Patrick Ward

City academies: Barriers to learning

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"The management freedom given to academies should be rolled out across the whole state sector," said Richard Tice, chair of Northampton Academy school.

Tice is a member of the United Learning Trust board, the largest academy sponsor, and was commissioned by free market think-tank Reform to make recommendations on how to improve the education system. He suggests that a more "business-like" approach to running schools, with bonuses for managers, would improve the city academy programme.

Matter

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Iain M. Banks, Orbit, £18.99

A king is murdered; his son seeks vengeance; his brother is threatened with assassination; and vast galaxy-spanning societies of insects, blobs and genetically modified humans watch the seemingly inconsequential imperialist rivalries taking place on two of the 16 internal levels of the planet Sursamen.

ID think twice about it

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Following the negative reception to recent data losses the public are yet to warm to the idea of ID cards. Leaked reports (can they not keep their hands on anything?) suggest that the rollout will start in 2012, two years later than anticipated.

The government still claims that ID cards will be voluntary for EU nationals, but (other) leaked documents suggest that by 2010 anyone wanting a student loan will need to be registered with a biometric card - essentially making students guinea pigs.

Troops out - by their own choice

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A defence select committee of MPs has reported that the morale of British troops has fallen dramatically over the past several years, leading to a haemorrhaging of soldiers.

Recruitment levels have also sharply decreased, as - predictably - few want to sign up to be sent to fight in deeply unpopular wars. The stretching of troops over Iraq and Afghanistan has led them to not getting enough rest. So-called "harmony" guidelines define the amount of time troops spend on active duty in any one year, but these guidelines are being greatly exceeded according to the report.

'Tribal' smokescreen

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The media reports surrounding recent events in Kenya have tended to portray it as yet another "tribal" clash.

While ethnic violence has flared since the election of 27 December, a closer analysis shows how this is a symptom of the fight against poverty and corruption, and for democracy, with the ever interfering fingers of imperialism never long at rest.

In the Valley of Elah

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Director: Paul Haggis; Release date: 25 January

Mike Deerfield (Jonathan Tucker), a young soldier fresh from Iraq, goes awol before being found dead near his military base in New Mexico. So begins a quest by his father, Hank (an incredible performance from Tommy Lee Jones), and local detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), to take on the military and find out how and why his son died.

Diploma with fries

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Companies such as McDonald's are now eligible to award nationally recognised qualifications equal to A Levels and advanced diplomas, the government has announced.

This is obviously for all those people who managed to slip through the net and avoid the multinational business curriculum set by the city academies.

McDonald's say workers will be able to get a qualification in "basic shift management" - which is surely just as important as an A Level in an outdated subject like, say, maths.

Cash for visas

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While Labour continues to pour unwanted foreigners into the Middle East, new policy at home is to lock the gates to "unskilled" immigrants.

Entrants will now need a PhD, masters, or proof of earning over £40,000. They will also need to pass an English test. Visitor visas are to be halved to three months, for a £1,000 deposit.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith parroted on about this being to safeguard "British values" - the British values of pandering to xenophobia, insularism and bigotry, perhaps?

Uniting struggles

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The World Against War conference in London last month united activists from around the world. Ibraham Mousawi, editor of Hezbollah's Alintiqad weekly newspaper, spoke to Patrick Ward about media myths and uniting against imperialism.

During the war last year the media portrayed the resistance as "terrorist", and Hezbollah a "terrorist organisation". What do you think about that?

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