Newspaper review: Innumeracy war, and the 'four-year-old rapist'

News of the apparent murder of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto by jihadists broke too late to make most of the national papers' first editions, most of whom concentrate on domestic issues in their print editions.

The Sunday Times leads with a plan from Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to ensure every 11-year-old in England can pass a test on the 12 times table and write a coherent short story before they leave primary education.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pupils from Chinese-speaking countries, South Korea and Japan dominated world maths proficiency tables

The paper says it is part of a "war on illiteracy and innumeracy" to be unveiled by Mrs Morgan on Sunday.

She will say that a future Tory government will remove head teachers who fail to ensure that every pupil knows their times tables, it adds.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Mrs Morgan says: "This government won't tolerate failure in any school.

"We won't accept that academic subjects are only for some and not for others. We won't back down when vested interests stand in our way."

A graphic in the Mail on Sunday reveals the gulf the government have to span to take England from its current placing of 23rd in the world for reading and 26th for maths to the top five.

The paper notes: "If Mrs Morgan fails to live up to her bold promise, she can expect to pay a heavy price.

"Former Labour education secretary Estelle Morris was forced to resign in 2002 after she made a similarly bold declaration - and failed to deliver."

Image caption The Independent on Sunday says Michael Gove is the "back-seat driver" in the Education department

The Mail notes that education is expected to be a key battleground in the forthcoming election.

The Independent on Sunday's lead suggests that former education secretary Michael Gove may still be a shadowy eminence grise, controlling the department he once lead.

The paper claims Mr Gove's political allies are "funnelling copies of documentation" about education matters to him, six months after his removal from the role.

The Independent bases its story on a "No 10 source". It says, "Mr Gove is continuing to meddle in his former department and block any attempt to water down his legacy as a controversial and reforming education secretary".

Mrs Morgan, the paper adds, is "driven to distraction" by the "never ending tensions".

Mr Gove's office has denied the story.


The Sunday Mirror leads with a major report on sexual offences committed by children aged under 10.

In a report that will shock many, the paper says official figures show nearly 800 children below the age of criminal responsibility have been investigated by police for sexual crimes against other youngsters in the last six years.

Image copyright Jupiter Images

The Mirror says cases include a three-year-old who sexually assaulted another youngster in Lancashire; a four-year-old investigated for a non-intercourse rape, and a nine-year-old in Manchester who took indecent photographs of other children.

The number of cases has doubled in the last three years, the paper adds.

The paper says, "Child protection experts said many of the young perpetrators will have been abuse victims themselves - but that growing easy access to online pornography is also to blame.."

Donald Findlater, from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation which tackles child sexual abuse, tells the Mirror: "It is utterly tragic.

"When you have children as young as three showing sexually harmful behaviour, it is highly likely they will be repeating something someone else has done to them. They are not offenders. They are victims."

Mr Findlater said the figures were likely to be "the tip of the iceberg" as most cases went unreported.

The paper notes that a study by the Authority for Television on Demand suggests, "200,000 under-16s, including 44,000 primary schoolchildren, accessed porn from desktop PCs and laptops in a single month."

In a related story, the Independent on Sunday reports the claims by a Bradford imam that sexualised bullying happens in every school in the UK.

Alyas Karmani, who runs a youth project in the city, told a conference that the young men he worked with are, "immersed in pornography and getting their sex education on the street with male role models simply "reinforcing misogynistic views.

"Sexting is endemic and schools were reluctant to admit they had sexual-bullying problems for fear of critical Ofsted reports," he added.

Knives out

As the General Election lopes ever nearer, so the papers step up their political coverage with colours being fairly firmly nailed to various masts.

Much of Sunday's press will make especially depressing reading for Labour Party strategists.

The Sunday Telegraph has a story about the chief executive of the firm that owns the Boots chain, calling Labour's plans if it got in power, "not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end it probably won't be helpful for them."

Image copyright ALliance Boots
Image caption Stefano Pessina

Stefano Pessina, an Italian billionaire, masterminded the chemist chain's merger with American pharmacy Walgreens.

The paper says, "It is exceptionally rare for a business figure as senior as Mr Pessina - whose company employs tens of thousands of people - to be so outspoken so close to a general election."

Mr Pessina tells the paper, "If [Labour] acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe."

The Telegraph notes the executive, "declined to elaborate on which specific policies he disliked".

The knives have been out for Labour leader Ed Miliband on certain newspapers for some time, but now the Mail on Sunday says it is the party's "big guns" who are sharpening the blades.

Its lead story reckons "withering attacks" on Mr Miliband have made the last seven days, "the week he blew the election".

The paper lists three "crises" for Mr Miliband, including major donor John Mills saying he wasn't convinced of the case for the "Mansion Tax" plan; a supposed rift between the Labour leader and the party's Scottish chief Jim Murphy on when Scottish MPs should quit Westminster to campaign in Scotland, and a reported row over plans for a "graduate tax" to allow tuition fees to fall.

Image caption Stephen Dorrell

A Sunday Times story says Labour faces "civil war" whether it wins or loses, with "Blairites in the shadow cabinet" pushing for "radical reforms of public services" if the party wins power.

The Sun commissions a poll of 1001 of its readers which suggests the Conservatives have a seven point lead over Labour.

It says people want a crackdown on benefit entitlement, and blame Labour for immigration problems.

Not all the flak in the papers is heading towards Labour however, former health secretary Stephen Dorrell tells the Observer that the massive reorganisation of the NHS instituted by his Conservative colleague Andrew Lansley was "largely unnecessary".

Mr Dorrell, who is stepping down as an MP after 36 years in Westminster, says the Health and Social Care Act was a "missed opportunity" to improve the NHS and the biggest mistake the current government has made.

"It would have been far better done by a very minimalist change in the law to achieve the necessary changes rather than trying to redraw the management structure, which isn't the problem anyway," he says.

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