the photographs were printed unaltered in the school newsletter which was sent to parents. But on the primary's website, the children's faces are obscured. The school guarantees the content of the site is "child friendly", adding: "In order to protect our children, we have made the decision not to include any photos of our pupils on this website."

Previously, faces were simply blurred, but newer pictures, including action shots of the athletics tournament, use the smiley faces. However, one child in a line-up of medal winners has been singled out - he alone has been given a sad face.

Children's charity NCH yesterday said that schools were right to be cautious about putting children's pictures on the internet if they were vulnerable or in care. However, spokesman Shaun Kelly added: "The images shocked me, actually. What message is it giving? "It looks very, very odd. If you want to obscure children's faces you can obscure them with pixels. "We need to be cautious about taking images of children out of the media."

Frank Furedi, a sociology professor at the University of Kent, said the school was being alarmist. "Every time a school takes silly measures, it says we see the world through the eyes of a paedophile. "They think that any innocent picture of school children will somehow be subverted and manipulated. "These pictures serve a very important purpose of giving children clear images of their experiences, something they can remember later in life. "Depriving ourselves of these experiences is not only irrational but serves no purpose whatsoever."

However, some parents at the school said they supported the decision. One said: "I wouldn't want my child's face on a disgusting site.' But Michaela Day, 35, whose eight-year-old son, Connor, attends the school, said: "If they are covering the children's faces, what is the point of using the photographs? It's a waste of time."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that it advises schools to get permission from parents or carers in writing before publishing photographs of pupils on a website or in a prospectus. However, this is not a legal requirement. The school took down the controversial pictures from its website at around 3pm yesterday. A message on the website said: "Our newsletter section is undergoing maintenance. Back soon!"


Socialist Britain: Your government will look after you (NOT)

The shocking truth behind daycare at nurseries and creches: All covered up by deep layers of bullsh*it and pervasive official negligence. So parents are lulled into a very mistaken sense of security

Britain's childcare industry is booming. Every working day, more than a million parents drop off their precious little cargos at childminders and private nurseries. All of them do it firm in the belief that those they trust with their babies are highly-qualified, strictly regulated and genuine, caring people. Terrifyingly, they are wrong. During an eight-month investigation for the BBC1 investigative programme Whistleblower, I uncovered a childcare culture where a new carer's criminal records and references are never checked, yet they will immediately be left alone with young, vulnerable children.

I was initially alerted to the scandal by an inspector for Ofsted (the government agency that regulates childminders and nurseries). She said that, as a parent of two children and having inspected 700 nurseries with her colleagues, she had found only five that she would have let her own children attend. She also said that Ofsted inspection reports - the only safeguards that parents have to go on when choosing a nursery - aren't worth the paper they're printed on. "We are literally skimming the surface," she said. "We are told constantly: "If you don't see a problem, don't look for one. Take a quick look and get out." "The priority for all Ofsted inspectors is to meet their targets. If they don't, they are disciplined. Targets take priority over safeguarding children."

I decided to test these claims by going undercover and getting myself a job in a number of nurseries. I thought I would encounter difficulties since I had no children and, apart from a couple of babysitting stints, no experience of looking after babies and toddlers. Yet I needn't have worried. None of the nurseries with which I got jobs bothered to check my fake CV or fictitious references. Even Ofsted, which at least checked my criminal record, registered me as a childminder despite the premises where I was looking after the children not being at all suitable.

My first job was at the Buttons nursery in Ealing, West London. We'd had a tip-off that its supervision of babies and toddlers was unacceptable. After a cursory interview, I was appointed as a nursery assistant. No one checked my references in the five weeks I was there and even though the law states that everyone working with children has to have their background checked by Home Office agency the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), the all-clear didn't come back until I had left.

Buttons is based in a rambling, 19th-century detached house and caters to the area's professional middle classes. It was not cheap, charging 1,100 pounds a month for a child who is dropped off at 8am and collected at 6pm. On my first day, I was terrified - partly afraid that my secret filming equipment would be discovered, but mostly because apart from a quick nappychanging lesson with a friend's baby, I had no clue how to look after children. As it turned out, no one noticed my inexperience. At 21, I was one of the oldest nursery assistants. Many were trainees and had no idea what they were supposed to be doing. There was no on-the-job training. Instead, we were thrown in at the deep end. At times I was on my own with as many as 13 children, even though the law says carers waiting for their CRB clearance should always be closely supervised at all times. And they shouldn't be allowed to change nappies and take children to the toilet.

With so many children to look after, I could barely make sure they were safe, let alone care for them individually. Instead, it was just damage limitation - I found myself grabbing broken glass, sticks and sharp objects from children as young as three. One day, builders were brought in to fit guards to the radiators because one little boy - weeks earlier - had badly burnt his hand on one.

The other staff told me that the owner, Satnam Parhar, had blamed the staff for not supervising the burned boy properly and that he was only getting the guards fitted because an Ofsted inspection was due. The builders left their power tools inches away from where the children were playing and no one seemed to notice. I spent that particular session on tenterhooks.

The nursery assistants at Buttons were poorly supervised and very poorly paid. I was on about 100 pounds a week - less than the legal minimum wage. It's hardly surprising, then, that many of the staff were less than high-quality carers. I saw two nursery assistants hauling a boy across the nursery by his arm. Then I heard a child being called a "sh*t-bag" and saw a little girl's head being shoved into a mattress on the floor as she didn't want to go. When I complained to the owner that I had been left on my own with 13 children, he refused to accept what I was saying and called the idea crazy.

When I contacted him later, saying I had been undercover for a TV programme, he issued a statement. "The care and safety of our children is of utmost importance. "New joiners to our staff undertake a full induction programme and there are procedures in place to ensure the safety of children. "We take any allegations or criticism very seriously and will investigate these complaints and take appropriate action."

My next childcare job took me to a nursery with the worst possible history. In April 2006, a ten-month-old girl called Georgia Hollick had choked to death on a slice of apple at the Just Learning nursery in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire. The inquest found that her death was accidental and made no criticism of the nursery. However, a subsequent investigation by Ofsted found that children's health and safety were being compromised at the nursery. Nevertheless, it was allowed to reopen less than a month after her death. One day, I had to stop babies eating - and potentially choking on - small Christmas decorations that a member of staff had placed in the sandpit. It was unbelievable that just 19 months after a baby choked to death at this nursery, such chances were still being taken with child safety.

Within days of the result of my investigation being put to them, Just Learning closed the Cambourne nursery and issued a statement saying: "The company has found that its rigorous policies and procedures have been seriously breached in this case and this was one factor considered when it decided to close this nursery. "The issues at Cambourne are isolated to this one nursery." But this still left the question of why such a failing nursery had previously survived a very critical Ofsted report following the death of a young child in its care.

The BBC has been given an internal Ofsted document that refers to the Tory MP Michael Fallon, who was managing director of Just Learning at the time of Georgia Hollick's death. A passage says: "If we cancel this particular setting [nursery] then there are implications for Michael Fallon as he would be automatically disqualified [from running it]." Mr Fallon has since responded, saying: "This is news for me and a matter for Ofsted. I have had no discussions with Ofsted about the fatal accident at Cambourne. "I resigned as MD immediately afterwards. "I strongly endorse the decision of the Board to close the nursery. The breach of the company's procedures was completely unacceptable."

After these two nurseries, I decided to investigate the self-styled upper end of the child-minding business, where I soon realised that the problems are not confined to our own shores. Mark Warner operates at the top of the holiday market, charging up to 8,000 for two weeks abroad for a family of four. It makes a point of offering "award-winning" childcare. That award-winning care didn't extend to checking my CV, contacting my references, doing a criminal records check or even asking to see some basic ID. Again, I could have been anyone.

I worked at Mark Warner's swanky Hilton resort in Dahab, Egypt, where the luxurious hotel rooms are built to resemble a traditional whitewashed Arab village. Despite being promised two days' training at the interview, I was thrown straight in with a group of toddlers. Once, there were two of us looking after 13 children - when Mark Warner's own regulations state there should be no more than six per adult. When I asked about my training, the manager just said: "You don't get official training as such. It's very relaxed, very laid-back here." This is unlikely to be the approach parents think they are paying for.

Next, I was asked to supervise the children on the beach. Again, no one had checked if I had any swimming or rescue qualifications. Even more worrying, I had to take children out on a boat without enough safety gear for all of them. When I raised the issue with my manager, he told me to go ahead with the boat trip anyway. Also, for such a prestigious company with an upmarket reputation, Mark Warner has a very cavalier attitude to the employment laws of the countries where it operates, and is not controlled by Ofsted. Like many of its staff in Dahab, I was there on a tourist visa. Mark Warner should have paid for work permits but instead had us break Egyptian law on their behalf. We were told we should just lie and say we were there on holiday, but Egypt is not the kind of country-where you want to end up in prison.

Three weeks after I returned from Egypt, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann from a Mark Warner resort in Praia da Luz in Portugal made headlines around the world. No one blamed the company or its staff for the little girl's disappearance, but given the case, I assumed the company would toughen up its vetting of nannies. To test this out, a BBC colleague applied for a Mark Warner childcare job and was sent to an upmarket French ski resort.

Her false CV went unchecked and, months after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the company still didn't do a CRB check before she started work. Later, I recounted my experiences to Mark Warner's managing director. He refused to be interviewed but issued a statement that said: "It is company policy that all childcare staff employed by Mark Warner must supply two references and submit a form to check their criminal record. "There were clearly two occasions where we failed to do this. That is completely unacceptable and we apologise. "We have now reviewed and strengthened our procedures."

For the final part of my investigation, I discovered that even an inexperienced 21-year old with no qualifications can also fool Ofsted. I borrowed a large house, made no alterations to accommodate young children - despite the fact that no youngster had lived there for 20 years - and applied for a childminder's licence. I admitted to the Ofsted inspector who visited that I had no fireguard, no first aid kit, no stairgates, no safety glass or socket covers. I didn't even have a table for the children to sit at. The building was completely unsuitable. But I did say I had a wish-list containing all those items and planned to install them. That was enough for the inspector and I got the go-ahead. No one ever came back to check up that I had put them in place.

When contacted, Ofsted said in a statement that it would consider making improvements based on the findings that I had uncovered. But it said: "Ours is the most intensive inspection and monitoring system in Europe. Our inspections of nurseries and childminders are rigorous and the vast majority of our inspectors are highly skilled professionals who do a good job. Ofsted is independent. We report without fear or favour." I don't yet have children but having seen what I've seen, I can't imagine I'll ever risk putting my own into childcare.



War on Want, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Keshev, I'lam and ICAHD, (whose funders include the EU, Finnish and British governments, and NIF ), are joining a number of extremist NGOs to promote "Israeli Apartheid week."

Israeli Apartheid week (IAW) was first held in Canada in 2004. In 2008 it encompasses events in Canada, Mexico, South Africa, the UK, the USA and the Palestinian Territories. Its stated aim, in line with the NGO declaration from the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, is "to create a widespread awareness of Israeli apartheid and to bolster support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign." The organizers assert the "imperative of" "isolat[ing] the Israeli apartheid regime."

Despite serious critiques of such "apartheid" rhetoric, many NGOs continue to use it as a political tool to delegitimize the existence of Israel. War on Want (WoW), which is funded by the UK and Irish governments, featured in Warwick University's program. On February 7, 2008, WoW's Senior Global Justice Campaigner, Ruth Tanner spoke on "Resistance day': `Resisting the occupation: should we bother?" Berkely University, exhibited an ICAHD photographic display and Linda Ramsden, Chair of ICAHD UK is a listed speaker of the UK event. Rochama Marton, founder and President of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), which receives money from the EU and Finnish Embassy among others, addressed a panel at the UK university, SOAS on February 11, 2008. On February 14, SOAS will also host a panel on "Media and Normalising Israeli Apartheid," which lists Yizhar Be'er, Executive Director of Keshev and former executive director of B'Tselem, and Haneen Zoubi, General Director of NIF and British council-funded I'lam, as speakers.

IAW's material selects and distorts facts to support its destructive political agenda, including baseless claims of "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians, the "720 km long concrete wall", and that "[t]orture is used against virtually every Palestinian arrested." The participation of NGOs, funded by governments and the NIF, which claim to promote universal human rights, in an event which distorts these values to demonize Israel, is highly troubling.


Ethnic nationalism still matters

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In Africa last week, President Bush deplored the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s, defended his refusal to send U.S. troops to Darfur and decried the ethnic slaughter in Kenya. Following a fraudulent election, the Kikyu, the dominant tribe in Kenya, have been subjected to merciless assault. People are separating from one another and butchering one another along lines of blood and soil.

According to a compelling lead article in the new Foreign Affairs, "Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism," we may be witnessing in the Third World a re-enactment of the ethnic wars that tore Europe to pieces in the 20th century.

"Ethnonationalism," writes history professor Jerry Z. Muller of Catholic University, "has played a more profound role in modern history than is commonly understood, and the processes that led to the dominance of the ethnonational state and the separation of ethnic groups in Europe are likely to recur elsewhere."

Western Man has mis-taught himself his own history. Writes Muller: "A familiar and influential narrative of 20th-century European history argues that nationalism twice led to war, in 1914 and then again in 1939. Thereafter, the story goes, Europeans concluded that nationalism was a danger and gradually abandoned it. In the postwar decades, Western Europeans enmeshed themselves in a web of transnational institutions, culminating in the European Union."

Muller contends that this is a myth, that peace came to the Old Continent only after the triumph of ethnonationalism, after the peoples of Europe had sorted themselves out and each achieved its own home. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were three multi-ethnic empires in Europe: the Ottoman, Russian and Austro-Hungarian. The ethnonationalist Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 tore at the first. World War I was ignited by Serbs seeking to rip Bosnia away from Austria-Hungary. After four years of slaughter, the Serbs succeeded, and ethnonationalism triumphed in Europe.

Out of the dead Ottoman Empire came the ethnonationalist state of Turkey and an ethnic transfer of populations between Ankara and Athens. Armenians were massacred and expelled from Turkey. Out of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires came Finland, Estonia, Lativia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. In the latter three nations, however, a majority ethnic group ruled minorities that wished either their own national home, or to join lost kinsmen.

In Poland, there were Ukrainians, Germans, Lithuanians and Jews. In Czechoslovkia, half the population was German, Slovak, Hungarian, Polish, Ruthenian or Jewish. In Yugoslavia were Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Albanians.

The Second World War came out of Hitler's attempt to unite all Germans in one ethnonational home -- thus the Anschluss with Austria, the demand for return of the Sudeten Deutsch, and the pressure on Poland to return the Germans' lost city of Danzig, and for Lithuania to give back German Memel and the Memelland it seized in 1923.

World War II advanced the process in the most horrible of ways. The Jews of Europe, with no national home, perished, or fled to create one, in Israel. The Germans of the Baltic states, Prussia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans and their own eastern provinces, almost to Berlin, were expelled in the most brutal act of ethnic cleansing in history -- 13 million to 15 million Germans, of whom 2 million perished in the exodus.

At the end of World War II, Europe's nations were more ethnically homogenous than they had ever been, at a horrendous cost in blood. After 45 years of Cold War, the remaining multi-ethnic states -- the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia -- broke up into more than two dozen nation-states, all rooted in ethnonationlism.

As Muller argues, ethnonationalism may be a precondition of liberal democracy. Only after all the tribes of Europe had their own ethnically homogenous nation-states did peace and comity come. And what happened in Europe in the 20th century may be a precursor of what is to come in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In China, Uighurs, Mongolians and Tibetans all resist assimilation. Tatarstan may be the next problem for Russia. In the Balkans, it is Kosovo. Serbs there and in Bosnia may emulate the Albanians and secede.

Americans, writes Muller, "find ethnonationalism discomfiting both intellectually and morally. Social scientists go to great lengths to demonstrate that this is a product not of nature but of culture. ... "But none of this will make ethnonationalism go away."

Indeed, we see it bubbling up from the Basque country of Spain, to Belgium, Bolivia, Baghdad and Beirut. Perhaps the wisest counsel for the United States may be to get out of the way of this elemental force. Rather than seek to halt the inexorable, we should seek to accommodate it and ameliorate its sometimes awful consequences.

And we should look to our own land. According to Pew Research, there will be 127 million Hispanics here by mid-century, tripling today's 45 million -- and almost 100 million new immigrants. No nation faces a graver threat from this resurgence of ethnonationalism than does our own. Look homeward, America.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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