Teacher workload: is this the best they can do?

Some weeks ago I assembled an open letter on teacher workload, supported by forty authors and three hundred educationalists. It was published in the Guardian, Times Educational Supplement and Bookseller. When the Department for Education finally replied it referred to the Secretary of State for Education as ‘he’ even though the definitely female Nicky Morgan is a ‘she.’
So far so awful. The letter was clearly a template response written while Michael Gove was in office. I pointed this out to the bureaucrat dealing with my correspondence. After weeks of silence, the DfE has finally mumbled the excuse that it was a typo and the ‘s’ was missed off. I suspect the Department would dismiss such an excuse from a child so I am not inclined to accept it either. Do these people think I was born yesterday?

Here is the letter:

Dear Mr Gibbons
Thank you for your email of 12 November bringing to our attention an error in the previous correspondence you received from this department.

I can only apologise for the typing error. I have spoken to Anthony who confirms the letter ‘s’ was accidentally missed from the word ‘she’, and I can confirm our response to you reflects current ministers’ feelings.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to us.
Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2015-0051505. If you need to respond to us, please visit: https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus
and quote your reference number.
As part of our commitment to improving the service we provide to our customers, we are interested in hearing your views and would welcome your comments via our website at: https://www.education.gov.uk/pctsurvey.

Yours sincerely
Alex Eccles
Ministerial and Public Communications Division

Round up

Croydon Advertiser : 30th November

‘Possibility’ all Croydon libraries could close ‘apart from statutory ones’ says culture chief

Only central library to be retained?





HoldtheFrontPage : 30th November

Lancashire | Sister weeklies unite to save libraries threatened with axe



Speaking the Mind : 30th November

To Cut Lancashire’s Libraries will Crush Communities




Times Series : 30th November

Thousands raised by Barnet campaigners to challenge library cuts





Hinckley Times : 30th November

Leicestershire | Spring handover booked in for Market Bosworth Library plan





South Wales Evening Post : 28th November

Neath Port Talbot | Appeal for help over Skewen library closure plans





Spalding Today : 28th November

Lincolnshire | Letter – Rural areas treated poorly (UKIP)





The Military Dave die is cast

The die is cast.
It seems highly unlikely that anything will stop David Cameron leading the UK into a bombing campaign in Syria. It has precious little to do with the arguments the Prime Minister set out in the House of Commons and everything to do with the hunt for the ‘good war’ that will define a mediocre politician’s term of office.
David Cameron does, after all, have form on this, having led the UK into a catastrophic adventure in Libya in 2011 that left the country mired in a fractured and chaotic civil war. Many of the arguments he used then are being recycled now.
Few will not feel the desire to ‘do something’ in solidarity with the French citizens massacred in Paris, or indeed those killed in Beirut, Sinai or Turkey, but what if that something makes things worse?
We did something in Iraq and Afghanistan over a decade ago and those tormented nations have been mired in endless and bloody conflict ever since.
The UK’s tiny morsel of air power will add little to the chaotic coalition of the bickering that is pounding Iraq and Syria. What can a few Tornadoes add to the shock and awe perpetrated by the US to little effect? Many US pilots report that they are returning with their bombs still on board because there was no obvious target left to strike.
Most of Cameron’s arguments were utter bunkum. We are succeeding in Iraq, he argued, rolling back ISIS and cutting their territory by 30%. The problem is that empty land is strategically worthless. In the same period, ISIS has taken the vital city of Ramadi and consolidated its hold on Mosul. We have, we are told, a moderate opposition to ISIS in the form of the 70,000 strong Free Syrian Army. This will be news to military strategists who think this force is ineffective at best and fictitious at worst. As General Lloyd Austin told a Congressional hearing earlier this year, out of the hundreds of rebels it trained, the US could track down only “four or five” fighters.

We are not supporting President Assad, Cameron continues. We want to see him go, but we will make him go by strengthening his hold on the country. As war aims go, this would appear confused to say the least. Leaving Assad in power after his forces have done most of the killing will almost certainly seal the support of many Sunnis for the likes of ISIS and Al-Nusra. It should be remembered that the last time Cameron went searching for his next, good war, it was Assad he wanted to bomb. Stir in the explosive ingredient of Russia’s pro-Assad military contribution and the Sunni chauvinist Turkish machinations and you have a lethal cocktail of military posturing.
Then there is the question of what will actually defeat ISIS. Even Military Dave admits that an air war will not do it. So whose ‘boots on the ground’ will tread on Syria’s ochre earth? The Kurds have been the most effective anti-ISIS force, but they have their own strategic interests and are constantly impeded by the West’s ally Turkey. Iraq is condemned to endless internecine strife between Sunni and Shia while Syria is an eye-wateringly complex web of murder gangs.
Few could disagree with the desire to do something to stop a sect as murderous as ISIS, but what if the something makes things worse?

Libraries and reading round up

Latest reading and libraries news:


BBC News : 27th November

Scotland | Library book expenditure in decline




THE BOOKSELLER : 27th November

Libraries Taskforce gets funding until 2020





The Stage : 27th November

Arts cuts will still be ‘hugely damaging’, warns Dugher






Salisbury Journal : 27th November

Hampshire | Shock as town’s library could close

& proposal to scrap the county’s entire book fund from 2020





East Anglian Daily Times : 27th November


Suffolk libraries facing major funding cuts




Brixton Buzz : 27th November

Lambeth Council Cabinet to consider minor tinkerings for bonkers book-ish gyms




Accrington Observer : 27th November

Lancashire | Cuts programme gets green light – but fight to save our libraries goes on





Coventry Telegraph : 27th November

Plan for £5m cuts to libraries, toilets & jobs approved for consultation






The Argus : 27th November

Revealed: Where the axe will fall on Brighton and Hove City Council’s £68m cuts over next five years

Scroll down to – LIBRARIES





The National: 27th November

Unions in warnings over Edinburgh council cuts




THE BOOKSELLER : 26th November

Reading Agency reveals Summer Reading fall

but “more than 60,000 children joined a local library as a result”





Here is the latest library and reading news:


26th November



Libraries Taskforce : 26th November

Blog – Kathy Settle | Our first six months




Libraries Taskforce: six month progress report April – September 2015




Brixton Blog : 26th November

Gym-trification: Lambeth’s dodgy scheme to turn libraries into gyms parodied in Private Eye




Horncastle News : 26th November

Councillors make recommendation on who should run Lincolnshire library service




Coventry Observer : 26th November

Coventry Council set to ponder cuts to city libraries




Rossendale Free Press : 26th November

Lancashire | Volunteers may be needed to save our libraries and museum



The Courier : 26th November



Councillors express concerns over plans to close libraries in Fife

http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/fife/councillors-express-concerns-over-plans-to-close-libraries-in-fife-1.912575 |


Daily Post : 26th November

Anglesey’s Market Hall revamp (to create a new library) poised for go-ahead





25th November




THE BOOKSELLER : 25th November

Report highlights “concerning” gender pay gap in library sector




THE BOOKSELLER : 25th November

ACE ‘astonished’ by increase in funding




CILIP : 25th November

Autumn Statement is “perfect storm” for libraries warns CILIP



THE GUARDIAN : 25th November

Local councils warn of critical funding crisis as £18bn grant is scrapped




Brixton Blog : 25th November

Lambeth Library consultation ‘fake’ charge campaigners





Portsmouth News : 25th November

Hampshire County Council accused of holding ‘phony’ consultation into cuts to library service



Horncastle News : 25th November



Fears for community hub after ‘£10k bill’

Lincolnshire County Council has been accused of “murdering” library services after a community hub surviving on a ‘shoestring’ claims it was slapped with a £10,000 business rates bill.



BBC News : 25th November

Two Brighton libraries introduce out-of-hours service



Manchester Evening News : 25th November


Manchester Central Library to be the home of a Google ‘Digital Garage’




24th November


Times Series : 24th November


Barnet council leader defends approach to outsourcing



Lancaster Guardian : 24th November

Lancaster and Morecambe children’s centres, libraries and day care centres hit list




23rd November


THE BOOKSELLER : 23rd November


Book trade braced for Spending Review cuts

Alan Gibbons well quoted




Lancashire Evening Post : 23rd November

Barbarians both burn and balance the books








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