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?

Liverpool – Do you want to zip to the library?

View from inside Liverpool Central Library’s domed glass roof to the outside viewing area.

Liverpool Business News has the story on its web site – see link below:-

lbndaily.co.uk/zip-world-changes-plans-enough/

When I first heard about a zip wire from the top of St Johns Beacon to the roof of Liverpool Central Library I thought it was akin to an April 1st story, a wind-up, a bit of leg pulling so to speak. But no it turned out to be a a real plan with a real planning application.

View of St. Johns Beacon from roof of Liverpool Central Library

Now call me old fashioned but what on earth have a zip wire and a library got in common? I’ve got nothing against zip wires what so ever but there’s a place for everything and a library is simply not such a place. The roof terrace of this particular library affords views across the City and an opportunity to view them in relative peace and quiet.

View towards Empire Theatre from roof of Liverpool Central Library

Sadly, I have spent far too many hours campaigning to save and protect libraries from closure; fights that were lost due to austerity and not a little political intransigence. Yes of course libraries need updating and Liverpool Central Library is an excellent example of such modernisation. However, the calmness of a library is what makes it so special particularly in our stressful and noisy society. Compromising that peace and quiet is just wrong in my view.

Another view over the City from Central Library’s roof

WINTER IS COMING – A guest posting by Bob Robinson

“They think it’s all over” – the crowds have flocked to beaches and beauty spots. Pubs and restaurants have reopened albeit with social distancing and face masks – Life is slowly getting back to normal. Come September, children will go back to school. The Government’s strategy is to engineer an economic and a public health recovery and deliver Brexit – a massive economic restructuring exercise. Punchy three-word injunctions, a time honoured oratorial stand-by are back in vogue. I use 3WI’s myself – as you may have noticed this includes the title of my piece. 3WI’s ring a bell.

I just heard a bell ring. One of London’s best kept secrets is Gresham College – situated at Baynard’s Inn on High Holborn, close to Hatton Garden. Gresham College was founded in 1597, It has been providing free lectures within the City of London for over 400 years. They invite distinguished academics, who all share the ability to explain complex issues.. A recent speaker was Sir Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, the UK Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care and head of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Unlike his appearances next to the Prime Minister in Downing Street, Professor Witty was given an hour and a half to explain the context and challenges of COVID. He is blessed with the talent of making things you know are complicated and iterative intelligible. He does justice to the scale of the challenge. In addition to speaking about the current pandemic, he drew on the experience of previous pandemics, In particular, he spoke of pandemics that have occurred (a)in a number of waves and that (b) the number of infections in the second and third waves were often greater than that of the first. Spanish Flu killed more people in the United States in the second wave in two months in 1918 than the first wave in 1917. A harsh reality may be about to dawn on us that “it’s not over until it’s over”.

Having set the scene Chris Witty deployed his “Game of Thrones” 3WI – “Winter is Coming”. He drew attention to the facts that diagnosis and isolation will be more difficult. We already appreciate that multi- generational families and those with poor quality homes or no homes face greater difficulties in coping with COVID. The NHS and all other health systems are always under greater pressure in the winter. He also drew attention to the increased risks associated with age and the correlation between age/obesity and death.

But the key 3WI message I drew was that in addition to COVID is “Complacency Can Kill”

You can see Professor Witty’s lecture and read his supporting documents here:

www.gresham.ac.uk/about/
www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/covid-19
s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/content.gresham.ac.uk/data/binary/3292/2020-04-30_Whitty_t.pdf

Can I urge you to watch, learn and inwardly digest?