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‘Immoral practice’ of cashing in on school holidays



school_shutterstockEDUCATION leaders are calling on the government to crack down on travel companies and airlines ‘immorally’ cashing in on school holidays.
They say the price hike for travel and hotels during school holidays is totally unjustified and immoral, and leads to parents taking their children out of school during term time.
It is also prejudiced against all people who work in the education sector as they are restricted to taking their leave during school holidays when prices are so much higher.
The call follows a letter sent to parents in six local authority areas – Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea.
It informed parents that if their child was taken out of class it would be marked as unauthorised and would show on their attendance record.
It is part of a drive to cut down on absenteeism in schools, but has generated a reaction from parents across the region, venting their frustration with increased holiday costs during school holidays.
Lead Director of the South West and Mid Wales Education Consortium, Eifion Evans, said: “The education of children is paramount and research has shown that attendance at school is a high factor in achievement.
“Although we are not saying school is the only place children can learn, and that there are of course benefits associated with travel and different cultures, if children miss out on lessons they will not be taught the full national curriculum.
“This puts them at a disadvantage and leads to falling standards, which no parent or school wants for a child.
“This is not about education authorities being heavy handed, we have to prioritise children’s education and a large factor affecting this is absenteeism.
“Having said that, we fully understand the frustration of parents, and indeed all those people working in the education sector, who are forced to pay higher prices for holidays.”

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Aber research sheds new light on Churchill



AN ABERYSTWYTH academic has jointly authored an article which details the marital infidelity of wartime leader Winston Churchill and sheds light on the way in which Churchill’s reputation and image have been carefully burnished and polished by those keen to present a myth rather than a complete human story.

Dr Warren Dockter is a Lecturer in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University. He is the author of Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire and Diplomacy in the Middle East and editor of Winston Churchill at the Telegraph.

Winston Churchill had a short affair with the dazzling socialite Lady Doris Castlerosse in the 1930s, according to his former private secretary.

A recording by Churchill’s former private secretary, Jock Colville, in which he disclosed that Britain’s war leader had engaged in a short affair with the society beauty in the South of France, has been revealed by Dr Warren Dockter of Aberystwyth University and Professor Richard Toye, Head of History at the University of Exeter.

Colville, a close confidant and trusted aide of Churchill, said in the taped 1985 interview for Churchill College, Cambridge, that the story that he had to tell was rather scandalous and that he did not want it disclosed for a long time to come.

He revealed that when he visited Winston and his wife Clementine in the late 1950s, Churchill’s literary assistant Denis Kelly had presented Clementine with a set of love-letters from Lady Castlerosse. Clementine Churchill, he recounted, read the correspondence and turned pale.

According to Colville, Clementine was anxious about the episode for months and told him she had never previously thought that Winston had been unfaithful to her.

The research, to be published in the journal in the Journal of Contemporary History – and featured in the Channel 4 documentary Secret History– includes testimony from Castlerosse’s niece, Caroline Delevingne, who disclosed that her family had known about the affair.

Documents in the family’s possession include – in addition to photos of Churchill and Lady Castlerosse together – a long and affectionate 1934 letter in which he compared her to a ray of sunshine.

Churchill apparently carried out the affair in the 1930s when he had four holidays in the south of France he took unaccompanied by his wife Clementine. He painted at least two portraits of the renowned society beauty – which were removed by Churchill’s friend the Press Baron, Lord Beaverbrook, after her death from an overdose of sleeping pills at the Dorchester Hotel in 1942.

From an ordinary suburban upbringing in Beckenham, South East London, Doris, Viscountess Castlerosse, became a notorious society figure, with a string of wealthy lovers. Tall, blonde and vivacious, she is said to have been the model for the fast young widow Iris Storm in Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat and, later, for the tempestuous temptress Amanda in Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

She married Valentine Castlerosse, a spend-thrift Viscount and gossip columnist, but they divorced after he apparently hired private eyes to follow his wife and report on her infidelities.

The research also cites papers of President Roosevelt’s right-hand man Harry Hopkins which show that at the height of World War 2, Churchill pulled strings to get Doris a hard-to-obtain airplane passage so that she could travel back to Britain from America.

Dr Dockter said: “This revelation about Churchill’s private life helps us locate the man inside the myth and reveals a more complete and nuanced understanding of his character. Beyond his relationship with Doris Castlerosse, the academic article for the Journal of Contemporary History further illuminates how Churchillian networks have curated Churchill’s memory.”

Professor Richard Toye, Head of History at Exeter University and who has written three books on Churchill, said the research provided a fuller picture of a little-known episode in Churchill’s life, and shed new light on his character.

“Although this doesn’t radically change our view of Churchill as a leader, it does give us a more complete view of his character and his marriage. The received wisdom is that he never strayed and that he and Clementine were devoted to one another. In fact, Clementine loathed the Riviera Set with whom he liked to spend his summers, and saw them as a bad influence on him.”

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Flying Start needs ‘significant change’



'Postcode Lottery': Some children in poverty are excluded from support

A SIGNIFICANT change is needed if the flagship Flying Start early years programme is to succeed in reaching out to those in most need of support, according to a cross-party Assembly committee.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee found that more flexibility is needed so that funding can be used to help children who live outside existing Flying Start areas.

The Flying Start programme provides services to children under the age of four in some of Wales’ most deprived postcode areas. It is cited as one of the Welsh Government’s top priorities in tackling child poverty, and has four key elements: free part-time childcare for two to three-year-olds; an enhanced health visiting service; access to parenting support; and access to early language development support. However, with nearly two thirds of people who are income deprived living outside geographical areas that are defined as deprived, the Committee heard that a significant number of children living in poverty were likely to be excluded from Flying Start support.

While the Committee welcomes recent changes which will give councils more opportunities to help children outside Flying Start postcode areas, more flexibility is needed to make sure that those most in need are supported.

The Committee was pleased to hear anecdotal evidence from users and front line service providers about the benefits of Flying Start. However, in light of the fact that the Welsh Government has provided funding of more than £600 million to Flying Start since its creation in 2007, it is concerned that there is limited hard evidence at this stage to show that children and parents supported by the programme have experienced improved outcomes.

Lynne Neagle, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, said: “We welcome the hard work of those delivering Flying Start services across Wales. Nevertheless, with the majority of children living in poverty falling outside defined Flying Start areas, we believe that more flexibility is needed to allow the programme to reach those most in need.

“We also believe that more needs to be done to demonstrate the benefits of the programme, and we welcome the Welsh Government’s assurances that it is looking at different ways to show the direct improvements Flying Start is making to the lives of children and families in Wales. We will monitor this work closely, and believe it to be particularly important given the large amount of money invested in this programme annually, with just under £80 million allocated in this financial year alone.”

Commenting on the report, Shadow Education Secretary, Darren Millar, said: “We’ve been saying for a long time that Flying Start simply isn’t working for the overwhelming majority of families in need of support.

“The Welsh Government must put an end to the Flying Start postcode lottery which excludes families in need simply on the basis of their address.

“The programme needs radical reform to make it more flexible and Wales-wide so that local Councils can deliver help and support to those who need it most.”

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Talks call in lecturers’ strike



Pensions dispute: Lecturers plan four weeks of action

UNIVERSITIES UK has called University and College Union (UCU) to meet to engage in ‘serious, meaningful’ talks on the future of the USS pension scheme.

A strike by UCU members in the week ​of February 19-23 was only the first of a planned four weeks of industrial action as employers and lecturers battle out a dispute over the future shape of the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Universities UK claims that the current scheme – the largest funded scheme in the UK – is unaffordable and that a projected £6.1bn deficit means that retirement benefits have to be cut. The union claims that the deficit is overstated and that, having already eroded some pension rights, further cuts to it are unfair.

In a press statement which accompanied an open letter to UCU members, Universities UK said: ​”​It is of paramount importance that both side make every effort to meet – despite the ongoing industrial action – to stop any impact and disrupton to students.

​”​Universities UK has never refused to continue to try to find an affordable, mutually acceptable solution. We would be willing to discuss a credible proposal that addresses the significant financial issues the scheme is facing.

​”​The problem that we share as interested parties in USS is that, to continue to offer current benefits, contributions would have to rise by approximately £1 billion per annum. The scheme has a £6.1 billion deficit and there has been an increase of more than a third in the cost of future pensions.​”​

Responding to that statement, UCU said it would certainly be attending as it had been calling for talks for weeks, but refused to call of scheduled industrial action.

However, it said that unless the employers were prepared to talk about the January decision to slash pensions then it did not see how the dispute could be resolved. In its statement UUK said ​’​talks would not re-open the Joint Negotiating Committee decision made on 23 January​’​.

That decision is the very reason staff are on strike.

UCU said it was disappointed UUK had ignored the wishes of universities minister Sam Gyimah who stated explicitly that the talks should be without preconditions.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: ​”​Because this is so serious for students and for staff we will of course attend. I am however very concerned that UUK has explicitly ruled out discussing the imposed changes that have caused the strikes.

​”​The universities minister was very clear that he wanted talks without preconditions and we hope UUK will reconsider his words before we meet. We remain committed to serious negotiations aimed at resolving this dispute.​”​

Universities UK’s position is not assisted by the long-running dissatisfaction with some of the extraordinary pay packages its members dole out to some university vice chancellors.

University vice-chancellors have enjoyed huge pay rises in recent years. The average pay (excluding pensions) for vice-chancellors in 2005/06 was £165,105. Over the next decade it increased by 56.2% to £257,904 in 2015/16.

Professor Peter Mathieson, recently appointed as vice Chancellor of Edinburgh University, will be paid a basic salary of £342,000 – £85,000 more than predecessor Sir Timothy O’Shea. Professor Mathieson will also receive £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions and relocation costs of £26,000, taking his package up to £410,000. He will live in a five-bedroom grace-and-favour home in central Edinburgh.

Professor Mathieson quit his contentious and controversial tenure as vice-chancellor of Hong Kong University to take the Edinburgh post.

Stuck in the middle of the dispute between lecturers and universities are students.

The programme of strikes is taking place at one of the most sensitive times of the year for higher education students, with many final year students rapidly approaching the end of their courses. A suggestion has been made that some universities will take account of disruption to studies when making degree awards, In addition, while many students sympathise with their lecturers’ predicament there is growing frustration among those who are likely to be most severely affected by strikes that will last 14 days initially, with the possibility of further action during summer final exams.

Some students are contemplating demanding compensation, with The Guardian quoting one saying: “I am a third-year student in his last term of university and the fact that my vice-chancellor has told me that I could be without any assistance for a whole 14 days over four weeks in my most important term of education is a joke.”

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