Saturday, July 14

Help a man raise funds for the British Heart Foundation

One of my colleagues is walking for 50 kilometres to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. I don't do stuff like that, its against my religion, but I am happy to look and admire people who do this kind of strenuous activity for charity. So if you can help him out, that would be good.

Click here for the link.

Friday, July 13

24 years of incompetence and stupidity

The department of Work and Pensions has, for the last 24 years, managed to bollox up the benefits system to such a large degree that last year, it managed to lose £3.2b and underpay £1.3b.

What is this? Is this what the taxpayer is working his nuts off for? that you cannot manage a benefits system? If the problem is complexity, then simplify it but then, these bloody governments cannot resist tinkering with the tax system. So the cost of a massively complex benefits and tax system, besides the usual economic costs, is this.

Unbelievable. This beast must be starved to death. More austerity and less taxes. Only then will this incompetent behemoth start looking at its own internal efficiencies.

Department for Work and Pensions accounts show £3.2bn lost in overpayments and £13bn underpaid

The Whitehall spending auditor has declined to sign off in full the accounts of the Department for Work and Pensions for the 24th year running, because of the extent of fraud and error in the benefits system.

Some £3.2bn is thought to have been lost through overpayments in 2011/12. Underpayments came to an estimated £1.3bn.

Auditor general Amyas Morse said fraud and error was "unacceptably high" and qualified his opinion of the DWP's accounts, the 24th year consecutive year this has been the case for the department and its benefits-handling predecessors.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, said the DWP had failed to get a grip on fraud and error despite assurances that it would do so. "This department has the biggest budget in Whitehall and its inability, 24 years in a row, to administer its spending properly is just unacceptable," she said.

"With fraud and error of £4.5bn in 2011-12, roughly the same as in previous years, huge sums of money are being lost to the public purse that could have been spent on our schools and hospitals.

"Government spending is at its tightest for over 50 years and it simply can't afford to carry on like this."

She said the government was relying on the forthcoming introduction of the universal credit to "get its house in order" but that the transition to the new benefit was "full of risks" and potentially off-schedule.

"The department has got to get a grip on fraud and error now. Despite its assurances to my committee, it has not done so and it must do better," she said.

Morse said: "The level of fraud and error in the welfare system remains unacceptably high.

"I recognise, however, the difficulty of administering in a cost-effective way a benefits system of such complexity.

"The department should use the development of universal credit as an opportunity to enhance its processes to demonstrate what a modern, effective and joined-up benefits system will look like.

"In refreshing its approach to reducing fraud and error, the department needs to continue to improve its understanding of the root causes of fraud and error."

The auditor general's qualified opinion did not apply to the state pension, which has a much lower level of fraud and error, with £100m of overpayments and £150m of underpayments last year.

But he did also qualify his opinion of the separate social fund account – which includes cold weather payments, winter fuel payments, Sure Start maternity grants, crisis loans and community care grants – because of the extent of errors.

That account has now been qualified for nine years running.

Morse said the DWP had made "improvements" in some areas regarding the social fund but added that it "must build on these improvements if it is fully to resolve the regularity and debt issues".

Wednesday, July 11

Deaths in the world

This was an extraordinary graph, not least because of the great way they described the data. You will need to click on it and download and zoom and gape and wonder. If you do want to get upset, there is much blame to go around. Some of them really surprised me, Aurangzeb was responsible for 4.6 million deaths? Or the British Famines in India killed 27 million or that the fall of the Ming Dynasty killed off 25 million. What was horrific was the sheer scale of the deaths due to the slave trade (curious how much we know about the Atlantic trade versus the middle east trade).


Tuesday, July 10

So who is to blame for us being 26th out of 34 countries?

So we are good in education, eh? Specially the Maths side? Erm no.

The report found that just 1.7% of England's 15-year-olds reached the highest level, Level 6, in maths, compared with an OECD average of 3.1%.

In Switzerland and Korea, 7.8% of pupils reached this level.

Overall, England ranked 26th out of 34 OECD countries for the proportion of pupils reaching the top level in maths, behind other nations like Slovenia (3.9%), the Slovak Republic (3.6%) France (3.3%) and the Czech Republic (3.2%), which were among those scoring around the OECD average.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

These figures show that few bright non-privileged students reach their academic potential - which is unfair and a tragedy ”

Sir Peter LamplSutton Trust

The report adds that the situation looks worse for England when a wider global comparison is used.

Singapore, which is not part of the OECD table analysed, saw 15.6% of its students score the top level, while in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which were also not part of the OECD table, 10.8% and 26.6% respectively got the top level.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "This is a deeply troubling picture for any us who care about our brightest pupils from non-privileged backgrounds."

The study also suggests that comparing the maths results of 18-year-olds would be even more stark because 90% of English pupils drop the subject after GCSE.

Whereas in many other countries, maths is compulsory up to the age of 18.

The report argues that England is falling down international tables because of successive failures to help the most able pupils.

So assuming that it takes 5 years to fix something like this, who were the ministers at the head of the education ministry going back to 2002 or so?

Ruth Kelly, she has now left politics and is working as an economist.

Alan Johnson is now an MP

Ed Balls is currently the Shadow Chancellor.

Michael Gove is the current Minister.

sighs. Good heavens. So what have the 2 respective parties saying?

Education Secretary Michael Gove added: "We already knew that under Labour we plummeted down the international league tables in maths. "Now we see further evidence that they betrayed bright children from poor backgrounds and - worst of all - that their policies drove talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds away from the subjects that employers and universities value most."

Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said: "Results for all pupils, including the brightest, improved under Labour. "While there are always improvements that could be made, gifted and talented pupils were stretched through a National Academy, targeted scholarships and a new A* grade at A-level. "While we want to see bright pupils stretched, this can't be at the expense of leaving some behind. Michael Gove's plans will create a two tier exam system, which will do nothing to help all pupils make the most of their potential."

What the hell? Whose head has rolled because of several years of under performance? Look at what the moronic Stephen Twigg says, listen, you muppet, the point was to stretch the top guys. He totally missed the point, but then the Labour government has screwed it up anyway, so one cannot just trust these buggers with anything. But to be so intellectually stupid? And he is supposed to be the chap who is supposed to look after what the government is doing? God save our kids. So what is our Government’s plans? Oh! good, its to blame the previous government. /facepalm. I like your strategy, Mr. Gove. I don't want you to blame others, I want you to fix the bloody thing. What are you doing about it?

so what are the teachers saying about the diabolical performance?

Commenting on the Sutton Trust’s analysis of the performance of highly able pupils in international league tables, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“No one would wish highly able children to achieve anything less than their best. It is the case that approaches to Maths across OECD countries differ. Jurisdictions which prize critical thinking and problem solving as well as creativity are the areas in which young people – highly able or otherwise – do well in Pisa tests.
“The creation of additional elements in league tables is not the way to improve outcomes for the ‘highly able’ students. A broad curriculum in which critical thinking is prized would be. The NUT hopes that the Department for Education will have regard to this when the secondary curriculum review is published, and will reflect on it as responses come in to the primary curriculum review.”

/facepalm. What a load of pap and stupid utterances. This is the comment from another teaching union head.

Nasuwt teaching union head Chris Keates said the tests used to draw the comparisons, and the way children prepare for them, differed between countries. "Their conclusions raise more questions than they answer. They are not comparing like with like. "The education systems are different. The pupils taking the tests are selected differently. Some countries do nothing but prepare for the tests for months. Some, like Shanghai may not enter a pupil sample generally reflective of the student population and use crammer sessions to prepare."

ooooo, that’s a new one, Chris, so the test itself was bad, our students are all math geniuses and great. /facepalm. Great leadership there.

End result? nobody is talking about actually doing anything, the politicians are blaming each other, one teacher head is blaming the government and the other is blaming the tests themselves.

My poor children of my nation.