The i Paper online (plus 28 more bylines in print)
RightsInfo news features
North Devon Gazette
The i Paper online (plus 28 more bylines in print)
RightsInfo news features
North Devon Gazette
Following another of my exclusive investigations at university newspaper Forge Press, I was approached by HuffPost UK to work on an investigative news piece on Sheffield University senior lecturer Piers Robinson. I provided additional reporting through interviews with several students, contacting and developing a rapport over the story with Sheffield University’s press office, and contacting Piers himself for a right to reply.
My reporting for the university newspaper, receiving thousands of page views and hundreds of shares, combined with months of investigative work by HuffPost UK led to this academic ‘leaving’ his post two weeks after my report.
It was featured on HuffPost UK’s main Facebook and Twitter accounts, with millions of followers.
Ewan worked hard and was very proud of this news feature on LGBT+ mental health among young people, published for The Independent.
After Pat Sowa told a conference of teachers about how her son Dom took his life after experiencing bullying for his sexuality at school, Ewan reached out to Pat. He interviewed her about what could be done to make LGBT+ young people, like himself as a gay man, better in the education system. LGBT+ mental health is an issue he feels very passionate about and he would appreciate it if you read the piece, which he hopes sends a vital message of change.
See this breaking news story on the landmark Bloody Sunday criminal investigation published for RightsInfo here: https://rightsinfo.org/bloody-sunday-solider-to-be-charged/
One former British soldier is to be charged with the murders of two men and the attempted murders of four others over the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry.
Soldier F will face prosecution for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
There was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for the other 16 former soldiers, the Public Prosecution Service said.
Families gathered outside The Museum of Free Derry, yards from where the killings took place 47 years ago, and marched together to the city centre to hear the decision.
A murder investigation was launched by police into the events of the fateful day in January 1972 when 13 civil rights activists were shot dead in Derry, Northern Ireland, and 15 others wounded.
Following the largest and most expensive ever public inquiry in the UK, the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland investigated charges of murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily injury with intent to endanger life.
One former soldier from Parachute Regiment’s 1stbattalion will now face charges of murder and attempted murder.Commemoration 35 years on from Bloody Sunday.
Twenty subjects were interviewed by police in the investigation including two former ‘Official IRA’ members, but one of the soldiers has since died.
For Michael McKinney, Jean Hegarty and John Kelly and so many others whose loved ones never returned home from Derry that afternoon, it is a day that marks years of searching for closure.
“I was with Michael when he was shot,” said Kelly, recalling the tragic day 47 years ago. “I went in the ambulance with him. I can still see him lying there after being shot. He was a young boy.”
Speaking to The Guardian, the 70-year-old continued: “His face turned grey and a sort of green colour. I was in the mortuary afterwards. There were nine or 10 bodies. It was pure carnage. My mother never got over the loss of her son.”
The outcome of the £195m inquiry which trawled through 668 witness statements and many visual and 125,000 pages of written documents, saw Lord Saville declare the killings “unjustified and unjustifiable”.
It brought into focus the right to life, and where the responsibilities of the state begin and end when investigating deaths.
Speaking following the conclusion in 2010 which brought some peace for the victims, Prime Minister David Cameron also gave the families a heartfelt apology.
But however much the events of that day are retold in grieving minds, official investigations into what happened have been mired in controversy.
The initial Widgery Tribunal “was veiled in secrecy, subject to political influence, and negligent in its failure to consider crucial eye-witness testimony,” Human Rights Watch said amid the launch of the landmark Lord Savile review in 1998.
The charity welcomed the decision of the British government to form a new review with full judicial weight, stating that “the relatives of victims have a right to know the truth about the events of Bloody Sunday.”
But it is not just the inquiries which have raised ill feeling. Northern Ireland legislation currently limits sentences committed after 1973 to a maximum of two years.
Speaking to The Guardian, Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry explained: “From 1970 on, soldiers had a de facto amnesty in Northern Ireland.
“Documents from the National Archives show there were discussions between the attorney general and the chiefs of staff where they made it quite clear they would do everything in their power to protect soldiers from prosecution.”
Universal Credit claimants seen to be putting in the “maximum effort” to find work should be rewarded with a financial “prize”, a conservative think tank has suggested.
In an effort to make Universal Credit, the government’s controversial streamlined welfare system, seem more attractive in the public eye, think tank Bright Blue recommends a supplement be integrated into benefit payments for those “meeting the most demanding conditions around job seeking”.
Another option would be to reward a biannual £1,000 cash prize to claimants.
The report also calls for compensation payments if a jobcentre fails to pay benefits on time or cancels promised skills courses.
The money could total hundreds or thousands of pounds, and would be viewed as respite to the many benefit seekers who have been let down or turned away by job centres since the rollout of the new benefit, which unites six benefits including disability and housing support under one umbrella.
Addressing one of many controversies around how just the reforms really are, Bright Blue branded it unfair that benefits sanctions are placed on claimants for missing appointments and yet job centre officials can get away without a penalty for their errors.
Another thinktank last month revealed new figures showing a rise in income inequality in 2018, which critics argue is largely the fault of the Universal Credit benefits reforms which are “driving people into destitution”.
One of Universal Credit’s key failings, say critics, is forcing claimants to wait up to five weeks for their first benefit payment. The right-leaning thinktank says a one-off initial “helping hand” payment should be made that covers a quarter of the expected first month’s sum to help offset financial stress.
Last month Citizen’s Advice found that the 35-day delay was reducing nearly half of the claimants it helped to living without the money to afford basic essentials such as food or heating, while 54 per cent had to borrow funds from family and friends to pay bills and stay afloat.
The authors of the report agreed with Universal Credit as a system in principle but sympathised with the interviewees who said it was ‘distressing’, ‘confusing’ and ‘challenging’, prompting them to call for mental health and disability workers in every job centre.
In another siren call to ensure “equal treatment of all actors in the universal credit system…[thus] sustaining public and specifically claimants’ support for it,” claimants should be given the right to an independent appeal for compensation if sanctions imposed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) were judged to have broken rules, the report added.
Amid widespread cynicism among those claimants interviewed that the system has been made intentionally difficult to access, other suggested reforms included a smartphone app for those without a computer, and a live chat feature when claimants login online.
Ryan Shorthouse, the director of Bright Blue and a co-author of the report, said: “Despite welcome improvements made by the government in recent years, there are too many examples and too much evidence of significant hardship experienced by a sizeable minority of those on universal credit.”
A DWP spokesperson labelled the rollout of Universal Credit a success story: “We welcome the report’s finding that the majority of people have had a smooth move on to universal credit, appreciating the simple monthly payment and work coach support.”
The DWP was last month accused of trying to “hide” the level of Universal Credit claimants relying on food banks, weeks after the Trussel Trust found that the two issues were inextricably linked as the use of foodbanks increased by 52 per cent in areas where the reforms had been in place for over a year.
Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd backtracked slightly, conceding in February that the rollout of the new system, in the context of a wider benefits squeeze, had helped cause the hike in emergency food bank use.
See this published for RightsInfo here: https://rightsinfo.org/lgbt-education-birmingham-address-concerns/
A primary school that taught children about LGBT+ relationships in an effort to combat homophobia and instil the right to equality in the next generation has said it will hold discussions to address parent concerns about the curriculum after 80 per cent of its pupils were withdrawn by parents in protest. The school has also said that it will not be delivering the lessons up to the end of term.
Parkfield Community School has faced a backlash by predominantly Muslim parents over its ‘No Outsiders’ programme, which uses same-sex stories and activities to instil knowledge and acceptance of homosexual relationships in children between the ages of four and 11.
The school in Alum Rock, Birmingham, had written to parents asking for the “upsetting” weekly protests staged outside its gates to stop, which have seen chants of “shame” from crowds and signs including “education not indoctrination”.
The curriculum, designed to meet the requirements of the Equality Act, was being piloted with five lessons each year featuring stories such as Mommy, Mama and Me and King & King to teach the children that homosexuality is as mainstream and normal as opposite sex attraction.
But rather than being seen merely as a forward-thinking programme that reflects modern society and the advancement of LGBT+ rights in recent years, the parents at the school escalated the row by taking around 600 pupils out of classes claiming that teachers were corrupting the innocence of their children and not honouring their faith.
Facebook group Alum Rock Community Forum celebrated the school becoming “a ghost town” as only 140 students turned up of 700, and claimed the progressive education was “undermining of parental rights and aggressively promoting homosexuality & LGBT lifestyle”.
Leaving many in disbelief that such scenes are still unfolding in 2019, one father at the school Abdul Ma, 46, told The Sun: “This is a brainwash. We bring our children here so they can later work as a solicitor or a teacher, not to be taught about being gay or a lesbian.”
Senior managers at the school, which is rated outstanding by Ofsted and recognises tolerance, personal liberty and respect as core British values, have said discussions will take place about the delivery of the lessons, citing that “the ethos, the books, the age appropriateness, the lessons and the assemblies” made parents uncomfortable.
In a letter to parents, Excel Multi Academy Trust, which runs the school, added: “The school encourages parents to ask their children what No Outsiders is really about, as the children are very clear there is no focus on one aspect of equality, rather No Outsiders teaches that everyone is welcome.”
The programme was developed by assistant headteacher Andrew Moffatt, who was forced to defend the curriculum after 400 parents signed a petition calling for the lessons to be abolished.
Moffat, who has been awarded an MBE for his work in equality education, became a target for the angry parents after he was open about his same-sex civil partnership in class. He says he has been abused with a leaflet campaign and one parent was heard blasting “get Mr Moffatt out” through a megaphone at the school perimeter.
The school is due to stop delivering the lessons to the end of term, but has denied that this was a U-turn. “In our Long Term Year Curriculum Plan, this half term has already been blocked for Religious Education (RE). Equality assemblies will continue as normal and our welcoming No Outsiders ethos will be there for all,” they wrote.
Mr Moffatt, who has made the top ten of the prestigious million-dollar Varkey Foundation Global teacher Prize, said that dozens of pupils at the school had supported him through the ordeal.
“I was inundated with little posters and cards that children had made at home saying, ‘No outsiders. Everyone is welcome,’” the teacher told The Independent.
“The first one I got I was quite shocked.”
Parent Fatima Shah sowed the seeds of the protest, telling the BBC: “We don’t have an issue with them learning that yes, you will come across same-sex couples.”
Insisting that the challenge does not come from a site of homophobia, she added: “What we have a problem is his promoting of homosexuality, and that is what he is doing. Telling children as young as four that it’s ok to be gay. It just doesn’t go with our beliefs, our rights”.
Following a meeting between the Board of Trustees for the academy, local MP Liam Byrne, parents and Andrew Warren, the Regional Schools Commissioner for the West Midlands, the Trust agreed in a letter to parents to launch a consultation with parents this half term to “explore equality education at Parkfield”.
Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman defended the school, judging it essential that children know that families can “have two mummies or two daddies”.
This story, Ewan’s fourth for The Independent, saw Ewan work closely with Social Affairs correspondent May Bulman on an in-depth scoop about an alleged government cover-up involving food banks and Universal Credit. It was shared more than 15,000 times on social media and had a reach of hundreds of thousands.
See it published for The Independent here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/food-banks-universal-credit-dwp-jobcentres-uk-a8769921.html
Ewan co-bylined this story for The Independent on rising pay of academy bosses at a time when the education system is facing a crisis. He provided the research/analysis element of the story, delving into the accounts of 28 academy trusts to find levels of pay and, crucially, whether they had increased on the previous year – an analysis that went on to be the top line for the story.
See it published for The Independent here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/academy-chains-school-salaries-pay-rise-chief-executives-lord-agnew-a8770716.html
In this co-bylined story for The Independent, Ewan flagged to the newsdesk to the fact that Warwick University students were marching on campus against the institution’s handling of the group chat scandal, he followed the lively reaction from Warwick University’s campus using TweetDeck and gathered photos and quotes from students on campus about what was happening and how they felt.
Writing for The Independent, Ewan interviewed several parents from Steiner Schools across the country and researched several campaigns by Steiner parents against Ofsted for this Independent story, focusing on those school communities fighting back against damning Steiner judgements.