Saturday, 27 October 2012

American custom launched in local schools

Picture from the Guardian
Year 7 students at Barnfield Academies West and South in Luton have been pledging to be good students at the start of each day.

The new phenomenon, reminiscent of a scene from a Hollywood movie, sees children stating a pledge, not of allegiance to the Queen, but to themselves and each other.

The pledge states: ‘I pledge to treat everyone with respect all the time, I pledge to work to the best of my ability, I pledge to attend all of my lessons on time and make sure that I am fully prepared, in this way I will be the best I can possibly be.’

The plan is for this to eventually be the custom for the entire school, as each year that leaves is replaced with a new intake, that will start the pledge from day one.

A Barnfield spokesperson said: “It has always been the case in all academies that we focus on traditional values in a modern context and we try to instill in our children the importance of enjoying school and achievement, but with respect for all.”

Friday, 26 October 2012

Local students hit by grading row

Students across the country are resitting their English GCSE’s next month following a national row over grading standards.

GCSE’s taken in June were graded lower than that of their peers a few months earlier in January. Students who received a D grade in June would have received a C grade at the start of the year.
Up to 100 of these will be students from Luton Sixth Form College.
A spokesman for Luton Sixth Form college said: “We are having to run an additional 3 classes this year, 15 in total, as opposed to 12 last year, as a direct result of students not getting a Grade C in this summers exam results”.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) as part of a coalition of councils, schools, and professional bodies are mounting a legal challenge against Ofqual and examiantion boards AQA and Edexcel.
Dave Mingay, Secretary of the NUT in Luton, said: “This is the next step in the campaign to rectify the huge injustice
suffered by many pupils, teachers and schools in Luton over this year’s English GCSE fiasco.
“Retaking the GCSE examinations is just not an acceptable option. In Wales the situation was resolved by the Welsh Government ordering a re-grading, not re-sits of GCSEs. If it can be done in Wales it must be done in England. This is such a manifestly unfair situation that the NUT has no other option but to pursue legal redress.”

If you have been affected by the GCSE grading row comment on NNI.

Picture from

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Workers rights continue to get slashed by the Tory Reapers

Workers rights are a small part of the much wider Human Rights (Article 23 of the U.D.) but are being literally torn up by the government.

Just recently (and without public consultation) the government amended the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERRB) at the last minute, at Report Stage, in the House of Commons which has resulted in the removal of basic rights for injured workers. The new clause, (61 of the ERRB) will mean that if injured due to a breach of an employers statutory duty within the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), they will be unable to enforce that breach in a court of law.

At present if an employer fails to operate within the regulations of the HSWA and an individual is injured as a result of negligence and/or breach of statutory duty, a claim can be brought against the employer. If the new proposed clause were to remain it would mean that an employer would no longer be liable in the civil courts for the criminal offence of a breach of the HSWA.

This will mean an employee will now have to prove in court that the employer was negligent rather than rely on the breach of the regulations themselves.

Meanwhile the Labour Party have challenged the amendment but after the vote on October 17th in the House of Commons, the challenge failed and so the bill, as amended, now sits with the other out of touch bunch at the House of Lords.

The government are justifying their lack of public consultation or impact assessment on a recent review of health and safety by Professor Ragnar L√∂fstedt. Professor L√∂fstedt recommended the abolishment of the strict liability provisions within the HSWA (where they do not have a defence of reasonable practicability) or that civil liability should be removed. Our government seems to be having it's cake and eating it by trying to do both.

The amendment is in regard to Section 47 of the HSWA which contains the assumption that regulations made under all aspects of health and safety regulations, carry civil liability for any breaches, unless otherwise expressly excluded. The government's amendment will effectively reverse that assumption and mean that no H&S regulation, under the HSWA or other, would impose civil liability, unless express provision was made for them to do so.

With the regulations not having any express provision and no proposal to amend them there will be no civil enforcement allowing the government to then create general defences that could apply to all H&S regulations and not have to insert that defence into every set. Clever.
This therefore has the potential to provide the power to impose a general defence of 'reasonable practicality'.

BIS minister Matthew Hancock said in the debate:

“We are ensuring…that there is a test of reasonableness for the actions of employers, so that those who have taken all reasonable precautions cannot be prosecuted for a technical breach.
“The definition of reasonableness will come from the common-law interpretation, and the concept is already well regarded and specified in law.”

The new section 47 will not have this affect, it will however allow the government to make changes such as this through further regulations.

What we are seeing now is another example of the government driving a train through the a century of legislation fought for by the people before us. 

The case of Groves v Lord Wimborne, 1898 and Strict liability was found when the Court ruled that "the defence of common employment is not applicable in a case where injury has been caused to a servant by the breach of an absolute duty imposed by statute upon his master for his protection."

Now without civil liability any injured person will have to prove that there has been a breach of regulations.

The future is uncertain for us all, we face the only enforcement being through that of the underfunded and understated Health and Safety Executive

The Tories and other right wing agenda setters such as The Daily Mail like to talk of how Labour are hostage to the 'Union Barons', yet it is the Tory led coalition government that is two-stepping along with the insurance industry, who coincidentally are a huge donor to the Conservative Party. Whilst Labour are not innocent in all this, the hypocrisy of the Tory statements regarding funding are not lost on us. 
The banking scandals that seem to keep erupting and being ignored by the larger public and the government in general are made more interesting with the revelation that the Conservative Party has tenuous links to the City's banks, which might go some way to explaining why it is us in the working class, and not them, that are paying for this financial crises. 

So much for being in this together.

The Conservative government so far have;
  • Forced through the Jackson reforms;
  • Removed most legal aid;
  • it is seeking to reduce the amount an injury victim can recover in costs to win a case even if the court rules those costs were necessary to win.
  • They want to stop injured people with cases under £5,000 in value getting the cost of the lawyer representing them; and
  • They are seeking to put all cases under £25,000 in value through an automated system that isn’t even working for road accident cases.
All these latest reforms will serve to do are penalise the vulnerable people in our society, making it harder to access justice for injuries caused through no fault of their own.

These revelations come against the backdrop of workers facing dismissal through capability without the safe guards in place to protect them from uncaring and impatient employers and the increase in pension age.

These are some dark times, maybe the view of dark satanic mills portrayed in Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony are not so far off the mark after all.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Local man talks harsh truths on world history

Former Luton Councillor Jim Thakoordin has been talking of the significance of Black History Month (BHM) at a speech made to Lambeth Council in London on October 8th.

In his speech Jim Thakoordin explained that BHM is not only of importance to black people but people of all cultures and backgrounds. Without knowing your history you cannot know where you are going.
Jim explains: ”The history of people from all cultures have been blurred to justify the practices of colonialism in the past. These wrongs have yet to be undone”

BHM began in America in 1926 and eventually came to Britain during the 1960’s and 1970’s Civil Rights activities. It has roots in the Trade Union movement with some of the first major BHM activity taking place in 1989 in Ealing, London, where speakers included then Labour Leader Neil Kinnock and the late politician Bernie Grant.

Jim, who has devoted his life to not just black workers rights but human rights, has also written a new book - 

Our Lives Our History Our Future. For a copy email: 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Advice on TV Licensing leads students down an expensive path

New students at University may find themselves in hot water over TV Licensing laws and I have found what this means for students in Luton.

Research commissioned by TV Licensing has found that students may be unaware of the laws they may be breaking with the streaming of live television on laptops and mobile devices. With almost half a million students heading off to University in the UK for the first time this year it is believed that 28% of these will wrongly believe that they do not need a license to stream live television on their laptop, whilst some 38% believe that they do not need a license to stream live shows on their mobile devices.

Victoria Sykes, TV Licensing spokesperson for London and the South East said: “Our new research shows how important it is for students to understand the law when it comes to watching live TV. We’re working with universities around the UK, including the University of Bedfordshire to ensure students who want to watch live TV can do so legally and with the peace of mind they are on the right side of the law. A TV Licence, at £145.50, can be bought online in minutes,” she added: “In addition, students who buy a TV Licence at the start of the academic year could benefit from a refund if moving home for three full months over the summer” she added.

Nik Taylor, editor of student community website The Student Room, said: “TV Licensing and The Student Room are keen to help students watch the TV they want, legally and anyone with questions about their TV Licence can get a clear, simple answer on the TV Licensing website. Students put off by the cost of paying in full can always opt to pay in instalments.”

However the statements made above do not explain the full story. 

A spokesperson from TVCatchup explained: "I dealt with this issue personally last year after I was contacted by some worried students after they received some scare tactics sent to them in a letter from TV Licensing. 

What I did was to approach TV Licensing with the scenario of a student using a device without batteries in student halls, with their parents having a TV License at their main permanent residency i.e. the family home. They confirmed that this student would not require a license under those conditions" he added "I personally agree with the concept of a TV License, but what I do not agree with is giving misinformation in order to scare students into to purchasing a TV License when, if they meet certain conditions, they do not need to purchase one."  .

In essence this means that provided your parents have a valid TV license and your device is not plugged into the mains, then you can stream as much live TV as you like. The statements made by the TV Licensing agency also fail to mention the fact that you do not require a license to watch programs that have already aired though on demand services such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer or 4oD. 

All this information can be found and accessed easily via the TV Licensing website:

To recap the three golden rules:

  1. Your out-of-term address is covered by a TV Licence
  2. AND you only use TV receiving equipment that is powered solely by its own internal batteries
  3. AND you have not connected it to an aerial or plugged it into the mains.

Happy channel hopping.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hope floats, marching for an alternative.

People across the UK today took to the streets in another show of solidarity against the cuts agenda by this Tory led government, with calls for a 24hr national strike.

Estimates currently sit at around 100,000 people in attendance but this is a vast under estimation in some peoples opinion.

Having been at both today's march and the event in March 2011, I would say numbers were roughly the same, if not perhaps more. The march was still entering Hyde Park as the rally finished, some two hours after it had begun, with many more still straggling their way along the designated route long after it had finished. At one point the MET stated that the march stretched back as far as Victoria Embankment.

Familiar scenes of the Empires stormtroopers protecting Topshop from over zealous people were interwoven with the sight of new untouchable premises, namely Starbucks, who in light of the recent revelation of their tax dodging ways had platoons on every street corner to guard them. Funny considering the police are having their pension contracts torn up in front of them in the mean time.

At the rally itself there were a number of speakers, top billing was of course leader of the opposition Ed Miliband. In true Labour fashion he tried to hijack the movement with his rhetoric about spending our way out of trouble but once again confirmed what they stated prior to the event last year that whoever was in government would be making cuts. This was met with a chorus of boos from the public.

So what is our alternative Ed?

He did win some cheers by scoring cheap points off of the buffoon that is George Osborne and his first class rail ticket gaff, but if you cannot score a cheap point from the hierarchy of this government, you should not be sat in opposition.

Still, 18 months on and are we any closer to resolving this economic crises? Not the way our illustrious leaders are going at any rate. Growth is what they are all clambering for but you cannot have infinite growth on a planet with finite resources.

At a recent meeting in Luton prior to today's march Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins showed a graph, which he explained showed how a Labour government, post World War Two, got the economy back on track with investment in spending resulting in high levels of employment and a soaring economy. I have even heard this mantra repeated on the radio recently when an alleged expert claimed that we 'rebuilt Europe after the war, we can rebuild it through this recession'. What they are all failing to mention however is that after a war of that nature, where infrastructure is all but totally demolished and annihilated, then of course there will be a soaring economy and high levels of employment.

You have entire countries and continents to rebuild.

Today we are not in that situation, at least not in the UK, the same cannot be said for countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq but here, we do not have a total overhaul of our infrastructure to complete. The message on the march was largely of the usual party lines 'austerity is not working' and references to the fact that 'confidence in the market' has slowed. Though most people seem to be moving in the same direction there are no changes being asked for that will lead to real change in the way things are done.

The highlight of the day were the signs that centred on cutting back on military contract spending, these were backed up by signs from what some members of the right establishment would deem to be Hippies, who were calling for investment in renewable energy, which in itself would create a vast amount of jobs and at the same time go some considerable way to reducing the devastating effects that our thirst and lust for fossil fuels have on our lives and society. A loud and vocal out pouring occurred outside Downing Street as the march headed past the Prime Ministers part-time abode. I could not be sure if he heard us in his palace, in an undisclosed location.

Another world is possible if we want it but it is something we will have to work for. One way of achieving this is by economic withdrawal. It is not a new idea, in fact it is one that has been advocated for decades, by people far greater and smarter than anyone from NNI.

If you want additional information on how you can change things follow the links below.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Third time lucky?

Patience is a virtue and something I cultivated as a young boy courtesy of the guidance I received from my Grandfather. 

What he had not prepared me for however are the trials and tribulations of my lovely partner. 

Three times from three now she has managed to forget key items required to take and enjoy a break in a foreign country. 

Firstly there was the month in Berlin (that should been one week) for the marathon which resulted in having to pay an extra £400 at the Ryanair desk just to get the lady back home in time for work the next day.

Next up was 'money-gate' whereby having freshly changed up our savings into Aussie Dollars we headed to Heathrow the night before our flight to save an early rise and morning dash. This full proof plan was cut down within an hour off arriving when it transpired that Nicola had left her fiat currency on the kitchen work top in sunny Luton.

After a series of x-rated superlatives that Nicola herself used to describe herself and some tears, I sucked it up and made an SOS call to my mother. A four hour round trip to pick me up from Heathrow, taking me back to Luton to pick up the money and then all the way back to the airport again. To make matters worse I have had to endure the endless references to 'proper preparation and planning', that I have so often used in the past against the rest of my family.

Still, until today, the truth of that night has never been released, until now.

Lastly and most recently we have had 'coeliac-gate' on route to Paris. With Nicola being a coeliac (allergy to wheat and gluten) and myself being a vegetarian it pays for us to sort out meals for extended travel in advance. An evening and morning spent preparing rice, salad and sandwiches was ruined as we sat on the train waiting to depart and it dawned on Nicola that she had left her food at home. We were already running late to be in London to meet her friend for lunch. 
The next train was in nine minutes so I decided to run back to the apartment to get her food and try to return to the train station before our train left. Fortunately it was not too far and I have been training again more recently for a half marathon and managed to do an almost exact eight minute mile as by the time I returned to the platform the train was just about to finish boarding.

By now I was a complete mess, jeans big boots and a jumper are not exactly classic running gear unless you are evading the police. It was OK though because we were to be on time to meet Nicola's friend and have a quick coffee at least before we departed. When we arrived in the said coffee shop however Nicola's friend contacted us to say she could not make it. 

My dishevelled look was all for nothing, but my record for being a personal saviour remains in tact. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Time is our greatest commodity

Remember when detention used to be a punishment? A lesson in the most important aspect of life itself, that time is your greatest commodity.

Classic fifteen to forty five minute lessons in procrastination such as writing endless lines, only to have them torn up in front of you and (my personal favourite) the practice of putting up chairs and stools on tables quietly, have been replaced by isolation rooms. An isolation room is where said disruptive or unruly child is sent to a room to sit in a booth on their own and have work set to do.

To reach isolation room status you must have had the fifteen minutes with teacher, that by law they can keep you behind without notifying the parents, and not shown up. The child must then have not turned up for a forty-five to one hour detention with written permission either and so on strike three they end up in an isolation booth, which is similar to the booth you probably sit in at work...

Having stacked up the courage to not turn up to two or three requests for detention you would expect an isolation room to be like some kind of torture chamber where children would watch endless repeats of the periodic table song, alas no. It is not. The chastised students attend from 0900 until 1400 and then get to go home. The time in-between can be spent on a laptop catching up on the homework they would have been doing if they weren't getting themselves taught a lesson on Pro Evolution on line at home. Is this really the best we can do?

Where is the deterrent or life lesson in time wasting? It is almost an advert for unruly behaviour. "Act bad for three days, get Friday afternoon off free." The advert could read. It is almost kind of like "I can't believe it's not detention." Either way it almost makes me wistful to have my school days all over again because if I had known then that that was all the punishment I would get for not showing up to detention, there are a few teachers I would have perhaps been more honest about what I really thought about them and their teachings.