Schools cutting hours – some open only four-and-a-half days a week

… “Many have been left with no choice but to bring in a 4.5-day week for kids as they cannot staff classrooms properly.

The measures come as a Mirror ­investigation found schools are so strapped for cash many special needs pupils are not getting support as heads have had to axe teaching assistants, leading to fears of behavioural problems.

That is coupled with a lack of basic ­equipment, growing class sizes, no cash to repair leaky buildings, staff shortages and cancelled school trips.

At least 24 schools across the land, including 14 in Birmingham alone, have ditched lessons on Friday afternoons. And more than 200 other heads have warned they are considering doing the same. …

“Government faces court action over ‘illegal’ planning policy”

“The government is facing a legal challenge over its new planning policy, which campaigners say was illegally adopted because the government failed to assess its environmental impact.

The revised National Planning Policy Framework, published in July, informs local policies across England, from planning permission to town and country planning and land use. It has significant weight in development decisions, from the amount and location of built development to the way environmental impacts are assessed, and also deals with policies concerning air pollution, energy generation, water management and biodiversity.

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is required by EU law for public plans relating to land use and planning, among other things. It is required wherever policies are likely to have a significant impact on the environment. Friends of the Earth wants to force the government to undertake an SEA, consult the public and modify the framework based on those findings.

The NGO has filed a claim at the high court, saying the NPPF makes it “virtually impossible” for councils to refuse local fracking schemes, fails to rule out future coal developments, and introduces harsh new rules for wind energy schemes. It argues it is impossible to gauge the environmental impact of such policies without a strategic assessment. …”

Loss of public services and spaces leading to social problems

“As well as the stripping-back of some of the most essential public services, one of the key effects of 10 years of austerity has been the crushing of countless other shared spaces: drop-in centres, libraries, Sure Starts.

Perhaps the most overlooked casualties have been the hundreds of youth centres and clubs that have closed since 2010. More than 600 such facilities in Britain have shut over the last six years, with the loss of 139,000 youth places and 3,650 staff.

In our major cities, anxiety about this organised neglect is focused on gangs and knife crime. In quieter parts of the country people’s worries are more basic – as in Gywnedd, north Wales, where recent plans to close all 39 of the county’s youth clubs were greeted with the unanswerable argument that “young people will have nowhere but the streets to socialise with each other in the evenings”.