All posts tagged 'Canterbury'

Nigel vs Russell: Who won the Question Time face off?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, December 12 2014

It being the pantomime season, it was a smart move by the makers of BBC's Question Time to rope in Russell Brand and UKIP leader Nigel Farage for its final programme of the series.

I am not sure whether it left the audience desperate for a re-run and neither was it clear who was the villain and who was the hero.

It began with a question that seemed to offer Brand an open goal - was the adverserial nature of politics leading to its decline  - but he appeared unusually nervous and fluffed it, which must have taken David Dimbelby by surprise.

Still, at least the audience was in a rather frisky mood and a few more than heated exchanges from the audience seats only served to remind those watching how tame the panel seemed.

At some points you sensed that Russell Brand and Nigel Farage had more in common than they were prepared to admit and couldn't decide who was the villain  - both characterising themselves as "outsiders" - but Brand stuck the knife in with a good one-liner about Farage being a "Poundland Enoch Powell."

Although I did wonder whether, like Blue Peter, this was something he had prepared earlier. The cameras at one point showed him leafing throuh what could have been cue cards - who would have thought he needed those?

Farage generally kept his cool but was rather less animated than he usually is. He correctly surmised that it would be counter-productive to try to best Brand.

Instead, he chose to focus his attack on Labour's Mary Creagh and the floundering government representative Penny Morduant, who had she been playing in a football match, would have been substituted very early.

Creagh was reasonably good but too often lapsed into a recital of Labour's commitments that has most people tuning out and wondering about other things.

I expected Penny Morduant, who gamely appeared in the ITV programme Splash, to be rather better. After a belly flop like that, she may be inclined to turn down future invitations.

But she was on the defensive from the start after Dimbleby chose to remind the audience and viewers that she had been found out for making a speech in Parliament in which she used some rather fruity words - apparently as a dare from certain Naval friends.

Not a good position to debate a question about how mainstream politics might be in decline.

Dimbleby crowbarred a question about social mobility and whether we ought to have more grammar schools right at the end, which was a mistake as the panel only had a few minutes to debate what could well be an election flashpoint next May.

Brand lamely admitted that he "didn't know much about grammars" and opted for a rambling riff about other issues, leaving Farage with the easiest of tap ins at goal.

It was all entertaining stuff but the audience seemed more up for a fight than the panel.

The curtain dropped after what seemed no time at all but the audience was probably thankful the cast did not come back for an encore.

And if you wanted me to name the person who came across the best, it was the journalist Camilla Cavendish, who was easily the sanest person there.



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Categories: Politics

Gove's academy revolution and the school place free-for-all

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, February 26 2014

Kent County Council's decision to consult over closing the Chaucer Technology College has unsurprisingly caused anger and dismay among parents and pupils, who had thought the future was secure only a few weeks ago and are now levelling accusations of betrayal.

Had the politicians had any alternative, there is no doubt they would have sought to find one.

Decisions to close schools are almost always contentious and invariably trigger campaigns to keep them open. In the case of the Chaucer School,  it has been a particularly messy affair - not helped in this case by the fact that Kent County Council had believed an academy chain wanted to take it over  but then withdrew their interest.

Chaucer's future will be determined in June but the proposal to shut it provides a vivid illustration of the tension between education authorities and the Department for Education when it comes to planning and providing enough places.

The county council's statutory obligation is to ensure that there are enough school places across Kent. In the jargon, it is now a "commissioner" of places rather than a "provider." This obligation also requires the council to make sure that there are not too many empty desks or surplus places.

This job has become much more difficult with the advent of academy schools, which are independent and outside council control. Under Michael Gove's revolution, academies have been empowered to expand and grow to meet parental demand.

Why? Because the government believes that the often illusory concept of choice is enhanced if you allow popular schools to expand.

In the brave new world of Michael Gove, in which freedom and autonomy for schools are valued above anything else, academies can expand without anyone outside the school having a say in whether it might be a good or bad thing. Councils have no power of veto over academies who want to take in more pupils which is precisely what the Canterbury Academy is doing. 

It plans to offer 50 more places to Year 7 children in a direct response to parental demand and its continuing popularity. And it is this that KCC cites as a key reason why Chauncer should close.

This growth at Canterbury Academy comes at a time when the demand for places in the district are forecast to fall over the next few years, in contrast with many other areas of the county.

The planned closure of Chaucer is not the fault of Canterbury Academy. It is simply doing what parents want and it certainly hasn't done it out of any malice towards Chaucer.

Kent County Council and the school undoubtedly have questions to answer about the way it has handled the decision, not the least of which is the apparent shortcomings in the way the news was communicated to shocked parents and pupils.

But some questions should also be asked of the government. It has sold the academy programme on claims that it will improve standards and critically give parents greater opportunity for their children to attend popular and successful schools locally - a promise that parents at Chaucer may well feel is hardly worth the paper it is written on.

An education system in which councils are given the job of planning for places but do so alongside increasing numbers of  individual schools who can do their own thing may not be totally impossible but certainly presents challenges.

And if the unfettered free-for-all for school places continues, we may find there are other schools becoming "unviable".

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Why is it taking so long for Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes to announce who is to be her youth crime tsar?

Interviews for the post took place in November but since then, nothing has happened. Pressed on the issue by MP Mark Reckless at a Home Affairs Select Committee, Mrs Barnes said it wouldn't be too long before she could say anything but alluded to "various reasons" why there had been a delay.

Unfortunately, we are none the wiser as she added that she could not go into any details. Curious.

 

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Fun and fudge make for fantastic day out

by Tuned In, with kmfm Breakfast Show's Emma Saint Friday, April 19 2013

Well, after months of freezing cold weather, thank goodness it is finally starting to warm up.

All right, it still might not be quite time to put away the woolly jumpers, but some spring sunshine is better than none and what better way to enjoy it than looking around some of Kent’s great attractions.

I only moved to the county in September, so I’m still exploring the many lovely places on my doorstep. I decided to head over to Canterbury the other day with my partner and we had a wonderful time.

After walking around the city, we decided to take a romantic trip down the river on a punting boat. It only cost us £8 each for a 40-minute journey. We were given blankets if we wanted them and our tour guide told us all about the city’s history.

We finished our day with a visit to the Fudge Kitchen next to the cathedral, where we got to taste some of the best fudge I’ve ever eaten – and saw it being made. It was a great way to welcome spring.

As you may remember, I have embarked upon ice skating lessons at Gillingham’s Silver Blades ice rink. Well, I have good news – I have gone up a class! There are 10 grades, with 10 being champion standard and I am now classed as grade 6. I have really been enjoying it and was so pleased when my instructor said it was time for me to change classes.

I am now learning with some amazing skaters who are much better than me but being around them really pushes me to do better.

I am hoping to head along to see Sleeping Beauty On Ice at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre when it opens on Wednesday, May 1.

It stars Olga Sharutenko, one of the professionals on ITV show Dancing on Ice and I can’t wait to see such an amazing skater perform.

Next week kmfm is joining up with children’s hospice Demelza House for 10 tea parties in 10 days.

The fun starts at 3.30pm on Monday, April 22, at the King Charles Hotel in Gillingham and then we will be visiting Ashford’s Eastwell Manor, Dunkerley’s in Deal, the Coniston Hotel in Sittingbourne, the Ashford International Hotel, the Village Hotel in Maidstone and Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium.

In addition to enjoying tea and treats, there will be live entertainment and the chance to win top prizes.

We really hope lots of people will come along to support us.

Visit www.kmfm.co.uk to find out more.

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Categories: kmfm

Does a dark shadow loom over HMV?

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, January 6 2011

Trading results are not usually a case for emotion, but I am always saddened by bad news from HMV and Waterstone’s.

So many happy hours have been spent browsing – and occasionally spending money - in these shops, especially in towns without a decent bookshop.

Many music retailers have already shut up shop in recent years, clobbered by the internet and the trend to downloading. I have not the slightest interest in downloading. I know it’s cheaper but there is absolutely no substitute for the feeling you get from handling and examining a real object.

That applies as much to CDs as the previously cherished vinyl LPs. I was a bit surprised by HMV’s 13.6 per cent sales decline after standing in long queues before Christmas and the New Year. But I guess the bad weather stopped people from going out and buying presents and perhaps they ordered online instead.

You can also order online from HMV but I have noticed prices are often higher than Amazon. HMV also faces supermarket competition, but Tesco and their offer a pathetic range, and then only the latest best-sellers. There is nothing like the fantastic range and back catalogue in most HMV and Waterstone’s stores.

Sixty branches are to close across the country, and that probably dooms one of the two branches of Waterstone’s in Maidstone and Canterbury. It makes commercial sense but is not good news for many of the staff. Richard Curr, head of dealing at Prime Markets, has urged shareholders to sell, saying the Christmas statement shows the group is “well and truly on the rack, engaged in a desperate scramble to cut costs and close stores to avoid breaching banking covenants.”

That gloomy statement casts a dark shadow over the long-term future of HMV – but I am hoping for the best. Where would those happy browsing hours of serendipity be spent instead? The closures ought to be good news for local music retailers, but sadly there aren’t many left.

Almost all classical outlets have gone. The few surviving independents are mainly in small towns without an HMV or Waterstone’s. I hope HMV’s troubles will do them some good, but I fear that changing trends could spell the slow lingering death of my favourite type of shop.

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Categories: Business

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