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With typical Tory fanfare the Government have announced that the BBC will be increasing their educational programming at last. The PM bragged of it in his PR spin in Parliamentary and I discovered that some thought was given to this back in April 2020. As soon as I noted the slightest risk to schools, months earlier, I started ranting about it; this should have been seriously ramped up with an influx of Government funding as an urgent priority. Despite Tory manipulation precipitating an abysmal deterioration in the value and reliability of ‘Auntie’s’ news coverage, the BBC’s reputation with regard to other program material is very high, guaranteeing a really strong potential for marketability overseas and a sound return on investment for our national broadcaster. Even children in relatively poor households still own a TV, but might struggle to pay the license free. Why not cover the license fee cost, since the TV medium is so much more ubiquitous than any reliance on online connectivity and costly devices that poor families simply don’t own.
I would have expected Boris Johnson to trumpet this in his normal display of PR spin bragging, but the PM has barely mentioned it as if it was a state secret; one just hopes that parents were made aware of this resource. Early on Sunak should have splashed a lot more cash on the Beeb… In the BBC Article entitled, “BBC Ramps Up Educational Offer,” they elaborate on the scope of their belated catch-up. “The BBC has outlined plans for the biggest education offer in its history, bringing together BBC Two, CBBC, BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and online to deliver more content to children, teachers and parents as a third lockdown begins across the U.K. BBC Director-General Tim Davie said: ‘Ensuring children across the U.K. have the opportunity to continue to follow the appropriate core parts of their nation’s school curriculum has been a key priority for the BBC throughout this past year. Education is absolutely vital; the BBC is here to play its part and I’m delighted that we have been able to bring this to audiences so swiftly’.”
Perhaps someone should remind Davie that we are close to one year int dealing with Covid 19 and lockdowns, so ‘swiftly’ is not the word I would use! The BBC have announced that, “Starting on Monday, January 11, each weekday on CBBC will feature a three-hour block of primary school programming from 9 a.m., including BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily, as well as other educational programming such as Our School and Celebrity Supply Teacher and titles such as Horrible Histories, Art Ninja and Operation Ouch. BBC Two will address secondary students with programming to support the GCSE curriculum, with at least two hours of content each weekday. Content will be built around Bitesize Daily secondary shows, complemented by Shakespeare and classic drama adaptations alongside science, history and factual titles from the BBC’s factual programming units. Bitesize Daily primary and secondary will also air every day on BBC Red Button as well as episodes being available on-demand on BBC iPlayer.”
The BBC report that, “Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said: ‘The BBC has helped the nation through some of the toughest moments of the last century, and for the next few weeks it will help our children learn whilst we stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. This will be a lifeline to parents and I welcome the BBC playing its part’.” There is already a decent volume of Historical programming that focuses on the more interesting aspects of real life rather than just the ultimate privilege of the elite focused only on dates and Kings. I would like to see some of the brilliant programming contributions of David Olusoga added to the school presentations, but I fear his, ‘tell it like it is’ realism, regarding the atrocities of our bloody colonial past, would not meet the approval of out jingoistic imperialist Tory Government led by a MP unashamedly cheerleading for the genocidal racist Churchill. I doubt Johnson would want to encourage our children to feel guilty about our past colonial exploitation overseas.
The Tory Government delayed the doable goal of increased TV learning via the BBC to focus on remote learning with devices that would exclude poor children. As we bemoan the trying logistics of establishing remote learning for British school children we should look to an excellent model still in continuous practice overseas. In the Australian outback, hundreds of miles from conventional classroom education, they created a well functioning working model decades before ‘Zoom’ was ever envisaged in the minds of tech entrepreneurs. Class was successfully conducted over ham radio for decades, with study materials sent by post to children of all ages scattered across the vast Australian outback who were rarely deprived of essential learning or held back compared with those is traditional school setting education. Starting out as ‘The School Of The Air’ relying on ham radio, modern technology has greatly improved on the, “Lessons learned at Australia’s vast Outback classroom,” as elaborated on in this Informative Article.
Sticking with the cardinal Tory rule of ‘too little, too late,’ the Governments pledge to supply laptops is still falling short of demand. In the Canary Article entitled “‘Disappointment after disappointment’: teachers speak out about the government’s laptop claims,” they note that, “Teachers say many children still do not have the means to learn remotely, as schools close again and online learning resumes. Pupils across the country may only have access to their work through a phone or shared device. MPs and charities have written to the prime minister asking that devices be provided for students without remote access. This comes after the Department of Education (DfE) cut device provision to schools by approximately 80% in October.” In contrast to all the bold and expansive public pronouncements from Sunak and the PM, the Canary highlight the, “Insufficient provision. Ian Addison, KS1 leader and school ICT leader, told The Canary his school in Hampshire has only been provided with four laptops between 500 pupils.”
The Canary report, “After the prime minister announced a third lockdown yesterday, he said: ‘For many, the only access that they have is through a parent’s mobile phone. We didn’t do remote learning last time and are trying to start it from tomorrow but so many don’t have devices it will be a massive challenge.’ He added: ‘we would need 100 devices for it to have a decent impact on the children and their learning. It is frustrating that the government are saying so many laptops are being provided, where are they going? So many children are going to be at home for another 6 weeks with no access to learning and I wish more could be done to help them.’ Addison said that around 20% of students in his class alone did not have their own device for remote learning. He added that 65% of their pupils receive the pupil premium. The pupil premium is funding the government gives to schools every year to help disadvantaged students. A student can be eligible for the pupil premium if they have received free school meals within the last six years.”
The Canary report that, “Similarly, Dave Shaw, headteacher at Spire Junior School in Chesterfield, told The Canary they had only received 10 of the 49 laptops they had been allocated. Shaw also had trouble accessing the portal to order more laptops. He said his pupils are ‘struggling’, with some having to share devices in their households and others asking for paper copies of work. He said this: doesn’t give them the quality teaching face-to-face in terms of online and visually that they deserve. It still won’t be enough. What I think is that the siblings will share, so they still won’t get the full allocation of quality teaching but they will get something, because something is better than nothing at this difficult time. Shaw said his school would need around 70 devices to give their pupils high-quality online learning. He also said internet connection has been a problem for some students – to rectify this, they have ordered free SIM cards provided by Vodafone.”
The Canary outline, “The Government Laptop Scheme,” pledge. “The Department for Education first promised laptops and tablets for schools during the previous academic year. The scheme was extended in September, with devices available for:
• disadvantaged children in years 3 to 11 whose face-to-face education is disrupted.
• disadvantaged children in any year group who have been advised to shield because they (or someone they live with) are clinically extremely vulnerable.
• disadvantaged children in any year group attending a hospital school.
• disadvantaged 14 to 16-year-olds enrolled for Key Stage 4 at sixth-form colleges and whose face-to-face education is disrupted.”
This was intended to sound generous and comprehensive in the Tory Government’s PR spin, but this Canary article has exposed the reality in terms of the PMs typical ‘over promise and under deliver’ strategy. The Tories are probably delayed in deciding who will trouser the public funds! According to the Canary, “On 23 October, schools began reporting that their device allowance had been slashed, with one extreme case having their device allocation cut from 81 to 16. As of 18 December, the DfE reported over 500,000 devices had been provided in total, alongside over 50,000 4G routers. However, some teachers have tweeted that this is still not enough, with pupils still left offline: Nancy Fielder Tweeted: Today approx 4,500 secondary school kids in #Sheffield are at home unable to join online classes because they have no laptop. The future unfairness of the digital divide is catastrophic.” The Canary suggest a way that the public can help out, “If you have an unused device you could donate, please help”
A Government led ‘turn in your old laptop’ program could have accomplished more with less much earlier on. The Canary describe, “The digital divide,” saying that, “In March, Ofcom estimated around 9% of children had no access to a digital device, representing over a million children. They further found that 2% of children also had no internet access at home. Disadvantaged children are less likely to have a digital device for learning online. Therefore, educators say they will be more affected by school closures and insufficient laptop provision. In the long term, this is likely to cause these children to fall behind: Vic Doddard Tweeted: I forgot to add that although we now have one year group where every child has a device 17% of that year group are using devices that other family members need to use during the day as well. The digital divide is significant.” In a strong “Public response, Several MPs, charities, and unions have written to Boris Johnson, urging him to ensure children wouldn’t go without access to online learning.”
As usual this is down to begging for appropriate Government support for the left behind. The Canary report on, “The letter stressed the importance of providing ‘children on the wrong side of the digital divide’ with devices and a broadband connection that enabled them to learn online. This adds to calls for free broadband that have been increasing since schools first went online in March.” Schools are left frustrated as, “The Canary asked the DfE for comment but it referred us to its statement on 20 December 2020. Then the DfE said: The Government is also confirming today that, amidst unprecedented global demand, over 560,000 devices were delivered to schools and councils in 2020. The further purchase of more than 440,000 devices means that over one million will now be provided to help schools and colleges throughout the pandemic, making the programme one of the largest of its kind in the world.” I guess Gav didn’t get that important Party memo on Tory ‘Spin Speak;’ he really should have said ‘world beating!’”
Despite their notoriously shabby track record on follow through I imagine the Canary felt compelled to report the Tory claims that, “The Government is now investing over £300 million to support remote education and social care, including providing devices and internet access to pupils who need it most. It further stated that in January, schools would be able to order devices even if pupils hadn’t been sent home to self-isolate.” It will be interesting to see what actually materializes. Shaw told The Canary: “I feel very frustrated. I feel for our families and I wish I could do more to help them. And apart from offering advice and the quality teaching that we do provide, we can’t do anything else about those laptops. Because we as a school don’t have any funds to support us in that way. We’ve had announcement after announcement and disappointment after disappointment in terms of being told one thing and there’s more U-turns than anything else. I feel they’ve let our community down, I really do feel that.”
In a Left Foot Forward Article Prem Sikka states that. “Turing is a pale shadow of the Erasmus programme,” and he asks, “Will the funding even cover students’ living expenses?” He claims that, “The Erasmus Programme has been one of the biggest casualties of Brexit. The EU-wide programme provided exchange opportunities for UK students, trainees (on work placements, internships, etc.) and teachers to spend time in Europe. It also provided opportunities for UK institutions to receive teachers, trainees and students from the EU countries. These arrangements could last for a term, semester or a longer period of up to 12 months.” On Sunday’s Matt show, I was really disgusted when, in response to Andrew Marr’s question about trying to renegotiate aspects of the rotten trade deal Boris Jihnson struck with the EU, Starmer stubbornly refused to budge on any point; he would leave the deal as is. A pre-leadership election pledge to Labour members to restore free movement was ditched, but Erasmus wasn’t even mentioned!
Sikka says that, “Erasmus sought to promote cultural exchanges, provide opportunities for international education and build a community. Research shows that students who go abroad get better degrees and better jobs. Students who are mobile also develop global networks and gain self-confidence. Evidence suggests that students with international exposure secure higher salaries. In 2018/19, 18,305 UK students and trainees visited another EU country and some 30,501 came to the UK i.e. a total of nearly 49,000. In addition, 3,962 UK teachers visited other EU countries and 4,693 came to the UK. The cost of travel, subsistence and course fees was covered by the Erasmus programme. The UK has been a major beneficiary of the Erasmus Programme.”
According to Sikka, A UK House of Lords report noted that “€1 billion is expected to be allocated to the UK between 2014 and 2020 to support university student exchanges, work and vocational training placements, youth projects, and opportunities for staff working at all levels of education to teach or train abroad. Extra funding is available for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with disabilities or additional needs’. The Erasmus exchange also brought other financial benefits. For example, visitors spent some £440 million on living and related expenses to stimulate the UK economy. Students from Northern Ireland can continue to participate in the Erasmus programme as the cost is covered by the Irish government. The UK government has replaced the Erasmus scheme with the Turing Scheme, again without any consultation. It states that ‘The Turing scheme will be backed by over £100m, providing funding for around 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools to go on placements and exchanges overseas, starting in September 2021.”
Sikka reports the Tory claim that, “The new scheme will also target students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas which did not previously have many students benefiting from Erasmus+, making life-changing opportunities accessible to everyone across the country.’ The UK government has trumpeted the new scheme but it is not that impressive. For example, the £100m for 35,000 students works out at about £2,867 per student per year. It is hard to see how students visiting many countries would be able to survive on that. The government assumption is that parents and families would provide additional funds. This will inevitably prevent those from disadvantaged backgrounds from participation in the scheme.” We need to fully expose and totally ‘lobotonize’ the fake Tory PR spin re the cruel, deliberately deceitful Tory ‘lev…up’ hoax. Sikka says, “The 35,000 students cited in the UK government announcement also need to be seen in perspective. The UK has some 2.38 million students studying at higher education institutions.”
Sikka says that, “the UK government also states that the Turing scheme would also be available to students in schools. There are 8.89 million students in schools in England; 702,197 in Scotland; 469,176 in Wales and 334,620 in Northern Ireland. Altogether the 35,000 students will be selected from a pool of nearly 13 million. The government’s arrangements would offer students a 1 in 371 chance of securing a Turning scholarship. The Turing scheme is underfunded. It does not seem to cover the cost of visits by UK students and makes no mention of exchange of teachers. It does not cover the cost of foreign students visiting the UK. The assumption is that other countries would have similar arrangements. The UK government states that Turing students will be able to study and go on work placements in countries ‘across the world’. This presupposes that they will have the necessary linguistic skills. The government has not provided any additional resources for teaching of foreign languages.”
Sikka notes that, “The Erasmus scheme applied to all EU countries and covered most of the educational institutions. However, the UK government expects the Turing scheme to operate on an institutional basis i.e. UK schools, colleges and universities will have to identify suitable institutions in other countries to reach an agreement. This will significantly increase administrative costs. Anyone who has ever bid for UK government money will tell you that bidding is a time consuming and costly exercise. It requires administrative structures and the bidding outcomes are that either the scholarship is secured or not. The unsuccessful institutions would find hard to justify expenditure which has not yielded positive outcomes. The Turing scheme does not provide any additional administrative funding to schools, colleges and universities. The assumption is that the institutions themselves will somehow foot the bill, but many institutions are not in a position to do so. Once again, the elite universities and schools will be the main beneficiaries.”
Sikka, who is an Emeritus Professor of Accounting at the University of Essex and a Labour member of the House of Lords, finally concludes that, “Altogether, the Turing Scheme is a poor replacement for the Erasmus programme. The government’s act of vandalism has deprived UK citizens of opportunities for cultural exchanges and building global networks.” We are not on track to become ‘Global Britain’ any more than this Government has any genuine intention of ‘lev..up’ it’s all just a massive PR propaganda con to dupe the UK public into accepting diminished horizons, slave wages and more austerity as they ‘Decimate Down’ on the working poor. Accepting the ‘borrowed votes’ lie after theCover 2019 Rigged Election brought this misery down on us, crushing the hopes and ambitions of our young people. This damage will not end until we challenge, Investigate and expose this corrupt result to remove this Tory Government from office. We can still derail the dystopian nightmare of Tory Sovereign Dictatorship: fight back now! DO NOT MOVE ON!