The announcement by Education Secretary Justine Greening that £159m is being invested in Yorkshire’s schools is welcome news. According to Rotherham-born Ms Greening, this money will help create nearly 20,000 extra school places in the county by 2020 and give the go-ahead to upgrade and expand 141 school buildings.
It is, the Education Secretary trumpeted, part of the Government’s plan to ensure that every young person in Yorkshire “has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”
These are noble sentiments and while this money will go some way to addressing the urgent needs of some of our crumbling schools, the allocation of funds for school places and buildings is not new money, instead it draws on funding from the 2015 spending review.
Don’t forget we have had similar promises of funding for school buildings before that failed to materialise. It’s now seven years since the former coalition government did away with the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme that led to school rebuilding programmes being shelved in six areas of Yorkshire.
This latest investment pledge comes at a time when four North Yorkshire primary schools are facing closure with fears that more could follow. The fact of the matter is that demand for school places is increasing all the time which means that schools and class sizes continue to grow.
Extra places are needed simply to keep pace with a rising school-age population and to create places in a new wave of planned for grammar schools. Equally, head teachers say the money for buildings does nothing for the “black hole” in day-to-day running costs.
Great teachers can change lives. But to do so they must be equipped with resources that are fit for purpose - which is why any investment in our educational bricks and mortar ultimately has to be applauded.
Parking problems - Councils letting down drivers
Receiving a parking ticket is a stressful moment for any motorist – but particularly so when it is unwarranted. It is completely right to expect drivers to stick to the rules of the road, but neither should they be unfairly punished if they haven’t done anything wrong.
New figures published today show the extent to which parking wardens can get it wrong in the region, with more than 13,000 people across Yorkshire successfully appealing against tickets they had been issued with.
In North Yorkshire, more than half of the 11,000 appeals made between January and October were successful, while between 30 and 40 per cent of parking fines were scrapped on appeal by councils in Scarborough, Calderdale, Kirklees, Sheffield and Rotherham.
Experts say that even after having a challenge rejected by the council, around 50 per cent of drivers who make a further appeal to the independent Traffic Penalty Tribunal are successful. Equally, many motorists subjected to parking fines are put off from contesting the charge because of the threat of having to pay more should the appeal fail.
Often, problems with overzealous parking wardens are down to inadequate signage that confuses motorists not deeply familiar with the street they are attempting to park in.
A pragmatic approach is needed from councils who rake in huge amounts each year from such fines. If parking penalties are to be imposed, they have a duty to ensure it is entirely clear to motorists where they are banned from leaving their vehicles. Upholding the law has to be a two-way street.
Egg on trust’s face - Hunt row sends wrong message
An unholy row has broken out after the National Trust dropped the word Easter from its annual egg hunt in favour of the name of sponsor Cadbury.
In previous years, the events at 300 National Trust properties have been known as ‘Easter Egg Trails’ but are now being referred to as ‘Cadbury Egg Hunts’. The row has now embroiled Prime Minister Theresa May, who has referred to the National Trust’s position as ‘frankly ridiculous’; while the Church of England accused the Trust of adding Easter references to its website overnight in a failed bid to reduce criticism.
The National Trust says it is ‘nonsense’ that it has downplayed the meaning of the festival but the simple fact remains that commercialisation has trumped the religious symbolism of new life provided by Easter eggs.
The sad truth of the matter is the stance of both the National Trust and Cadbury is turning what should be a joyful occasion for thousands of families into a political football.