Friday, 25 July 2014

Extra curricular provision in foreign languages for young children in Hyndburn

I recently wrote to LCC to ask about extra curricular provision in foreign languages for young children, particularly Mandarin and Spanish. I am now writing to all the head teachers in the constituency.

In 20 years time when most of these young children are beginning their working life the world will have moved on significantly. There is no getting away from the fact that the world will appear a smaller placed and than China long with other developing countries will have have far greater commercial and social ties to the rest of the world. China's growing economic dominance is something our children need to prepare themselves for.

Lancashire County Council have forwarded an informative reply acknowledging the importance and highlighting the opportunities that are available to schools in the constituency to support language development.
(Scan to text) Dear Graham I am writing in response to your request for information on extra curricular primary foreign languages support and opportunities in Hyndburn and Haslingden.

There is a strong tradition of primary language learning in the authority with a range of languages being offered in schools from the traditional French to Mandarin, Portuguese and of course Asian heritage languages. We agree that learning foreign languages is an increasingly important skill our children need to acquire in order to not only compete in the jobs market of the future but also to enhance their understanding and tolerance of other cultures and promote community cohesion.

Our languages team has established close links (since 2009) with the Confucius institute based at UcLAN in Preston and through this link numerous visits and exchanges to China have taken place. The Confucius institute offers fully funded visits for senior leaders/teachers and pupils (language courses) in schools to Beijing (next one October 2014);

To date:-
27 primary schools
28 secondary schools
100 staff
68 pupils
9 consultants/advisers

have taken pad in these visits in total including 4 high schools in the Hyndburn and Haslingden areas and 4 primaries. Last week we had our first resultant school to school link in East Lancashire and the institute wishes to find more partner schools in Lancashire.

The lnstitute also offers:
A wide range of cultural events and activities for schools to attend;
Chinese taster days;
Chinese language tutors (at cost to the school)
Schools can contact the Confucius lnstitute for any help

Many of the secondary schools have used their experience from these visits to offer Mandarin to their feeder primary schools. Some have set up networks in order to spread this opportunity more widely.

We also have strong links to the lnstituto Cervantes in Manchester and the Consejerla de Espafra. The lnstituto Cervantes offers a wide range of courses and events which schools can access. They can help with Spanish days in schools and training activities for teachers and provide the posters and materials that motivate and enthuse children by bringing the culture into the classroom.

They are also open to any ideas of ways in which they can help with primary Spanish and will come into schools if requested. This is a great way to ensure our children meet authentic speakers of the language and participate in activities to stimulate their interest in all things Spanish.

Schools are made aware of all these opportunities through direct mailing via our portal, presentations from cultural organisations at Lancashire courses and training events and through newsletters.
Lancashire provides support and guidance to all our schools. This includes specialist language training to enable teachers to deliver activities/cultural days, celebrate the European Day of Languages and set up links with schools abroad as well as training on pedagogy and methodology. We also offer schools the opportunity of employing a Foreign Language Assistant (FLA) (including from China at a reduced cost and Spain) through the British Council FLA exchange which the Authority administers on behalf of the British Council. It is of course a matter for the schools themselves to decide which language they will deliver as part of the school curriculum and which additional language(s) they might like to offer as extra curricular activities. We endeavour to offer as much support and guidance as we can to facilitate these opportunities to our schools. l'm sure you will agree there is much going on and much to celebrate across
Lancashire schools.
Lancashire County Council

Thursday, 24 July 2014

More Sport for All Consultation

More Sport for All Consultation

Harriet Harman has published the More Sport for All consultation to support everyone, from children through to the elderly, to do more sport and physical activity.

People's love of sport and enjoyment of it make it an important issue for public policy. Sport helps make us healthy, brings communities together, contributes to the economy and brings our country together when we back our sportsmen and women. The consultation document More Sport for All explores how everyone, from children through to the elderly, can be supported to do more sport and physical activity. You can read a full copy of the speech via

Electoral Commision annouce there are 7.5m people missing off the electoral register

I received this letter from my colleague Chris Ruane which he has asked MP's to circulate more widely. It was my question on the floor of the House of Commons on 18 June 2012 which revealed for the first time that the government accepted a figure them of 6 million unregistered voters.

The Electoral Commissions announcement today is that there are 7.5m people missing off the electoral register. For the 650 constituencies that's an average of 11,538 per constituency. In Hyndburn Borough (excluding Haslingden) this will be an average of circa 9,000.

Back in October 2011 those on the Council Tax list but who were unregistered where added to the electoral register iincrassing the register by approximately 2,500.

Correction - This week I have also discovered that in Hyndburn Borough it is estimated through data matching is some 9,000 unregistered voters that some 9,000 voters on the current register, who are currently registered but who cannot be (ID) matched with other national data sets (DWP etc..) will need to re-register under the new individual voter registration system that begins in ernest after the General Election. That figure following further data matching has now been revised to 5121. 

Summer childcare costs rising under cameron - more pressure for struggling parent

Under David Cameron childcare costs are soaring and the availability of childcare is plummeting, causing a summer of misery for many parents trying to balance work and family life in the holidays.

But while families facing a cost-of-living crisis come under more and more pressure, this Government has no plan to support families struggling with their childcare before the next election.

New analysis by the Labour Party shows that, under David Cameron, the cost of childcare during the summer holidays has spiralled upwards by 16 per cent – four times faster than wages. This means that parents will have to fork out an additional £100 per child for their summer childcare, compared to 2010.

I know my own childcare will cost around £1260 over the six weeks holiday.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Reply from LCC - Provision of trains for the Todmorden Curve

I have received a reply on the provison of a train for the Todmorden Curve and it appears that there will now be further delays beyond December.

I know a a diesel carriage has been uding the new track, presumedly testing it however LCC advise that the track won't be commissioined until November.

There is still the outstanding issue of a diesel train which is going to be cascaded down from the newly electrified Manchester to Liverpool line however there are now delays and slippage in the planned completion date. Importantly I want to know whether these carriages will require refurbishment or should they be refurbisehd before being 'handed down'.

Incredibly Northern Rail have neglected to train enough staff including drivers. A company hoping to extend their current franchise which is up for tender in 2015. The lack of drivers will almost certainly delay the new service until the spring of next year.

I am also concerned about pricing and ticketing in general. Given LCC will be the sponsor of the service it is crucial it is not used a revenue raising project but that the various fares encourage mobility.

I have written to LCC to meet with staff to dicuss theses and oither issues including the East Lancs line which also runs through the constituency.

A summary of the NPF last weekend.

At the National Policy forum at the weekend the Labour Party agreed a program for Government which will deliver big reforms, not big spending.

By building a consensus the Party have produced one of the most radical policy platforms of any political party in recent years including:

• Increasing the minimum wage by more than average earnings
• An end to the abuse of zero-hours contracts
• Skills and careers for all our young people and new technical degrees
• Cutting business rates for small businesses
• A freeze on energy bills until 2017
• 200,000 homes built a year by 2020
• Three year tenancies, predictable rents, an end to letting fees
• 25 hours free childcare, paid for by a higher levy on the banks
• Abolishing the bedroom tax
• Restoring our National Health Service

This Policy platform has developed out a process which has reached beyond the narrow confines of Westminster – drawing on ideas developed by the grass roots through our online policy hub and meetings across the country.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fwd: Ofcom advice: Don't get stung by mobile phone bills when abroad this summer

Ofcom advice:

Don't get stung by a high mobile phone bill this summer

Summer holidays are just around the corner for many, and with mobile internet access and Wi-Fi it's never been easier to stay in touch with what's going on at home and upload photos to share with friends.  Also, new roaming charges (effective from 1 July) will make it cheaper to use your mobile phone when travelling abroad in the European Union.
However, coming back from holiday to a huge mobile phone bill can be a nasty surprise. Using your phone overseas can cost considerably more than it does at home, particularly if you want to surf the web a lot or check or send a number of emails.  

What you can do to avoid a bill shock:
  • If you want to use your phone lots check what packages your provider offers, considering buying an international SIM card or buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM when you reach your destination;
  • Turn off data roaming. You can run up a big bill without actively using your phone as smartphones and tablet computers automatically seek out mobile connections and use them to update apps. It's easy to turn it off and we have video guides to show you how.
  • If you are travelling outside of the EU, you may want to switching off your voicemail as you may be charged every time a message is left while you are abroad.
  • If you want to use the internet abroad use local Wi-Fi hot spots rather than your phone's mobile internet connection. Some phone apps seek out hot spots and alert you to them automatically.
  • If you are going to use your phone's internet connection instead of Wi-Fi avoid data heavy activities such as watching videos or downloading music.  Also, when checking emails avoid opening large attachments. 
What are the rules?
  • All mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once you have used €50 (excluding VAT) – around £40 – of data per month, wherever you travel in the world unless you choose to opt out.
  • You may be prompted to opt out by your provider if, for example, you purchase a large data roaming bundle which would take you over the €50 limit. If you're not sure whether you have been asked to opt out, make sure you check with your provider.
  • If you don't opt out of the limit, the provider must send you an alert when you reach 80% and then 100% of the agreed data roaming limit. Operators must stop charging for data at the 100% point, unless you agree to continue to use data.
Our advice guide provides top tips for using a mobile abroad including advice on how to keep phones safe and what to do if your phone is lost or stolen. 
Please share this information and our advice guide with your constituents via blog, press release and twitter to ensure they know how to avoid a bill shock this summer.
Helen Barker
Manager, Government & Parliamentary Business
020 7981 3960
Twitter: @ofcomparliament

:: Ofcom
 Riverside House
  2a Southwark Bridge Road
  London SE1 9HA 
  020 7981 3000

Licensing of Scrap Metal Dealers a success in Hyndburn

I led the cmapiagn with the ENA in Parliament to licence scrap metal dealers. That legistaion was taken forward by the government and became law in October 2013. From the 1st October 2013 all scrap metal dealers (site operators and collectors) must have a licence to operate.

According to British Transport Police and BT metal theft is down by almost 60%. The government failed to implement changes to tackle international metal theft with organised crime remaining the major criminal activity in the theft of metal.

Locally Hyndburn's Labour Council has successfully launched the scheme across the Borough with some early success.

To date 19 scrap metal dealers licences have been issued. Five licence applications have been refused on the grounds that the applicant was not considered suitable to hold a licence. Following joint operations with the Police two collectors have been successfully prosecuted for operating as unlicensed dealers in the Borough.

According to theCouncil's record there may be circa 20 potential dealers in the Borough that could be operating without a licence. In conjunction with the Police they are investigating these further to determine the exact nature of their business activities and assess whether they will need to apply for a licence.

It is certainly ther case that the number of dubious vehicles, often identified with theft from private property driving around Hyndburn and Haslingden has been significently reduced.