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Tag Archives: year

Third of state schools in cash deficit

School playgroundImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are 9,000 schools in deficit, according to an answer revealed by ministers

“We’re trying to operate on a shoestring,” says Tim Rawling, chair of governors of a Gloucestershire school.

Staple Hill Primary School is expecting to go into budget deficit this year, with fears of cuts and job losses.

It will not be alone as there were more than 9,000 state schools in England in a similar position last year, according to figures revealed by ministers.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the government wanted schools to “have the resources they need”.

The figures were revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question about school finances, against a background of warnings about budget cuts.

‘Frustrating’

The government’s figures showed there were more than 9,400 schools which had been in deficit in 2015-16, more than a third of the total.

At Staple Hill, Mr Rawling said there were concerns about whether such budget pressures would lead to staff cuts.

“It’s frustrating, we’re not being given enough money,” he said.

The reply from Mr Gibb said such a deficit within the year was “not an issue in itself unless it is symptomatic of a trend towards a cumulative deficit”.

“Schools may draw on their reserves in a particular year – for example to spend on capital projects,” he added.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption School leaders have been running a campaign over funding shortages

But the figures show that almost 4,000 schools have been in deficit for two years, nearly 1,600 for three years, more than 400 for four years and 100 for five years.

The question was put by Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran, who said: “It is shocking to see thousands of schools across the country reporting budget deficits year after year, and perhaps more shocking still that the minister has played down the issue by claiming in-year deficits are not a cause for concern.

“It should be seriously concerning to this government that 4,000 schools have now reported deficits for two years in a row, and that nearly 4,000 more schools have in-year deficits this year than did five years ago.

“We know parents are being asked to contribute to school funds out of their own pockets, that schools are considering closing early and that subjects are being dropped from the curriculum, as they try to make ends meet,” said Ms Moran.

A coalition of teachers’ unions has also warned that funding problems have not been resolved – publishing figures that 88% of individual schools will have lost funding in real terms between 2015 and 2020.

Head teachers’ leader Geoff Barton said ministers needed to “recognise that the overall level of education funding is totally inadequate”.

In his parliamentary answer, schools minister Mr Gibb said the government wanted to ensure schools “have the resources they need to deliver a high quality education for their pupils” and would have an additional £1.3bn up to 2020, as part of a new funding formula.

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Hong Kong gay rights: British lesbian wins spousal visa case

Participants of Hong Kong's annual pride parade walk through the streets with a large rainbow flag on 26 November, 2016Image copyright AFP
Image caption Attitudes towards homosexuality remain conservative in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s court of appeal has ruled that a British lesbian who moved to the territory with her partner should be granted a dependent visa.

The visa, usually given to the husbands and wives of foreigners working in Hong Kong, was denied because she was not considered a spouse, the woman said.

Same-sex marriage is banned in the territory although discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal.

Campaigners say this is a landmark case that could lead to greater equality.

The woman, who has been identified as QT, entered into a civil partnership in England in 2011 after more than seven years with her partner.

In the same year, the couple moved to Hong Kong after QT’s partner was offered a job there.

QT said that applications to the Immigration Department had been rejected after officials refused to recognise her UK-registered partnership.

In a unanimous ruling by three judges, the Court of Appeal said immigration authorities had “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers”.

“Times have changed and an increasing number of people are no longer prepared to accept the status quo without critical thought,” chief judge Andrew Cheung wrote.

The decision overturned a ruling by a lower court last year and ordered Hong Kong’s Immigration Department and QT to work together on an agreement and submit it to the court within 28 days.

Hong Kong’s LGBT campaigners welcomed the decision with Ray Chan, the city‘s first openly gay lawmaker, describing it as a “big win for same-sex dependents to apply for visa to stay in Hong Kong”.

The Equal Opportunities Commission said it was time for the government to consider a legal framework and policy measures to recognise same-sex relationships and protect LGBT rights, the South China Morning Post reports.

It is not illegal to be gay in China but homosexuality was considered to be a mental disorder until 2001 and attitudes towards it remain conservative.

New beat

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Media captionPolice force to appoint commander in direct entry scheme

“Oh mum you look like a cop!” said Maggie Blyth’s daughter, seeing her in uniform for the first time.

But unlike many new cops, Maggie is not about to begin years of grinding out beat shifts as a constable.

She is getting ready to command more than a hundred police officers and staff.

The BBC‘s Daily Politics was given exclusive access to a new recruit becoming part of one of the most controversial reforms in the history of policing.

After just over a year‘s training, Maggie Blyth is to become Portsmouth District Commander, Hampshire’s first Direct Entry superintendent.

She previously had a 30-year career in child protection.

“One colleague described it as a bit of a handbrake turn,” Maggie tells me.

“She said, you’ve got retirement coming up, couldn’t you just settle into those plans? But I was looking for another challenge, I think I had something to offer.”

‘Much to be gained’

The government’s Direct Entry scheme allows talented civilians to join the police in senior roles.

It breaks a 180-year tradition of officers with “mud on their boots” gradually rising through police ranks.

Maggie addresses this head on: “Before I joined, many of the questions I asked of colleagues in policing and elsewhere, were around credibility.”

“I won’t have some of the specialist skills of someone who has walked the beat. What I do bring is a range of other skills and experiences that I think compliment where UK policing is going.”

During her career Maggie Blyth dealt with some of the most challenging child protection issues facing authorities.

In Oxford, she chaired the safeguarding children board which made headlines after revealing that 300 children were believed to have been sexually exploited in the city over a number of years, by gangs of mostly Asian men.

Similar cases in Rotherham, Newcastle, and Rochdale showed vulnerable youngsters had been failed by the authorities.

Image caption Maggie Blyth became a superintendent after 30 years in child protection

“Policing is really changing,” Maggie says. “I think there has to be a much better join up between the different NHS health organisations, between local government and policing to find a joint solution to some of these continuing issues facing our communities.”

The College of Policing received more than 2,000 applications for this year’s Direct Entry scheme.

Recruits have come from banking, Army, and Home Office backgrounds – to name a few.

But not all police forces are receptive. Only nine forces are looking to take on new Direct Entry recruits in 2017.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd believes there is “much to be gained” from bringing outside talent into policing.

She pointed out in a speech to the National Police Chief’s Council last year that there were six people who passed the Direct Entry superintendent assessment who were not offered posts, saying: “That is policing’s loss.”

‘Split second’ decisions

Perhaps unsurprisingly from within an institution with a culture of discipline and earning one’s rank, there have been concerns.

John Apter from the Hampshire Police Federation told the BBC Daily Politics Programme: “Whilst the Direct Entry recruits are highly motivated and very gifted individuals, they don’t really have the concept of policing to fall back on.

“You get the knowledge, and the understanding of policing by walking in the same shoes as those police officers have done”

He believes it could even prove dangerous.

While superintendents take on a strategic, managerial role, John Apter says inspector level recruits could be left particularly exposed, because they must make critical operational decisions under pressure.

“At 3am on a Saturday morning, whether that’s a firearms incident, whether it’s a hostage type situation, or a large scale public order incident, you don’t have a bank of experts on hand to give you advice.”

“You have to make those decisions in a split second. You have to rely on your experience. I have serious concerns that that will be a problem.”

“Direct Entry needs to be evaluated. It’s costing a fortune. Is it good value for money? I’m not convinced it is.”

Portsmouth presents a wide range of policing challenges.

From alcohol-fuelled violence, to previous problems with radicalisation and some racial tensions, the city is a busy patch.

Maggie Blyth has been completing a series of placements with front-line officers, acting as a sergeant and inspector, making arrests and attending a variety of operations such as drugs raids.

While filming we accompany her to a tower block to follow up on a neighbourhood dispute.

She has been under continuous assessment and will have to sit final exams before becoming Portsmouth’s district commander for real.

Respect

I ask her whether she really thinks she has been able to cram in all the knowledge and experience she’ll need, in just a year?

“One of the things said to me,” Maggie explains, “is that you’re already 80% a superintendent in terms of the leadership skills you’ve brought from elsewhere, 20% is in-depth operational policing knowledge and understanding.”

“This last year has equipped me with detailed knowledge of what it’s like to be policing in Portsmouth and across Hampshire from a range of specialist aspects of policing. I think in terms of the advice and support I will also have from colleagues, that equips me well.”

So what about officers under her? Will she have their respect? Some may have been waiting years themselves for promotion.

“You’d have to ask them,” Maggie says. “I’ve had a very strong welcome. Peers have said to me phone any time, even if it’s 4am in the morning.

“I’m sure, quite rightly, there will be questions asked about new ways of entry into policing and how effective that is.

“My own personal view is that having different routes into policing is positive. We should be diverse”

Changing long-held traditions in policing was always going to be tough. Many have doubts about Direct Entry, and Maggie Blyth knows an excellent track record from her previous career can only get her so far. She will need to prove her worth.

But an officer who accompanies us, confides in me off camera, saying: “Everyone wants her to succeed. Whatever people say about it beforehand, once someone is in there with you, you want them to succeed. That is policing. We’re a team.”

Derry gaelic player Ciara McGurk gets final proposal

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Media captionRyan McCloskey proposed to Ciara McGurk during a post-match interview

It’s not every day you play in an All-Ireland gaelic football final. And it’s not every day you get engaged.

On Sunday, Derry ladies footballer Ciara McGurk rolled the two into one.

Despite her team grasping a draw from the jaws of victory against Fermanagh in Dublin, there was still a moment of glory after the final whistle.

During a post-match interview with the Irish broadcaster TG4, her boyfriend got down behind her on one knee and popped the question.

Ryan McCloskey, a goalkeeper for Westbank United, had carefully orchestrated the magic moment.

“I was chatting to the presenter and he mentioned Ryan’s name, it didn’t click at all,” Miss McGurk told the BBC.

“And then he says: ‘Turn around, he’s standing behind you.’

“And there he was, he was down on one knee!

“I just panicked and screamed.”

Image copyright Inpho
Image caption Megan Devine’s second-half goal seemed to have given Derry an unassailable lead

Only a short time before, Miss McGurk had been celebrating on the pitch after scoring a first-half goal.

“It was a major shock because it’s been a dream for me to play in Croke Park and to get a goal and for him to propose to me – it was just amazing,” she said.

“Unbelievable feeling. I was just over the moon.”

Little did Miss McGurk know, but some of her family were in on the act.

“My dad knew as he asked him for permission, and my mum found out the night before as my dog ate the ring box,” she said.

Despite all the personal drama, Miss McGurk is already getting her mind focused on Derry’s All-Ireland final replay.

“In two weeks time I’ve another All Ireland final to go to again so I’m all over the place, I’m a whirlwind of emotions.

“Fermanagh beat us four times this year so there’s no reason why we can’t beat them next time.

“Whoever thinks somebody is going to get proposed to at Croke park, it’s not every day that happens.

“This morning me and a few of the girls are watching the game back, so right now we’re forgetting about the proposal and wondering how we didn’t win.”

Image copyright Twitter

The day also saw some records smashed.

Supporters for the junior, intermediate and senior clashes all added up to make it the highest-attended major women’s sporting event in Europe this year.

It Surpasses the 35,271 who travelled to Wembley for the Women’s FA Cup final in May.

Jessica Ennis-Hill has her second baby, a girl named Olivia

Dame Ennis-Hill announced the news on InstagramImage copyright jessicaennishill
Image caption The post shows baby Olivia’s hand touching the finger of her brother, Reggie

Former Olympic heptathlon champion Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill has given birth to her second child, a girl named Olivia.

The Sheffield athlete announced the news on her Instagram account.

“Reggie meeting his beautiful baby sister 😊 Olivia Ennis-Hill, she was born Saturday night. We are all so in love with her”, the post said.

Ennis-Hill, who won a gold medal at the London games in 2012 and a silver in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, has a three-year-old boy named Reggie.

The black and white picture, which was posted on Sunday evening, shows Reggie touching the hand of his baby sister.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ennis-Hill competed in the Rio Olympics in between the birth of her two children

Following her retirement from athletics last year Ennis-Hill was made a dame in the New Year Honours list.

She married her long-term partner Andy Hill in a ceremony at Hathersage, Derbyshire in May 2013 and gave birth to their son the following year.

Two in court over Chris Boardman’s mother’s death

Liam Rosney and Victoria Rosney arriving at Mold Magistrates' Court
Image caption Liam Rosney (blue shirt) and Victoria Rosney will appear in court again at the end of October

Two people have appeared in court in connection with the death of Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman’s mother.

Carol Boardman, 75, was riding her bike when she collided with a Mitsubishi Warrior in Connah’s Quay, Flintshire, on 16 July last year.

Liam Rosney, 32, and Victoria Rosney, 31, both of Connah’s Quay, appeared at Mold Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

He is accused of causing death by dangerous driving and both are charged with perverting the course of justice.

Magistrates sent the case to Mold Crown Court where the two will appear on 27 October.

Mrs Boardman was taken to hospital with serious injuries after the crash but died in the early hours of the next day.

Image copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Chris Boardman tweeted a picture and tribute to his mother Carol after her death

Chris Boardman, 47, who won individual pursuit gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games and bronze in the individual time trial at Atlanta 1996, posted a tribute to his mother on social media on behalf of the family.

He said: “Our mum was the most positive outgoing person you could ever hope to meet and her generosity of spirit inspired everyone she met.

“Many of our childhood memories involve my mother and the outdoors, walking out over Hoylake sandbank, swimming in the deep gullies or hunting for fossils on Llandegla Moor in north Wales.

“Wanting to share her passion for cycling, even well into her 70s, she often took groups of young novices out on their first forays into north Wales.”

Defence solicitor Gwyn Lewis said Mr and Mrs Rosney would be pleading not guilty, but the couple only spoke to confirm their names and ages.

They were released on bail until their crown court appearance.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Chris Boardman won gold at the 1992 Olympics

Two pupils taken to hospital after firework set off in school

TWO pupils were taken to hospital after a firework was set off in a Bradford school.

The incident took place at The Grange Technology College, Haycliffe Lane, and the pupils, one boy and one girl who are both in year eight, were taken to hospital by ambulance as a precaution.

The child believed to be responsible has been identified but a school spokesman said today that it cannot make any further comment at this stage due to ongoing disciplinary proceedings and the related police investigation.

He added the school is contacting the pupils’ parents about their condition.

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The school is also monitoring social media, carrying out bag searches and holding meetings with parents following the incident on Friday, September 22.

Meanwhile, headteacher Alison Mander has criticised black market fireworks and demanded that action is taken to ensure shops who sell fireworks do not allow them to fall into the hands of children.

She said: “Bringing fireworks into school and setting them off puts everyone at risk and I call on those who think it’s acceptable to sell or supply young people fireworks to think again.

“The law is clear; young people should be protected not exploited. I am asking our families to be vigilant. Report local shops or businesses if you know they are selling fireworks to young people.

“Talk with your children in the weeks running up to bonfire night on November 5, to reinforce the message that fireworks are dangerous, and when in the wrong hands are extremely hazardous.”

Aldi reports record sales but profits drop amid price war

Woman shopping at AldiImage copyright Getty Images

Aldi has reported record sales in the UK and Ireland for last year but its profits have fallen sharply amid a fierce price war among supermarkets.

The German discounter said sales rose 13.5% to £8.7bn in 2016, but operating profit dropped 17%.

The chain blamed the fall on its “continued investment in prices and infrastructure”.

Aldi chief executive Matthew Barnes said its strategy was to offer “the lowest prices in Britain”.

“We’re doing everything we can to insulate customers from those cost increases, making sure our prices are the lowest in the UK, every day of the year,” he said.

Aldi, which currently has 726 stores in the UK, said it planned to open a further 70 this year and would invest a further £459m.

The German chain currently has a 6.9% share of the market, according to the latest industry figures from Kantar Worldpanel.

This figure makes it the fifth-biggest supermarket in the UK after Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.


Analysis: Emma Simpson, BBC business correspondent

Aldi only has around 1,700 products, compared to the 20-30,000 items you find in a typical big supermarket.

And 94% of these are private label. Not being beholden to big brands enables it to buy products more cheaply – passing on the savings to customers while still making decent margins.

Opponents vent against Aldi’s own label products where the packaging looks incredibly similar to the big household brands, and supermarkets have complained about its advertising tactics. But that hasn’t put off shoppers.

Boss Matthew Barnes is adamant that Aldi will always be cheaper.

That’s one reason why its profits fell for the second year in a row.


Birmingham tops ‘crash for cash’ postcodes hotspots

A car crashImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption “Crash for cash” occurs when a road accident is caused by a fraudster

Birmingham has topped the UK’s “crash for cash” postcode league – the second time in a year the city has featured in a table of hotspots for the crime.

“Crash for cash” scams are run by fraudsters who manufacture collisions with other road users, hoping to profit from insurance claims.

In the table, compiled by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), Birmingham had 10 of the top 30 postcodes for the crime.

Manchester, Bradford, London and Oldham also featured on the list.

‘Nationwide problem’

In total, Birmingham has 10 postcodes on the list. Washwood Heath, Aston and Small Heath were the three worst postcodes for the crime in the UK.

In Bradford, Frizinghall and Manningham came joint fourth for the numbers of fraudulent claims, while in Manchester the M8 postcode, which includes Cheetham Hill, was ranked sixth.

A survey carried out by insurance company Aviva in 2016 said 25% of its 3,000 crash for cash claims last year were in Birmingham.

“We don’t know the exact reason Birmingham features so heavily in these surveys,” said Ben Fletcher, the director of the IFB, a not-for-profit organisation set up to detect fraud.

“Obviously, this is a nationwide problem and we have investigations that range from Kent to the North East, but large urban areas tend to be the focal points for these kind of crimes.”

The data applies to the past 12 months. In total, there were 55,573 personal injury claims linked to scams in the UK, the IFB said, costing the insurance industry a total of £340m a year.


Image caption The number of induced accidents is stabilising, the IFB says

Tell-tale signs that you’ve been in a “crash for cash” scam:

  • The other driver seems suspiciously calm
  • They have already written down their insurance details before the accident happened
  • Any injuries appear to be completely at odds with the force of the impact
  • If you think you have been targeted, note as much information as you can, take photographs and call the police to report your suspicions

‘Catastrophic’

RAF engineer Richard Turner, from Cosford in Shropshire, was caught up in a cash for crash scam.

In October 2014 he was driving over a traffic island on the A41, following a black BMW and an older car.

The BMW suddenly changed lanes, then the other car slammed on the brakes, forcing Mr Turner to crash lightly into the back of it.

His suspicions were raised when the male occupants of the vehicle exited clutching their necks.

Image copyright Kate Turner
Image caption Richard Turner was penalised by his insurance company after being the victim of the scam

As he exchanged details, Mr Turner tried to ring the other driver’s number – only to discover it did not work.

He also noticed the driver seemed uncomfortable with him taking photographs of the damage and calling the police to report the crash.

Mr Turner drove home but returned to the island a short time later when he noticed the same cars repeating the same trick three times.

He filmed them, rang the police and posted the incident on social media.

One man who contacted him on Facebook said the scammers had forced a crash with his wife, who was heavily pregnant at the time.

“This is not a victimless crime,” said Mr Turner. “Although I told the men I knew it was a scam when they tried to settle the claim, I still had to pay around £400 a year extra to my insurance company in case they did try to force a claim.

“And in the case of the pregnant driver, a crash could have been catastrophic.”


The top 10 crash for cash locations in 2017:

Birmingham

Bradford

Manchester

London

Oldham

Liverpool

Bolton

Sheffield

Liverpool

Wakefield

Source: The not-for-profit organisation Insurance Fraud Bureau


‘Disappointing’ number of GPs referring young carers to vital service

THE number of GPs helping to identify Bradford’s young carers is “disappointing”, says a new report.

It reveals that just 1 per cent of the referrals made to the Young Carers Service, provided by Barnardos, came from GPs, and that children’s services will continue to work with doctors to “enlighten” them on the benefits of the service.

Doctors, as well as schools and other groups that work with children, are encouraged to let the service know when it seems that a person under the age of 18 is acting as a carer for a family member.

These children are then given the support they need.

A report being presented to Bradford Council’s Children’s Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday gives members an update on the service, which is commissioned by the Council.

The report, by service manager Cath Dew, says: “A Young Carer becomes vulnerable when the level of care-giving and responsibility to the person in need of care becomes excessive or inappropriate for the child.

“The Vision’s overriding priority is prevention, ensuring Young Carers are actively protected from excessive or inappropriate caring and parenting roles are supported.

“Training on Young Carers has been delivered at GP events and information has been distributed across GP practices. Referrals directly from GPs still only account for less than 1 per cent of referrals to the service. This is disappointing as GPs will have the information about the adults who need caring for and will know whether that household has a child/young person.

“The Service for Young Carers hoped that GPs would be able to flag families on their database System One, so that we can ensure that the right young people are getting support at the right time. The service will continue to work with CCGs and school nurses to enlighten GPs to the benefits of the Young Carers Service.”

However, the report says schools are much more proactive in referring children who they think are acting as carers.

The report adds: “Work with primary schools is under way with good results. In the first phase 109 primary schools now have a named member of staff for Young Carers and 40 primary schools have received training.

“Plans are in place to seek to ensure 100 per cent of primary schools have a Young Carers lead and have received training.”

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It goes on to say that due to ongoing central government cuts, the service has been hit by a 10 per cent reduction in budget this year, but that it “continues to perform well against targets”.