WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 25-May 1, 2011)

INTERNATIONAL

ACCOUNTABILITY AND GOVERNANCE

The Big Spill Over ‘Three Cups of Tea’; Nonprofits working in the developing world are now under intense scrutiny; a revamp in charity ratings.” By Cameron McWhirter. Wall Street Journal. April 30, 2011. Former Marine Capt. Rye Barcott heads up a grass-roots nonprofit to help slum dwellers in Kenya. Like other charismatic do-gooders with an interesting story to tell, he has written a memoir to promote his charity and the idea of grass-roots development work. Late last month, he kicked off a 26-city book tour, visiting stores, campuses, businesses and churches as the launch of an ambitious effort to expand the donor base for his group, Carolina for Kibera, which runs a health clinic, a soccer program and other community services in Nairobi and is based in Chapel Hill, N.C. Mr. Barcott is following a template fashioned by a man whom he once considered a hero, Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling memoir Three Cups of Tea and the head of a $20 million-a-year charity for schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr. Barcott now considers Mr. Mortenson an unfortunate liability. Instead of using the book tour to just celebrate Carolina for Kibera and its 10th anniversary, Mr. Barcott finds himself questioned at many appearances about allegations that Mr. Mortenson’s memoir contains false passages and that Mr. Mortenson’s charity has mishandled millions in donations. Many people are scrutinizing Mr. Barcott’s organization as never before. He worries that potential funders will shy away. The questions over Mr. Mortenson and his charity, the Central Asia Institute, first arose on the television program “60 Minutes” two weeks ago. “A lot of it we feel is unfair and innuendo,” said Anne Beyersdorfer, a spokeswoman for the institute. “Everything is in good order,” she said of the organization’s finances. Grass-roots nonprofits across the country now find themselves under intense scrutiny because of the Mortenson scandal. Many are considering going to new lengths to demonstrate to potential donors that they are on the up-and-up. All are bracing for an impact on giving. Many foundations and wealthy donors now are cautious because of “reputational risk” if they give to an organization that falters.

AUSTRALIA

Former headmaster says sex assault claims are ‘repulsive’.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. April 27, 2011. A former headmaster of a NSW Catholic boarding school has denied sexually assaulting boys, saying accusations against him are “absolutely repulsive”. Peter William Dwyer, 68, also said he was “shocked” to hear evidence from a former St Stanislaus College student who claims he was abused in the 1980s. Asked if he had taken one of the complainants into his room to perform oral and manual sex acts on him, Dwyer replied: “No I did not, it’s absolutely repulsive.” Dwyer, an Order of Australia recipient, has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges including indecent assault and having sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16. The crimes allegedly were committed between 1977 and 1992 against four boys at the Bathurst school, where Dwyer was headmaster for 12 years, and before that a music teacher.

Catholic schools back calls for system overhaul.” By Anna Patty. Sydney Morning Herald. April 28, 2011. Funding arrangements that appear to advantage 60 per cent of Catholic schools are in need of an overhaul, the head of Sydney Catholic schools said yesterday. Dan White, the executive director of the Sydney Catholic Education Office, said the Commonwealth funding system was not transparent. The Howard government had tried to blend two incompatible funding models together – a system for independent schools based on the socioeconomic status of families, and another for funding the Catholic school system, taking into account the resources of schools. ”As a result they ended up with a model that is inconsistent in its philosophy and not transparent in its outcomes,” Dr White said. The federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, has said the funding system needs an overhaul. It has maintained funding for 60 per cent of Catholic schools at levels above their entitlements under the socioeconomic model. A spokeswoman for Mr Garrett said the government had previously identified the Coalition’s socioeconomic funding model as flawed and that was why it had taken the opportunity to reform school funding. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the funding review in 2008 after the Herald published the findings of a secret Department of Education review of the funding system. The review found the system had entrenched inequity and was overpaying schools almost $3 billion under the ”funding maintained” arrangements

Picasso portrait donated to science.” No by-line. Independent (UK) /Associated Press. April 28, 2011. An anonymous US donor has given a Picasso painting to the University of Sydney on the condition that the proceeds from its sale are used to fund scientific research. The 1935 painting, Jeune Fille Endormie, depicts Picasso’s lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, and it is anticipated the work could fetch £12m at auction at Christie’s in London in June. The portrait was donated last year by someone in the US who requested anonymity, said the university’s vice-chancellor, Michael Spence.

When universities go begging.” By Yuko Narushima. Sydney Morning Herald. April 30, 2011. Visa crackdowns and the strong dollar are causing a funding crisis for tertiary educators. The cash drip that international students have supplied the Australian university sector is drying up and even the most traditional institutions are being forced to adapt. Gone are the long days on campus, stretched out under the canopy of a jacaranda. Today’s student is more likely to be tapping at a laptop or grabbing takeaway before the next class or shift at work. While there is some nostalgia for the student life of years past, university heads are realistic about the need for change. Vice-chancellors are aggressively pursuing private donations, culling administrative staff and considering trimester timetables to get more value from their buildings. The Macquarie University vice-chancellor, Steven Schwartz, borrows from literature to sum up his feelings: ”There’s a famous line in an Italian novel called The Leopard where one person says to another, ‘If you want things to stay the same, then they’re going to have to change.’ It sounds contradictory but I think I know what he means.” The basic problem is money. Universities have become reliant on the fees paid by international students to supplement declining funds from government. Simon Marginson, of the centre for the study of higher education at the University of Melbourne, says funding per student has been decreasing since 1989. ”There [are] only two substantial sources of income for universities that you can crank up in the short to medium term. One is government funding and the other one is students,” Marginson says. ”There’s really no substitute for those. That’s why international students grew so much in Australia. It was really a straight substitution of international student fee income for lost government funding.”

Charity group backs welfare crackdown.” By Phillip Coorey. Sydney Morning Herald. April 29, 2011. One of Australia’s leading charities has broken ranks with the welfare sector and backed a push by the Gillard government for a tough approach to long-term welfare recipients in the federal budget next month. Mission Australia, which has 55,000 unemployed people on its books, said eligibility for the dole needed to be toughened up because the present system was ”too soft”. And the ”soft medical cases” claiming the higher disability support pension needed to be weeded out and sent to work. ”We need to make sure that those who are on disability are genuinely disabled,” the chief executive of Mission Australia, Toby Hall, told the Herald. ”We need to be absolutely supporting people who have a serious disability and ensure they have the right funding to help them participate, but we shouldn’t be masking people who have mild health issues as being disabled. That sends a signal you’re not capable of working, you’re not capable of participating.” The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, used a speech two weeks ago to confirm that entrenched welfare dependence would be a key target of budget measures.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

70 Belgian sex abuse victims to sue Vatican.” No by-line. USA Today/Associated Press. April 29, 2011. A group of 70 people claiming to be sexual abuse victims of clergy will take Vatican and Belgian church officials to court, claiming they offered them insufficient protection from pedophile priests. Lawyer Walter Van Steenbrugge said Friday he will lodge the complaint in about two weeks. He said religious officials, including the pope, had failed to take proper action to prevent such abuse. The Belgian church got involved in a major abuse scandal last year when Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe was forced to resign after he admitted he abused for 13 years his young nephew. Later, hundreds of victims came forward with tales of abuse by clergy going back decades.

Abuse and the Catholic Church; Can the bishops ever be trusted?” By Anne M. Burke. Chicago Tribune. April 29, 2011. Just when it appeared that the fallout over the abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church could not get any worse, another shoe dropped in Philadelphia. On Feb. 10, 2011 three veteran priests of the archdiocese of Philadelphia were charged with rape and indecent assault, accused of the abuse of minors dating back to the 1990s. Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the archdiocese’s point person for investigating reports of clerical sexual abuse from 1992 to 2004, was charged with child endangerment for allegedly covering up abuse by priests. The archdiocese has placed another 21 priests on leave while accusations of child abuse are investigated. The district attorney’s office in Philadelphia says there was “a pattern of the church looking the other way when it came to investigating these charges.” It appears that even after years of investigation of child abuse by priests, the cover-up of that abuse has been further institutionalized. Some of the alleged crimes in Philadelphia transpired while the National Review Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on which I served, was trying to get to the truth of the scandal. The indicted monsignor is accused of turning a blind eye to things in his chancery office. Of course, to blame a clerical official, and not his archbishop, of such deviousness presents a mistaken analysis of how the church works. The bishops say they responded to this scandal, and hold up as evidence the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which they put into motion back in 2002. I do not denigrate that historic step. It did a lot to make children safer in our Catholic institutions. It permitted the National Review Board the opportunity to examine the causes and effects of the scandal. But the news that more than 24 active priests in Philadelphia face abuse accusations, and that some were allowed to remain in active ministry after accusations were made against them years ago, raises new fears.

Catholic religious order that runs schools around the country files for bankruptcy protection.” Washington Post/Associated Press. April 29, 2011. [For story, go to Religion].

CHINA

China Detains Church Members at Easter Services.” By Andrew Jacobs. New York Times. April 24, 2011. The authorities stepped up a three-week campaign against an underground Christian church on Sunday, detaining hundreds of congregants in their homes and taking at least 36 others into custody after they tried to hold Easter services in a public square, church members and officials said. The church, Shouwang, an evangelical Protestant congregation that was evicted from its rented quarters this month, has been at loggerheads with the government since announcing plans to gather outdoors rather than disband or return to worshiping in private homes. The authorities have repeatedly stymied Shouwang’s efforts to lease or buy space for its 1,000-member congregation, one of the largest and most prominent so-called house churches in the capital. The Chinese Communist Party tightly manages religious activity, requiring the faithful to join state-run churches, mosques or Buddhist temples. Until the most recent crackdown on Shouwang and a handful of other unregistered churches, such congregations had enjoyed relatively wide latitude from the authorities. Founded 18 years ago in a private home, Shouwang insists that it has no political agenda and seeks only government forbearance that would allow it to occupy the $4 million space it bought in 2009. Church leaders say the owner of the space, under pressure from the authorities, has refused to hand over the keys. Last week, a Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the government’s stance, saying that Shouwang had “no legal basis” to operate. Most of those seized on Sunday morning were taken away in buses after they showed up at the plaza, which is not far from several of the country’s top universities. Members of a CNN crew said that they were briefly detained and that their credentials were confiscated before they were turned away by the police.

DEVELOPMENT

IBSA Fund Packs Small But Sustainable Punches.” By Marina Penderis. Interpress Service. April 28, 2011. Despite only three million dollars a year coming into the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Fund for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation, it aims to pack punches above its weight with small but sustainable projects. The neighbourhood of Carrefour Feuilles in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has a history of violent gang conflict. In 2006 clashing members of that community were brought together through a waste collection and recycling scheme. The budget for the initial 14-month project – one of the first supported by the IBSA Fund – was only 550,000 dollars, but IBSA is proud of the return on its investment. The venture generates employment, reduces incidence of disease, prevents flood risk from garbage-clogged canals and, by recycling paper products into cooking bricks, even has a green effect. IBSA says it also has reduced violence in Carrefour Feuilles – and states that as being the main purpose of the project. “The project provides a structure for people, who are traditionally from rival groups, to work together,” explains Fernando Sena from the Brazilian Embassy in South Africa in an interview with IPS. “It employs 385 neighbourhood residents, including 207 women. Now 150,000 people benefit from improved sanitation.” The Carrefour Feuilles solid waste initiative was renewed after its initial run. “The earthquake (that hit Haiti in 2010) didn’t stop the project,” says Sena. “And a study has been done to replicate it in East Timor.” IBSA has also been supporting initiatives in Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Cambodia, and Gaza.

Measuring How and Why Aid Works—or Doesn’t.” By William Easterly. Wall Street Journal. April 30, 2011. Book review of More Than Good Intentions, by Dean Karlan & Jacob Appel (Dutton) and Poor Economics, by Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo (PublicAffairs).

LIBYA

Radio Free Libya shakes up Gaddafi regime from Misrata; Rebel radio station offering mix of information, uncensored debate and revolutionary songs is a thorn in loyalists’ side.” By Xan Rice. Guardian (UK). April 29, 2011. It’s not Saigon, it’s 40 years on, and there’s desert rather than jungle all around. But there is a war and there is a radio station and a breakfast show with a familiar name. Instead of Good Morning Vietnam, it’s Good Morning Libya, broadcast from rebel-controlled Misrata every day. It’s the flagship programme of Radio Free Libya, a station seized in February from Muammar Gaddafi, who has permitted no dissenting voice on the airwaves since taking power in 1969. The station, staffed by volunteers, symbolises the defiance of the people of Misrata – and is an object of fury for Gaddafi. His forces shot up the studio, forcing the presenters to move. They also made three unsuccessful attacks, including one by helicopter, on the broadcast tower. On the first day, 21 February, Hadia broadcast for 10 hours non-stop, starting with the message: “This is Free Misrata and we now own the radio.” Almost immediately came knocks on the studio doors from city elders and ordinary civilians, desperate to speak openly after 42 years of holding their tongues, Haida says. Around the same time, the city’s newspaper al-Jamahir, The People, published its first – and only – uncensored edition, featuring pictures of the revolution and of the civilian dead, as well as a crude cartoon of Gaddafi. Then the Egyptian print workers fled the country, and the presses were unreachable due to heavy fighting in the city centre. Soon the mobile networks were cut, leaving the radio station as the only reliable source of information in Misrata. To warn civilians and help rebel fighters, Hadia and his team broadcast alerts of where Gaddafi’s forces have been attacking. They also direct messages at government soldiers, saying that they have been lied to, and that there are no al-Qaida terrorists in the city. In a move designed to antagonise Gaddafi as well as inspire Libyans across the country, one of the engineers has added an AM channel alongside the FM signal, so that on clear days the station can be heard as far away as Lebanon and southern Europe.

NIGERIA

Nigeria’s gay church is reborn amid a climate of fear; House of Rainbow church offers underground prayer and preaching to Christians ostracised by rampant homophobia.” By Shyamantha Asokan. Guardian (UK). April 24, 2011. In a country where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, it is no surprise that those who are are both gay and religious stay away from church altogether for fear of being outed. However, an alternative could soon be at hand. A team is restarting House of Rainbow, the country’s only gay church, which was forced to close in 2008 after a witch-hunt stirred by exposés in local newspapers. The Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay, the gay minister who founded the church, is leading the comeback even though he remains in self-imposed exile in London. “Religion is a backbone to life in Nigeria, so we all want to go to church,” he says. “But we don’t want to lie to God about who we are.” Macaulay first set up House of Rainbow in 2006, when he openly held Sunday services in a Lagos hotel hall decked out with rainbow flags. A public backlash culminated in members being beaten as they left church. Macaulay fled to the UK after death threats. The project could even spread beyond the borders of Africa’s most populous country. Macaulay has recently recruited a local leader in Accra, the capital of nearby Ghana. He is considering applications from Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Religious groups are central to Nigeria’s culture of homophobia. Pentecostalism, an evangelical school of Christianity thought to have started in America just over a century ago, has blossomed in southern Nigeria and across Africa in recent decades. The “megachurches” in and around Lagos can attract tens of thousands of worshippers to a single service.

SWITZERLAND

Donation for a Lucerne Opera House Is in Dispute.” By Daniel J. Wakin and James R. Oestreich. New York Times. April 28, 2011. On the surface the interlocking worlds of music festivals and arts philanthropy might seem as placid as the preternaturally transparent, swan-rich waters of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. But officials of the renowned Lucerne Festival there took action on Thursday akin to a Loch Ness monster’s rearing its head and clamoring for recognition. They spearheaded a Swiss court case to force payment of the bulk of a huge donation — $137 million, one of the largest ever in classical music — from the Bermuda-based trust of the festival’s most generous patron. The money, they said, had been pledged by Christof Engelhorn, a scion of a German family that amassed a fortune in the pharmaceutical industry, to help realize the festival’s long-cherished dream, an opera house. Festival representatives assert that Mr. Engelhorn obtained permission in 2007 from the trust and its beneficiaries and cite numerous documents that they say show the trust acting in accordance with his wishes. But Mr. Engelhorn died last August. In the following weeks the trust backed away from the commitment, and it pulled out altogether in October. So the Salle Modulable Foundation — named for the proposed opera house and directed largely by officials of the Lucerne Festival — is seeking to dislodge the money not yet paid, $131 million, as well as 7 percent interest since October. The foundation accuses the Butterfield Trust, the administrator of the funds, of violating an ironclad agreement to provide the money, under pressure from Mr. Engelhorn’s daughter and her companion. But the trust says that it has no obligation because of the lack of a formal contract, and that it withdrew because of uncertainty that the project would ever be realized or properly financed. To stay involved, a spokesman said, would be “to throw good money after bad.” The opera theater is vital to the future of the festival and the city, said Michael Haefliger, the executive and artistic director of the festival and a member of the foundation’s board. The Lucerne Festival, founded in 1938, has in recent decades come to rival the Salzburg Festival in Austria at the center of the summer music scene in Europe.

UK

Universities face threat of private takeovers.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. April 25, 2011. Private companies are to step in to run failing universities as the Government abandons direct help for colleges in financial trouble. Unprofitable courses will be scrapped and running costs drastically cut back under the plan, which will prompt vice-chancellors to pay private providers to take day-to-day control under contracts lasting ten years or more. The approach marks a dramatic reversal of policy because the Government has supported universities in financial trouble, or taken the lead in brokering mergers with stronger institutions. But the combination of severe cuts in grants for teaching and higher tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year from 2012 will introduce new market pressures on weaker universities. David Willetts, the Universities Minister, confirmed the plan to The Times. He said: “Our forthcoming White Paper will look at a variety of ways of delivering higher education. This is one possible way in which a failing institution could be turned around in the interests of students.” The new policy seeks to protect students but not universities, many of whose vice-chancellors have angered ministers by rejecting pleas for restraint in setting fees, intensifying the controversy over the coalition’s higher education reforms. Privately ministers have attacked some universities as “oligarchies”. BPP, one of the private providers approved by ministers for such work, told The Times that it was interested in running several universities and believed it could cut their costs by a quarter in some areas. The company, which was granted university college status last year, is already in talks with struggling establishments.

Teachers call on governors to justify pay of academy heads.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. April 26, 2011. Teachers demanded yesterday that governors publish details of head teachers’ salaries after protests that academies are inflating the pay of school leaders. Academy freedoms had led to “disproportionate” pay rises for heads, with an increasing number receiving additional payments for work with schools, a teaching union said. A motion passed by the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers’ conference in Glasgow urged governors and local authorities to do more to monitor and justify the salary and benefits paid to head teachers. Academies can set their own pay and conditions for all employees, which the Government regards as one of their key freedoms. Chris Keates, the general secretary, cited one school that became an academy, after which the head teacher left but was rehired for about £100,000 a year as a part-time consultant. “He was being paid the equivalent of what he was paid full time to be described as a consultant,” she said. “That head had gone on to a three-day week, and another head teacher was taken on. That’s clearly an abuse of public money.” One academy in Staffordshire promoted almost a third of its staff on to pay scales for school leaders. Several primary school head teachers in the South West changed their titles to “executive head” and were paid between £100,000 and £160,000, Ms Keates said. At least 100 head teachers at state schools are believed to be paid £150,000 a year or more, most in the first wave of academies that replaced failing schools under Labour. These are on a par with salaries paid to headmasters and headmistresses of leading independent schools. Not all top earners in state schools work in academies. Jacqui Valin, head of Southfields Community College in southwest London, was at the centre of controversy last year when a £20,594 rise took her pay to £198,406.

Charities cut off by north-south divide as donors focus on London; ‘Big society’ under pressure with philanthropy biased towards the capital, says leading thinktank.” By Jamie Doward and Mario Ledwith. Guardian (UK). April 23, 2011. David Cameron’s “big society” emphasis on charities and philanthropy to compensate for public sector cuts will exacerbate the north-south divide, according to one of the UK’s leading thinktanks. A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research North suggests the government’s hopes that the voluntary, business and philanthropic sectors will help transform society at a time of budget cuts across the public sector are misplaced. Depending on philanthropic donations to help achieve this goal will backfire because donations are unevenly distributed in favour of London, the IPPR warns. It found that 40 donations of more than £1m were made in London in 2009, compared with six in the north-east of England, eight in the Midlands and nine in Scotland. “Clearly, the gap between London and the rest of the UK is enormous,” the IPPR says. The IPPR also claims that relying on the private sector to provide the resources to bring about the “big society” will put areas such as London – where many of the largest businesses have their headquarters – at a huge advantage. The south also benefits because it is home to the largest charities and voluntary organisations, which are better equipped to compete for public sector contracts. Conversely, the north suffers because it is home to more voluntary and community organisations that are reliant on public funding. As a result, the IPPR warns public spending cuts could “doubly disadvantage” the north and claims 62% of voluntary and charitable organisations in the north-east have already seen a decrease in funding. “Our research shows that the big society is not currently a fair society and goodwill is beginning to wear thin as the voluntary and community sector try to deal with budget cuts,” said Ed Cox, director of IPPR North. “We need to target what little money there is to organisations that struggle to find it elsewhere. Less attractive organisations that lack donor appeal or those operating in areas where business or corporate gifts are hard to come by should be the priority.”

Gove spends millions on consultants to help establish free schools; Michael Gove pledged while in opposition to slash the bill for consultants to schools.” By Joanna Sugden. Times of London. April 27, 2011. The Government has been accused of wasting millions of pounds on private consultants to help set up free schools. Five firms have received a total of £21 million from the Department for Education in the past year. About 100 civil servants now work on the free schools project and the first schools will open this autumn. Since the initial groups of parents, religious bodies and charities were given approval in September last year to establish their own schools, almost £10 million has been paid to private firms offering them legal and financial advice. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, pledged while in opposition to slash the bill for consultants to schools, which trebled to £78 million between 2005 and 2009-10. Research by the National Union of Teachers indicates that under his new policy their use could expand. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, has asked Mr Gove to explain. ”It is in the public interest for you to set out what this money has been used for and, in particular, whether these monies have been used . . . in respect of free schools,” she said.

Fears for NHS services if providers go bust; MPs on public accounts committee hit out at free market model, saying there is ‘no contingency to ensure services continue’.” By Polly Curtis. Guardian (UK). April 27, 2011. MPs are demanding that the government urgently put in place plans to ensure vital health services continue if a hospital or other provider goes bust under its NHS reforms. In a report published on Wednesday, the public accounts committee says the proposals for the NHS do not include details of what will happen if providers fail in the new market model of healthcare provision. Members of the committee dismissed claims by the most senior civil servant in the Department of Health, Una O’Brien, that the government was “not planning for failure”, and condemned the lack of contingency planning, suggesting that the proposals now pose an intolerable risk to value for money and quality of services. Richard Bacon, the Conservative MP for South Norfolk, said: “In any organisation as large and complex as the NHS, things can and do go wrong, and the Department of Health has yet to establish a robust framework for dealing with failure in the system. The department must not only understand the danger of either a provider or a commissioner going ‘belly up’, but also toughen up its contingency plans, drawing upon strong, effective and clear chains of governance and accountability throughout the new NHS model.” It is the latest in a series of critiques of the scale and pace of NHS reforms, after opposition from doctors, healthcare specialists and even the Liberal Democrats. The programme is currently on a two-month “pause” to allow the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, to conduct a “listening exercise”. No 10 has ruled out any significant changes, but there is mounting speculation in Westminster that they could be preparing to reverse that position to avoid a clash over the NHS.

Small independent schools hit as parents feel squeeze; Boarders at Winchester are now charged more than £30,000 a year.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. April 28, 2011. The impact of the tough economic climate on independent schools became clearer today with confirmation that 14 schools closed in the past year for lack of pupils. The number at leading independent schools fell by 5,386, just over 1 per cent, as fees rose by an average of 4.5 per cent across the sector. This was offset by a rise of 5.5 per cent in children from overseas attending schools in Britain. There are now 24,554 overseas pupils at British boarding schools, 36 per cent of the total. The figure excludes expatriates. Average fees for boarding schools are £25,152 a year, with further rises ahead as several schools, such as Winchester College, charge above £30,000 for the first time. Day school fees average £11,208 a year. Independent schools said consumer prices rose 4 per cent but the education component of the inflation index — which reflects university tuition fees, international student fees and evening class charges as well as school fees — rose by 5.3 per cent. The figures, from an annual census of 1,234 independent schools, will not reflect the true scale of falling rolls as it comprises only the larger and stronger schools. About 1,200 other independent schools, mostly very small, family-owned prep schools that tend to be more vulnerable, do not take part in the census. Neil Roskilly, chief executive officer of the Independent Schools Association, said: “We normally have two or three closures a year, often proprietary schools when the proprietor retires or [there is] an amalgamation or federation. This year there has been more. It seemed that small girls’ schools have been affected.” The 14 schools that have closed, or will close at the end of the summer term, do not include include those whose closure has been announced since the survey in January.

Universities to escape challenge over high fees.” By Joe Dyke and Oliver Wright. Independent (UK). April 28, 2011. Not a single university will have its fees renegotiated by the government body charged with approving them, it emerged yesterday. The Office for Fair Access (Offa) does not plan to stop any universities charging the fees they have applied for, The Independent understands, leaving the Government with a £1bn deficit. It has also emerged that Offa has never punished a university for failing to meet its access targets since it was established in 2004. For the year 2008-09, the most recent figures available, 26 institutions did not meet the aims of their access agreements. In theory Offa could have punished them with fines of up to £500,000 but not one was handed out. Just last month the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the decision to charge maximum wasn’t up to universities as they “can’t charge £9,000 unless they’re given permission to do so”. He also promised “real sanctions” for those institutions that fail to meet their targets. Under the rules, Offa can ban universities from charging more than £6,000 if they do not outline a plan to increase the number of poorer students but they are not expected to do so with any university in the country. David Barrett, assistant director of Offa, said that while it was theoretically possible that universities would have their access agreements rejected, he thought it very unlikely that any fees would be lowered. “We are not a fee pricing regulator; that is not our role. If an institution wishes to charge a fee it has to have an accurate access agreement in place and we do have greater expectations the higher the fee. But we wouldn’t say to an institution we would only allow a fee of ‘X’ or ‘Y’.” This will leave the Government with a £1bn gap in funding as its financing model is built upon average fees of £7,500. Under the proposals the initial fees are paid by the Government in the form of a loan with the aim of recovering its money once students graduate. If the average fees are closer to £9,000, the Government will have to allocate up to £1bn extra to pay for it.

Stop faith schools discriminating against gays, says teachers’ union.” By Joanna Sugden. Times of London. April 26, 2011. The law must be changed to stop faith schools discriminating against applicants because of their sexuality and recruiting staff on the basis of religion, teachers said yesterday. Homophobia is “insidious” among pupils and staff and is particularly prevalent in faith schools, the National Union of Teachers was told. Free schools, many of which are founded on religious principles, will exacerbate the problem, according to a motion passed by teachers at their annual conference in Harrogate yesterday. Proposing the motion, Annette Pryce, from Buckinghamshire, said: “Homophobia is insidious in schools for both staff and pupils and more so in religious schools.” Amanda Brown, head of the legal department at the NUT, said that the union wanted a reversal of the Schools Standards Framework, which allows faith schools to recruit staff based on their religion. “It is a law that allows for some discrimination. It gives preference to a teacher of a particular faith and that’s what we want to campaign around and change,” she said. Primary legislation would be required to prevent governing bodies of faith schools recruiting staff on a faith basis.

Catholic adoption agency loses gay adoption fight; Leeds-based agency Catholic Care told it must consider gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents.” By Riazat Butt. Guardian (UK). April 26, 2011. A Catholic adoption agency has lost a two-year battle to be excluded from laws that ban discrimination against homosexuals. Leeds-based Catholic Care wanted exemption from the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations, which require it to consider gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents. But a ruling on Tuesday by the Charity Tribunal upheld an earlier decision from the Charity Commission. The bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Arthur Roche, said he was disappointed with the tribunal’s ruling. He said: “It is unfortunate that those who will suffer as a consequence of this ruling will be the most vulnerable children, for whom Catholic Care has provided an excellent service for many years.It is an important point of principle that the charity should be able to prepare potential adoptive parents according to the tenets of the Catholic faith.” Roche had told the Charity Tribunal the agency would suffer financially if it was forced to accept applications from homosexual couples because donations would dry up. But the tribunal said it was “impossible” to conclude that Catholic Care’s income would suffer it were to operate an open adoption service. It said: “There was evidence before the tribunal that some Catholics do offer financial support to adoption agencies which provide services to same-sex adopters but no evidence from the charity that it had considered how it might attract alternative financial supporters if it did not discriminate.” It conceded there would be “a loss to society if the charity’s skilled staff were no longer engaged in the task of preparing potential adopters to offer families to children awaiting an adoption placement”, but said it had to balance the risk of closure of the charity’s adoption service against the “detriment to same-sex couples and the detriment to society generally of permitting the discrimination proposed”. Gay rights group Stonewall welcomed the tribunal’s decision, saying there should be “no question” of publicly funded services being allowed to “pick and choose their service users on the basis of individual prejudice”. The row over exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies dates back to 2007, when the regulations were introduced. At the time, the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, warned that the 11 Catholic adoption agencies would close rather than place children with gay couples.

Activists claim purge of Facebook pages; Protest groups claim Facebook has taken down dozens of pages in a purge of activists’ accounts.” By Shiv Malik. Guardian (UK). April 29, 2011. Activists are claiming that dozens of politically linked Facebook accounts have been removed or suspended by the company in the last 12 hours. The list of suspended pages include those for the anti cuts group UK Uncut, and pages that were created by students during last December’s university occupations. A list posted on the UCL occupation blog site says the Goldsmiths Fights Back, Slade Occupation, Open Brikbeck, and Tower Hamlet Greens pages as no longer functioning. It is not yet known how many websites have been affected in total or why they are not working. Facebook is currently looking into the issue. Guy Aitchison, 26, an administrator for one of the non-functioning pages said, “I woke up this morning to find that a lot of the groups we’d been using for anti-cuts activity had disappeared. The timing of it seems suspicious given a general political crackdown because of the royal wedding.” “It seems that dozens of other groups have also been affected, including some of the local UK Uncut groups.” Earlier, it was reported that the Metropolitan police had invoked special powers to deter anarchists in central London ahead of the royal wedding.

Royal wedding gift fund benefits little-known charities; Twenty-six charities chosen by Prince William and Kate Middleton have already seen a surge of interest and funding.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian (UK). April 28, 2011.
Princess Diana used her powerful celebrity to draw attention to what were perceived at the time as difficult social causes, from landmines to Aids. Now her son William and his bride, Kate Middleton, appear to be maintaining the tradition, potentially delivering a multimillion-pound windfall to a handful of mostly little-known and unfashionable charities via their wedding list. Rather than inviting presents, the couple have asked wedding guests and members of the public to dip into their pockets to support 26 organisations that comprise the couple’s charitable gift fund, covering a range of impeccably liberal causes such as mentally ill ex-servicemen, young offenders, former gang members, bullied youngsters, refugee students, homeless people, teenage drug addicts and children in care. It has not gone unnoticed in the charity sector that causes often favoured by celebrities and global brands are conspicuous by their absence from the list. “Wills and Kate have been very brave in their choice of charity – far braver than a lot of companies,” said Joe Saxton, director of NFP Synergy, the charity analysts. “You don’t get many corporations deciding to partner with care leavers or young offenders. William and Kate have gone outside that uber-safe territory.” Nick Booth, chief executive of the Prince William and Prince Harry Foundation, which is hosting the wedding list fund, described the couple’s choices as “remarkable” and “forward looking”. They worked with experts including Comic Relief and the analysts New Philanthropy Capital to identify the 26 charities. The aim, said Booth, was “catalytic philanthropy” – focusing resources on ambitious, smaller organisations that demonstrate real social impact and the ability to grow and expand. No one is sure how much cash will be raised by the gift fund; an announcement on the initial amounts raised is expected next week. Many in the sector hope it will generate a wider wave of charitable giving.

Leave a Reply