Unions urge parents to turn education cuts into election battleground

Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary.

Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary: ‘We want to put pressure on every candidate … to pledge to oppose school cuts in their constituency and elsewhere.’ Photograph: Getty

Teaching unions say they will carry the fight against budget cuts affecting schools directly to parents and voters, with the National Union of Teachers’ general secretary vowing to make education funding a key election issue.

Kevin Courtney told the union’s annual conference the snap election was an opportunity to challenge the funding shortages in England.

“In the run-up to this election, parents must demand of all politicians: will they invest in our country, will they invest in our children?” he told delegates in Cardiff.

“I don’t believe there’s a parent anywhere in this country who voted for their child’s class size to go up, or voted for their child to lose the opportunity to do art or dance or music.

“So parents must now demand clarity from candidates seeking office. We want to put pressure on every candidate in every constituency to pledge to oppose school cuts in their constituency and elsewhere.

“We can reach parents with this and we can make a difference in the general election.”

Courtney, in his first union address since his election as general secretary, demanded that the government publish its consultation on the controversial national funding formula planned for schools in England.

“It would be an absolute disgrace if they did not publish their response to this before the general election. Parents need to know what they are voting for, they need to know what the parties are saying about the funding of their children’s schools,” he said.

But if the Conservative party attempted to appease unhappy MPs “by taking more money from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, then I’m saying to Theresa May: expect industrial action from this union, and expect it soon”, he added.

Courtney accused the Tories of breaking their previous election manifesto pledge on school funding. “Because that Conservative manifesto promise was broken, across the country we’re seeing class sizes going up, we are seeing arts, dance, drama, music taken off the curriculum. We’re seeing thousands of teaching assistants made redundant or not replaced,” he said.

The NUT’s call on funding was joined by other unions, including those representing headteachers.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Our top message is that there is insufficient funding in the education system. We call on all political parties to commit to investing in education as part of a long-term economic plan.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his union would also campaign over the school funding cuts. “There are crises, like teacher recruitment and the £3bn of cuts the government expects schools to make, that should not be forgotten during the election campaign,” he said.

“We will lobby every party to make sure that their policies on education are based on evidence and are at the forefront of their campaigns.”

The NUT had previously passed a motion rejecting the government’s plans to revive selective schools in England.

“This union is clear. Justine Greening and Theresa May’s ‘grammar schools for everyone’ is just an oxymoron,” Courtney said. “We believe Theresa May has been very nervous of using a legislative route. She has no electoral mandate for it but she is now seeking one. So this debate is now very public.”


Sarah Mason: Saltire Society investing in creative Scots

Piece from the Alasdair Gray exhibiton at the Saltire Society.

Piece from the Alasdair Gray exhibiton at the Saltire Society.

One of the Saltire Society’s essential commitments is to celebrate Scotland’s most creative individuals, people who challenge us to think in new ways, who have different approaches, who take risks, and who don’t give up.

In April 2016, we announced a £50,000 Inspiring Scotland ­programme of funding to offer encouragement and support to the next generation of creative Scots.

As part of this, we partnered with organisations such as Janice Parker Projects, Hands up For Trad, Youth Theatre Scotland and Fèisean nan Gàidheal. Among other initiatives, the Inspiring Scotland programme helped a young piper travel to Bulgaria to explore Balkan folk music, an architect go to Denmark to study new design models for an ageing population, an emerging director work at the Traverse Theatre, and the first Scottish visual artist to attend the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York for three months.

The Saltire Society’s support of ­creative work could hardly be wider, yet we plan to continue to expand and evolve in our 81st year. 2017 will see the Inspiring Scotland Programme develop with new partners, and find those creative areas that would ­benefit from new investment.

Our first bursary in 2017 was announced on 21 March and sees a partnership with Alasdair Gray, one of Scotland’s most iconic and inspirational creative forces. Alasdair joined us as we launched the bursary and opened an exhibition of his work, currently running at the Saltire Society until the 28 April. (Call 0131 556 1836 to arrange a viewing).

The Saltire Society has had a long relationship with Alasdair Gray, who won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year in 1982 for his landmark book Lanark. He went on to win the Book of the Year again in 2011 for A Life in ­Pictures, one of only a handful of people to win the prestigious award twice. Alasdair also designed the ­covers for the Society’s Saltire Series of pamphlets, in which writers spark fresh thinking, ignite debate and challenge our orthodoxies through short essays on a diversity of topics.

Alasdair Gray encountered the paintings of Edward Munch as an adolescent. It changed his life. It gave him a sense of his own potential.

He said: “How wonderful to discover the works of a Norwegian artist who had lived in the industrial ­capital city of a modern nation smaller than Scotland, yet who painted it as grand and tragic, not boring or trivial.” Art can change your life.

The first Alasdair Gray Inspiring Scotland Bursary will be made to an emerging creative practitioner who demonstrates exceptional potential, and will be announced in November this year. More details about this can be found at saltiresociety.org.uk

The Saltire Society’s commitment to initiate and nurture creativity is growing.

If you would like to be part of the Saltire Society, check out our ­website and consider becoming a member. The Saltire Society is a non-political charity open to all.

Sarah Mason is programme director of the Saltire Society


Docker brings containerization to legacy apps

At the DockerCon conference today in Austin, Docker announced a new service called the Modernize Traditional Applications (MTA) Program that enables customers to move certain legacy apps into Docker containers, put them under management of Docker Enterprise Edition and prepare them for use on more modern infrastructure.

What’s more, the company is so confident in their ability to move these applications, that they are willing to guarantee the outcome, so long as the applications meet certain criteria.

What Docker found over the last six months while they built this offering was that customers were hungry to try containerization. While they didn’t necessarily have the skill or the will to go to all the way to micro services, they were looking for a way to take advantage of the higher level benefits of containerization including portability, efficiency and security, COO Scott Johnston told TechCrunch.

“Customers got excited about it when they saw we could take an existing app and put it in a container [without] moving to a more cutting edge micro services project,” he said.

Traditionally, applications have been delivered as a single monolithic entity. With micro services, the holy grail of containerization, you break down your application into discrete pieces, making it much easier to deploy and manage. In this kind of environment developers can concentrate on programming tasks and the operations team can worry about deploying the applications. This is typically referred to as a DevOps approach. With the new service announced today, customers don’t have to go all the way to micro services with containers to gain some of the benefits.

The Docker professional services team is working with partners Avenade, Cisco, Microsoft and HPE to help companies move appropriate legacy apps into a containerized environment. And it makes sense as these vendors are likely to have customers or clients running many of the target applications.

The company found if the legacy app meets certain criteria, they can actually guarantee they can move it to a container successfully for fixed price within a defined time period. It may sound like a bold promise, but Docker learned throughout the Beta period as they experimented with these applications, that certain ones were easy to move and others were not good candidates. Armed with that knowledge, they felt they could guarantee the outcome.

“What I would say is that an enterprise application suite could have thousands of applications and there is always something that will fit our criteria. We are confident about that,” he said.

Johnston said that companies are spending up to 80 percent of their IT budgets supporting these legacy applications. He believes that if Docker can offer a way to reduce that spending by moving them to more modern architecture without a lot of heavy lifting, the exercise would seem to be a no-brainer, especially with the guarantee.


Inside the World’s First All-Female Special Forces Unit Norway’s Jegertroppen

Image result for Inside the World’s First All-Female Special Forces Unit: Norway’s Jegertroppen

An explosion just a few feet away rocks the unmarked station wagon as it travels along a dirt road in the Norwegian woodland.

Immediately, two soldiers jump from their front seats and run for cover behind the carcass of an old, rusty tank. Firing their weapons at targets along the snow-covered hillside, they call for support from the rest of their unit.

This firefight is just a drill, but the soldiers taking part are battling to break down one of the final barriers to women serving in the armed forces. They are training to become part of Norway’s Jegertroppen or “Hunter Troops” — the world’s first all-female military special forces unit.

More than a year after the U.S. Department of Defense repealed a longtime ban on women serving in ground combat assignments, relatively few have been trained or assigned to these jobs in the U.S. military.

Norway has moved a lot faster to break down military gender barriers. Its parliament introduced legislation in the 1980s that opened up all military roles to women. Last year, Norway became the first NATO country to introduce female conscription.

But the introduction of the all-female special forces unit in 2014 raised the profile of women in the Norwegian military the most.

The unit was started after Norway’s Armed Forces’ Special Command saw an increased need for female special operations soldiers — particularly in places like Afghanistan where male troops were forbidden from communicating with women. The exclusion of half the population was having a detrimental impact on intelligence gathering and building community relations.

Image: A soldier rests after military training exercise at the Terningmoen Camp in Elverum, Norway

“When [Norway] deployed to Afghanistan we saw that we needed female soldiers. Both as female advisers for the Afghan special police unit that we mentored, but also when we did an arrest,” said Col. Frode Kristofferson, the commander of Norway’s special forces. “We needed female soldiers to take care of the women and children in the buildings that we searched.”

So they created the all-female unit specifically designed to train them.

“One of the advantages that we see with an all-female unit is that we can have a tailored program and a tailored selection for the female operators,” Kristofferson said, adding that at the end of the one-year program the female soldiers are just as capable as their male counterparts.

One of the unit’s members, 22-year-old Tonje, said the unit is proof that women can do the same job as men, even in the male-dominated world of the military.

“We’re carrying the same weight in the backpack as the boys,” said Tonje, who did not provide her full name due to the unit’s rules. “We do the same tasks.”

Those tasks at Terningmoen Camp, about 100 miles north of Oslo, include parachuting out of military aircraft, skiing in the Arctic tundra, navigating the wilderness and fighting in urban terrain.

She added that the weapon, backpack and other gear she carries on long marches, weighs over 100 pounds.

“I’m the smallest, so I carry as much weight as I myself weigh,” she said.

[Source:- NBC]