Maghull – The 1955 opening of its County Secondary School (Ormonde Drive)

My good friend Robbie Fenton has loaned me her copy of the brochure produced for the opening ceremony of what was called at the time (June 1955) Maghull County Secondary School. She was 12 years old and participated in the ceremony as part of the school choir. Robbie has lived in Maghull and Lydiate all of her life and has been a local councillor I might add.

I’ve scanned the brochure and here it is, a document very much of its time:-

The school looks very different now as the building that was the subject of this 1955 opening ceremony was demolished recently to be replaced by a brand new one:-

Maghull High in March 2019 as construction of the new main school building was ongoing.

My thanks to Robbie for sharing the document as it’s very interesting to me personally and I’m sure those who have attended the school over the years. I was there 1969 to 1975 and am now a Governor of the school. And my favourite teacher? Jack Petty every time. He taught Geography and History in the first two years I was there and after that craft. He was an expert builder of Christmas displays and he would build one every year mainly from polystyrene in the foyer of the 1955 building. They were beautiful with motorised figures and my old school mate Pete Roberts only mentioned them to me recently. I learned a lot from Jack.

Click on the photos and documents to enlarge them

Rashford, feeding children & UBI

That Marcus Rashford has highlighted the fact that even in 2020 too many children live in such poverty that they don’t have sufficient nutritional food to eat is a given. His well known solution is to try to get government to provide free school meals in school holidays, a battle he won for the last summer holidays but is presently losing for the next Christmas holidays. The BBC has the latest on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/54550587

I support his campaign but is it really a long term solution to fix child poverty? Is it not just another sticking plaster for our failed welfare system?

My view is that we need to be looking towards a solution that does not require high profile campaigners to launch a renewed fight before every school holiday to ensure children eat well. In short we need to revolutionise the way our society runs so that we really do tackle poverty properly. Form me there’s only one way to do that and it’s a rather obvious solution which has been talked about for many years – Universal Basic Income or UBI.

Yes I know that those on the right of UK politics will straight away will say things like ‘how on earth will we pay for it?’ or even ‘I’m not paying for it through my taxes’. Yes UBI will be expensive but at it’s core it’s about trying to say goodbye to poverty once and for all. And yes I also know that many on the left oppose UBI (Kier Starmer for one) but it is gathering ground amongst politicians who see themselves as being progressives, including many liberals and some socialists.

That UBI has gained such significant traction in recent times amongst liberals has even surprised me as a radical social Liberal of the left because often liberals, particularly those with a middle class background, can be fearful of promoting a social policy that has taxation implications. Maybe it’s a sign that liberals and progressives across the political spectrum are finally realising that fighting poverty by chucking crumbs off the table to the poor has never solved and indeed never will solve the poverty that’s so endemic in our broken UK society.

Good luck to Rashford, a wealthy man from a poor background who really does want to do some good for those with nothing. However, if we back what he’s doing let’s do it in a way that brings about a more permanent solution to poverty rather than engaging in a regular battle with government about whether children will eat in the next school holiday. As I say the solution is rather obvious – UBI.

NI report shines religion in a poor educational light

I’ve come to regard religion as something that individuals should choose to either follow or not. It’s not something to be handed down from one generation to another just as it should not be the norm to follow the same politics as your parents. Individuals can grow into much more rounded citizens if they make such choices themselves.

The report, linked below, on the effect of religious governance of schools therefore interested me:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-54063908

I was brought up in my Dad’s religion, baptised and confirmed into his religion and I went along with it not thinking or knowing of any alternatives until I was about 15. Around that time I recall looking at my religious world which, whilst not being a big part of my life, did mean I was in a church choir and I wondered why I was doing it. I talked to a friend who was to a lesser degree following his parents religion and we both wondered why we were following a similar path.

Me sat in my old choir stall at Sefton Church. I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves me well of course – it was 47 years ago!

This thinking led us both to walk away from religion as being something which was not for us, although we removed religion from our lives politely and certainly not in away to offend others who held strong religious beliefs.*

I can’t say I’ve ever looked back and regretted that move indeed the older I get the more I feel I did the right thing for me.

I got married in a church, of my (former) and my wife’s religion, because that was what my wife wanted and we had our daughter baptised for a similar reason. However, that’s where any religious direction for our youngster ceased. The religious, political and pretty much everything else direction she then took in her life has been her decision and hers alone. As far as I’m concerned such is her business and not mine.

Having read this far you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not at all keen on religious schools** being used by parents to reinforce their own religious beliefs upon their children. Education is all about bringing well rounded citizens to adulthood with the skills to be able to be a part of society and the knowledge to be able to gain and hold onto jobs, it’s not about religion. Having said that I’ve no problem whatsoever with youngsters being taught about world religions, what they each believe in and why some people choose to follow them, indeed to understand how society works such knowledge is vital.

All these thoughts came to me having read the article linked above about how schools are governed in Northern Ireland. Whilst the situation there is unique in the UK due to historic religious/political intolerance it’s nice to see that calm and sober assessment of how the mainly religious NI schools are run will probably lead to change for the better, although such change will sadly take far too long to come about.

* Ludovic Kennedy’s book published in 1999 ‘All in the mind – A Farewell to God’ is an excellent read about losing your religion.

** I think my first primary school may have been a religious one although it may well have been chosen because it was within easy walking distance of our family home. I was only there about 18 months though and the 2 subsequent primary schools I attended were not religious based, neither was the high school I went to.

Meccano – An introduction & a visit too if you wish

The Frank Hornby Heritage Centre within Maghull’s Meadows Leisure Centre.

As a Trustee of the Maghull based charitable group the Frank Hornby Trust I found the introductory video – linked below – from Sharon Brown (National Museums Liverpool’s Land Transport Curator) very useful.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bmwqnENVdA

As a 60+ year old I can of course remember Meccano, Dinky Toys & Hornby Railways very well but younger folk may not, so the video may help connect younger generations with a huge piece of both Liverpool’s history and the toys of previous generations of their own family too.

Another view of the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre.

The Frank Hornby Heritage Centre, which is within Maghull’s Meadows Leisure Centre, is presently open to visit each Tuesday and Friday (10am to 4pm) but only with a previously made booking. This is of course due to Covid 19 restrictions. If you want to visit please e-mail t3robertson@gmail.com so that a visiting slot can be arranged.

Frank Hornby lived for most of his aldult life in Maghull on Merseyside. His 1st house (The Hollies) in Station Road has an English Heritage Blue Plaque on it and his 2nd house (Quarry Brook) which is now the 6th Form block of Maricourt High School a Maghull Town Council plaque.

Maghull & Lydiate’s ‘Berlin Wall’ & the ‘Bible’ of cycling infrastructure

In response to a previous posting about cycling infrastructure in Sefton Borough a Twitter responder (Clive Durdle) pointed me (and indeed Sefton Council) towards something called CROW. Yes, I wondered what it was too but after some Googling I realised it’s pretty much the ‘Bible’ for building cycle friendly/safe roads. And surprise, surprise (NOT) it’s a Dutch publication.

Here’s a blog posting about it:-

therantyhighwayman.blogspot.com/2019/07/crow-flow.html

And here’s a link to the publishers – by gum it’s not cheap!

crowplatform.com/product/design-manual-for-bicycle-traffic/

The new Alt JUnction

Of course, the obvious question is what manual were Sefton Council using when they designed the new junction in Maghull – A59/Northway-Liverpool Road South-Dover Road (The Alt Junction) – as I struggle to see how cycling through this brand new junction was considered at all! Frankly, I’ve yet to hear a good word about it from the pedestrians, cyclists or drivers whom I’ve spoken to. Yes, I realise it’s new and we generally don’t like change so we’re often sceptical about many new things, but this junction could start to become almost as unpopular as its much bigger brother just a few hundred yards away from it – I refer of course to the now infamous Switch Island ‘Home of traffic Accidents’.

The reason this new junction is important is because there are few crossing places across Maghull & Lydiate’s ‘Berlin Wall’ otherwise known as the A59/Northway dual carriageway (and even fewer safe ones) for pedestrians and cyclists. These are they south to north:-

* South end of Maghull adjacent to River Alt – A good pedestrian/cyclist safe crossing with traffic lights.
* The Alt Junction – Brand new but in my view far from being cyclist friendly & it’s a long walk for pedestrians.
* Hall Ln Junction – Pedestrians have high-level bridge to cross but it’s disability/cyclist unfriendly(steps).
* Damfield Ln Junction – Another high-level safe walking bridge but it’s disability/cyclist unfriendly (steps again).
* Westway/Eastway Junction – A pedestrian subway which cyclists are discouraged/banned from using.**
* Dodds Ln Junc’ – A good pedestrian crossing with traffic lights separate to the non-traffic lighted junction.
* Kenyons Ln Junction – Traffic lighted but no pedestrian phase & lights often do not recognise waiting cyclists.
* Robins Island – Traffic island with no pedestrian crossing facilities or safe access onto cycle paths.

The distance between the most southerly A59 crossing and Robins Island is @2.25 miles the vast majority of which is through two highly populated suburban communities, except the Kenyons Ln – Robins Island section. What’s more a large proportion of community facilities – Town Hall, Leisure Centre, Library, Frank Hornby Museum, Police Station, Health Centre, Industrial Estate, Recycling Centre, Main Shopping Centre and Lydiate Village Centre – are all on the western side of it. Maghull’s 2 railway stations being on the east side together with 2 of the 3 local high schools*. My point being, there are many reasons why Maghull & Lydiate folk have to cross this busy major road each and every day and the crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists are far from adequate.

We all know we should be walking and cycling more to help us to be fitter/healthier and of course to save the planet but the way Maghull & Lydiate has been set up/planned in effect encourages vehicle use simply because of the lack of safe/accessible crossing facilities associated with it’s very own ‘Berlin Wall’.

On that basis why has the most recently rebuilt junction on ‘The Wall’ been built with cycling facilities all but excluded? Has Sefton Council got a copy of CROW and if so is it simply gaining dust on a shelf in some out of the way storeroom?

* The local primary schools are split 4 on the east side, 5 on the west

** The pedestrian only subway looks like this:-

It could be adapted for pedestrians and cyclists like this one in York:-

I would be interested to hear what others think about shared space subways in cycling unfriendly Maghull, Sefton Borough or elsewhere.

OFQUAL – What’s made me cross this week – A guest posting from Bob Robinson

Timandra Harkness’s verdict, writing in Unherd is coruscating; and boy, when she coruscates it stings. Her view is unequivocal, she states that OFQUAL’s mathematical model for allocating A level grades was a prejudice machine.

“Any one individual’s achievements so far, or their potential in the view of teachers who know them, had less influence on their eventual results than the attainments of others who attended the same school in past years. It’s closer to buying car insurance than taking an exam for which you have worked for nearly two years. Just enter postcode, make, and model and we will predict your likelihood of making a claim, and hence your premium.”

unherd.com/2020/08/how-ofqual-failed-the-algorithm-test/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups%5b0%5d=18743&tl_period_type=3

The current hiatus was not supposed to happen. The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) had volunteered to help with what is a complex multivariate analysis. Getting it right depends on clear recognition of the difference between correlation and causation. Just because two numbers move in the same direction it does not mean that they are directly-linked. It is the difference between A happens at the same time as B and A happens because of B. This is known in the trade as a “nonsense” or “spurious” correlation. There is a rigorous process for rooting out such anomalies.

(If you have time to spare it is worthwhile watching Professor Alex Edmond’s masterclass on the dangers of spurious correlation www.ted.com/talks/alex_edmans_what_to_trust_in_a_post_truth_world#t-443345 )

The RSS proposed two distinguished practitioners but found themselves rebuffed by OFQUAL who raised a requirement to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements which would have prevented the experts from commenting on the results for five years. The RSS felt this to be an unreasonable constraint on the dissemination of the broader key lessons that might emerge.

QFQUAL said in response “Throughout the process we have had an expert advisory group in place, first meeting with them in early April. The group includes independent members drawn from the statistical and assessment communities. The advisory group has provided advice, guidance, insight and expertise as we developed the detail of our standardisation approach”.

Based upon the evidence of the last few days would OFQUAL now care to name its advisers and advice etc. from the statistical and assessment community? In exams – this is known as “please show your workings”.

This has been a massive Systems Crash. What we to talk about here is akin to a plane crash enquiry – nothing can ever put a crashed plane back in the air but assembling the pieces bit by bit and evaluating the black box results means that such a disastrous event will not be replicated. Although it might be considered expedient to move the (not yet immune) herd along – this is not “a nothing to see here/one off” situation. Pending the arrival of an effective vaccine, we must be prepared for the medium- and long-term effects of Coronavirus on the education and examinations systems. We cannot assume that this month’s exam results are the only ones that might be impacted. The development of publicly accepted, statistically robust, evaluation systems must be a priority.

Everybody understood the need not to let the Coronavirus overwhelm the NHS – we cannot permit splash back into other critical systems. If only somebody, somewhere could have a light bulb moment and say to both OFQUAL and the RSS – can you please get together and fix this?