Faith in Free Schools – Department of Education still hasn’t done its homework

The Department of Education has just lost in its bid to keep secret the “faith affiliation” of applicants planning to up Free Schools, and has been forced publish the figures by the Information Commissioner.It’s taken two years to get this information, and it’s interesting reading if you read them carefully.

Figures are not available for the first wave of 373 applications, but is (to an extent) for the second and third waves. I’ve been doing some number crunching.

Religion Wave 2 Wave 3 Total %
None 202 183 385 74.47%
Christian 45 21 66 12.77%
Muslim 17 18 35 6.77%
Plymouth Brethren 11 3 14 2.71%
Jewish 3 5 8 1.55%
Sikh 2 5 7 1.35%
Hindu 1 1 2 0.39%

The breakdown is a little strange. In Wave 3 the different Christian denominations are specified in some cases but left as “Christian” for others, as they all are on Wave 2. Except the Plymouth Brethren, who appear always to be separate from “Christian” for some reason in both sets of data. “Muslim” and “Islam” are also two different religions, apparently. Did the compiler of these statistics know anything about religions?

I also have my doubts about whether religion has been reported at all. We’re asked to believe schools like Noah’s Kingdom (Reading) isn’t religious. To quote from their ethos description: If life is based on human values then it is incomplete, but if we base our lives on the plan of God then we have a secure path.

It’s not just the Christians – how about  the Khalsa Science Academy in Leeds? Sounds Sikh to me! A quick look at their web site confirms my suspicions.

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What about the Maharishi Free Schools? Non-faith? Yogi’s might fly! There’s even “Destiny Christian School” in Bedford that’s listed as secular. The clue should be in the name. It’s actually being proposed by “Miracle Church of God in Christ”, and part of the Christian Schools’ Trust who’s attitude to creationism is that it is science and they intend to teach it as such.

In short, a quick scan through the names on the list is enough to show any reasonable person that the published data is full of errors. Journalists like those at the BBC may have  taken them at face value, but they’re an insult to any thinking person.

Whatever you feel about so-called “Faith Schools”, having the data kept from us by Michael Gove and the Department of Education isn’t going help with an informed debate.

Wave 1+2 Freedom of Information data from DofE

Wave 3 Freedom of Information data from DofE


Interesting things at IP Expo 2012

IP Expo (nee. Storage) is on in London’s Earls Court Two for one more day. As a show it’s target remains a bit undefined (a show about Internet Protocol? Or do they mean Intellectual Property),  but that’s what can make it interesting.

This year there’s less of the mind-boggling high-end storage and more general network services from software and hardware vendors – in particular, vitallisation is the hot topic (yawn).

This is a quick impression; get down there and see for yourself or wait for a full report later.

One interesting stand is Firebrick, present for the first time. You can’t miss them, (a) because they’re in front of the main entrance one row back; and (b) they’ve got a life-sized fibreglass Orc on the stand. They’ll happily take your photograph standing with it, print it out and also give you a link to it for download within a matter of seconds.

Firebrick is a range of rather good network gateway devices (call them firewalls if you will, but that doesn’t really cover it). It’s their own technology, and it’s very clever. The latest clever stuff is the on-board SIP VoIP management, and a very reasonably priced service that can turn your 3G handset into a SIP extension. I’m not talking about a SIP App for a smartphone here; this is a SIM that integrates a mobile ‘phone in to your IP PABX.

Virtualisation is very popular, and so is security. Everyone’s got a security solution for virtualised server environments. A lot more on this topic later.

Trend has an amusing sign on their stand “Vurtualisation is becoming a reality”. Well what do you know? Are they recycling stands from five years ago, or just a bit slow to catch on. Actually, Trend has been ahead on integrating with VMWare at the hypervisor level, so it’s either a daft statement from the marketing department or an old sign but it’s too good a conversation opener to ignore. They’ll be sick if it by the end of the show.

Bit9, the security company from Massachusetts, is a the show. I like them; they’re sensible about what technology can and can’t do. This may not be a popular business model, but they give me more confidence than most of getting an accurate assessment where it matters.

Off to mingle..

BA e-ticket malware spam

Starting yesterday evening I’ve been seeing hundreds of emails sent to normally spam-free addresses claiming to be British Airways e-tickets. They are, of course, some new malware. It’s coming for a network of freshly compromised servers around the world (with a slight preference for Italy), so spam detection software won’t pick it up, and it’s new malware so virus scanners won’t find it either. As usual it’s a ZIP file containing an EXE, written in Borland Delphi I think.

The spambot code itself appears to be compiled on whatever Linux target the script attack has succeeded on, masquerading as “crond”.