Holidays in School Time

I was very pleased to see Mr Platt win his case in the High Court over fines for taking his daughter out of school. It is very unfortunate that all children and their families are constrained to taking their holidays in that one six week period in the summer, apart from the resultant steep rises in the costs there are the consequences of overcrowded roads and/or airports and overcrowded resorts/campsites etc when they arrive.
I think that the importance attached to school attendance is greatly exaggerated when it is claimed that even one day missed is critical and to lose a week is a disaster. They talk as though learning is a continuous process, presumably they think that they can teach a child how to do long division one day, for example (that is assuming that they do still teach long division?), and then say “Ok you know how to do that now, tomorrow I will show you how to convert decimals to fractions .” or something similar. Learning is an iterative or reiterative process, a child might be doing long division sums throughout a term before they are really confident and competent.
There is evidence that children from a caring background who have missed a lot of schooling because of illness do not suffer a reduction in achievement as a consequence, certainly in my own case I lost best part of three years and it makes me cross when it is suggested that to lose a week can have a serious effect. Ultimately, of course, a child’s success at school is dependent to a great extent on the conditions and support at home.
Fixed penalties for absences were introduced by the Labour government in 2003. At the time it was said that this was to counter persistent absences and problematic truancies, and that it would not be used for short absences. It was Michael Gove in 2013 who introduced the change using a statutory instrument that permits an alteration to legislation without parliamentary consideration provided it does not change the aim of the legislation, which in this case it clearly did.
It should be a parent’s right to choose the type of education for their child and, indeed some parents have been permit ted to educate their children at home. It is strange that, on the one hand the government is willing to allow home education and to approve free schools able to decide their own curriculum etc with a head teacher with a very free hand, and on the other hand wants to control attendance at state schools and academies almost to the day.
Holidays can be educational, the child will experience a different environment, meet different people, possibly a different culture, see different places giving a sense of geography and, perhaps, geology. If a teacher is really worried about something missed they could provide a work sheet.
I am sure that a child that is progressing satisfactorily will not suffer one scrap if they miss a week or even two and, unfortunately, a child that is struggling will be struggling anyway.
There is a problem however if it became acceptable for children to take a week or two out in May, June and early July, because there could be times then when 70% of the class was absent.
There has been suggestions that school terms could be staggered in different areas, but one can see the difficulties that would arise with that if there were large differences, but even a one week difference would be helpful, that would extend the six week period to seven, possibly it could be stretched to eight.
Ron Watts

Boughton News July 16

Boughton CC travelled to meet arch-rivals East Rudham on a beautiful afternoon just made for Cricketing (and not before time!). As has been the case from the beginning of the season, Boughton fielded a team comprised of a significant number of keen Junior players, ranging from 11-16 years. The Juniors were ably supported by our regular set of gnarly veterans (ages withheld) who never hesitate to encourage younger legs to chase the ball to the boundary.
Having won the toss, Boughton invited Rudham to bat first on a pitch that looked like it might offer a bit to our bowlers.
Boughton opened with Calum Carter who bowled a tight lively spell, but with little luck. The breakthrough finally came with Owen Chandler’s nagging spin forcing a lofted drive caught by Hugh Jenkins at Long on. Nick Morgan’s accurate seam bowling removed the second Rudham opener, with another well-judged catch in the deep by a diving, sliding, catching (then celebrating) Owen Chandler. From there, Boughton were able to exert a tighter grip on the game with energetic fielding and useful bowling spells from Brynmor Jenkins, Morgan, Chandler and James Webb, with Webb also risking life & limb taking a beautiful diving catch at Cover that would have put the great Gordon Banks to shame. Credit also to Barry Ovel who came in at short notice and did a sterling keepers’ job standing-up to the wicket, sporting a protective face mask that looked like it had been borrowed from Hannibal Lecter. To finish the innings, James Blanchfield & Johnny Jenkins bowled a nice over each, with Jude Taylor taking a tremendous steepling catch from the bowling of Jenkins.
Although Boughton faced a tough challenge against Rudham’s experienced batsmen, our Juniors were a credit to the side in their all-round field play and attitude.
Set 196 to win in 35 overs, openers H. Jenkins and James Webb set about posting the reply. Jenkins fell cheaply for 4 runs to a mistimed shot, but Webb, joined by Barry Ovel, steadied Boughton with a series of well-timed strokes on a pitch that showed some unpredictable bounce. Indeed, Ovel was undone for a battling 5 runs by one that kept low, followed by Webb on 26 who got one that popped & buzzed around his helmet like an angry Hornet before rolling slowly up to his stumps and dislodging a single forlorn bail. Cricket is a cruel game! Nick Morgan took up the baton and played a fine innings with a wagon-wheel all round the ground, carrying his bat for a crucial 68 runs. New to Boughton CC this year, Anthony Blanchfield showed some nice timing lower down the order, and all our Juniors batted bravely offering stubborn resistance to a tight bowling attack. Calum Carter played a swashbuckling cameo with an unbeaten 10 to end the Boughton innings at 147 for 8 from our allotted 35 overs.
Congratulations to East Rudham for a convincing win, and commiserations to the Boughton players, who played hard to the last. We look forward to welcoming Rudham for the return match at our lovely ground later in the Summer!
(in support of Boughton Playground)

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An Unbalanced Economy

When I was a young man I was attracted to engineering as a career, there were many interesting and challenging developments and problems to solve which were often of a scientific nature and many engineers were effectively ‘applied scientists’. Many of these developments had arisen within the defence industry, particularly in the aviation field. As a nation we were proud of our engineering achievements, we led the world in gas turbine technology, our jet aircraft were setting records, we had our own atomic bomb, we led the world in atomic power technology with the world’s first nuclear power station, we had pioneered the use of radar and built the world’s first electronic computer. Most of these achievements were the result of government funding, private companies profited from government contracts, there was not too much pressure for these companies to be commercially viable so that they were slow to make the most of the commercial potential of their achievements and had a reluctance to invest for long term benefit.
An example was Armstrong Siddeley who had the ‘Sapphire’ which was probably the best British jet engine at the time (and therefore the best in the world). The Americans were aware of its potential and wanted to buy 500 engines, Armstrong’s considered the investment required to build that number and decided they would rather sell the rights for the Americans to build them and in one move they gave away the technical lead that they had.
Of course all this government funding in the 1940s/early fifties was a continuation of the procedures during the war, the war was over but they were slow to realize that we could not afford to go on in that way, we could not afford to have four or five companies designing and building different aircraft to meet one specification and things slowly changed. We did have some commercial successes in the aviation field, the Vickers Viscount with Rolls Royce turbo prop engines, was just right for the time and was a great aeroplane, the de Havilland Comet was outstanding and would have been a great success story but for the tragic failure due to pushing the boundaries a little too far.
The government super tanker did slowly turn round and it was recognized that we had to earn our living, ‘Export or Die’ became a slogan. Some of our industries did rise to the challenge, in particular the motor industry did well and we had the second largest motor industry in the world, second only to the USA. They did export cars all over the world, export took priority, there was a long wait for a new car at home. Most of MG production went to the USA, but to some extent the motor industry had it easy, Germany’s and Japan’s industries had been devastated, France and Italy were struggling to recover and the world was hungry for new cars. In fairness the cars were quite good in comparison with the competition, but because the competition was weak there was little incentive to make them even better. As we all know they were inclined to rust (as were the competition except perhaps for Volvo) and reliability was not all that it could have been.
Unfortunately our factories were equipped with fairly dated machine tools that they had worked throughout the war, all over the country relatively small workshops were making parts for the motor industry on old machines relying on the skill of the workforce and their inspection procedures. We had too many motor companies producing too many models in too few numbers. Massive investment was needed but The City (and the management) were not sufficiently interested in long term investment, it was the current year’s balance sheet that mattered. At the same time the USA had become alarmed at Russia’s attitude and their aspirations to spread communism, and decided to rebuild Germany as a buffer. They poured aid into Germany helping them to replace their destroyed factories with new state of the art equipment. Similarly Japan also was seen as a potential barrier to Chinese communism. Perhaps surprisingly, there was no aid for the UK, rather there was even a reluctance to lend us money, partly due to their dislike of our Labour government, too near to communists for their liking. And so our industries had to struggle on and our motor industry was slow to react to the better cars emerging from Japan.
The switch to a conservative government reduced the possibility of government help for manufacture, their position summarised later by Mrs Thatcher, who oversaw a further weakening of manufacture, and objected to ‘propping up lame duck industries’, even if they were not lame. It was fortunate that we did not have a conservative government when Rolls Royce overspent on development of the RB211, which was the first of a new breed of jet engines, and, with short term government help, went on to re-establish Britain’s lead in the field (Would that help have been permitted if we had been in the EU?). Successive governments saw the future in the banks and the City and cared less for manufacture. It is sad, our young engineers of the 1940s,50s,60s were finding their challenges in the products rather than the production, due primarily to a lack of real interest by investors or government, as a result we were slow to develop and employ automated systems and manufacture did not progress as quickly as it might. Now we have a seriously unbalanced economy with an overdeveloped financial sector (and we know how dangerous this can be), and a manufacturing sector stagnating at 10% of GDP. The government tries to reassure us by saying we are still seventh largest manufacturing nation in the world, after US, China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, France and Italy, but on a per capita basis we are around 24th.
Manufacturing, farming and construction are the real wealth creators, the contribution of manufacture to progress is clear – computers, fibre optics, routers, GPS equipment, more efficient – cars, lighting and appliances, automated warehouses etc etc. Unfortunately, because our manufacturing is weak, much of this wealth is being created elsewhere.
The financial sector is a wealth manipulator, looking for fast bucks, not interested in long term investment and taking pickings from wealth created elsewhere. Whilst it does genuinely provide a service it is grossly overpaid, it is fundamentally parasitic. We are told repeatedly that we have a strong healthy economy, but national debt continues to rise, and has reached frightening proportions, personal borrowing is at an all-time high due to ridiculously high housing costs, whether renting or buying, which is a result of government failure to intervene. It seems to me that there is a very high risk of another financial collapse, even a house price collapse. I can see little chance of the nation paying off its debt until manufacture generates a higher proportion of our GDP.
Ron Watts

Countryside Notes July 2016

How cruel can nature be? The fact that it is has been well and truly brought home to anyone watching ‘Springwatch’ on TV this year. Cameras on a variety of bird’s nests filming 24 hours a day have shown exactly what happens and revealed, amongst other things, the extent of predation even before chicks have left the nest. A particularly vulnerable time is when they first fledge but it’s nearly impossible to follow their fortunes afterwards. In our house ‘Springwatch’ is now called ‘Deathwatch’ because so many deaths have been recorded due to the incredible film footage obtained. For instance a stoat with eight kits killed not only rabbits but also scaled a tree and took a brood of green woodpeckers from a hole 20 feet above the ground. If it could have got into one of the nest boxes it would also have had some great tits but it was a jay that put pay to all but one of them in the end. A male sparrowhawk was regularly catching small birds, of at least a dozen different species, as food for his wife sitting on five eggs. And that’s just to feed her just imagine how many extra will be required to feed five growing chicks. There were black backed gulls snatching other gulls’ chicks and all the avocet chicks disappeared. What’s been eating them? On the Farne Islands puffins, desperately trying to bring back sand eels for their chicks, were having to run the gauntlet of being mugged by gulls. They also had to contend with thousands of seals hoovering up sand eels making them harder to find in the first place. Weather conditions can also have a huge impact on survival rates. ‘Springwatch’ has certainly revealed nature in the raw but it’s typically showing what goes on unseen throughout the countryside. Nature lovers watching have been shocked by what they’ve witnessed because it’s laid bare the truth concerning the trials and tribulations of reproduction in the wild. It’s food for thought that while predator numbers are on the increase many species on which they prey are decreasing. At this time of year every adult bird killed most likely deprives a brood of chicks of a parent. A pair of blackbirds nested in our garden and at the end of May we watched them collecting food, likewise blue tits in one nest box and great tits in another. Then the weather changed, the temperature dropped and we had a month’s worth of rain in a morning. We feared for their wellbeing. My neighbour had a pair of great tits nesting in a box with a camera inside enabling her to monitor the family’s fortunes. One chick died and she could hardly bear to watch as the parents struggled for a quarter of an hour to manoeuvre the body out through the hole. The rest eventually fledged but their fate is unknown. It’s all very well developing an empathy with wildlife when things are going well but it can be quite upsetting when they’re not!
Jill Mason