This has been a busy week, so I am catching up on various issues. The Supreme Court decision announced last week that cautions are no longer to be required to be disclosed for life makes real sense in a world where a volunteer pensioner reading to under-fives can currently be required to disclose all criminal convictions, even those acquired half a century ago.
Now I think is the time to bring the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the disclosure rules into harmony so that everyone can easily understand what is required and why. This would include the police and the issue of ‘soft intelligence’. It would be silly if cautions, having been removed as part of the criminal record, reappeared in enhanced disclosures as part of ‘soft intelligence’ held by police and disclosed as part of the process of ensuring unsuitable people don’t work with children or vulnerable adults.
I have awarded a half to parliament because of the work of the group of parliamentarians that appeared at almost the same time as the Supreme Court judgement saying much the same thing. Less, helpful, as those who followed my blog after the stabbing of the Leeds teacher will know, was the actions of Labour and Conservative back bench MPs ganging up together to insert a new clause in the Bill currently going through parliament requiring mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of two offences of carrying a bladed instrument: a knife to you, me and the MPs.
To their credit most Liberal Democrats MPs voted against this proposal, and would presumably be happy to leave judgement on sentencing to the courts within the framework of a maximum tariff set down by parliament and the guidelines from the Sentencing Council.
How little there is to distinguish Labour and Tory policies also became apparent this morning in the interview the Labour Secretary of State gave to the Sunday Times. He is reported as saying that all two-year olds should be sent to school because basic skills such as counting and holding a pen are easier to grasp at school rather than at home or with under-qualified child minders. This sends a shudder through me. I suspect most two year olds aren’t ready for fine motor skills required in holding a pen, and as a colleague emailed me:
Knowledge is now available through a keyboard and touchscreen and increasingly important works are available online. I was delighted to find Fuster’s “Prefrontal Cortex” and Hubel’s “Eye, Brain, and Vision” available for free download. The basis skill for writing is therefore keyboarding, not pencil printing. And mathematical comprehension is derived from language not perception, so the best way to learn number is by playing with the symbol system on a calculator first. Remember: language is a set of arbitrary symbols with which children come to school equipped. When will politicians and academics understand that all improvement is technology-based? At present all appear to be in denial.
There is certainly a debate to be had about the importance of early writing skills in a technological age where two –year olds won’t retire from the labour market until the 2080s if present trends continue. By then, pens might be restricted to use in calligraphy as an art form. I might have been more impressed if Mr Hunt had suggested the use of turtles and coding to make them run around the floor. But, he is a historian, so perhaps he is better at looking backwards than forwards.