Sunday, 17 November 2013

In Michael Gove's world, Jane Austin, Orwell and Dickens will die out

In Michael Gove’s world, Jane Austin, Orwell and Dickens will die out

 pudles polly

Polly Toynbee dismisses Michael Gove’s intention to strip English Literature out of the core English GCSE examinations as leaving it with nothing but grammatical corrections and straitjacket language. [1.]

Toynbee says English literature is to be regarded as an optional extra and not a highly regarded one. The new English literature examination will become more rigorous, concentrating on pre-twentieth century texts, which may deter all but enthusiasts.

She feels high achievers will be more clearly set apart, rewarding those who already thrive under any system

Toynbee believes that Gove’s plans will see drama, dance, art and literature slipping away despite the fact that in further education colleges, it is often these subjects that provide second and third chances for those failed by schools the first time around.

She challenges that drama is low value but notes that ever fewer schools employ specialist drama teachers. Shakespeare is on the curriculum but no longer to be examined.

In Gove’s schools, whatever might seize the imagination, give pleasure and stay in the heart and mind for a lifetime longer than rote learned facts, is being rooted out.

Toynbee compares Gove to a Dickens character obsessed with teaching boys and girls ‘facts’. She draws attention to an array of writers, artists and academics (including Michael Morpurgo, Robert Harris, Sheila Hancock, Miriam Margoyles, and professors John Carey and John Sutherland) that have sent a letter of protest to the Sunday Times. She, and they, feel when everyone has to do some literature it is more accessible to all and humanises all.

No school should be judged good or outstanding unless it’s good at arts and she guesses that Gove wouldn’t send a child of his to any school that regards arts as a waste of time.

In her Response  [2], Liz Truss states that Polly Toynbee is wrong to claim that our reforms will narrow education to serve exams. Study of our greatest dramatists is to be enhanced, and the study of literature for all 11 to 14 year olds requires wider reading now than ever before.

[1] Toynbee. P - 5th November 2013 - In Michael Gove's world, Jane Austin, Orwell and Dickens will die out - The Guardian [2] Truss. E - 13th November 2013 - Response - Literature is not going to be stripped out of English - The Guardian  Illustration -  Pudles. D 5th November 2013 - The Guardian 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Visiting five possibilities for short story hopefuls

The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2014 is out. The year's short story competition (deadline 15th February) is on the theme of 'The Visit'. Thinking about what this could mean, I came up with five layers of possibility.

The first layer comprises people going to see other people. Perhaps you didn’t need this pointing out, but an important distinction is to be made here: all participants in these stories are still living. Layer one can also be subdivided into visitors who are welcome and those who are not.

This still living business helps us neatly segue into layer two: visits from the departed. Seances and ghost stories perhaps, but there is also the potential here for emotional explorations of unspoken feelings. You know the sort; at the end of the story you aren't sure if anything actually took place in the physical world. Not that it necessarily mattered.

Layer three considers non-human interactions, anthropomorphic or otherwise. There springs to mind an Armageddon-proclaiming turkey, or a cake whispering to you from its tin. Aliens. Say no more.

In layer four there are visits involving inanimate things: a revolting illness (not inanimate, arguably) or a turn of misfortune. Perhaps a floor is visited by a broom, a head of hair by a nit comb. Or maybe it’s the story of a nice day out to an old castle.

Layer five stretches the semantics of 'visit' somewhat, but still has its place. Someone is visited by a wonderful idea, and goes to great and hilarious lengths to turn this brainwave into reality.

Perhaps there are yet further layers of interpretation. If so, I would be delighted to hear about them. Further advice and details of Words Worth Reading Ltd's manuscript proofreading services for writers can be found here. In the meantime, good luck to be visited on all entrants!

Source: Owen, A. (Ed), 2013. The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2014. London: Bloomsbury.

CQC fines Selby care home £8,000

The CCQ issued the following press release regarding Selby care home on Thursday 7th November 13;

"A care provider which failed persistently to comply with national standards on the safe management of medicines has been issued with fines of £8,000 by the Care Quality Commission.
"CQC issued the fixed penalty notices to St Philip’s Care Ltd after inspectors found that concerns which had been identified on inspections at The Grange, 28 Leeds Road, Selby had not been addressed properly for three months. The Grange provides accommodation and nursing care for up to 47 older people.

"The registered provider, St Philip’s Care Ltd, had been told that they were facing legal action after a series of inspections from November 2012 onwards. At the first inspection, November 2012, inspectors found that the nursing home was failing to ensure that people were protected against the risks associated with the unsafe use and management of medicines. The provider was told that it must make urgent improvements.

"When inspectors returned on three subsequent occasions, they found that people were still at risk.
While the home had made some improvements, the provider still did not have appropriate arrangements in place to manage medicines safely and effectively.

"Subsequently CQC issued two fixed penalty notices, which the provider has accepted and paid.

"Following CQC’s intervention, St Philip’s Care Ltd is taking action to achieve compliance. A report of our latest inspection has been published on the CQC website.

"Malcolm Bower-Brown, CQC’s director in the North said:

“It is a provider’s legal duty to ensure that it has appropriate arrangements in place to manage medicines in a safe way.

“We inspected The Grange in November 2012 after concerns about medication management were raised with us by the local authority safeguarding team. Following our inspection, we warned St Philip’s Care Ltd that they must make urgent improvements.

“It was a matter of great concern that following three subsequent visits we found that residents were still not receiving medication properly, in line with legal requirements.

“The law sets out national standards that everyone who uses services should be able to expect. Providers have a duty to ensure they meet these standards. Our decision to fine this provider sends a clear and public message that persistent failure to meet national standards will not be tolerated.

“We will continue to keep The Grange under close review and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary to ensure residents receive the service they are entitled to expect.”

Friday, 8 November 2013

Facebook heads home to Harvard

The Guardian has reported that Facebook confirmed yesterday that it is opening a Boston-area office just a couple of miles away from where the website was initially founded in Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard University dorm room. Facebook's current headquarters is in Menlo Park, California.

The team, which will be in Cambridge, the town just outside Boston where Harvard is located, will focus on infrastructure projects in areas including storage, networking, security, and language runtimes.

"The tech community here is world class, from the incredible academic institutions to the vibrant startup ecosystem to the bevy of global companies who have teams here," said Ryan Mack, who will lead the office. "We are thrilled to have found a new home here and hope we can help the community continue to thrive."

Mack and a couple of other Facebook employees have been in the Boston area for a couple of years, working "from a series of coffee shops, libraries, and co-working spaces," including a basement in Chinatown, he said.

How lovely to see this social media giant return to its roots.

Special measures recommended for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust

The CQC provided the following press release on Tuesday 5th November 2013;

'Professor Sir Mike Richards’ call [for special measures] follows serious concerns, highlighted during a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, regarding the quality of some services for cancer patients at the trust.

'The concerns and the recommendation have been referred to Monitor, the sector regulator for health services in England.

'CQC inspectors found a number of cancer patients may have suffered undue delays in treatment and there were inaccuracies with waiting time data relating to cancer treatment.

'In its inspection report, published today, CQC says some hospital staff reported they were pressured to change data relating to patients and their treatment to make it seem [as if] people were being treated in line with national guidelines. As a result some patients may not have had the treatment they needed in time.

'Staff also reported having raised concerns about this but that this information was not acted upon by the trust.

'CQC has also referred its findings to Essex police.

'This week Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust has written to 30 patients, or their next of kin, where patients have died, offering to review their treatment.

'CQC’s inspection, which took place during August and September, followed information of concern which had been received about the treatment of patients from the end of 2011.

'Inspectors spent six days at the hospital talking to patients and staff. When inspectors checked the national cancer waiting times system against patient records, they found discrepancies in the records and types of treatment recorded for some cancer patients.

'Of the 61 care records examined, 22 showed that people had been placed at risk of receiving care that was unsafe or not effective, due to delays in receiving appointments or treatment.  The records related to people receiving treatment for urological cancers, cancers of the lower and upper gastrointestinal systems, and those of the head, neck, breast and skin.

'In some cases, CQC identified, people did not get their treatment within the required 62 days and in three cases delays exceeded 100 days.

'Even though an internal investigation in 2012 identified concerns, the trust failed to investigate the allegations thoroughly or follow up with the patients who were affected. Staff alleged that they had been pressured, or bullied to change data.

'The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards said: "If you are diagnosed with cancer - you are entitled to think that your hospital will do all they can to ensure you get treatment you need as soon as possible. It is shocking to think that people's lives may have been put at risk for the sake of the waiting time figures.

"Every year around six thousand people go to Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust to be treated for cancer. It is essential that people in north Essex can have confidence in their hospital.
"Clearly this report raises questions over the safety and effectiveness of these services. But it also raises questions at the highest level. We have found that the concerns raised by staff in relation to changes made to people’s cancer pathways were not appropriately managed or investigated by senior staff of the Trust, which is why I am now recommending that this trust should be placed in special measures.”

'The concerns were highlighted to CQC by the team carrying out inspections as part of Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of NHS trusts, who had been contacted by a whistleblower.

'Professor Sir Mike Richards added: “We have only been able to consider taking action because of the hospital staff who came forward to raise their concerns in the first place. It’s thanks to them that we can ensure that the service is better in future.

"We have referred our findings to NHS England, the local authority, commissioning teams as well as Monitor and we look to them to provide the assurance that the services are safe and effective for everyone when they need them."

Adam Cayley, Regional Director for Monitor said: “Monitor has been working closely with the CQC over its concerns in relation to this trust, and we have identified risks in the way that the trust is run.

“We have therefore opened a formal investigation into whether it has breached the conditions of its licence, and we will consider putting the trust into special measures as part of any regulatory action we may take to protect its patients.

“Meanwhile, Monitor is working with its partners to ensure the trust takes appropriate action to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all patients currently using the cancer pathway. We have also asked the trust to implement a look-back review to establish whether there is a risk that other patients did not receive treatment in accordance with national standards in recent years.”'