3 min read
Almost 76,000 Scottish pupils are set to get their exam results upgraded following a U-turn by ministers.
All pupils who had their exam results downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) will be reissued with grades based on teacher or lecturer judgement, Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney has announced.
The change in policy follows widespread criticism and protests at the SQA-moderated results which came out last week.
Around 134,000 teacher estimates were adjusted by the exam board, with just under 76,000 pupils having one or more results lowered.
Pupils from poorest backgrounds were hardest hit, with results being downgraded based on a school’s past performance rather than a pupil’s individual ability.
The pupils impacted will now be issued with new certificates based solely on teacher judgement, without reference to historical patterns.
Mr Swinney apologised to the young people whose estimated marks were reduced by the SQA and admitted that the Scottish Government “got this wrong”.
He said: “These are exceptional times, and in exceptional times truly difficult decisions are made. In speaking directly to the young people affected by the downgrading of awards – 75,000 pupils whose teacher estimates were higher than their final award – I want to say this: I am sorry.
“I have listened and the message is clear. They don’t just want an apology, they want to see this fixed and that is exactly what I will now do.
“To resolve this issue all downgraded awards will be withdrawn.
“I am directing the SQA to re-issue those awards based solely on teacher or lecturer judgement.
He added: “We now accept that the risk of undermining the value of qualifications is outweighed by a concern that young people, particularly from working class backgrounds, may lose faith in education and form the view that no matter how hard you work, the system is against you.
“Education is the route out of poverty for young people in deprived communities and we cannot risk allowing that view to take hold.”
In addition to adjusting exam results to reflect teacher estimates, pupils whose entries were adjusted up by the SQA will retain the higher grade.
The U-turn will put further pressure on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ahead of A-Level results day in England on Thursday.
Labour have already called on ministers to ensure English pupils from the poorest backgrounds are not impacted by the same algorithmic calculation when results are released.
Speaking last week, shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “Young people deserve to have their hard work assessed on merit, but the system risks baking in inequality and doing most harm to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, those from Ethnic Minority groups and those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.”
Matt Hancock Says “Everybody” Should Report Their Neighbours If They Flout Coronavirus Rules
3 min read
Matt Hancock has urged people to report their neighbours for flouting coronavirus rules as he announced heavy new penalties for those who fail to self-isolate when asked.
The health secretary said he would not hesitate to alert the authorities if he became aware of anyone breaking the new “rule of six” restrictions and that “everybody should” do likewise.
It comes after the government revealed new legal powers to hand out £10,000 fines to people who do not quarantine if they test positive for the virus, rates of which are rising rapidly across the country.
The measures also include a £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who have to self-isolate and cannot work from home, and a penalty for employers who punish employers for doing so.
Mr Hancock said the UK was at a “tipping point” and could face tougher national restricions if people fail to heed new guidelines.
“I don’t want to see more measures but unfortunately if people don’t follow the rules that’s how the virus spreads,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge.
“Everyone faces a choice and it comes down to individual moments – should I go to that party where there might not be social distancing?
“The answer is no, you should not.”
Mr Hancock said local lockdowns had brought cases “right under control” in parts of the country, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned the capital could be placed under additional curbs as soon as Monday.
And the health secretary said he would “not rule out” Londoners being asked to work from home, as he prepared to meet City Hall officials on Sunday.
He told Times Radio: “I’ve been talking to the Mayor of London over the weekend about what’s needed in London and that’s an example of local action in the same way that I was talking about the councils in the north east. And then we took action in Lancashire…and we had to bring in more measures in Wolverhampton.
“The conversation is…an ongoing one with the mayor.”
PoliticsHome is maintaining a live map of local lockdown restrictions across the UK, which is viewable here.
A source close to the mayor said on Saturday: “It’s clear that cases in London are only moving in one direction, we are now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East.
“We can’t afford more delay. Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again.”
Mr Hancock promised the UK has “got the cavalry coming over the next few months; the vaccine, the mass testing and the improvement in treatments”.
“But we’ve got to all follow the rules between now and then to keep people safe,” he told the BBC.
Asked what he expected the death rate could be if people failed to do so, the health secretary said: “It’s unknowable, because it depends on the behaviour of every single person in this country.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned new legal powers were not a “silver bullet” and urged ministers to fix the struggling test and trace programme.
He said Boris Johnson should apologise to the nation for the system’s failings and restart daily press briefings “so everybody knows what’s going on”.
“I don’t think a national lockdown is inevitable. I think it’s more likely because testing is all over the place,” he told Sky News.
“I think one of the conerns I have and a lot of people have is because the government has lost control of testing, it doesn’t know where the virus is.”
He added: “We are in this position just when we need testing to be at its best.”
The Labour leader also called for schoolchildren to be prioritised for testing to avoid mass school closures, with tests and results offered within a 48-hour period.
India Covid-19: Taj Mahal reopens after longest shutdown
The iconic Taj Mahal has reopened its doors to visitors after six months – the longest it has ever been shut.
It was closed as the country went into a stringent lockdown in March to halt the spread of coronavirus.
It will now allow only 5,000 visitors daily and enforce Covid-19 safety measures as cases spike in India.
The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s leading tourist attractions, and drew as many as 70,000 people every day before the pandemic.
The 17th-Century marble mausoleum was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his queen, Mumtaz Mahal.
It was last shut briefly in 1978 when Agra city, where it is located, flooded. And before that, the monument closed for a few days in 1971, during a war between India and Pakistan.
Selfies allowed, but no ‘group photos’
The entire campus was sanitised before the doors opened at 8am and all officials were seen wearing masks and face shields, local journalist Yogesh Kumar Singh, who was at the monument when it opened, told the BBC.
Authorities said there would be temperature checks at the entrance, and visitors would be asked to use digital payment methods to buy tickets.
They have also been told to follow social distancing on the property.
While visitors can take selfies or solo photographs, group photos are not allowed.
“But there is no rush, it feels so unlike Taj Mahal,” Mr Singh said. “I think many people will not turn up as long as cases continue to spike.”
India has reported more than five million cases so far, and Uttar Pradesh, where the Taj is located, has the country’s fifth-highest caseload.
Mr Kumar said it would be interesting to see how authorities enforce safety rules when large groups start visiting the site.
The Taj is surrounded by gardens where visitors spend a lot of time walking around and posing for photographs. But the mausoleum itself is a closed space, with almost no ventilation, making it vulnerable to Covid-19 transmission.
Typically, it is crowded as tourists move in and out of it in long lines.
A deserted look
Gautam Sharma, who drove from Delhi to visit the Taj Mahal on Monday, said he had been waiting for the day for months.
“I knew not many people will turn up initially, so I thought it will be safe to visit the monument in the first few days of reopening,” he said.
The monument had few visitors waiting at its doors as it opened Monday morning – an unusual sight in its long history.
It is perhaps India’s most famous monument and is usually part of every foreign dignitary’s itinerary.
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visited the Taj in February. Other world leaders who have visited the monument include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Thailand protests: Protesters declare ‘victory’ in Bangkok rallies calling for monarchy reform
Thousands gathered in the nation’s capital for this weekend’s rallies, which began on Saturday and were part of a protest movement that has been gaining momentum since July.
Student leader and activist Panasaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul, 21, took to a public stage late Saturday to directly address Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn — an act that, under strict national laws, could be punishable by 15 years in jail if her comments are considered defamatory to the monarchy.
Panasaya listed to the crowd the ten demands of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, a student union group of which she is the spokesperson. They include revoking laws against defaming the monarchy, a new constitution, abolishing royal offices, ousting the military junta and disbanding the king’s royal guards.
In an interview with CNN, Panasaya said: “I mean no harm to the monarchy.” But she also shared a message to the king: “You should reform it so that the monarchy can continue to exist in Thailand … If you pay attention to what I am saying, I’d like you to consider our demands.”
On Sunday, with thousands still out, a group from the rally announced it intended to deliver the ten demands to the Privy Council, the king’s advisers.
However, Panasaya and other marchers were stopped by police as they attempted to approach the council. In an exchange broadcast live on television, Panasaya instead agreed to hand the demands to police, and declared a victory for protesters.
Speaking to the crowds before they dispersed, protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak said: “Our victory is that we handed our letter directly to the king, so we can show that everyone is equal. Everyone has the same blood color — it’s red. Thank you everyone for celebrating our victory. We told people to raise their hand.”
Parit said the movement would continue to pursue its goals peacefully.
“We achieved all of this by non-violent methods and we will uphold the principle of non-violence in our movement,” Parit said Sunday.
On Sunday protesters also installed a “people’s plaque” near the Thai Royal Palace, commemorating their movement as the “vanguard of democracy.”
“Here, the people declare that this place belongs to the people, not the King,” the plaque reads. Protest leaders said it was a replacement for another plaque that had marked the end of monarchic rule in 1932, but went missing in 2017.
Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Sunday “expressed his gratitude to officers and all the people who have jointly cooperated to end the situation peacefully,” according to a statement from his official spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri.
“Both the protesters and officers have avoided confrontation and instigation which could lead to an unnecessarily tense situation,” the statement read.
“The government has the intention to allow people to lawfully express their rights under the constitution.”
Asked about the submission of a reform letter to the king, Burapachaisri said: “I am aware of their demands about monarchy reform from listening to their speeches on the stage but I don’t have them in detail yet. I would need time to gather info before we have further comments on this.”
Weekend protests escalate
Ahead of this weekend, official figures had tried to dissuade protesters from turning out — and dispel fears that the rallies could turn violent.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister warned protesters they could cause economic destruction if coronavirus spreads at gatherings, though he didn’t name protest groups individually or specifically address the planned weekend rallies.
And in a briefing on Saturday morning, the commander of the Thai Royal Police told people not to believe what he called rumors that police will “suppress the mobs,” and urged officers not to react if “provoked.”
Later that afternoon, protest leaders pushed open the gates of Thammasat University, a heart of student activism in Thailand. They gathered on the campus and at Sanam Luang, a public square near the king’s official residence at the Grand Palace.
Protesters and their supporters are calling for a range of institutional changes; for instance, Pita Limjaroenrat of the opposition Move Forward Party said his group will propose a council meeting to “re-write the constitution peacefully.”
The best solution, Limjaroenrat says, is to elect a “group of persons” to re-write it. He told the media that if change does not occur in the country “the people will keep coming out on the street.”
That is a radical idea in Thailand, where the powerful royal institution is regarded by many with deity-like reverence — but dissatisfaction, especially among Thai youth, has been simmering for years.
Years of growing resistance
Thailand has endured years of political upheaval. A military coup in 2014 was followed by failed promises to restore democracy, and what activists say is a repression of civil rights and freedoms.
It’s within this atmosphere that their ire is now being directed toward King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who assumed the throne in 2016 and was crowned in May 2019.
Vajiralongkorn is believed to spend much of his time overseas and has been largely absent from public life in Thailand as the country grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Crown Property Act, passed in 1936, reorganized the Thai royal family’s assets into separate categorizes for royal assets. The repeal of the act meant that the Crown’s and the King’s personal holdings were placed into a single category to be administered by King Vajiralongkorn.
Although the absolute monarchy was abolished in Thailand in 1932, the monarch still wields significant political influence. Thais are still expected to follow a long tradition of worshiping the royal institution.
Change appears to taking root, however.
CNN cannot independently verify the videos.
Traditionally, Thai citizens are supposed to stand still to pay respects to the anthem — played twice daily in public spaces — and the rule is even stricter in schools.
“The protests in Thailand are historic because this is the first time in Thailand’s history that urban demonstrators have demanded such reforms,” Paul Chambers, a lecturer and special adviser at Naresuan University’s Center of ASEAN Community Studies, told CNN last month.
CNN’s Jaide Garcia and Emma Reynolds contributed to this report.
- Technology4 months ago
First iPhone jailbreak in four years released
- Space4 months ago
NASA launches its First Space Flight in the U.S since 2011
- Technology3 months ago
The Complete Guide for Building a Website
- Technology3 months ago
Check out the new Gaming Leader: Playstation 5
- Politics2 months ago
US Politicians Considering to Ban TikTok App
- Politics1 month ago
Beirut: How judges responded to warnings about ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut port
- Entertainment3 months ago
Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 delayed by Warner Bros.
- Technology2 months ago
Is OnePlus Nord the Best Phone Under Rs. 30,000?