Tag Archives: school

Kyson CP – how to measure good schooling?

I am very glad and proud to come across a recent article in the EADT which extols the virtues of  Kyson County Primary (one of Woodbridge’s  excellent primary schools) despite its disappointing recent Ofsted grading of  ‘Satisfactory.’

And indeed, for those of us who have known the calibre  of Kyson’s teaching of our children over the years, ‘Satisfactory‘ sounds a most ungraciously low estimation of its worth.

An acquaintance of mine was recently -and very generously – offered a couple of weeks classroom observation by Kyson’s Head in advance of his application for teacher training.  He really liked the school and came back very impressed by its atmosphere, by the happiness of the children, and  by the quality of the teaching.

It is important for parents to recognise that a school may well be so much more than its Ofsted profile – and  that they should, like the writer of this article, go and take an informed look at the actuality for themselves.

What will be replacing EMA?

Remember – although EMA has been abolished, this doesn’t mean that post-16 students will  be left high and dry (although some people want you to believe this, for purely political reasons). Instead the coalition  are proposing a new allowance that will be targeted at those who need it most.

This is very good news for those who are worried that loss of EMA will prevent them attending school or college

The government’s intentions about EMA are therefore very different  to Suffolk County Council’s disgraceful and undemocratic decision to scrap Suffolk’s Explore card tomorrow – right in the middle of the academic yearThere was not even a figleaf of a consultation or ‘conversation.’  So please don’t stop signing the Save the Explore Card petition and pressing for this decision to be reversed. We are now only 1000 signatures short!

The government’s proposals are that:

  • Everybody who started their course this academic year and is on the £30 per week rate will continue at the current rate to the end of the academic year  and will receive payments of £20 per week in their second year.
  • All students on EMA who started their course in the 2009/10 academic year will continue to receive the full rate.
  • An additional £15 million will be set aside to provide bursaries of £1,200 for the most vulnerable students, for example those in care, with severe disabilities or single parents living on their own. This is more than the maximum available to students currently on EMA.
  • Finally, schools, colleges and training providers will have £165 million put into a discretionary learner support fund each year which will be available for them to distribute to students facing financial need.
    This is the equivalent of just over £800 for every young person who received free school meals at the age of 15.

Across the country students face very different costs and barriers to attending school or college. In some places – such as huge swathes of rural Suffolk –  students have to travel a long distance to attend, or may find it hard to get transport. On the other hand, some courses involve prohibitively costly equipment.  Under the new plans schools and colleges can decide individually exactly how to distribute the money available to support their students in need.

The government wants to have a short consultation on its plans. You have till the 20 May to respond to this consultation – which you can do online.

So, if you get or got EMA, if you are a parent, grandparent or friend of someone who had it, has it, or will need support in the future  – or if you are just interested in social justice, please  add your two pennorth. We can ensure properly targeted support for the workers of the future if we all contribute to the decision-making!

Save our Woodbridge Lollipop patrol!

Seven years ago Suffolk’s lollipop men and women were being hailed by Suffolk  county council as  ‘greatly appreciated frontline staff’ as the golden anniversary of this wonderful, useful and CHEAP service was being celebrated.

School crossing patrols were formally recognised in Britain by the Schools Crossing Patrols Act of 1953.  Lollipop people are one of only four agents entitled to stop traffic by law (The others being the police, traffic wardens and some members of the Armed Forces).  Lollipop men and women have long done a fantastic job for a pittance and little thanks. But worse is to come..

Today all 98 patrols  in Suffolk are being cut by order of the Suffolk County Council’s Conservative administration to save a paltry £174,000  ( that is, a mere 79% of the Suffolk CEO’s annual salary).  At the very same time, SCC  is  adding another £2m to its roads budget which will weigh in at a truly gobsmacking £18.2 million this  next financial year. You couldn’t make it up.

Do you ever get the feeling that the people running SCC have simply got their priorities well and truly WRONG? that they haven’t the faintest idea about what really matters in the real world?

Dear Cllr Pembroke, dear  Cabinet:  Lets get this straight. School crossing patrols  – like the one run here in Woodbridge  by our invaluable St Mary’s School lollipop man Terry – are  not set up on a whim.    No, they are established at sites where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school as assessed  – not by naughty bad people who just want to irritate you – but by national guidelines (establishedby the Local Authority Road Safety Officer’s Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents , no less)

So they’re not what you might call a frivolity …

Ten years ago in Woodbridge the Times reports on how the (then)  Woodbridge Lollipop man, Frank Howe, was knocked to the ground by an impatient driver while on patrol on Birkett Road, directly outside St Mary’s School.

“This driver was revving his engine,” Howe recalled. “I could see by the way his mouth was going that he was cursing me for keeping him. He mounted the kerb and went to pass me. His wing mirror caught me and I went down. He didn’t stop. Luckily, an off-duty policeman saw what happened and forced him to come back.

“The parents and children were very shocked, but they had taken down his registration number. He was prosecuted, given a £350 fine and eight points on his licence, but I never got an apology.”

Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet, can I ask you: has traffic become less busy in the last ten years?

The same article quotes the (then) SCC officer in charge  of the School Crossing service as saying:

“We want our lollipop men and women to know just how much we appreciate them. We see them as frontline members of staff, very visible!”

What a difference seven years can make, folks.

So, Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet – let’s get this straight

  • School crossing patrols were instituted and enshrined  by Act of Parliament because they were needed;
  • They have been running for over sixty years because they clearly continue to be needed;
  • Over these years the roads have got busier and busier;
  • Patrols only operate where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school (this danger assessed by national guidelines);
  • We want to get children out of the car and back onto their feet – to combat child obesity and encourage independence , as well as discourage the fumes and jams and road danger caused by heavy schoolrun traffic;
  • patrols are very very cheap to run – £2,500 – £3,500 a year
  • SCC also has (although in my opinion, totally self-serving, unrealistic and self-deluded) aspirations to be ‘the Greenest County.’

And you want to close  every school crossing patrol in Suffolk to save less money than you pay your Chief Executive as basic salary???

A final question, Cllr Pembroke: What is a cynic? According to Oscar Wilde,  its  A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Cllr Pembroke, you and your Cabinet need to recognise that the  tiny cost of the Suffolk School Crossing patrols bears  little  relationship to  their extraordinary value to the people of Suffolk! Let’s hope you  recognise this before we all learn the hard way the truth of Wilde’s other famous quote from the same play: Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.

If you wish to encourage Cllr Pembroke and his Cabinet to change their minds , you could always write directly to the Leader of Suffolk County Council at Endeavour House, Ipswich.  Closer to home, St. Mary’s School has  a paper-based petition available to sign in school.

You can also add your signature to the SCC e-petition on the subject  by clicking this link http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-our-School-Crossing-Patrols

Suffolk’s transport cuts hit the young, the poor, and the rural!

For those (few) of us who recognise quite how much Suffolk needs to rely on other forms of transport than the car, the view from behind the Chief Executive’s steering wheel is a particularly narrow one.

If her view of Suffolk transport has been formed by her daily commute down the A14 from Cambridgeshire, she is probably unaware that here, on Planet Real Life – sustainable transport isn’t just a phrase – its a lifeline!

Here are some of the REAL impacts of CUTs created by her ideologically driven New Strategic Direction, which she may not see from her expensive car:

*   £1,700,000 CUT by abolishing the eXplore Card – means that many, many more young people will be driven to school,  and putting more, less confident cyclists on busier roads,  because they  are forced into cycling before they are ready; less  take-up of  FE education because of difficulties of access (especially to colleges and Suffolk ONE ) and less chance of going for job interviews and training. All this will be a particular tragedy for the rural young poor!

*   £150,000 CUT by closing the Bury Road Park & Ride – adds to rush-hour congestion, and preventing parental drop-off of rural schoolchildren at P&R. (This decision, incidentally was made without a business case).  An excess of people trying to use the London Road P&R may have tragic implications for young cyclists to SuffolkOnein particular

*   £2,260,000 CUT from – a 53% cut in – subsidised bus services – more cars (for those that can – and can afford to – drive! Transportational disenfranchisement for everyone else)
>  *   £100,000 CUT from road safety education – a cut of 24% – just at the time when so many more cars are on the roads and there are likely to be  so many new  and unpractised road users;

*   £523,000 CUT from Extended Schools (which will make it much more difficult to hold eg cycle-training classes );

*   £706,000 CUT from Home-to-school transport provision (so there will be more cars rushing to get to school gates and then on to work; while many more – specifically rural – parents without cars, living within 3 miles of the nearest school and with children of statutory education age will be between the devil and the deep blue sea. Would you like to walk 11 miles a day on rural roads come rain, come snow, come flu -maybe pushing a buggy – to ensure you are not breaking the law and your 8 year old child gets safely to their nearest school? Would Andrea Hill like to? I wouldn’t!)

*   £174,000 CUT by scrapping all 98 School Crossing Patrols across the County, including our very own Woodbbridge Lollipop man, Terry King! (Yes, this is a truly tiny sum because they are paid so little – but what a big impact on the safety and independence of young schoolchildren!);

*   £350,000 – a 27% CUT – reduction in maintenance of footways. Again, its those not in a car who will suffer;

*   and finally a £1,179,000 CUT made by abolishing the Safety Camera Partnership. So there will not only more cars, but they will be going faster too!

NB: I stole specific  figures from a summary by Cllr Sandy Martin. Thanks!

Woodbridge Town Council Report Jan 2011

Suffolk becomes the only County in the east without its own Fire Control Room

Just before Christmas, Liberal Democrat councillors ‘called in’ the County Council’s decision to move its Fire Control Room to Cambridge from Colchester Road Ipswich, because the building it currently occupies is being sold. There were other options possible, such as negotiating sharing with the Suffolk police HQ.

This move was described as ‘an interim measure prior to the introduction of the nations Regional Fire Control rooms’ – planned to be in place by 2013.

The Public Protection Scrutiny Committee met on the 21st of December to examine the decision, and to listen to our reasons against this decision. These included

  • The total lack of information regarding the certainty of the proposed national Regional Fire Control Rooms
  • No evidence within the original paper of consultation with those many and varied organisations who work with the Fire Control Room such as  Suffolk Family Carers, Trading Standards etc.
  • The lack of contingency plans put in place in case there was a national delay, or indeed an update in policy on the proposed national regional control rooms.
  • The distance of the Suffolk  retained staff travelling to the Cambridgeshire site
  • The diminution of local knowledge and expertise inevitably caused by siting this control room  so far away from the area it controls

Unfortunately the opportunity to look at this decision once again was turned down by the scrutiny committee’s majority Conservative membership.

Embarrassingly for them, immediately after this decision was rubber-stamped the Government revealed that the proposed  Regional Control Rooms are going to be abolished.  This ‘interim measure’ is therefore interim sine die

This leaves Suffolk as the only county in East Anglia without its own regional control room, thereby losing the county the benefits of local knowledge, speedy response, and county control as well as many of its dedicated staff.

Loss of Woodbridge’s only ‘Lollypop person’

Amongst the proposals being considered in the continuing issues of the New Strategic Direction  is one to cease funding the school crossing patrol service which looks after 98 schools in Suffolk, including one in Woodbridge: ie. the crossing at St Mary’s in Burkitt Road. If this decision is approved at the  next Full Council on 17th February  then the service will end, probably during the summer term.

The view of the Service Director, Economy, Skills and Environment  is that:  “We recognise that it is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure that their children arrive at school safely.”

However, at the Resource, Finance and Performance pre-Budget scrutiny just before Christmas I asked him :  What risk assessment has been done on the effect this cut might have on child pedestrian safety?”

His answer was:We will be carrying out audits at all the school crossing patrol sites in January and February 2011.  The safety engineers carrying out the audits will examine all available data related to mode of travel to school, casualty data, school catchments and crossing patterns. The engineers will identify alternative crossing points, such as light controlled crossings if they exist close to the patrol sites. In some instances, minor alterations will be made to sites and any inappropriate signs will be removed. Road safety officers will advise parents, carers and children to use alternative sites and routes and provide road safety education and training in the affected schools.

This seem to be is a different way of saying “We recognise that it is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure that their children arrive at school safely.”

Cuts in concessions for young persons’ travel

Although the bus services in Suffolk have become extraordinarily expensive as well as patchy, up till now young people have had  to help with their travelling to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising.

Explore cards: available free to students 16-19, have  enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and many off peak rail journeys. Poorer students have also had EMA.

As regards post-16 transport, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares, and if their parents are poor, EMA too. This means that up to now transport to work and educational opportunities should be in the reach of all young people in Suffolk – and a very good thing that is too!.

The NSD’s proposed cuts means that the EXPLORE card is not just under threat –  sadly, the decision has already  been made to cut it completely. I have always been right behind it because it helps young people with transport to work, to education and to social activities, and liberates teens from dependence on others. It should also get teens out of cars and onto buses in the evenings thus creating a significant saving in  life and limb  (tho the recent appalling reduction in local buses and the planned cutting of so many of the SCC funded remainder – see below – makes this very much more difficult). The loss of the Explore card WILL have an adverse impact on both educational choice and work for the young people of Suffolk.

In addition to being your County Councillor, and opposition spokesperson on Transport, I am also Vice-chair of Educational Transport Appeals.  With all these hats on I have already raised the issue of these threats to young people’s travel  through direct questioning and minuted statements –with Educational transport AND the portfolio holder AND at the pre-Budget Scrutiny.

At this last, I asked: Have any calculations been carried out to ascertain what increase is anticipated in the increased use of cars to take older pupils/sixth-form students to school as a result of stopping the Explore card?

They answered: There has been no attempt to calculate a potential increase in car journeys.  Any impact of the Explore proposal is closely linked to the policy on discretionary transport for post 16 students.  Therefore, discussions with stakeholders will take place around the wider issue of post 16 education transport as a whole, and the impact which current budget proposals may have.

I have no idea what this actually means.

Further serious reductions to Woodbridge bus services

I have also been given details of those bus services likely to be affected by the reductions in SCC’s public transport subsidies (as set out in the proposals for next year’s budget).  Again, these are victims of the NSD ideology – and have little concern for the consumer.

The budget proposals envisage “a remodelling of public transport services that have been piloted in parts of Suffolk over the last couple of years and  based on the premise that the best way of enabling people in rural areas to access learning opportunities, employment and services will be to use demand-responsive services to access a core of scheduled bus and rail services running on fixed routes.

This allows for rural people without cars having transport needs that can be predicted a day in advance – so, remember,  no getting ill or crises at short notice!

SCC are  looking to roll this approach out across rural Suffolk. Interestingly enough, the administration  made a large capital allocation to fund the operation of demand-responsive transport a full year before these new cuts were deemed necessary under the NSD. I leave you to draw your own conclusions as to why this might have been.

The list of services described as ones “which would not be a priority for continued subsidy under the new model” includes a number which impact on Woodbridge. Andrew Gutteridge, Strategic Commissioner (Sustainable Transport) –sic – the officer in charge – writes “In drawing up this list we have prioritised core daytime services and those services that maximise accessibility and connections with rail.  The aim is to provide a core network with which demand responsive services can interconnect. “

Sadly  what this really means  in real English is that all evening and weekend services and the more rural routes are for the chop.

The Woodbridge related routes that are ‘threatened’ (if this isn’t an understatement) are:

  • 62a and 62b Ipswich – Wickham Market/ Rendlesham (that is, every evening and all the Sunday bus services through Woodbridge!)
  • 70, 70a, 118 – the rural route from Ipswich  to Woodbridge through Grundisburgh and Bealings
  • 70, II8, 119 – the Ipswich to Framlingham routes
  • 71, 163, 173, IP179,  IP512: Orford, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Ipswich routes. The ONLY easy way for non-car owners to get to Felixstowe

At the pre-budget scrutiny, I asked the following questions:

1.  Has an impact assessment been done, for example, on the effects on people who use these buses to get to and from employment and for young people accessing education and social activities?

Answer: The equality impact screening process has begun.  There is no intention that people will be deprived of the opportunity to travel to learning, employment and essential services, but this is expected to be by more flexible and demand-responsive solution in some cases.  Where there are specific education placements on affected services, there may be specific provision for those journeys, and the draft budget contains an adjustment to the home to school transport budget to reflect this.

NB: I know many bus passengers. I have yet to meet a single one who has had an impact assessment undertaken on the loss of these buses to their lifestyle

2 Could sponsorship or cost-sharing be investigated for this instead of reducing the services?

Answer: Every effort will be made to reduce the impact of the cuts by sharing resources and materials with Eastern Region authorities and Suffolk Roadsafe partners. (CP: ?)

We will continue to seek support from the Government (and the Highways Agency) and the private sector.(CP: ?)

The Government produces free publicity materials (under the Think campaign banner) and has indicated that it will support cyclist training through the Bikeability scheme in 2011/12.

Well, that’s a relief!

I have had a lot of people writing to me about this –  both anxious individuals and organisations  -and am hoping to get a local group together to raise awareness and protest efficiently about these bus changes  – and the cutting of the Explore cards – and I hope you may wish to join me in this. Please contact me, if so.   In the interim, have a look at this, as a kind of briefing document:

http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/public-transport/suffolk-the-death-of-the-rural-bus/

What will be happening to Suffolk Libraries?

In the Resource, Finance and Performance pre-Budget scrutiny just before Christmas, one of the 16 proposed savings was “Divesting libraries to communities”.  This was estimated to create a very modest saving (£350,000) and would have a “Medium to High impact” on the public.This divestment-for-the-purpose-of-saving  was, we were told,  in addition to an already proposed saving of £710,000 on this years’ library services that ACS has decided on to compensate for an overspend in the care budget 2010 -11. What a choice, eh?

I would like to point out that in a recent UK-wide survey, Suffolk’s library service was revealed as the second most cost-effective (ie. cheapest) public library service in the country!

We (the SCC Lib Dems) asked the following pertinent questions:

  • Will all libraries be divested?
  • What will happen to the mobile library service?
  • How will the current integrated service be protected?

We were told:

In line with the New Strategic Direction, we do not expect that the council will be a direct provider of library services in the future.

We are already making efficiency savings for 2011/12 by reducing the numbers of management and support posts, and working together with Cambridgeshire, Essex, Southend and Thurrock councils to share the provision of stock services and thus reduce cost.

We expect to publish a consultation paper in the new year to consult the people of Suffolk about how to provide library services, at significantly lower cost, over the coming three years.  This will cover the mobile and branch libraries and how the integrated service might continue.  Following the outcomes of the three month consultation, we will put final proposals for an affordable library service to Cabinet, and begin to implement them during the second quarter of 2011/12 and in subsequent years.  The action plan is likely to include the procurement and selection of providers from communities and interested organisations.  It is likely to result in some library closures.

So watch that space! It might replace a library or two.

Suffolk’s NSD: overarching concerns; SCC Consultations & Online Petitioning

a ) At the pre-budget scrutiny which looked at next year’s proposed cuts I asked one single overarching question about the cuts proposed by the SCC adminisistration in support of their NSD:

These proposed savings are in service delivery – many of them frontline – yet there is scope for substantial savings in executive pay via downsizing and divestment of executive roles. Why is this option not being explored?

Answer: All services have proposals relating to restructures and reductions in staff costs. These are designed to reduce management costs more than frontline staff costs. Restructures are already underway in directorates and this process will accelerate as we make changes to implement the New Strategic Direction for the council.

This doesn’t exactly explain why the highest echelons of SCC’s senior management seem to be so immune from the cuts that will hit all the rest of us.

b) Suffolk County Council are currently engaging in a number of consultations and ‘engagement exercises’, including:

  • New Strategic Direction ‘Engagement’ – ongoing
  • Future of Suffolk Country Parks and Recreation sites – ends 14th Jan 2011
  • Suffolk Care Homes consultation – ends 24th Jan 2011
  • Schools admissions Consultation – ends 28th Feb 2011

I urge you to respond and make sure that you have given your views.

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Consultations/Listing.htm

c) Possibly in response to adverse publicity about a lack of democracy in cabinet-style decision-making (for example the Fire Control Room move was decided without a general councillor vote  at Cabinet level) Suffolk County Council has launched an online petitioning system, so that members of the public can bring an issue to the attention of the council, or publicly approve or disapprove of a council decision.

PLEASE USE IT

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/News/EPetitions.htm