Jurrasic Park: a Halloween scary story

A scare story fit for Halloween. So scary that Owl is hooting with laughter.

 

Here is Owl’s dissection of the substance of the scare story recently spun by EDDC ex-Tory Councillor (and ex-leader) Ian Thomas, previously posted here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/10/22/eddc-ex-tory-councillor-doesnt-like-the-idea-of-a-jurassic-national-park/

Whilst he may now claim to be “Independent” the “Project Fear” he spreads is the established view of the previous Tory Council (and many in the current council).

It’s all about the proposal to create a new National Park by combining the East Devon and Dorset AONBs.

This proposal is not new. Like the creation of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site before it, a considered and reasoned case has been building for a number of years now.

The bit that SCARES Cllr. Ian Thomas (and others in the council) is that, despite EDDC attempts to pour cold water on the idea in the past, it has now been given endorsement by the Glover Review. (The Glover Review of Designated Landscapes was commissioned by Michael Gove to report in the 70th anniversary year of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act).

It calls for National Parks and AONBs to have a clear national mission to reverse environmental decline and specifically calls for the creation of two new National Parks and a National Forest – one such park being the area of the Devon and Dorset AONB/World Heritage site.

Click to access landscapes-review-final-report.pdf

Cllr. Ian Thomas’ stated FEAR is that house prices in East Devon could rise ‘considerably’ if proposals for a new ‘Jurassic’ national park’ covering East Devon and Dorset are successful (when did prices last fall,in the recession)?

The REAL FEAR, however, is, Owl thinks, loss of power, particularly the power of development. As Ed Freeman (Service Lead Planning) put it in the penultimate paragraph of his review of Glover Report for Cllr. Susie Bond’s Strategic Planning Committee:

“….there may also be felt to be concerns around loss of power by this authority to another body.”

Click to access 4Protected%20Landscape%20Report.pdf

It is interesting that Dorset has no such worries and has enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

How fitting then at Halloween that Owl should do the scary thing and examine the FACTS!

In terms of protective policies, both National Parks and AONBs have identical aims. These are to “conserve and enhance natural beauty”. (National Parks have the further responsibility to conserve and enhance “wildlife and cultural heritage” as well.) National Parks also have a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within their park (note – communities not just developers). The Glover review proposes that in respect of this duty, National Parks should go further and “respond proactively to local housing needs”.

So where is the scare?

Could it be that under past EDDC regimes AONB responsibilities to “protect and enhance” the area have simply been ignored, something that might be harder to do under different management and wider scrutiny?

If this is the case, then EDDC is in for a REAL SHOCK – a LOOK BEHIND YOU moment – because the Glover Review also proposes that both AONBs and National Parks should be staffed by a shared National Landscape Service and that AONBs should be given greater status in the planning system. AONBs should become statutory consultees, and should be supported to work towards local plans for their areas, prepared in conjunction with local authorities. For larger AONBs such as East Devon (specifically mentioned), this plan should have statutory status in place of local authority plans. So even if the National Park idea doesn’t get off the ground immediately, the cavalier approach EDDC has adopted in the past to its AONB will have to change if the Glover Report is taken up.

We don’t know what the next government might make of the Glover Review but, whatever political persuasionit has, we can safely assume it will look for ways of demonstrating its Environmental Protection credentials. Not pushing forward with Glover would be an obvious own goal.

There are many positive reasons to embrace the proposal to create a new National Park by combining the East Devon and Dorset AONBs with the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Here are four in addition to the proactive management of local housing needs mentioned above.

1. Wildlife

East Devon and Dorset AONBs have distinctive and valuable ecologies which are important on a national scale. The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, which forms 5% of the East Devon AONB is one of the largest areas of lowland dry heaths in England and has European designation. Consolidation of these two AONBs within a new National Park would increase the biodiversity of the environment creating a continuous wildlife corridor nearly 70 miles long.

2. Farming Culture and impact on Heritage Landscape

In the past, only the larger landlords like CDE had the management structure and financial stability to promote landscape enhancement projects within the AONB. However, subsidies based on acreage are going to be changed to supporting specific environmental enhancements, distributed more widely. Depending on how it is managed this could make significant changes to protected landscapes. For instance, there could be haphazard re-wilding on a considerable scale. AONBs in the future will need to be more involved and supportive of the independent sector of farming if the Landscape is to be conserved and enhanced, thus becoming more like National Parks.

3. Tourism and Economic benefits

National Parks promote understanding and enjoyment of their area’s special qualities by the public. A clear identity as a National Park would bring an economic boost to East Devon. The South Downs NP has attracted over £100M in core support and project funding since 2011 and it is reasonable to expect an East Devon and Dorset NP to attract a similar level of funding. On a smaller scale, experience from the Pebblebed Heaths are that funds and grants become more readily available with higher environmental designations, in this case SSSI, SPA and SAC.

4. Recreation and Well-being for an ageing and growing population

Encouraging Recreation is already a National Park priority. Improving public enjoyment would go hand in hand with promoting activities to improve health and well-being. Improving these will become an overriding priority in our area which is not only set to grow and age but already has more than 30% of the population aged 65 or older. It will become even more necessary if Cllr. Phillip Skinners dream of creating a North West Quadrant of linked villages to support immigration of 12,000 is realised.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/east-devon-could-getting-network-3454612

A confidant and forward-looking EDDC would now seek to form a joint liaison committee to work with the East Devon and Dorset National Park Team so as to get a seat at the table and maximise the opportunities, rather than continue to sulk in its (developer built?) kennel.

Are you scared now?

Bigger problems than Brexit?

“Lord Mervyn King calls for general election to provide mandate for either Leave or Remain.

Brexit is stopping Britain from addressing deep problems with its economy, a former Bank of England governor has warned.

Mervyn King called for an election and a new parliament to resolve the current impasse, claiming that “most people think that this has gone on for far too long and just have the view – ‘just do it’”.

He added that it did not matter whether people voted to remain or leave the European Union.

Lord King was speaking after MPs voted to delay a meaningful vote on the prime minister’s deal, forcing Boris Johnson to write to the EU to ask for a further extension to the Brexit process.

“It’s frustrating parliament can’t make up its mind and hasn’t been able to vote but let’s hope they do,” Lord King told Sky News after his speech at the International Monterary Fund’s annual meetings in Washington.

He warned the all-consuming nature of Brexit meant politicians were not looking at the UK’s underlying economic challenges.

“We have one of the lowest savings rates in the British economy of any country in the G20 save perhaps for Argentina. We’re not saving enough to finance our pensions or care for the elderly, or to finance infrastructure.

“These are the big challenges. What do we do about the education of 50 per cent of people who don’t go to college or university? It’s a great shame [Brexit] has dragged on so long.”

Although he claimed that Britain was “in the middle of the worst political and constitutional crisis for arguably several hundred years”, Lord King downplayed the impact Brexit could have on the UK and world economies.

“The decision to leave the EU is not likely to have a major impact on the UK economy in any way… I think there’s an awful lot of bogus quantification going on to justify positions held for other reasons,” he said. “I don’t honestly believe that Brexit has any great significance even for the rest of Europe, let alone the rest of the world. I don’t think the long-run economic consequences of the UK leaving the EU are particularly large.”

But he warned the global economy was in “great stagnation”, having grown more slowly and for a longer period than before the Great Depression of the 1930s, with levels of debt higher than they were before the 2008 financial crash.

Lord King, who governed the UK’s central bank for a decade until 2013, asserted the global economy would not be likely to suffer another financial crisis in the next 12 months.

But he warned of a global low-growth problem that wouldn’t be solved by another cut in interest rates, exacerbated by “extraordinary uncertainty”, and admitted “no one knows” whether another financial crisis is on the cards.

“We need a much wider set of policies to get out of this,” Lord King said.

The UK economy unexpectedly shrank 0.2 per cent in this year’s second financial quarter – its first contraction since 2012.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-economy-mervyn-king-bank-england-election-recession-debt-a9163531.html

“To save on teaching costs, school heads are increasingly busting the 30-child limit — illegal for pupils under seven” [including Broadclyst]

“Broadclyst school [photograph from article above]in Devon has a specially built classroom where 67 children are taught simultaneously. Though unions say such class sizes are detrimental to learning, the school’s head teacher insists pupils are offered an “excellent education”.

It looks more like a lecture theatre than a primary school classroom. Welcome to Broadclyst Community Primary School in Devon, where year 6 pupils are taught in a class of 67 — sometimes with just one teacher.

A Sunday Times investigation has found that cash-strapped primary schools are packing pupils into giant classes to boost their budgets. A school receives between £3,500 and £5,000 a year for each child. More than 559,000 primary pupils were taught in “super-size classes” averaging more than 30 children last year, compared with 501,000 five years earlier, according to our analysis of official data.

In parts of northwest England — including Oldham, Bury, Trafford and Tameside — a quarter of primary children are being taught in such big classes, as per-pupil funding encourages heads to fill their classrooms.

It is illegal to teach children under the age of seven in classes of more than 30 pupils, but there are no such rules for older children. But we have found that nearly 5% of pupils aged 5-7, roughly 73,000 children, were taught in classes of more than 30 last year. Some heads use just one teacher for occasional classes of more than 60 pupils. Broadclyst has one of the highest average class sizes, 42, and at times teaches 67 older children together in a specially built room.

Teaching unions and experts have always warned that such big class sizes damage children’s education. But this weekend Jonathan Bishop, Broadclyst’s head teacher, defended the policy, insisting that the school, about five miles northeast of Exeter, offered an excellent education, and class size “was not the big factor” in a good-quality education.

The school is rated as “outstanding” by the regulator Ofsted.

Bishop said: “I do not think 30 is a magic number to get better-quality education. It is not class size that dictates the quality of education. Our year 6 classroom has got 67 children in one room. There are times when one teacher teaches those 67 children. Is that wrong? Of course it is not wrong.

“Our year 6 classroom is designed like a lecture theatre: I can seat 67 children in there. I know I will be public enemy No 1 by saying this.”

Experts warned that the UK was moving inexorably towards the giant classes found in parts of Asia.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“One in 10 pupils removed from school rolls ‘to boost GCSE results’ “

“Research into “off-rolling” from schools in England has found the scale of the problem may be worse than previously thought, with one in 10 secondary pupils removed from the rolls without explanation.

Researchers from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that more than 61,000 pupils out of the national cohort who sat their GCSEs in 2017 experienced an “unexplained exit” at some point during their secondary school career. Of these, two out of five never returned to school again.

The overwhelming majority of those affected were from the most vulnerable groups, including pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), those receiving free school meals or those in the care of the local authority.

According to the EPI, while a proportion of those unexplained exits will be legitimate decisions made in the interests of the child, others are the result of schools – under pressure from government and amid increased scrutiny of league tables – deliberately gaming the system by offloading challenging students to boost GCSE results. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/oct/11/one-in-10-pupils-removed-from-school-rolls-to-boost-gcse-results?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

That “outstanding” school could be a complete failure

“Analysis of official data revealed 24 schools had gone without inspection for more than 13 years.

There are 1,010 “outstanding” schools that have not had a visit from Ofsted in a decade – up from 296 in 2017.

The Department for Education (DfE) plans to lift an exemption on routine inspections for outstanding schools.

It has been in place since 2012 but watchdog Ofsted called for it to end amid concerns about falling standards.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said inspecting all schools would ensure they were not “failing or at risk of decline”.

It said parents would find it harder to compare schools without recent reports available.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has said it would scrap Ofsted if it won the next general election.

There were 24 schools that had not had an inspection since September 2006, all of them graded “outstanding”.

Chart showing how long since outstanding schools were last inspected by Ofsted. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-49579520

“Funding for poorest pupils ‘cut by more than £220m’ in real terms since Tories came to power, figures reveal”

“Funding for the poorest children in England’s schools has been cut by more than £220m in real terms since the Conservatives came to power, analysis suggests.

Pupil premium money, which is given to schools to help support the most disadvantaged pupils, will have declined by 8.4 per cent in real terms by 2020, figures shared with The Independent show. …

The pupil premium, which is handed to schools for each child eligible for free school meals (FSM), will be worth £220m less by the end of this school year than in 2015, figures show. …”

It comes despite a manifesto commitment from the Conservatives to protect the pupil premium.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/pupil-premium-funding-schools-poorer-pupils-conservatives-austerity-a9113936.html

3 mile walk on unlit tracks and through farmyard safe for East Devon kids says DCC

“Parents in East Devon say they fear for the safety of their children after being told they have to walk nearly three miles to school on an unlit country track going through farm yards.

They say the route is dangerous and transport should be provided for the journey from Black Horse to Clyst Vale Community College near Exeter.

Devon County Council maintains the route is safe.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-49494877

“England school places shortage ‘made worse by academies’ “

“Councils are warning that a looming shortage in the number of school places across England is being made worse by academies, as last decade’s baby boom enters secondary schools over the next five years.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for the government to restore powers to councils enabling them to open new maintained schools if residents support them, and for new powers for councils to require academies to expand to meet local demand.

Anntoinette Bramble, the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said that without such changes children were at risk of not having a secondary school place.

“Our secondary school places crisis is now just one year away and this will be the reality for thousands of families without action,” Bramble said.

Last year, about 20% of families in England failed to gain a place at their first preference school, with the rate rising above 40% in several London boroughs including Lambeth and Lewisham. One in eight families in London failed to gain a place at any of their choices.

Councils say their position is made impossible by conflicting rules, which place a legal duty on them to ensure adequate school places for local children but allow only autonomous academies and free schools to be opened to provide more places, other than in rare circumstances.

With most state secondary schools in England now academies, the problem is made worse because local authorities cannot direct them to expand their intake or offer more places to meet forecast high demand, as they can with maintained schools.

“Councils need to be allowed to open new maintained schools and direct academies to expand. It makes no sense for councils to be given the responsibility to plan for school places but then not be allowed to open schools themselves,” Bramble said.

“The government needs to work closely with councils to meet the challenges currently facing the education system.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/aug/26/england-school-places-shortage-made-worse-by-academies?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

School meals – a no-deal Brexit casualty?

“Legal school meal nutrition standards may need to be amended, or discarded, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to internal local council planning documents seen by the BBC.

The standards are designed to make sure school children are fed healthy food.

Many councils say school meal costs will rise and funding for free school meals increase if there is no-deal.

The government said the food industry was “well versed at dealing with scenarios that can affect food supply.”

“We have a highly-resilient food supply chain and consumers in the UK have access to a range of sources of food. This will continue to be the case when we leave the EU.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted earlier on Monday that no-deal Brexit preparations are on track.

Some councils are anticipating they will not meet nutrition standards because of a rise in food prices and restriction of choice anticipated after a no-deal Brexit, particularly on fresh imports from Europe.

For example, North Ayrshire Council says it “might need to amend school nutrition standards”, in its internal Brexit planning document.

Local councils are legally obliged to provide high standard food to vulnerable users of public services and to manage the food supply challenges of leaving the EU without a deal.

Other councils, such as North Tyneside, report that “special dietary requirements may be difficult to meet” and that “if fresh produce is difficult to come by” schools should “increase use of tins and frozen goods”.

Many councils say that prices for school meals will rise, and central government funding for free school meals will have to increase.
Some also mention the possible use of food banks. Slough has contacted food banks in its area to check contingency plans for food shortages, and some Scottish councils have already increased funding for extra provision from food banks.

Bedford Council’s planning document from its internal Brexit planning team says care homes are “advised to hold four to six weeks supply of non-perishable foodstuffs”.

Hastings Council’s internal Brexit risk document even goes as far as saying: “There might be the need for rationing. The severity would depend on what was available and particularly the duration of any shortages.”

Insiders suggest this is a reference to the prevention of stockpiling, more than a return to wartime ration books.

The documents seen by the BBC date from the end of last year – up until last month – but predate the appointment of Boris Johnson as prime minister.
Most take at face value the government’s national assessment for March that there will be no impact of a no-deal Brexit on overall food supply, but there could be an impact on price and choice.

An October no-deal Brexit would come, however, at a time when the UK is particularly dependent on European imports for its fresh food, and when there is little to no excess warehousing space, unlike in March.

One catering industry veteran, Andy Jones, the chair of the Public Sector 100 Group of caterers, backed the councils: “Given a no-deal Brexit, they’re being very sensible. They’re being very cautious, and rightly so, we’re going into something that we don’t know about, we’re going to the unknown.
“If a no-deal Brexit happens, I feel that the supply chain long term will absolutely be under pressure. And that will affect the most vulnerable in society. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49397728