Ofsted launch new survey, but is it any use?

Ofsted recently announced their new Parent View survey in which parents can rate their children’s schools in a closed questionnaire. Apparently, a panel of parents helped write the survey which includes the option to rate statements such as “my child is happy at school” and “my child feels safe at school”.

As well thought out and “valuable” (- Ofsted Chief) this questionnaire undoubtedly is, I can’t help but wonder why Ofsted aren’t asking the children who actually attend the schools, rather than those who belong to the same family?

I appreciate that younger children may not be able to complete the survey, but those who attend secondary school are more than capable. According to the press release, “Ofsted is committed to… …listening to the experiences and views of users of the services we inspect and regulate”. Apart from they’re not – they’re committed to listening to the “user’s” families. It doesn’t take the official education regulatory body to work out that not every child who is having a tough time at school will go to their parents and tell them everything. So why don’t Ofsted go straight to the “users” and ask kids what they think?

Profile: Bernard Hogan-Howe

Name:  Bernard Hogan-Howe

Birthdate: 19571

Education: Hinde House Comprehensive School2; MA in Law at Oxford3; Diploma in Applied Criminology at Cambridge4

Hometown: Sheffield5

Current residence: London6

Current job title: Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service7

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Quote from Bernard: “Society needs to make it clear that it will not tolerate the thugs who are living life by the law of the gun” – Bernard Hogan-Howe8

Quote about Bernard: “I truly believe that Bernard Hogan-Howe has the sound expertise to handle critical issues and keep our streets safe” – Boris Johnson9

Notable previous jobs:

  • Four years working as a lab assistant in the health service10
  • 1979: Joins South Yorkshire Police11
  • 1997: Asst Chief Constable, Merseyside12
  • 2001: Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police13
  • 2004-09: Chief Constable of Merseyside14
  • 2009: HM Inspectorate of Constabulary15

Notable for:

  • Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University16
  • Chairman of the James Bulger House Appeal17
  • Board Member of The Mersey Partnership18
  • Board Member of The Liverpool Culture Company19

Police stuff:

  • Applied for the job of Met Commissioner once before, and lost it to Sir Paul Stephenson20
  • When he left Merseyside in 2009, the force had risen in public confidence rankings from 42nd out of 43 to the top of the list21
  • Was the first chief constable to lead a Grand National winner on his police horse, on route to the Winner’s Enclosure at Aintree22
  • A member of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Cabinet23
  • A member of the Board of the Central Police Training and Development Authority (Centrex)24
  • Said that the reclassification of cannabis had “legitimised” its use and should be reviewed25
  • Whilst working in Merseyside there was a 26% drop in anti-social behaviour, 7% decrease in people being killed or seriously injured on the roads and his Matrix Unit was the first UK dedicated gun crime unit, responsible for 600years worth of criminal sentences26
  • Argued that families that shield gun criminals from the police should be evicted from their homes27
  • At the MPS, he led a team which recruited thousands of additional front-line officers, 15% of whom were from the minority communities of London28

Gaffes:

  • None (as of yet)

Other:

  • Has a passion for horse riding29
  • Enjoys golf30
  • Likes attending opera and theatre31
  • Supports Sheffield Wednesday football club32

How Stuff Works: The different types of Coalition

Coalitions in UK are a rarity; something we’ve only experienced a handful of times. But in other parts of the world they are the norm – and due to the individual intricacies of each political system, a number of different types of coalition have emerged.

NB: coalition types are not mutually exclusive.

1. Minimum Winning Coalition

Definition: “Contains the smallest number of parties which together can secure a parliamentary majority”1

Example: The government of the 26th Irish Dáil: a coalition between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. 83 seats are needed for a majority, Fianna Fáil had 77 and the Progressive Democrats had 6, together the coalition reached 83 seats – the minimum number needed for a majority coalition2

2. Oversized Coalition

Definition: “Contains more parties than the minimum winning coalition”3

Example: The Thai election of 2011 gave The Pheu Thai party a majority, with 265 of the 500 seats in the lower house. However, party leader Yingluck Shinawatra decided to negotiate a coalition with 4 other parties to boost the government’s parliamentary majority4

3.  Grand Coalition

Definition: “Formed by the two leading parties, usually from the left and the right, which together command a substantial majority of seats” 5

Example: The first Merkel government was a grand coalition between the centre-right Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union and the centre-left Social Democrats, as the CDU/CSU’s more obvious coalition partner – the Free Democrats – did not have enough seats to give a centre-right coalition a majority6

4. Connected Coalition

Definition: “Only contains parties that are located next to each other on the ideological spectrum”7

Example:The Danish government elected in 2007 is a connected, centre-right coalition of the Liberal Party, the Danish People’s Party and the Conservative Party8

The 2010 UK coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can be classified as a Minimum Winning Coalition and may also be argued to be a Connected Coalition.


1 Comparative Government and Politics: An Introduction, Eighth Edition, Hague and Harrop, page 330

News International and Robert Peston: The Story behind the Exclusives

The BBC Business Editor has been shoved into the spotlight recently over a number of curious phone hacking exclusives. Many have broken at times advantageous to News International,and whilst Rebekah Brooks was still at the company, some also appeared to shift the pressure off her and onto the seemingly hung-out-to-dry Andy Coulson. Certainly there are searching questions raised by his recent conduct, yet there are definite arguments that defend Peston which have previously gone unheard.

Between the pages of Peston’s address book are some key players in the phone hacking scandal. He has a rather interesting relationship with James Murdoch: at an Edinburgh dinner in August 2009 an argument between them led to Peston yelling “If you think you can get fucking angry, I can get fucking angry”1. Yet one year after the shouting match, he invited Murdoch to speak at a private BBC event2.

Additionally, whilst previously working at the Financial Times, Peston befriended

Robert Peston and good friend Will Lewis

colleague Will Lewis – now general manager of NI. Lewis went on to appoint old school friend, also his godchild’s father, and PR man Simon Greenberg as director of corporate affairs. Lewis and Greenberg are both members of the “Management and Standards Committee” – the branch of NI liaising with Scotland Yard over the scandal.

This curious nexus has rightly raised the eyebrows of MPs, fellow presses and the public. But Peston is an award winning journalist3, and some say that despite compromising personal relationships, others are quick to forget his reputation as a trusted and respected BBC employee.

Tom Watson claimed “Robert Peston is being spoon-fed the internal NI document handed over to the Met in chunks. They’re spinning their bad news. It’s not right”4. A week later, after another curiously timed exclusive, Watson confronted Peston on Twitter.

Watson appears to believe that Peston is helping NI bury bad news on busy days. But David Lester asks Peston “Is there any chance that Will [Lewis] is using you and will dump you in it at some suitable juncture?”5 Lester implies Peston is unaware of the aid he is giving NI, and perhaps Peston is unknowingly releasing the stories at such times.

On the other hand, far from Peston being innocent or acting “patsy” for NI, they may in fact be scratching each other’s backs. Releasing information on dubious days may be beneficial to them both: for NI get minimal coverage and Peston gets that exclusive that every news organisation is competing for. Although, ofc course they may not necessarily be linked.

However there are strong arguments in defence. If Peston receives information from NI on these busy days, it would be difficult for him to withhold the story for a quieter day. Delaying the release could be seen as more suspicious than publishing the story immediately and also lead to questions about his impartiality as a journalist. Furthermore, the phone hacking scandal is based on withheld information, hidden practises, and shoddy journalism – it would thus be quite bizarre and morally hypocritical to postpone reporting the truth to a more convenient date.

So if Peston is being ‘spoon-fed’ this information, by publishing immediately it may be seen as the right thing to do as a journalist, or at least the lesser of two evils.

Alternatively, even if he does believe that he is being used by NI, he may reason that this is a small price to pay when compared to the high demand for the truth. Those who are truly captivated by the story will make time to analyse and scrutinise the story, regardless of when the information is released.

Peston’s manager Jeremy Hillman also defended his colleague: “Robert almost always uses multiple sources for anything he reports and we reject the suggestion that there is any bias in Robert’s reports, or indeed any conflict of interest because none exists. It would be very hard to make a convincing case that Robert’s reporting is anything other than impartial, reflecting a range of views and interests on this complex story.”6

It seems to be that the story behind Peston’s exclusives is complex, and a delicate balance of relationships that results in a rather grey situation. Some people seem too sceptical of his professionalism and quick to disregard his reputation whereas others seem reluctant to scrutinise his conduct and contacts. What do you think?

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Extracts Peston’s Blog7 – Exclusives Peston broke marked in bold

5th July – Andy Coulson had paid police officers for information. He later admitted: “I obtained this story in a circuitous route, when I heard that Vanity Fair was planning to publish a story on alleged payments to police.”

10th July – NI found “smoking gun” emails that “appear to show” that Mr Coulson authorised the payments

11th July – Email cache showed that the under Andy Coulson NotW paid a Royal Protection Officer for Royal phone numbers

18th July – US DoJ quizzes SFO on News International

– BskyB: Decision expected on James Murdoch’s role

21st July – James Murdoch’s evidence challenged by Colin Myler and Tom Crone

– Dismissal of a Sun journalist in relation to phone hacking

4th August – Detective firm invoiced Mirror 230 times in two years

16th August – Murdochs savaged by Harbottle: evidenced to DCMS Committee

22nd August – Coulson got payments from NI

Profile: Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy HuntName: Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt1

Party: Conservative2

Birthdate: 1st November 19663

Education: Charterhouse, Godalming4; PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford5

Hometown: Godalming, Surrey6

Current residence: Farnham, Surrey; London7

Current job title: Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport8

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Quote from Jeremy: Wisecrack on Max Mosely at UCHR9 and ‘Cablegate’10 – “One is about two women who wanted to tie a man up in knots… and the other is about Max Mosely”11

Quote about Jeremy: “We’re going to be talking to Jeremy C*nt, er, Hunt, the Culture Secretary about… *cough* …broadband” – James Naughtie12 13

Notable previous jobs:

  • Shadow Minister for Disabled People14
  • Shadow Culture Secretary15
  • Founded and ran Hotcourses – an educational publishing business16

Notable for:

  • Set up a charity to help AIDS orphans in Africa17

Political stuff:

  • Successfully campaigned for increased use of subtitling at the BBC18
  • Involvement in decision over Murdoch’s BskyB bid19
  • Subsequent approval of Murdoch’s BskyB bid20

Gaffes:

  • Involvement in the expenses scandal: paid back around £9.5k21 22
  • Suggested that football hooliganism contributed to the Hillsborough disaster (he later apologised)23
  • Hired the daughter of a Tory peer and Hotcourses director as a parliamentary assistant and then as a (supposedly independent) departmental civil servant24

Other:

  • Head boy at Charterhouse25
  • Previous President of Oxford University Conservative Association26
  • Fluent in Japanese (having taught English in Japan)27
  • James Naughty and Andrew Marr both miss-spoke him name: a spoonerism of “Hunt” and “Culture”28