Follow the action!

For all (well, most) of the action as it happens, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, 25 January 2008

Lions' Grand effort for Jessie May Trust

At their January dinner on Wednesday, the Brunel Lions Club presented the Jessie May Trust with a cheque for £1000.

The Jessie May Trust was set up to care for children who due to terminal illness will not have a long life. It also provides crucial support and care for their families.

Andrew Shaw, a Trustee of the Jessie May Trust gave an inspiring account of the Trust's work, before being presented with a cheque by John Taylor, from Brunel Lions.

The Lions Club supports many local and national charities. To get involved call John on 0117 9501511 or Bill on 0117 9420242

To donate to the Jessie May Trust go to , call 0117 961 6840 , or email

Thursday, 24 January 2008

On a Roll in Southmead

Surveying the quality of cafes and pubs around Bristol NW is a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

'On A Roll' in Southmead, (Arnside Road, just off Greystoke Avenue) dished up a very substantial, and very fine tuna jacket potato at a very reasonable price. I was reliably told by the proprietor that I had chosen wrong and should have gone for the pork-spicy-bean extravaganza filling. I suspect those I went to talk to after may be glad I didn't. The tuna jacket was a good hearty helping, with proper crisp salad.

'On A Roll' is open 8am-5pm, Monday - Friday, and 9am-4pm on Saturdays. They are thinking of opening on Sundays too, if there is demand - so show your support and pop in. You'll have a very warm welcome, and lovely food at a price you can afford. What more can you ask?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Boycott Cadburys

I will be boycotting Cadbury's products in protest against the decision to close down the Cadbury factory in Keynsham. It's not an excuse to diet after Christmas excess: Closing the factory is against the ethos of its founders who were Quakers, is a blow for Bristol and for Britishness. We produce some of the finest chocolate in the world. Australian and American friends ask me to send them British-made Cadburys because nothing else can compare. Cadbury bosses should realise that it is that kind of quality that has made Cadbury's the success it is today. I cannot see that relocating the factory to Poland makes any financial sense at all. It is bad business sense, bad for Bristol and bad for chocolate lovers everywhere.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Congratulations Bristol Drugs Project!

Congratulations to Bristol Drugs project - who hosted a reception last night, with a surprise twist. The morning of the event, they found out that they had been given a massive boost to funds from the department of health.

In the past, Bristol has had well under its share of funding, so when I talked to Maggie Telfer (above, left) who heads BDP, they were excited about the tremendous opportunities that will now be opened up to them.

But for me the most memorable part of the evening was hearing the account of ex-user, Mark, of how BDP had helped him. Hearing first hand what life coming off drugs is about made the funding figures ( on the big pink screen behind us) jump out and become real people, real lives. Thanks Mark, and well done, BDP.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

SEN: The truth about Inclusion

You may have recently read in the The Observer (National) or the Daily Telegraph about a report I co-authored for The Bow Group on Special Educational Needs and inclusion. I looked at the results for children educated in mainstream schools, and the results were shocking. Whilst inclusion is right for some children with SEN, under the current system, Inclusion for many actually means exclusion.

The report found that children on the 'School Action Plus' scheme ( for children who would previously have been likely to have statements before the Government started pushing to reduce statementing) are twice as likely to truant as any other children with SEN, and a FIFTH of them are persistent truants.

When it comes to exlcusions, although children with SEN make up just 17% of the school population, they account for 67% of all expulsions.
And for the first time, in secondary schools over half of all suspensions were of children with SEN.

When it came into power, the Labour Government pushed for a reduction in statementing, and accordingly, statements fell by a third. Even assessments for statements fell by a third so many children didn't have the chance to find out whether they were eligible for statements. Special schools were strangulated and we have lost 9000 special school places since 1997.

One of the Government's ideas, set out in the 'Inclusive Schooling' document in 2001, was to put children with SEN into Pupil Referral Units, (PRUs), to keep pupils in mainstream schooling, or instead of special schools. Accordingly, numbers of SEN pupils in PRUs has rocketed by 70% since 1997.

What a mistake. In it's last annual report, (para. 290) Ofsted found that PRUs were the worst place for children with SEN, and no substitute for a special school. No wonder. Over half of all pupils are suspended from PRUs, and 3/4 of those are children with SEN.

Of all children with SEN who go to PRUs, two thirds end up suspended.

This is the alarming result of the Government's 'Inclusion' policy. We all believe in inclusion, but inclusion must be judged not by which building a child is educated in, but by the standard of education and life they receive. And on that measure, the Government's inclusion policy has failed.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


(Slightly belatedly and still full of Christmas cake.)

Appalling lack of blogging over the festive period. My brother has a wii, which he brought back with him for Christmas with my parents. After most of the family injured their arms, getting over-zealous on the bowling game, 'The Legend of Zelda' took over any time which I would have spend blogging. However, between Christmas and the New Year, I freed all the monkeys in the forest temple, so obviously not time wasted.

I think it's important to have a break if you can over Christmas and New Year. There are not many times of the year when you can really stop and think about the year past and the year to come and spend time with family. So half-hearted apologies for being silent on the blog front - but of course, now the Christmas decorations are down and normal life begins, no excuse!

Happy New Year and the very best for 2008.