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Carisbrooke College fails Ofsted and is failing their pupils and they failed me

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This morning someone posted a screenshot of the Isle of Wight County Press about an article where a UKIP candidate forged signatures on their nomination form. I didn’t really care about this story but at the bottom of the screenshot there was another story entitled ‘Carisbrooke fails Ofsted’ and I did some research. Basically Carisbrooke College has been on special measures since being judged inadequate in all four core areas – pupil achievement, the quality of teaching, the behaviour and safety of pupils and leadership of the school.

Now why do I care about a school that is 150 odd miles away from me?

Well this was my high school. It isn’t a high school any more as it has been rebranded a college but it is where I went to school, doing my GCSEs on this site and staying on to the VI Form to get my A-Levels. It is a shame to see the school in such a state but reading up on what has been going on, it isn’t the anomaly on the Isle of Wight, with three of the six secondary schools having been placed in special measures within the past year. The Isle of Wight is clearly failing its secondary school pupils, that is clear. Since I left the island they have really messed around with the school system and it doesn’t seem to have been for the better.

Now I do know people – friends – who work in the Isle of Wight school system as teachers. I do know people who work as teachers at Carisbrooke College and of course there are a handful of teachers who are still working there from when I was there, so it is a tricky one to be too critical of.

The thing is I have written about the school once before on this very blog, in a piece entitled I wrote about the current uniform policy and how much I despised it. My main beef was with these two lines:

Hair must be worn in an appropriate style.
No extreme styling or designs of hair or eyebrows e.g. lines, intricate patterns. Only hair of one natural colour allowed and no false nails or coloured nail varnish is allowed.

Look I understand the need for a school uniform as without one then you can easily have a situation where pupils are bullied for not having the latest style of blouse or the right trainers but I don’t think school uniforms should be very strict. No trainers, black shoes, white t-shirt or shirt and dark coloured skirts/trousers or whatever. I certainly don’t think that if you are all dolled up in a blazer then you’ll suddenly act like a better student.

However when it comes to hair then I believe children – teenage children – should be allowed to express some form of identity and individuality. Young people develop their own sense of who they are are at high school. Schools shouldn’t feel that purple hair for example will rock the boat. I don’t recall any such rule in place when I went there and I do recall people with what I’d call ‘extreme styling’ of hair. Has the school improved with such strict uniform policy? Clearly not.

The thing is I went to the Carisbrooke College website today and what is one of their latest news stories? – – Yes. They are still banging on about uniform and appearance. Ofsted believe that the standing of teaching is inadequate, too many teachers have come in from middle schools where they have been merged and they haven’t been trained to teach secondary school pupils, isn’t this a far bigger fundamental issue?

Whilst I may have left the place in 2001 after my A-Levels, one of the inadequacies the Ofsted inspection noted really hit home:

Students do not make enough progress because too many teachers do not have high enough expectations of them.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

I’m not going to sit here and say I was a great student because that would be a lie. In fact I was incredibly lazy and would always do the bare minimum to go forward. The fact is though I was (and still am) actually rather bright. I moved to the Isle of Wight after Year 8, so I had been at a secondary school on the mainland and was in all the top sets – and at the very top of them all as well. That school was a far better school than Carisbrooke but when I rolled up there, they placed me in the middle sets across the board and I was on the biggest easy street of all time. I wasn’t even placed in any set for maths (clearly a great school) and I just told the head of maths to put me in the highest set but she was happy to place me very low down, luckily I won the debate (even at just 13 at times I could stand up for myself) and I stayed in the top set throughout my stay at the school.

Basically Year 9 was a complete waste of time as I learned nothing pretty much. I was placed in set four (out of seven) for English and we did a spelling test. I got 50/50 but the teacher said I only got 49 and he said eerie was spelt eery instead of eerie. At the time we were actually reading a book that had the word eerie in it and it was spelt eerie. I pointed this out and he decided that both spellings were acceptable but it took a good five to ten minutes of shall we say ‘debate’ (it was really me lambasting him).

At the end of Year 9 we had the CATS tests (Cognitive Abilities Test) which are widely used to understand ability. According to their website, ‘The Cognitive Abilities Test Third Edition (CAT3) is the most widely used test of reasoning ability in the UK.’ I went into these tests in middle sets across the board (apart from in maths where I told them I was going in the top set as they didn’t have a set assigned to me) and promptly went and bashed the tests out of the park. So much so my mum was called into the school and told that I was a genius and in the top percentile in the country. This wasn’t news.

She knew I was gifted. I always had been. However my marks weren’t living up to my ability and they didn’t understand why. The fact is I wasn’t being challenged so didn’t bother. Children need to be challenged otherwise they’ll become disillusioned and just get by on natural ability. I have never failed an exam in my life and I have gone into many wholly unprepared. Natural ability though and what I call ‘exam nous’ can only get you so far though.

When I actually got challenged (or chose to challenge myself) I was right up there. For example in GCSE history we did the American West and it interested me. So I read all about it and actually ignored the teacher in class, instead choosing to read the text books and assimilating knowledge on the subject. I’m told that the person who marked my exam paper actually rang my history teacher to tell him I was a genius. I scored 100% on that GCSE paper, including writing an essay at the end of the exam talking about what a bastard the white man was towards the native American just for the hell of it and I wanted someone to know my thoughts on the subject.

In A-Level geography we did modules and had five exams with one piece of coursework. In two modules I scored an A/B borderline and I told the head of Geography that I wanted to resit as I believed I could get far better. He actually agreed and had faith in my abilities and I didn’t want to show him up so that he felt my resits were not worth the extra money. On the day of the results we also had a new module, so I had three exam results. We heard the news the results were in and basically all A-Level geography students piled into his office to try and get their results. I got there just as he said that he had to go and register his form so to come back at break, he stood up and saw me and said – and I remember the words well, ‘here comes the star of the show’ and sat back down and told me to come over. I had scored 119/120 in one paper and 89/90 and 88/90 in the other two. I had dropped four marks out of a possible 300 for a 98.7% result across those three modules. In another module I actually answered a question that we weren’t taught as I had a better understanding of it (renewable energy over ecosystems which we were taught) and I still got an A on that paper. So when challenged I came through.

The problem at Carisbrooke was they didn’t identify this. They believed they knew me better than I did. They failed me in not identifying my ability. I don’t know if they didn’t get my records from my old school or what but you don’t go from the top of the top at a really good school to being average at a much worse school based on exam results. I’m not guilt free in all of this but when you are 13 years-old and realise you can go through school basically in first gear, you don’t speak up. The Cats tests should have been the moment the school just threw me in the deep end to challenge me. They chose not to. This was a mistake that I believe has cost me to some degree in my life. I have many GCSEs, I have A-Levels, I have a degree so I’m still an educated man but I could have done better and I do believe that they failed me in that respect – and they are clearly doing it to many others.

Teachers and school staff need to get students interested and stimulated. Without that then they’ve already lost the war. Now of course if a kid has no interest in learning French for example then you can’t drum it into them, but school staff need to identify what makes every single pupil tick far more than they do. This sounds like a big challenge but surely that is far more important to spending hours of staff time on telling off students for not wearing a blazer, or having a blue streak in their hair or wearing brown instead of black shoes.

Until staff remember what their priorities should be then they will continue to fail students. All of us will be influenced primarily by our home life but after that our next biggest influences will be our schooling and the teachers we have. I won’t say I had any really bad teachers but I could sit here and name several who were just wholly inadequate. When studying GCSE English Literature we had a teacher who spent three to four months basically just playing us a recording of someone reading To Kill A Mockingbird. We weren’t asked questions on it, she just came in and played the audio and stopped it when the bell rang. That stimulated me less than a Michael McIntyre ‘joke’ stimulates my body into an attempt at a laugh. She was an inadequate teacher. There is no doubt about this. I won’t name her in case she is still teaching and more than three people ever read this blog, but she was not earning her money.

I did have some good teachers, I did have some that challenged me. I had a teacher I thought was a complete tosser but he challenged me because I thought this and wanted to prove him wrong. I did. Good teachers aren’t always the ones you like the most, they are the ones that get under your skin someway, somehow. Good teachers are the ones that let you realise your potential and not those who let you have a good time.

Carisbrooke College is an inadequate school as it stands. It wasn’t always this way. Carisbrooke failed me to some degree but I wouldn’t have ever said the teaching as a whole was inadequate like Ofsted did. I had a good handful of lousy teaching but I also had a good solid handful of good to inspiring teaching. I suspect if I was a student at Carisbrooke College now I’d be a lot worse off than I was when I went there and that makes me despondent for the young people of the west part of the Isle of Wight and those in Newport who go to Carisbrooke and not Medina. The fact that Cowes and Sandown Bay Academy are also in special measures shows that the problem isn’t specific to Carisbrooke, but instead a larger problem for the people who run education on the Isle of Wight and they need to answer questions, serious questions about how they are failing young people on the Isle of Wight.

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November 3rd, 2013 at 1:22 pm

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‘Let your friend drive home drunk’ school tells pupil

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Every so often you come across a news story that you just can’t understand. This afternoon that happened to me. An American teenager (Erin Cox) gets a call from her friend who is drinking underage. Bad girl. However the underage drinker was old enough to drive and had indeed driven to a party but knew better than to drive home, so she called her friend to come pick her up. Her friend came and picked her up to take her home. Good story, no?

Well between the phone call and the girl picking up her drunk friend, the police raided the party and broke it up. When the girl who came to pick her up arrived to pick her up she was told she’d be hauled before court for underage drinking. Police arrested 12 and issued court summons to everyone else at the venue. Uh oh. However the police officer at the scene did tell the court that Erin Cox was not drinking and had indeed just shown up to drive someone home. Case dismissed. All sorted.

As Lee Corso would say, ‘not so fast my friend…’

What happened next was Ms Cox was stripped of being captain of her High School Volleyball team and suspended for five games because she was around alcohol. Any high school athlete at her school can be suspended just being in the vicinity of alcohol. They are the rules. She launched legal action against the school for suspending her but the Court decided they didn’t have the jurisdiction to overturn the school’s decision.

The lawyer for the school said outside the courtroom, “The school is really trying to take a very serious and principled stand regarding alcohol and we all get that. Teen drinking is a serious problem.” Yes and we have no problem with that but at some point common sense prevails. If Ms Cox says she can’t pick up her friend then the logical next step is for that friend to get in her car and drive home. What is worse in the grand scheme of things, underage drinking or drinking and driving? Anyone…?

Of course it is the latter. The school is taking a strong stand against drinking but being a good friend and stopping a drunk person getting behind the wheel is clearly something they aren’t in favour of. The people behind this decision are clearly idiots and will defend themselves to the nth degree. Rules are rules and there is nothing that can supersede a rule.

This young woman would not have been punished had she allowed her friend to get behind the wheel drunk that night, yet she is for going to pick her up to stop her drink-driving. There is no logic behind that notion. It is drummed into young people that underage drinking is bad but if you do then don’t drive home drunk – call someone and get them to pick you up. We all know this but North Andover High School administrators clearly believe differently. Ms Cox said she would do nothing differently but this story could easily propel others in similar situations to not come to their friends aid, in turn putting more drink-drivers on the road and who knows what happens then.

I just think these idiots could indirectly lead to people dying and I don’t think that is a stretch. So kids listen to these idiots. They say let friends drive home drunk because if you are around alcohol then you will be punished. What a great message to send our young people.

Idiots.

You can read the full story from the Boston Herald

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October 15th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

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Michael Le Vell found not guilty but how and why does the jury reach such a verdict?

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When the Michael Le Vell verdict came through this afternoon I wasn’t surprised. Not because he’s famous and famous people get off. Not because I didn’t believe the accuser. Not because I thought he looked like a good guy but I wasn’t surprised because I have been there – in the jury room on a very similar case where it came down solely to whether we believed the accuser or whether we believed the defendant and I saw how a jury swayed from what their gut instincts were to how we found the man.

You see the legal system is skewed against the defendant all the way until court where in fact the defendant who has the weight of the law on his or her side. You are instructed clearly by the judge that your gut opinion counts for nothing and that only what is said in court should influence you on your decision. So what the defendant looks like shouldn’t come into play for example. All that matters is what the witnesses tell you and what the lawyers and judges say.

In our case we saw no medical evidence and the reporting on the Le Vell case says that the judge instructed them that the medical evidence was neutral and therefore shouldn’t carry any weight either way. This meant for them as it did us – it came down not just to who we believed but did we believe the accuser to such a degree that we were confident that the accused had done the alleged crimes.

I have written about this before but we walked into the jury room and after an initial vote we were 9-3 in favour of not guilty. One of the nine was a young lady who actually didn’t care and wanted to go with the majority just so she could go home so its hard to fully gauge what she really thought – if she thought anything at all. The three guilty voters were two young men who felt that anyone accused of such a crime is probably guilty and one mother who believed that in the same situation her daughter (who was of the same age) would tell the truth and therefore she believed this girl totally and any accusation that her daughter wouldn’t tell the truth would crush her.

The impasse didn’t last long with the two young men, they agreed that following what was actually said in court (and one particular comment from the girls mother) meant that her testimony could not be taken as gospel and due to the lack of evidence bar from the accuser they changed their vote to not guilty and therefore we were 11-1 within an hour or so but we’d be deliberating for several more hours whilst the final member of the jury still equated the accuser for her daughter and how bad she would feel is people didn’t believe her daughter. She eventually was persuaded that her daughter and this girl were two different people and should be treated as such and we were unanimous and acquitted on all charges.

Obviously I was not in the Le Vell jury room but I wouldn’t be surprised if the discussion went along a similar front. It came down solely to whether the accuser was a solid enough witness to prove the case, now that is the key part of the whole thing, proving the case. The jury didn’t say that they thought the accuser was a liar, they didn’t say that she made up the allegations, they didn’t say that she embellished the truth, they didn’t say that any of the things she said happened to her didn’t happen, they simply said that her word alone wasn’t enough to confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did what he was accused of.

So to those who are asking about whether the girl will now be arrested for making up allegations then just shut up. There was no proof that she made anything up, no-one has said or even intimated that. All that has happened is a jury has decided that her word alone against the word of one other person isn’t good enough to prove a case. This happens day in, day out in court cases. When it comes to one persons word against another it is hard to convict just because as humans we find it hard to take one person who we don’t know’s word above another person we don’t know – certainly to a significant degree which ‘reasonable doubt’ makes a jury think about.

Did Michael Le Vell commit these crimes? I don’t know but I suspect the jury were in a position where it was very hard to be sure that he did and subsequently acquitted and as a society we should take that verdict as fact unless any further evidence comes out. Le Vell should be free of any stigma and allowed to get on with his life. As for the accuser she should also be allowed to get on with her life and not face any questions about whether she was telling the truth or not.

The reason our criminal justice system is setup is to make the CPS prove their case and not for the defence to prove their own. You are innocent until proven guilty and if you are not proven to be guilty then you are innocent in the eyes of the law and should be in the eyes of society as well. Being a jury member is not easy as you have a lot to weigh up but you are instructed very clearly as to what you can use to form your verdict and that ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ thing always looms large in your thought process.

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September 10th, 2013 at 4:51 pm

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No Nick, this is simply not good enough.

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A spokesman for Nick Clegg has released the following statement to the media this morning regarding David Miranda, The Guardian and National Security issues. This statement was reported by multiple outlets but I saw it first on LibDemVoice

We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.

On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.

The Deputy Prime Minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian’s freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security.

It was agreed to on the understanding that the purpose of the destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian’s ability to publish articles about the issue, but would help as a precautionary measure to protect lives and security.

My initial reaction is quite simple. Nick that quite simply is not good enough. I was laying in bed last night thinking about the time I met Nick Clegg at conference in 2011 (because that is what I do in bed – I worry about myself – as should you) and I was thinking about how impressed I was with him and how I was fully convinced as to his liberal philosophies. The reason I was thinking about it was because of how impressed I was with Julian Huppert on BBC News yesterday afternoon and it got me thinking about how often I hear Nick – or any of his Liberal Democrat cabinet colleagues – say anything that I thought was inherently liberal.

I realised that I just don’t hear Nick, Vince, Danny, Michael or Ed come out and say anything in the media that would make me nod and approve as to its liberalness. They might say things I agree with but they don’t say things that would prompt me to think how liberal they are.

Now on this situation it has clearly been pretty clumsy. The Whitehouse knew about it and the Deputy Prime Minister did not. This cannot be. Nick should either be banging the drum and asking why America was told and he wasn’t or he should be just banging his drum and asking relevant questions. Instead he seemingly backs the Prime Minister, ‘the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands. What bollocks. Flat out bollocks.

Why do I say this I hear you ask (or at least think)? Well any time I hear the words ‘serious threat to national security’ all I actually hear is ‘we had no actual reason so we need a good all encompassing cover story that people will swallow.’ If the No More Page 3 campaign started claiming that boobs were harming national security then they would get a whole lot more traction. If Wayne Rooney moving to Chelsea would destabilise national security then the PM would have a word with the Manchester United board and ensure he stays. National Security is a term used when politicians don’t actually know why they’ve done something.

There was probably a time when I would believe politicians and take them at face value but that good will has long since evaporated and I firmly believe anyone in power would go a long way to suppress free speech in an attempt to justify their actions. They are happy for The Guardian to publish articles on this subject but want everything destroyed. Yeah that doesn’t add up. I may not be the sharpest tool in the tool shed but I’m no tool (see what I did there?)

Tony Blair took on to war in the guise of National Security and as hindsight clearly states it was done not in National Security interests. It was done to finish a job that a President was too scared to finish as he had an election to win and feared the US citizens didn’t care about that war any more. ‘National Security’ this and ‘National Security’ that. That good will ship has sailed and quite frankly I don’t believe it one jot any more – certainly when it comes to this situation. All logic dictates that our National Security wasn’t in any jeopardy and in fact the only thing here was to blow smoke up America’s butt and to show Edward Snowdon and any other person interested in whistle-blowing against America that it has allies who are willing to help out all under the guise of ‘national security.’

I am suspicious of politicians in general but when I start getting suspicious of the leader of the Liberal Democrats then it is probably time to worry.

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August 21st, 2013 at 11:05 am

Posted in News,Politics

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The problem of dealing with online abuse…the twitter ‘report abuse’ idea.

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I agree with Owen Jones. It might not be as catchy as I agree with Nick but in the context of this blog is it far more applicable. Do I agree with everything he has to say? No, no I don’t. No-one agrees with everything another person has to say, so what exactly am I agreeing with here? Well Owen’s piece in the Independent’s Voices section entitled Trolls, Caroline Criado-Perez, and how to tackle the dark side of Twitter.

He makes some extremely salient points but the one I want to talk about is the difference between trolling and disagreement, ‘It’s also important to make a distinction between passionate disagreement and trolling,’ he says. This is the reason why I think the twitter report abuse button/idea is more than a problematic one. I have had conversations with people where they think I am being abusive whereas I would just say I was disagreeing with their Point of View. I know of many people who see disagreements as abuse. If you don’t think the same as them then you must be being abusive. That is how a not insignificant number of people think.

So how do we deal with genuine abuse of the sort Caroline Criado-Perez has receive in recent days following her appearance on television over having a woman appear on a banknote? That is the old $64,000 question. Firstly of course we have the law, and people who are threatening someone whether it be over twitter or face to face are indeed breaking the law and should face the consequences of their actions. I think everyone knows that abuse is abuse whether it is anonymous on the internet or publicly in the street. Ignorance is not any sort of defence.

Secondly though it is education. Now this situation has caused the old ‘misogyny’ word to appear left, right and centre. I won’t be tackling this one because internet abuse can be sent to men too, by men and then misogyny obviously doesn’t play in as a factor. It isn’t funny or cool to abuse anyone and it is never harmless. The best way to tackle this type of behaviour is to get people to see it from the victims PoV. Would they be so blaze if this abuse was being sent to them, or their parents or their little brothers or sisters? I suspect they wouldn’t. This is an issue society has failed to tackle and the whole ‘treat others how you’d like to be treated’ thing is kinda old-fashioned to some people and that makes me sad.

Thirdly the actual practicalities behind the proposed report abuse button on twitter. Who is going to pay for the extra staff who are going to monitor all the reports of abuse? Who gets the final say on what is abuse or isn’t? Tweeting someone that you are going to rape them is a pretty slam dunk case and should be passed on to local law enforcement authorities. What about a sinister tweet saying they shouldn’t go down dark alleys late at night? Threatening but do these get passed on as well? How about when someone reports abuse when there was no abuse? Do those people get their accounts suspended for wasting twitter’s time? Do twitter pass on every abuse report and then people who claimed abuse get arrested for wasting police time?

As with many of these things the practicalities of what seem like a good idea need to be thought through carefully. As the Yorkshire Gob puts it (her words – not mine) ‘A report abuse button which is easy to click on is easy to click on for EVERYBODY, not just those who are genuinely being abused. So the EDL will probably click on it for the English Disco Lovers. And homophobes will click on it on the accounts of gay people. And TERFs will click on it on the accounts of transfolk.‘ and she is right. The report abuse button would be open to abuse itself. How easy would it be to go to all the people’s tweeter feeds you don’t like and click on a button to report them and hopefully get their account suspended for a bit just to piss them off? You can set up a fake tweeter account in an instant so it wouldn’t even put your proper account at risk.

Sometimes good ideas just don’t work in the real world (or in this case the online world). This lady received some vile abuse and one person has already been arrested this morning and hopefully more will follow. This type of abuse is not just morally wrong but is legally wrong too and the people who deal out sickening abuse should face the consequences. However just throwing up a ‘report abuse’ button might create far more problems than it solves and the real abuse may well just get swallowed up in all the noise as people use this tool to troll even more.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

July 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am

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The ‘casual sexism’ of Andy Murray’s win stopping 77 years of hurt.

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My blood people. My blood. You have endangered that blood by trying to make it boil. All afternoon and evening last night and now this morning. I need a hot tub to relax in (well ok I just want a hot tub and think that this would be the perfect excuse) but what has got my blood boiling you ask? The faux sexism regarding Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon yesterday.

You see it has been 77 years since a British man has held aloft the Wimbledon Men’s Singles trophy. The thing is though instead of enjoying that triumph people are looking for every way to attack and use this victory to make their point. Twitter was full of ‘Don’t you remember Virginia Wade’ such quotes yesterday as she was the last woman to hold aloft the Wimbledon Women’s Singles trophy to have hailed from the British Isles and she did so in 1977, which as basic mathematicians will tell you is more recent than 1936.

Now that is a fine point but if we are looking at all British victories at Wimbledon in the main events (singles and doubles for both men and women as well as mixed) then of course it was only last year when Jonathan Marray held aloft a Wimbledon trophy having won the Men’s Doubles. In 2007 Andy’s own brother lifted the Mixed Doubles trophy and if you really want to be pedantic and say that they had help from non-British partners then go back to 1987 when Jo Durie and Jeremy Bates were British winners of the Mixed Doubles at SW19.

Stephen Tall today blogged about the headline in The Times today which was ‘Murray ends 77-year wait for British win’ and exclaims As if it would have killed the headline writer to say 36 years (accurate) instead of 77 (inaccurate). Well Stephen as you well know 36 is not accurate. It cannot be accurate. The only accurate responses are either one year or 77. At no point does the headline writer refer to singles play so it either has to be one (the last British winner of any sort) or 77 (the last Men’s winner) you can’t just decide that singles play was intimated because it fits your point.

See this is the type of thing I have seen for the majority of the past 24 hours. People manipulate things to fit their own agenda or point. Facts get thrown out of the window and accuracy that people are pleading for is something they have missed entirely. Now if anyone – whether face to face or in the media – says that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players then that would be inaccurate and sexist. If they say that Andy Murray’s win ended British hurt at Wimbledon then either they mean the Men’s singles or instead of being sexist they just don’t know about Jonathan Marray, Jamie Murray, Jo Durie, Jeremy Bates, Virginia Wade etc.

The thing is folks I have yet to see any commentator, yet to see any media outlet, yet to speak to anyone – let me repeat that – anyone – who has said that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players. Not one. They have either just said hurt at Wimbledon or hurt in the Men’s singles at Wimbledon. So either they are correct or they don’t care about all other events about from the Men’s singles including Men’s doubles and male participants in the Mixed doubles.

However why let facts get in the way of faux outrage. This is why sexism kills me. People will see sexism in everything. I know people who think holding a door open for a woman is sexist. I know of people who don’t. I know of people who thought it was sexist that the Men’s marathon awards ceremony at the Olympics was during the Closing Ceremony. They thought women should have just as much right to the final awards ceremony as men. So do these people think that the Women’s Wimbledon Final should be played on the same day as the Men? Should they be played at the same time and given equal billing? If they are played on the same day and the Women’s final is first then is it sexist and demeaning and making the Men out to be more important? At Wimbledon women are asked to play back-to-back days (Monday/Tuesday of the second week) whereas men aren’t. Some say that is sexist.

I could go on and on but if you are to plead sexism – and we all depressingly know that there is more than enough sexism to go around – but if you are to see sexism then actually find something sexist to be mad at. Don’t manipulate a story to fit your agenda. As for Stephen’s take on would it kill the headline writer to say 36 years which would’ve been accurate. If Stephen can point out in the headline where it says ‘singles’ then I’ll grant him that it is casual sexism. However he won’t be able to so it cannot be sexist. Either it is ignoring all men and women who have won Wimbledon trophies since 1936 or it is talking about the Men’s Singles. It cannot be anything else.

Who cares about facts anyway. Outrage people. Outrage!

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July 8th, 2013 at 9:57 am

Posted in News,Other Sport

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Caroline Criado-Perez petition on female representation on bank notes…

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I just received the following e-mail:

Neil —

In April the Bank of England announced that they would be removing the last remaining female from English banknotes — the social reformer Elizabeth Fry who appears on the £5 note — meaning that, other than the Queen, there will be no women featuring.

Caroline Criado-Perez believes that having an all-male line-up on English banknotes sends out a damaging and untrue message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear.

That’s why she started a petition calling on the Bank of England to reverse their decision and ensure a female is on a banknote. Click here to join her.

Since Caroline launched her petition over 30,000 people have signed it — and yesterday she received a response from the new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, that they would be reviewing the decision.

This is a fantastic achievement for everyone who has signed Caroline’s petition and shows that their message is getting through — but they need to keep the pressure up.

Tomorrow Caroline will deliver her petition to the Bank of England — will you add your name before then?

Thanks for being part of this,

Brie and the Change.org team

Interesting. I agree that the bank notes should not be all male but here is one line that riled me enough to actually write a short post on the subject:

Caroline Criado-Perez believes that having an all-male line-up on English banknotes sends out a damaging and untrue message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear.

Holy shit. No. No. No. No. No. It doesn’t send out a damaging and untrue message about this – and do you know why – because no-one actually looks at who is on the bank note. I suspect I’m pretty typical in how I deal with bank notes. I get them out of the hole in the wall and stuff them in my wallet. I then exchange the bank notes for food or other supplies. At no point do I look at the bank notes and say ‘oh look at whose on the £5/10/20/50 note’ – no-one does that. No-one.

I agree with the sentiment but seriously it doesn’t really send out too much of a message because no-one notices. I won’t say nobody cares because clearly 30,000 people at least do but if you asked 1,000 random people to name who the woman on the £5 note is today then if more than 5% can name her then I would be stunned. Stunned.

It isn’t a huge issue. It is an issue but not a huge one but yet again people are starting to foam at the mouth. I wish people would foam at the mouth for things on equality that actually mattered…

For the record should you wish to sign the petition then you can do so here.

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July 4th, 2013 at 11:13 am

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Banning takeaways from serving hot food until 5PM? Excuse me…?

with 2 comments

Just checking the date folks. Bear with, bear with, bear with…wait it’s not April 1st. What the hell? Seriously what the hell? Ok I suppose I should probably explain what I’m going on about. Well Salford Council are proposing not allowing takeaways from selling hot food until 5PM in the vicinity of a school in an attempt to force children to live a healthier lifestyle. In a way it is a noble cause because as a nation we eat worse and have less exercise than we used to. The health of us all should be a huge concern but where do we draw the line between individualism and the state dictating what we can eat and when?

Cllr Margaret Morris, assistant mayor for health at Salford Council, said: “Takeaways create jobs and provide a service but these ideas are to make sure that they are opening in the right places and not having a negative impact in our city.

“We don’t think they should be serving hot food over the counter before 5pm near schools, as children should be encouraged to eat healthily, so we have made this clear in our proposal.

“Public health and helping to reduce obesity levels are a top priority, and while planners cannot control the food that is sold, we would like every new premise to offer well promoted healthy alternatives so people can have an informed choice about the food they eat.”

Now the debate about whether takeaways have a negative impact is a fair one to have. Just today I saw a video from the local police appealing for help in identifying a man who decided to kick off in a local kebab place. There is certainly only a finite number of these establishments that should be in any single area. That is plain for all to see and dictating what hours they should be open is a legitimate issue for the local council but linking it to the health of our nation’s youngsters is something I can’t go with.

Children should be encouraged to eat healthily but at what point do the council stop? Do they stop newsagents from selling sweets? Do they rip out the tuck shops in schools? Vending machines? Should students bags be searched for chocolate at the gates? It is a slippery slope when you start saying that certain foods should be accessible to people at certain times but others should not be.

The problem with public health and obesity levels do not lie at the feet of local Councillors. It lies in educating people about being healthy and looking after themselves. Focusing on young people is all well and good but where do they learn from? They learn from us adults. If we don’t take good care of ourselves then why would the little ones? As a nation we need educating but we also have the right to choose how to live our lives.

I hope this idea never makes it into practice as all it does is open the door to Councillors to dictate far more than they ever should. People should have an informed choice about what they eat – the lady makes a fine point but also if they choose to eat the less healthy option then that is their choice and not yours. It just reminds me of the day when I was the foreman of a jury and the key witness was an 11 year-old girl and there was a mother in her 40s in the jury room who kept on saying, ‘I don’t think my 11 year-old daughter would lie’ and we’d constantly retort that it wasn’t her 11 year-old that we were having to decide whether they were a credible witness or not. Sometimes people think they should run other people’s lives how they would like to run their families and that my friends (and I suppose foes) is not the role of local Councillors.

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May 29th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

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Why we all need to rally round and stop the changes to legal aid – sign the petition today

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Last night whilst perusing the interweb I was sent a link to the A Barristers Wife blog and promptly spent the best part of the next hour fully taking in all the content on said blog. I won’t lie when I say it was an eye-opening read however it is one that doesn’t surprise me.

The blog is (unsurprisingly considering the title) the blog of the wife of a Legal Aid lawyer. She is writing about some of the cases that her husband has dealt with and why it is vital that changes to the Legal Aid system as proposed by Chris Grayling do not succeed.

The first one I saw was Exhibit C – the “paedophile”. This is a case her husband worked on where a young boy had claimed that his daddy had been abusing him. It seemed a pretty open and shut case until it came out in court that the young boy in fact called both his dad and his stepdad daddy and that he hadn’t seen his real dad in over a year (because of the charges) and wanted to see him and cried. That doesn’t sound like the actions of a kid who had been abused by this man. The lawyer had worked out that it was in fact the stepfather who was the abuser.

Had the lawyer not taken the case diligently and not strong-armed his client into accepting a guilty plea (because the evidence on paper was pretty clear cut) then a completely innocent man would have rotted away in prison only to leave the real abuser still in control of the young boy.

As an aside here I have been the foreman on a jury in a very similar case. The similarities are uncanny and we fund the defendant not guilty due to essentially we didn’t trust the mother’s account of what happened. Her behaviour didn’t add up to us and that was the key. It is strange that evidence counts for so much but behaviour of witnesses do have a real impact. In the other case I sat on during my spell as a juror we didn’t trust the account of the two alleged victims in a GBH case because of the elaborate way they acted in court.

Anyway back to the case in hand. I continued to read the blog.

Next Exhibit B – the “murderer”. This case was a major national case including a Crimewatch reconstruction. The defendant spent over a year on remand awaiting his trial. The lawyer had to spend two weeks (unpaid) to read through all the background information and on the tenth day found the nugget that showed his client could not have been the murderer. In fact in time the Crown’s own evidence would prove he was incapable of being at the murder scene at the time. If we see the proposed changes of legal aid go through then we’ll get to a state where lawyers are just in the business for profit and not to act in the best interests of their client.

At the end of the piece she writes a summary of ‘Why this story should matter to you’ and if you haven’t clicked on the above link (which I would thoroughly recommend) then here is the summary reproduced in full:

Police & CPS procedure – it is clear that the officer in charge of the case had not done what my husband had done, and sat down and read everything. Evidence is collated and summarised in reports, which are passed up and up through the police rank structure. By the time it gets to the top it is a case of “Chinese whispers”. What the top guy reads is not always an accurate reflection of the evidence.

Performance targets – it is unrealistic to expect the police and prosecution to read all of the evidence in every case under the current system. It certainly won’t be possible, even for the defence, under the proposed system. The allocated defence lawyer will be working to targets, working for profit. He won’t have the time to take two weeks out to find the golden nugget. He’ll take a quick look at the evidence, see that it looks pretty damning, and advise the client to plead guilty.

The real scumbag criminal got away with it – as far as we know the real murderer is still at large. The proposed system will lead to more of this. Because if lawyers are to be paid the same whether clients go to trial or not, there will be less trials. Less trials mean less opportunity for upcoming solicitors and barristers to cut their teeth. Less practice on the more simple cases will lead to less proficiency on the complex ones. This will hold for both the defence AND the prosecution. The end result more innocent people going to prison, more guilty people getting away, quite literally, with murder.

It could happen to you – Exhibit B got picked up for this because he had happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. The Crown’s own evidence showed he could not have been at the murder scene at the right time. He served over a year in prison on remand waiting for trial for something he didn’t do. I’ll spare you the details of what happened to him while he was there. And even though he was found not guilty, mud sticks. He was a young man, just starting out. His life was ruined.

Innocence is not interesting – there was a journalist in court for Exhibit B’s trial. Every day there were articles in the local and national papers saying what a nasty piece of work he was. Once the case was thrown out my husband collared the journalist and demanded that he write the story up, listing the points as the judge had directed the jury. Guess what? He didn’t do it. No wonder the public always believe people are guilty until proven innocent.

Innocence is not interesting. Arguably one of the most damning indictments of modern society and she is right. Do we care about people who are falsely accused? Do we heck. The only time we do is if it happens to us or someone that we know. Until that point in general we couldn’t care less and that is something that saddens me. I’m proud to say that I don’t sit alongside those people and think innocence should be as big a news story as guilt. If a defendant is found guilty of a serious crime it will be front page of the local papers but if the same person is found innocent then it’s a snippet on page 17. That isn’t fair but not only that, it isn’t right.

Next up we have Exhibit A – the “child pornographer”. A tale that starts with a granddad’s computer going wrong and taking it somewhere to be fixed. On the computer were images of naked children and the computer repairer called in the police who then arrested the granddad and charged him with possession of level 1 child pornography. Until the trial no-one (including the CPS barrister nor the defence) had seen the photos and the defence lawyer would not advice his client to enter a guilty plea until he had seen the photos. They were eventually granted access to the photos and the CPS barrister upon seeing them offered no evidence and the case was closed.

The whole incident came about because someone pointed a finger (which in this day and age is pretty standard and we all want to be vigilant on these issues) but instead of the police going to see the accused and going through the case properly they just went for it. It turns out the children were his grandchildren and they had come over one day and had forgotten their bathers so were playing in a paddling pool and shooting water pistols naked. A perfectly innocent explanation and one that could have been nipped in the bud before any serious cost to the public purse. Instead police hours, CPS hours, legal aid hours, the court’s time and costs were all incurred when there was never any need for any of it.

On another blog we see the blog post So you’re a football fan, and think the legal aid cuts won’t affect you? which tells of a common tale that could happen to anyone. As a matter of fact a very similar thing happened to me in my teens and it was only the fact that the copper’s colleague really couldn’t be bothered that I wasn’t arrested.

Now I do not know how I’d have reacted as a what 14/15/16 year-old (I can’t remember exactly how old I was) but the context was it was a school INSET day so we were walking through town towards Seaclose Park to play a bit of football. I was saying to the guys something along the lines of ‘I bet we get pulled over by the police asking us why we aren’t in school’ and literally as I said that a cop car drives past eyeballing us. I point and laugh and say to the guys ‘just like that’ and then about 30 seconds later the car has swung around the block and young copper wants to talk to me/arrest me. Older copper (the driver) just stood there leaning on the car and I saw him just shake his head of the younger officer and so I was told to go away. He said I had sworn at him. I knew I hadn’t. However it was effectively my word against his so I’m hypothesising that the advice given to me would’ve been to accept a caution and not taken it to trial had he in fact done what he wanted to do and arrested me.

Of course it didn’t come to that and it was one rather small run-in with the law but I’m not going to lie. Even that incident affected me for quite a while and even years later it would blindside me and I’d think about it. Essentially it was one coppers decision that he couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork that stopped me potentially having a criminal record. How insane is that?

If the proposed changes to legal aid come in and the emphasis changing from putting the clients best interests first towards providing the best value for money and creating profit for the legal aid accredited companies then something has gone seriously wrong in our justice system. Seriously wrong. The cheapest contract is not always the best. I could say that I could school a whole school for £50 a night but that doesn’t mean I could clean it to a level that they expect and the same goes for lawyers.

We can all find ourselves in legal strife through no fault of our own. It can happen to any of us and that is what is so vital about not only the ability to have legal aid but also quality legal aid. Not all defendants are criminal scumbags and until they are found guilty by a jury of their peers they should be allowed the best possible representation from a diligent lawyer who puts the best interest of their client ahead of their own personal views or profit.

If you believe that everyone has the right to a good level of defence when they are only accused of a crime then you can sign the petition here. I did so last night. I would implore you to do so and if this blog post hasn’t convinced you then please read all the pieces that I have linked to. The right to a good standard of defence and advice is something that we all deserve but because of the way the media like to portray all accused as guilty scumbags until proved otherwise and the way society in the main has moved from innocent until proven guilty to suspicious presumed guilty until proven otherwise then it is all the more important that we defend quality legal aid for all who need it. I don’t use libraries but I can see many people that do and therefore don’t mind my taxes being used to keep them open. The same goes for quality legal aid.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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May 16th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Posted in News,Politics

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Should those arrested for sexual offences be named in public?

with one comment

It is a question that comes and goes with various media stories and people have fairly entrenched views on either side of the debate. I am one of those people. I have strong views that due to the fact a not insignificant proportion of society equate an arrest or a charge sheet to guilt. I’ll ask these two questions and I want you to think about it and not just read past it.

If a friend of yours was charged or even just arrested for burglary would you treat them any different? If so, by how much? If the same friend was charged or even just arrested in relation with a sexual offence, certainly one involving children would you treat them any differently? If so, by how much?

Now i don’t have any statistics to back up my point but most people I know would be far more cautious with regards to someone who had been linked to a sexual offence. Certainly if you are a parent then would you want this person around your children? I’d pretty sure you wouldn’t even though they had not been found guilty of anything. An arrest or charge of burglary is a serious crime but there is a distinct different in how many of us perceive sexual crimes and all other crimes. We (rightly) find them more vile but we are also far more ready to err on the safe side in removing those people from our lives before the judicial process has played out.

The old adage of ‘mud sticks’ isn’t there because it isn’t true. It most certainly is true. Anyone who has been arrested or charged with a sexual offence will have that on file for the rest of their lives and it will follow them like a bad smell even if they were found not guilty or the charges were dropped or even if they were never charged. It is fair that innocent people are victimised (I don’t use that word lightly) because we as a society err on the safe side?

This brings me nicely on to my next point. At what point do we decide who the victim is? Do we decide that the victim is the person who has alleged a sexual crime against them from the off or do we decide they are a victim when a jury reaches a guilty verdict? Do we decide that the person arrested/charged is the victim if they are found not guilty or do we still perceive the person who alleges the crime as the victim?

Now clearly this isn’t an easy one to answer because there is a situation where both people can be victims, the person who alleges the crime may well have been the victim of a crime but the person arrested/charged with that crime might not be the right person. In that situation are they both victims or is one of them more of a victim than the other?

We all have different views on this case and one of the most prominent liberal voices out there, co-editor of Liberal Democrat Voice Stephen Tall has his and they are vehemently to mine. In his post Rape anonymity for the accused: well-intentioned but wrong, he concludes that, ‘Ultimately the best safeguard for maintaining a free and open society is an accountable and open system of justice. Secrecy, however well-intentioned, is hardly ever preferable to transparency, however messy.

Whilst on paper that seems the best way forward I would contend that in the real world that is not plausible. Justice can be seen to be served in a not guilty verdict but that verdict cannot undo the months (and sometimes years) the accused has suffered on multiple fronts. They find their social circle dramatically decreases whilst they await trial as people don’t want to associate with someone charged with such serious offences. They probably are at best suspended by their employer but in many situations they will be fired and are unable to find any more work until they are cleared and if they do it is unlikely to be in a similar field. Also as I hinted at earlier a not guilty verdict doesn’t ex-sponge people’s memories nor does it disappear from your criminal record. Yes you can have a serious criminal record without even being a criminal. A rape/sexual offence arrest/charge stays with you forever.

Some would say they would prefer to know if someone they knew was arrested or charged with such a serious offence as they have to think of their safety as well as that of their children. This is a fair point but at what point does a person constitute a threat? An allegation? An arrest? Being charged? Being found guilty of the crimes? I honestly don’t know but what I do know is that innocent people charged with such serious offences are victims. I’m not saying they are more or less of a victim than the alleged victim but they are victims. Yes a not guilty person can rebuild their life but they will always carry baggage with them and they will also always be looked at through narrower eyes.

I think I should put it out there that I believe the vast majority, let me reiterate that, the vast majority of allegations are made in good faith. We all know there are a number of malicious allegations made but we’ll ignore them for now even though they are a relevant debate. This is about a situation where there is a victim who has been attacked but at what point does the person the police decide is the person who attacked them deserve to have their name made public?

I know many (including Stephen linked to above) bring up the Stuart Hall case where him being named brought forward more victims and ensured a guilty plea and a sexual predator brought to justice but that is but one example. You could make a case for any piece of legislation based on one example. However I always ask the same thing – if you were an innocent person arrested and subsequently charged with such an offence, you lost all your friends and your job and lived a life of limbo for say a year or so before being found not guilty, finding that your social circle still weren’t sure and most of them still didn’t want to know you and then you couldn’t return to your job – or a job of similar standing – then would you feel aggrieved?

Darn straight you would. Your life would have been turned upside down through no fault of your own. Now whilst it is true that rape victims have exactly the same in that their lives are completely turned upside down, do two wrongs make a right? No. No I don’t think so – and more than that – I never will.

So to round this thing up one of two things need to happen, We as a society have to learn the difference between someone being found guilty of a crime compared to being charged or even arrested in connection with a crime (which I don’t think we can do) or we need to keep both the accused and the accuser anonymous until we can find out which of the two (or even if both) are victims.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

May 5th, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Posted in News,Politics

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