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Tag Archives: 2017

Keep dancing?

Gemma Atkinson, Alexandra Burke, Joe McFadden, Debbie McGeeImage copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption The fantastic four: Gemma Atkinson, Alexandra Burke, Joe McFadden and Debbie McGee

“It’s a really life-changing thing that we’ve done. It feels like we’ve been altered, in a really good way.”

Joe McFadden is musing on his Strictly experience before he steps on to the dance floor for the last time during the show’s grand final at 18:30 GMT on BBC One on Saturday.

“It’s made me so much braver and more adventurous than I was before,” he says, talking about the 13-week roller coaster that’s taken him from ballroom beginner to debonair dancer.

Adventurous is one word for the daring cantilever move he and professional dance partner Katya Jones executed in the semi-final.

‘Beyond thrilled’

Jones hoisted the former Holby City actor to his feet in a tricky balance during their Argentine Tango which McFadden jokes has seen “doctors’ appointments go up 300%”, because of fans attempting it.

“We’re beyond thrilled,” he beams, speaking ahead of the finalists’ press conference on their last day of rehearsals. “It’s fantastic to still be here. It’s lovely to have that hard work recognised.”

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Joe McFadden’s gravity-defying move

He’s not the only one of the four finalists to be pinching themselves at getting through – and to feel that the show is life-changing.

Actress and radio host Gemma Atkinson, singer Alexandra Burke and presenter Debbie McGee are also in the final four.

Former X Factor winner Burke recalls that when she found out she was to be on Strictly, she screamed so much she lost her voice – and she was appearing in a show in Cardiff that night.

The singer has perhaps has had to cope with more than most, as her mother Melissa Bell died shortly after it was announced she was appearing on the show.

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Alexandra gives Debbie “Flexie” McGee a run for her money

“At the time I was going through so much, and then of course, as soon as we started, that was a very hard time for me,” she says.

“But to have this as an amazing distraction, a blessing in disguise, something I’ve been able to focus on and also as well to get the most amazing friendship with Gorka out of it, has been absolutely out of this world.”

Burke says Strictly was her mum’s “favourite show”, and adds: “My mum was just the most amazing woman who gave me so much strength and she still does to this day. Everything I do is for my family, so I think she’d be proud.”

She admits to being “quite emotional” at reaching the final, adding: “My highlight has been meeting Gorka and making a friend.”

‘You’re a team’

Gemma Atkinson, the actress and radio presenter, says: “It’s been a lot more than I expected. I didn’t think it would be so mentally involved – I thought I would just learn to dance.

“Since meeting Aljaz [Skorjanec], and him being my dance partner, I feel like there’s a lot more to it. Every week, we’ve gone out wanting to do more than what you’re physically capable of, not letting him down. You feel like you’re a team. I never expected to be that involved in it.”

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Gemma and Aljaz danced to Downtown in the Blackpool Tower ballroom

She adds: “Being on Strictly has just been one of the best, most enjoyable experiences of my life. Me and Aljaz were the first couple to dance on the Strictly dance floor of 2017. The pressure was on to start the series with a bang. At the end of the dance, I remember he whispered in my ear – ‘you’ve done it kid, first one down’.

“I’ve never danced in my life. I never did stage school or drama school. Putting on a show every Saturday is new to me. I hope I inspire other women to think, ‘if she can do it, I can do it and all’.”

‘I lost who I was’

And McGee says that her experience has brought her “nothing but happiness”.

“I’ve loved everything about it – mostly because of Giovanni [Pernice, her dance partner],” she explains. “He’s taught me a lot more than just learning to dance. He has nurtured me through such a lot. I couldn’t imagine having done it without having him as a partner.

“After [husband] Paul [Daniels] died, I kind of lost who I was. And I think Strictly has given me my confidence back. I’ll remember my Strictly experience as being a time that brought happiness back into my life.”

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Debbie and Giovanni did a routine to Memory from Cats in Musicals week

She describes Strictly as “a family” – and that any negative press or social media comments “is not even 1%” of the overall experience.

“Everything else is so positive and happy that it doesn’t affect you much. Everything about Strictly is a happy experience.”

They all say they hope to carry on dancing after the final – even though of course, only one of them can lift the glitterball trophy on Saturday night.

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Why do Bradford households recycle less than five years ago?

BRADFORD is recycling less household waste now than it did five years ago, shocking new figures reveal.

Between March 2016 and 2017 37 per cent of all rubbish from households was recycled, reused or composted, 3 per cent less than between the same period from 2011 to 2012.

It is higher than the worst performing council in England and Wales, the east London borough of Newham, which recycled just 14 per cent of its household waste.

But Bradford’s 2017 figure is significantly below the government’s current household waste recycling target of 50 per cent by 2020, set by the EU.

Bradford Council says the reduction in recycling rates is due to the reclassification of certain types of waste.

The latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) show that in the 12 months to the end of March this year Bradford cleared away a 231,453 tonnes of rubbish, with 87 per cent of that household waste.

Of the 74,369 tonnes from homes that were recycled or reused, 60 per cent was dry recycling and the rest was compost – food and garden waste.

The 63 per cent that wasn’t recycled either went into landfill or was incinerated, with the ash going towards providing energy. Each household threw out on average 593kg of rubbish that was not reprocessed.

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “The reduction in recycling rate figures for Bradford is the result of a significant proportion of secondary treated waste which was in previous years designated by the Environment Agency as recycled ‘compost like’ waste, being reclassified as ‘landfill’.

“The decline in figures does not reflect a reduction in household recycling.

“In fact, household recycling figures increased by 1,300 tonnes from April to September this year.

“Earlier this year, Bradford Council introduced alternate week recycling/residual waste bin collections which should increase household recycling rates even further.”

The average proportion of household waste recycled in England was 44 per cent, lower than in Wales where 55 per cent was reused.

That puts Wales only second after Germany in the world for recycling household waste, according to environmental analysts Eunomia.

England sits behind South Korea, Slovenia and Italy in 18th place.

Recycling has been on the news agenda lately with David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II shining a light on how plastic is affecting our marine wildlife.

It is thought more than eight million tonnes is dumped into the world’s oceans annually.

Last week China revealed it may stop importing plastic from foreign countries including the UK, which may impact local authorities.

According to the environmental organisation Greenpeace, in the last year Britain shipped more than 2.7 million tonnes to China and Hong Kong.

Experts believe the restrictions could force councils to stop recycling certain types of plastic, as fees at sorting plants are likely to increase.

Man who converted firearms for organised criminals jailed for 18 years

A BRADFORD man who was converting firearms for criminal gangs at a suspected “chop shop” in Little Horton Lane has been jailed for 18 years.

Nigel Harrison, 50, of Spicer Street in Bradford, admitted converting imitation handguns into live weapons that could fire expanding bullets.

He also pleaded guilty to possessing ammunition, sawn-off shotguns and other prohibited weapons as well as being involved in the production of cannabis with a street value of up to £23,000 at Chapel Green Works in Little Horton.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Harrison’s DNA had been found on converted guns used by criminals in York and Manchester.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC praised police for their work on the investigation and said: “These were handguns for use by customers with organised criminal enterprise.

“For reasons of profit no doubt, you were providing firearms to serious organised criminals involved in drugs.

“The increasing amount of weaponry getting into the hands of determined criminals is alarming.”

Prosecuting, Tom Storey said Harrison was “in all likelihood” involved in activating blank handguns and sawn-off shotguns.

In September 2016 police raided premises at Chapel Green Works in Little Horton, where Harrison was living in a caravan parked on the forecourt outside.

Officers discovered specialist tents in which 26 cannabis plants were being grown, with an estimated street value of up to £23,000. CCTV showed Harrison regularly entering and leaving the unit.

They also discovered firearms including a shortened shotgun and a “partially dismantled” blank firing revolver on a workbench, which police believe was being converted into a usable firearm. A knuckle duster taser was also found.

Mr Storey said: “Harrison was involved in dismantling and no doubt reactivating and converting a handgun to render it capable of firing potentially lethal bullets.”

Harrison was arrested at HMP Armley on June 25 2016 and later pleaded guilty to charges of producing cannabis, possessing prohibited firearms and possessing ammunition.

The court heard that Harrison has seven previous convictions for 14 offences but none of them are related to this case.

Defending, Stephen Wood said: “He has no previous convictions for firearms or even violence.

“He has taken steps over the course of 2017 to accept what he has done and his cooperation with the Crown Prosecution Service in entering guilty pleas for these complicated offences has no doubt saved the public thousands of pounds.”

Harrison was sentenced to a total of 18 years in jail.

‘Youthquake’ declared word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries

Jeremy Corbyn at a polling booth holding his thumbs upImage copyright PA
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn was said to have benefited from a “youthquake” after a surge in support from millennials

Oxford Dictionaries has deemed “youthquake” the 2017 word of the year, reflecting what it calls a “political awakening” among millennial voters.

It was first coined in the 1960s by Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland, who used it to describe sudden changes in fashion, music and attitudes.

Oxford Dictionaries said its use had seen a recent resurgence, to describe young people driving political change.

Oxford Dictionaries’ Casper Grathwohl said it was “not an obvious choice”.

But he said Youthquake’s use in everyday speech had increased five-fold during 2017.

“In the UK, where it rose to prominence as a descriptor of the impact of the country’s young people on its general election, calls it out as a word on the move,” he said.

Mr Grathwohl said youthquake’s use in Britain peaked during the June general election, after polls delivered a better-than-expected result for the Labour party.


Other words in contention:

  • Antifa – a short word for “anti-fascist”
  • Broflake – a man who is readily upset by progressive attitudes, from the derogatory use of “snowflake”
  • Kompromat – the Russian term for material used in blackmail
  • Unicorn – adding rainbow colours to things – especially food
  • Milkshake duck – a person or character on social media that appears to be endearing at first, but is found to have an unappealing back story

Oxford Dictionaries said the word sounded a note of hope after what it described as a “difficult and divisive year“.

The word of the year is a word, or expression, that Oxford Dictionaries deems has “attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date” and is drawn from newspapers, books, blogs and transcripts of spoken English.

Last year’s word, “post-truth”, was chosen after the 2016 Brexit vote and Donald Trump‘s victory in the US presidential election.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines youthquake as the “series of radical political and cultural upheavals occurring among students and young people in the 1960s”.

V Festival: ‘No police stationed’ at 2017 event

V FestivalImage copyright PA

No police were stationed inside V Festival in 2017 because of a dispute over money, the BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire programme understands.

The organisers, Festival Republic, refused to pay the cost of special police services at the 50,000-strong event, Chelmsford City Council documents show.

There were also concerns over the vetting of staff and drug dealing.

Festival Republic has not responded to a request for comment.

Essex Police said policing for a private event was the duty of organisers and not compulsory and it had had armed officers patrolling outside the festival’s cordons.

Power to arrest

Meeting notes from Chelmsford City Council’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) – obtained by the Victoria Derbyshire programme by Freedom of Information request – suggest that in 2016 Festival Republic spent £138,000 on special police services.

In 2017, organisers submitted a request for police services at a cost of £100,000, but an agreement on the level of policing and money could not be reached.

As a result, no police officers were stationed on site.

The festival took place two months after 22 people were killed in a terror attack during a concert at Manchester Arena.

Security officials used by the festival did not have the power to arrest or detain individuals, and were advised to dial 999 for emergencies and 101 for non-emergencies.

SAG meeting notes show in October 2017, a council representative highlighted “that reporting to the police via the 101 number was an issue” as there was no dedicated support to festivalgoers, and that “drugs were the biggest concern, with no police presence on site”.

The alleged sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl was reported to Essex Police, but by the time officers reached the site they were unable to find the suspect’s tent, in which the alleged assault was said to have taken place.

A suspect package was also found on site during the festival, documents suggest.

‘Far too late’

Meeting notes suggest Essex Police were unhappy that the vetting of some 740 staff working on site was “left far too late” and that “some vetting was still going on when staff were on site, by which point it is too late”.

A Chelmsford City Council representative also stipulated that “last minute arrangements for this year‘s festival were unacceptable and this must be improved upon from now on”.

“The 2018 event must be planned well in advance, and an agreement in principle can be made before tickets sales are known,” the representative added.

Deputy Chief Constable BJ Harrington said: “I really must stress that the safety of a commercial event like V Festival sits with the organisers.

“They are licensed by the local authority, and that safety of people attending their event on payment is down to them.

“That doesn’t mean we abandon them. We had a really good working relationship with security, with Chelmsford City Council, to make sure that people who were going there were safe.”

‘Robust examination’

The council meeting notes also suggest Essex Police did not believe its tactical plan for security at the event had been met by the Safety Advisory Group and festival organisers.

Chelmsford County Council said: “The Safety Advisory Group process allows a transparent and robust examination of all safety issues prior to and during the festival to ensure any risk to safety is properly managed and mitigated.

“The lack of agreement on special police services was a risk which the festival promoter resolved through alternative means to the satisfaction of the Safety Advisory Group.”

Watch the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

Bradford leaps 15 places in national rankings for primary results

BRADFORD has jumped 15 places in the national league tables for primary school results, according to new figures.

However, despite the good progress, Bradford still remains towards the bottom end of the table of best performing local authority areas, up from 139th in 2016, when Bradford was the joint fifth worst performer, to 124th this year.

The official Key Stage 2 figures for 2017 were released by the Department for Education yesterday, and show that children in Bradford are making better progress in reading, writing and maths during their primary school education than pupils in most areas of Yorkshire.

The data shows that Bradford has the joint highest score in the Yorkshire region for the progress being made in maths and the third highest score for the progress being made in reading and writing, out of the 15 education authority areas.

Across Bradford 57 per cent of 11-year-old pupils reached or bettered the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. This was an increase of ten per cent on 2015/16 and closes the gap with the national average by two per cent. Nationally 61 per cent of pupils achieved this.

Two-thirds of Bradford pupils (66 per cent) are reaching the expected standard in reading, an increase of nine per cent on 2016.

The data also shows that a number of Bradford schools failed to meet the government’s “floor standard.” Schools are considered to be under-performing if fewer than 65 per cent of pupils reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, or if they fail to make sufficient progress in these areas.

Local schools that failed to meet this target were Fearnville Primary School in Tyersal, Lister Primary School in Manningham, Parkland Primary School in Greengates, Nessfield Primary School in Keighley, Oldfield Primary School in Keighley and Pudsey Tyersal Primary School.

The top performing school in the district based on based on the percentage of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths was Burley and Woodhead CofE Primary School.

Councillor Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Education, Employment and Skills said: “There are very encouraging signs in this latest set of league tables which show that our pupils are making good progress during their primary school education.

“We know that we have more to do to ensure Bradford closes the gap with the national average but all the signs are there that we are in the process of doing this.

“We have lots of excellent work taking place across our primary schools. We support and challenge schools where this is necessary and will do everything we can to ensure Bradford pupils have access to the best possible education.”

School celebrates being named one of best performing in Yorkshire

STAFF and pupils at St Cuthbert & The First Martyrs Catholic Primary are celebrating after the new Key Stage 2 figures showed they were one of the top performing schools in the region.

The percentage of children reaching the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Maths combined was 89 per cent. The National figure is 61 per cent, and the figure for Bradford is 56 per cent.

This puts St Cuthbert’s, on Scotchman Road, Manningham, in the top four per cent of schools nationally.

The Key Stage 2 data also showed that 100 per cent of pupils gained the expected standard in Maths, compared to a national 75 per cent standard and Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (national 77 per cent), 96 per cent in Reading (national 71 per cent) and 89 per cent in Writing (national 76 per cent).

The Progress score for reading was +5.63, putting the school in the top three per cent of schools nationally. The Progress score in Maths was +5.62 – in the top two per cent of schools nationally for the second year running.

Daniel Copley, Executive Headteacher, said: “We are delighted with the outcomes for 2017 as they have now improved year on year for the past three years. This makes St Cuthbert’s progress and attainment results are very high compared with national, regional and Bradford district figures. The school performs as well as it does because as leaders, staff and governors we are all extremely ambitious for the children in our school community. As a team, we work hard to engage parents, motivate our children and ensure they get the very best education every day. We have high aspirations for all the children in school.”

Mr Copley and staff at St Cuthbert’s were also selected for top roles supporting schools in challenging circumstances and training new teachers in June this year. He is one of more than 75 headteachers to be appointed to the role of national leader of education in the latest recruitment round.

The school also has two teachers who have been designated as Specialist Leaders of Education – Stevie Burgess and Sarah Walsh. Their work involves supporting other schools, through The Catholic Schools Partnership Teaching School Alliance and partnerships while also ensuring the best teaching and provision at St Cuthbert & The First Martyrs.

Wealthy students tighten grip on university places

Students in librariesImage copyright Getty Images

The most advantaged teens have tightened their grip on university places, pulling further ahead of the least advantaged, Ucas data shows.

Although more poorer students won places at university this year, wealthy students increased at a higher rate.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said he was reforming the sector to encourage equality of opportunity.

The data also shows the number of unconditional offers made to students jumped 40% last year to 51,615.

These are offers made to students on the basis of their predicted grades rather than their actual results.

Although at least one unconditional offer was made to 17.5% of students it is important to remember that students generally make five choices.

This year, unconditional offers accounted for less than 1% of offers made by the largest 140 higher education providers.

Equality measure

Assessing the year-on-year data, the University and College Admissions Service said there had been no progress in equal representation since 2014.

Successive ministers have required universities to do more to increase access for disadvantaged groups.

And Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to put social mobility at the heart of her policies

Ucas is using a new measure of equality that combines social background, ethnicity and gender to examine how well universities are opening their doors to all sections of society.

Statisticians feel it sheds more light on the issue of equality of access because it looks at the interplay of a number of factors.

Details of this backwards step on social mobility come at a time when the chances of getting a place at university have never been higher.

In 2017, a third of 18-year-olds were accepted on to higher education courses in England.

But a detailed look at who these teenagers are shows the most advantaged group increased their entry rate by 1.8% to 53.1% in 2017.

This means over half of 18-year-olds in this top social group got places at university.

Meanwhile, 13.8% of the most disadvantaged group netted places on courses, an increase of 1.2%.

The statistics also show teenagers from the most advantaged group are still nearly 10 times more likely to attend the most competitive universities.

However, the least advantaged students have made some headway, increasing their entry rates to these top institutions by 7.4%.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: “Although our analysis shows that a record number of disadvantaged young people have entered higher education this year – with the greatest increase at higher-tariff providers – gaps in participation remain wide.”

The Ucas data also again shows that white pupils are less likely to go to university than any other ethnic group.

‘More to do’

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said he was encouraged by the record entry rates for young people going to university, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Today’s figures show that 18-year-olds from disadvantaged areas are now 50% more likely to go university in 2017 than in 2009.

“However, we recognise that there is more to do.

“That’s why we have introduced sweeping reforms, including the new Office for Students, to ensure equality of opportunity.”

Geoff Barton, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools and colleges across the country are straining every sinew to improve the opportunities for disadvantaged pupils, and indeed all their young people. Significant challenges remain, however.

“In many communities, the impact of unemployment, insecure and low-paid work, and poor quality housing has had a devastating impact on the hopes and aspirations of families.

“In areas where traditional industries have collapsed, many white British families have been badly affected, and it is therefore not surprising that white pupils are proportionally less likely to go to university than other ethnic groups.”

Prof Les Ebdon, director of Fair Access to Higher Education, was encouraged by the increase in disadvantaged students at top universities, but said they were still 5.5 times less likely to attend these institutions than their advantaged peers.

“As a result, people with the potential to excel are missing out on opportunities. This is an unforgivable waste of talent, and universities must continue to press for transformational progress.”

Number of boys in care reported as missing more than doubles in one year

THE number of boys in Council care that were reported missing has more than doubled in the past year.

New figures show that there were 568 incidents of “looked after” young people going missing in a six month period between April and Sept 2017. This was up from 472 in the same period in 2016.

Many of the incidents involved the same young people repeatedly being reported missing – 104 children were involved in the 2017 missing person incidents, up from 58 in 2016.

The rise was most dramatic in boys, where the figure leaped from 24 to 56 this year.

For girls the figure rose from 38 to 48.

The figures were presented to members of Bradford Council’s Children’s Services’s Scrutiny Committee last night.

Of the 104 children in care reported missing in that period, 59 were aged between 10 and 15.

David Byrom, Head of Service (Through Care & Resources) told the committee the figure of children classed as missing was higher than in neighbouring authorities, as issues like grooming meant that authorities in Bradford were quicker to class children as missing as a precaution.

Councillor Sinead Engel (Lab, Clayton) raised the issue of the increase in boys going missing. She said: “There is a big jump, is that down to the current cohort we have in our care?”

Mr Byrom said: “There has been a significant increase in the numbers of looked after children, and we have moved some people who were cared for outside of Bradford back here.”

The committee was told that the district’s safeguarding board better recognised the risks of boys going missing, including the dangers of them being groomed, and this led to the group acting much faster when boys were reported missing.

A serious case review into a boy from the Bradford district, Jack, that was released earlier this year revealed that the teenager had been groomed by dozens of men, and highlighted the fact that it was not just girls who were targets of grooming.

Cllr Engel said: “The public sees appeals for missing children, and the same names keep coming up repeatedly, you do wonder what has been done about protecting these children long term?”

Jim Hopkinson, Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care at Bradford Council, said: “Any appeal for a missing child is a joint decision between ourselves and police. We agree that if we are significantly concerned about the whereabouts of a child, we will put something out. Some of the children in the appeals will be looked after, some won’t. If a child isn’t in care and they repeatedly go missing it might lead to that child being put on a child protection plan.

“If they are in care and they repeatedly go missing we may review if their placement is suitable for them. We can’t just lock these children up, but we might consider changing where they are placed.”

The committee were told that once missing children are found, the aim is to interview them within 24 hours. However, only 60 per cent of looked after children agree to these interviews.

Festive fears

If hanging out in an overcrowded, noisy bar with your colleagues and cheesy Christmas tunes on loop makes you feel worried and clammy, you’re not alone.

One third of adults in the UK are dreading the office Christmas party, according to a 2017 survey by the mental health charity Mind. If you have anxiety it can be even less fun.

Here at Like Minds we’ve gathered some tips on how to get through the festivities.

Reporter India Rakusen

Produced by Craig Langran and Andy Brownstone

If you need any need some support this Christmas these organisation may be be able to help.