Sunday, 27 September 2015

Dolcino - a little Italian flair comes to Loughborough

Nick the Greek
When I was growing up in the late 1980's and early '90's every July for three weeks my life would become dominated by the multi-coloured explosion of lycra, mirrored sunglasses and dramatic scenery that is the Tour de France.

For half an hour every evening I became totally engrossed with a young Gary Imlach, a presenter who for many young boys bought the exotic race to life for the very first time.

In those pre-Team Sky days, when anyone suggesting a future British dominance of the sport would be classed as a lunatic, the overwhelming dominant force of the race was a giant of a man, a Spaniard named Miguel Indurain.

It was said that 'Big Mig's' resting heart rate was a low as 29 beats per minute and during time trials his metronomic dominance was legendary, but he was never a hero.

Whilst Indurain inevitably always won the race no one really wanted to be him. No, there was a group of swashbuckling gladiator types who given the chance every young man would seek to emulate.

Claudio Chiappucci, with the awe inspiring nickname 'El Diablo', world road race champion Gianni Bugno, the 'Lion King' (and ever so slightly egocentric) Mario Cipollini and the little pirate Marco Pantani were all legends of the sport and they all had one thing in common. They were Italian.

Being an Italian cyclist was, to us mere mortals, the ultimate in swashbuckling, temperamental and yet genius sporting heroes. In our minds eye, whether they ever did or did not, we always saw those gladiators of the road riding just one make of bicycle, the sleek and beautiful Bianchi.

It's no surprise then that as I was growing up in the every so mundane East Midlands over in Italy a whole generation of young boys were equally as in love with those iconic Celeste turquoise cycles, the ultimate in speed and handling.

Design classic
To the initiated the legendary Bianchi green colour scheme is the first thing that strikes you as you enter Loughborough's newest eating spot, Dolcino, at 4 Cattle Market.
One of those young lads has now become a forty-something entrepreneur but the romanticism of his youthful love of cycling has at least played a part in the design of his new gelateria and diner. Not to mention the two vintage cycles and other iconic Italian design classics adorning the restaurant, the turquoise Vespa scooter centrepiece is a wonderful case in point.

Dolcino isn't a themed restaurant but rather has sought inspiration from the same ethos that developed those wonderful cycling machines.

Just like the legendary bikes, dishes are made using the best ingredients and with more than their fair share of flair.

Crepe's and waffles are imaginative, try the delicious 'Nick the Greek made with falafel, humus, cherry tomatoes, guacamole, red onions and black olives, whilst never being too filling that you can't make room for dessert.

Coffee is imported and authentic and quite probably the best in town. Alongside all of the usual latte's and cappuccino's you will find the short affogato, vanilla gelato topped with an espresso shot, or premium milk shakes.


It is, of course, the gelato and sorbets that makes Dolcino special. A constant rotation of flavours including the all time favorites such as vanilla and chocolate are regularly supplemented by tastes a little out of the ordinary, maybe try pear, cherry bakewell or if you are feeling particularly adventurous avocado with chopped nuts?

Of course Dolcino, just like the cycles that provided at least a part of the inspiration, isn't the cheapest place in the world but just like those legendary bikes you get the quality you pay for.

If you are looking for somewhere a little out of the ordinary a morning coffee, a light lunch or an afternoon treat you could do a great deal worse than pay a visit to Dolcino.

For further information visit

Annual conference to shape Labour's vision for Britain - my Catholic Universe column

As you settle down this morning to your post mass cup of coffee and browse through Britain’s favourite Catholic newspaper spare a thought for the thousands of people descending on Brighton for the Labour Party’s annual shindig by the sea, the Party Conference.

For the uninitiated political party conferences are either an inspiring opportunity to gather the troops for another season of conflict and campaigning or a soulless experience in all that is wrong in our political system.

Take a wander through the village of exhibitors inside the secure zone at any party conference and you cannot fail to see the real and wannabe special advisors in their best business suits forming entourages around the latest upcoming junior minister. You will see them, always, talking earnestly into their mobile phones with a ridiculous amount of self-importance about what I can only guess, but in all likelihood about where they are planning to meet up for drinks.

You will see, depending on the conference of your persuasion, hundreds of middle aged and elderly activists sporting the obligatory tweed jackets and brooches or union endorsed sweatshirts adorned with badges for every cause under the sun. All too often their main topic of discussion isn’t what their party wants to achieve but rather why the opposition is the devil incarnate, effectively and massively out of touch with the views of ordinary people.

You will be bowled over by the sheer number of stands all there with the sole purpose of influencing their business or issue on the wills of the real decision makers. In reality most of their time will be spent fending off delegates on the hunt for whatever freebies they can get their hands on.

If you look hard enough you may even spot one or two ‘ordinary’ people although in my experience upon closer inspection they tend to be venue staff.

No, when it comes to party political conferences I definitely fall into the desolate, soulless category.

But this year Labour’s conference may well be worth watching.

By any measure the two weeks following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader has been a roller coaster ride, albeit one with more downs than ups. As I sit writing this column a few days before conference I am expecting that Mr Corbyn will still be leader but really who can tell?

We’ve seen refusals to take part in major interviews, a furore over the national anthem, apologies for terrorist sympathies, and a shadow cabinet with some extraordinary appointments and seemingly with senior shadow ministers willing to openly speak out against the views of their leader. And that was just week one!

As the party has reeled from one media storm to another there has been some glimmers of hope. In the form of upcoming MP Luciana Berger Mr Corbyn has at last appointed a shadow minister for mental health, an issue increasingly becoming one of major importance throughout the country.

It is hugely pleasing to see Mr Corbyn taking a fresh approach to the issue of Prime Ministers Questions, the weekly half hour of playground behaviour most of us associate with parliament, by asking questions submitted by members of the public and fostering an atmosphere of real questions and real answers. Let’s hope such a dignified tack becomes the norm.

It is probably fair to say that as far as party conferences go this one is going to be a humdinger. Whilst the conference stage itself may well be carefully managed away from the hall we can safely expect to see reams of salacious gossip and backstabbing from those with scores to settle. It almost makes me wish I was going. Almost.

Thankfully as the party tries to recover after such a damaging leadership contest there are at least some things all activists can still agree on.

At the very top of that very short list is legislation passing through parliament right now to limit the powers of trade unions and their members.

In 1969 then Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, Barbara Castle, proposed a government white paper titled ‘In Place of Strife’. The white paper proposed a number of measures to reform the role of trade unions in the workplace, not least of which was the proposal to force unions to call a ballot before holding a strike.

In the face of a great deal of pressure from the trade unions then Prime Minister Harold Wilson forced the proposals to be dropped. It has been argued, with some justification, that had the Labour government pressed ahead with them potentially the legendary ‘Winter of Discontent’ and the rise of Mrs Thatcher would never have happened. Who can possibly tell?

The point is however that nearly 50 years later it is clearly astonishing to virtually everyone that it was possible for strikes to happen without ballots.

Undoubtedly all organisations need to refresh and reform, usually without the need for primary legislation, but there is a strong argument to be made that this government’s Trade Union Bill isn’t about a pressing public need but rather an ideological battle.

I have written in these pages before of the good trade unions, over the years, have done. They have been at the centre of workers’ rights such as paid holiday and sick pay that we now all take for granted. Trade unions do an outstanding job of representing their members when subject to erroneous or malicious allegations. I’m very proud to be a member of a trade union.

The number of days lost to industrial action is at an historic low albeit there have been isolated incidences, not least a National Union of Teacher strike reliant on a ballot over a year old, where action has rancoured with the public.

In the face of this the government are proposing hugely damaging legislation for the future of employee representation in this country.

If legislation, which faced its second reading in the Commons last week, is adopted many strike ballots will require minimum turnout and support far exceeding the levels needed to return a member of parliament to Westminster.

Unions will be required to double the notice period given to employers to take strike action as well as severely limiting the right to picket a workplace.

Employers are to be given the legal right to hire agency workers throughout employment disputes, an issue which is unlikely to help management worker relationships down the line.  

Perhaps most damaging to the future of trade unions is the seemingly innocuous suggestion of outlawing ‘check off’, the process by which employers agree to take union subscriptions directly from earnings. Of course what unions rightly fear is that in many cases when members with busy lives are faced with having to go to the trouble of setting up alternative payment methods many will simply not do so.

I have spoken to many people about the current Trade Union bill, some who are union members and some with no love for them at all. When faced with the full facts I can honestly say that I have not come across one person who thinks the great swathe of proposed reforms are absolutely necessary.

And so as I and many other Labour members express our deep reservations about the future of our party under the leadership of Mr Corbyn it is pleasing to know that there are issues on which we can all stand united, not least protecting the future of our trade union movement and the rights of workers.

With those words I will for this week draw to a close. On another note if you are going to conference see if you can pick me up a few freebies won’t you?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Call for reinstatement of local bus service

A councillor is expressing his anger at changes to a local bus service which will leave elderly and disabled residents unable to access public transport.
For years the Arriva operated number 16 service has followed it’s Thringstone route through Main Street, Glebe Road and Hensons Lane before returning to Coalville however from yesterday, 21 September, the bus company have redirected their double deckers along Loughborough and Melrose Road before exending the route to Loughborough.
County Councillor Leon Spence says ‘I’m furious. I have been contacted by so many local people who rely on this bus service. Many can’t walk the half mile or so to the new route and most don’t want to go to Loughborough, they want to go to Coalville.
‘I’ve been in contact with Arriva who tell me that the old 16 route was unprofitable but there is an important community service aspect here. We are talking here about a company whose group profits last year were £368 million and yet they are making some of the most vulnerable people in our community effectively stuck in Thringstone. It is shocking.
‘I’ve spoken with officers at County Hall to see if action can be taken to ensure this much valued local route is maintained but I’m told that there isn’t. The only suggestion forthcoming is that elderly people might use community transport, but in many cases that just isn’t practical.
‘I’m calling on Arriva to reconsider their decision even if it is necessary to reduce the frequency of the local buses. There must be a solution that is acceptable to everyone.’

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Fine words, Jeremy, but they will all be for nothing if they don't deliver you power - my Catholic Universe column

It’s over. After four interminably long, and at times excruciating, months the Labour Party’s self-selecting electorate have chosen a new leader and to say that to the political establishment the result is a shock is something of an understatement.

Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t just narrowly squeaked into the party’s top spot he has stormed it. With the best part of 60% of first preference votes cast for Mr Corbyn he received a massive 40% more than Andy Burnham, the aspiring candidate way back in second place.

Jeremy’s victory is decisive, clear and more importantly given talk of insurgents unquestionable. He and his campaign team should be congratulated for the remarkable job they have done at taking such a prized crown.

For the vast majority of apolitical observers the contest has been an interesting summer sideshow but for those who eat, sleep and breath politics from every part of the political spectrum the result is either the astonishing birth of a new type of debate or a cataclysmic example of shooting oneself in the foot in an effort to make a once great political party all but irrelevant.

For me at least as a self-identified left of centre moderate, one of the less than five per cent who supported Liz Kendal, the result is an abdication of responsibility designed to let down the poorest and socially excluded. The ones who Labour claim to seek to represent.

Let me explain. Mr Corbyn  is an indefatigable campaigner who over his long career in politics, let no one suggest he is not a ‘career’ politician, has spoken up for causes. Many of the campaigns he has been involved with, such as identifying and protesting against the horrors of South African apartheid, have been thoroughly worthwhile and should be applauded from the highest rooftop. Some of his campaigns and comments attached to them have been more than a little questionable.

At one time or another Mr Corbyn has described terrorist groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah as ‘friends’, he has claimed that the shooting of Osama Bin Laden to be a tragedy comparable with 9/11 and he called for Argentina to share governance of the Falkland Islands in direct opposition to the views of the islanders themselves and many brave servicemen who fought to keep them British.

Mr Corbyn is on record as wanting withdrawal from NATO, scrapping of Trident and the abolishment of the monarchy. Time and time again Jeremy has shown himself to be the darling of hard left political factions but significantly out of step with the views of the wider public.

Every political party needs campaigners, people on the puritanical edge of their ideology who can espouse ideas and act as conscience to the mainstream. The difficulty is that those who fill such roles are often wrong and perhaps more commonly their ideas are fairly reprehensible to the electorate in general. You only have to meet some on the far right of the Conservative party to evidence that assertion.

It is the first time ever that such an idealist campaigner has led a mainstream political party and there is a better than fair chance that the experiment will be disastrous.

Those on the left of politics often cite Clement Atlee as being a transformative Prime Minister leading a nation changing government. Indeed he was. The difficulty is that to become that type of leader required the nation and the world to go through six years of horror before such change was being cried out for.

Since Atlee only two Labour politicians have been elected as Prime Minister; Harold Wilson and Tony Blair. It is fair to say that neither of them were comfortable on the extreme wings of their party. It is probably also fair to suggest that right now far from being a leader who introduced many positive and progressive changes to our country Mr Blair is despised amongst great swathes of those voting for Mr Corbyn. In modern times there is absolutely no evidence that the far left win elections, quite the contrary – they lose them.

Following on from Labour’s shocking defeat in the General Election on May 7th, many would describe it as the worst ever for the party, a number of studies have been carried out by respected centrist think tanks and politicians asking why did things go so badly wrong?

The reasons given by respondents have been varied but two predominant themes keep recurring.

Firstly not enough people saw Ed Miliband as Prime Ministerial material, secondly Labour wasn’t trusted on the economy.

Moving forward we know that if Labour wants to become once more a party of government it must address both of those issues.

Realistically those with a vote in the leadership election needed to be asking themselves if Mr Corbyn was the person to answer them.

I’m not certain how many ordinary voters will see Mr Corbyn’s suggestions of higher taxation, anti-austerity and printing money as economic competence but I am prepared to suggest that far more will not than do.

I’m not certain how many people who, come polling day in 2020, will be able to picture Mr Corbyn on equal terms with the likes of Vladimir Putin or whoever the future President of the United States may be. I’m not sure I can.

Sadly, it seems to me at least, that many Labour members chose to take our defeat the wrong way. Despite the evidence of this and previous elections rather than questioning where things went wrong far too many slipped into a comfort blanket of suggesting we somehow weren’t pure enough, that next time if we shout louder we will be more successful.

Of course I could be wrong. The electorate in general may well be calling out for a new kind of politics. Mr Corbyn certainly falls into the same category of straight talking, anti-establishment figures as does Nigel Farage.

The only problem is that when it really matters, as it did for Mr Farage in his prime target seat of Thanet South during the General Election campaign, voters tend to say competence is more important than shooting from the hip.

Since the results of the leadership election were announced I have been revisiting in my mind Mr Corbyn’s victory. I must confess it was even on my mind a little during Sunday mass.

As I listened to the readings it struck me what my main problem was with the result of Labour’s leadership election.

Sunday’s second reading from the letter of St James said ‘If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that?’

Mr Corbyn’s victory has been inspirational, he has resonated with many activists, but unless he can be seen as a truly far reaching electoral force who can turn his rhetoric into votes then he won’t improve the lives of those living on the edge. His fine words will mean nothing.


Saturday, 12 September 2015

We have a duty to honour those who serve the public - my Catholic Universe column

If you ever watched the long running American television show ER set in the fictional County General Hospital you can have not failed to notice that over its fifteen year run the true star of the show wasn’t a young George Clooney or Julianna Marguiles but the city of Chicago where it was set.
Hardly an episode went by when one location shot or another failed to show the giant skyscrapers, the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan or the rumbling El trains seemingly from a different age.
It was on just such a train that a few months ago I had what for any Briton is a strange experience but is altogether commonplace for our US cousins.
As I sat with my son on a packed commuter train from the city’s O’Hare international airport into town an elderly gentleman got on board. Straight away and with delightful manners a youth, maybe 16 or 17 years old, stood to offer his place.
It was only when the older man sat down that I noticed he was wearing a baseball cap bearing the legend ‘US Marine Corps Veteran’ and I heard the young man say to his elder ‘Sir, thank you for your service’ and I felt tears welling up inside of me.
It wasn’t the first occasion something like this moment has happened to me on my trips to the United States, in fact it is really quite common, but each time the result has been the same, a feeling of humility, gratitude and a little envy.
These days Americans are tremendously proud of their armed forces and uniformed services and perhaps with a degree of shame in how returning veterans were treated, or simply all too often forgotten, after the horrors of Vietnam many, many of them have taken it upon themselves to vocally express the debt of gratitude they owe to men and women who have served and for those who did not return from armed conflict.
It is an expression of gratitude that manifests itself all year round, unlike our own public November Remembrance services, and comes from the mouths of people in every walk of life. It is a powerful reminder of the role of public service, service to one’s own country.
In our world of today public service is all too often passed over or ridiculed when it should be applauded from the highest heights.
It is absolutely true that servicemen and woman enlist in our armed forces as a career or often as a way out of a tough upbringing but we should never forget that they do so with a sense a duty, a sense which grows over time. In doing so young men and women are prepared to put their very lives on the line without questioning, on occasion, ludicrous orders that have been passed down to them from above.
They are not people for whom service is an abstract notion but for whom it is a tangible aspect of their everyday lives. Every one of us who has not served has at least a duty to show respect and gratitude for those who have.
It is, in truth however, not just the members of our armed forces who place themselves at risk in their duty to the wider public.
Thankfully in our mostly law abiding country the deaths of serving police officers, such as those of PC’s Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone who were shot in 2012 in the line of duty in Greater Manchester are rare occurrences, but they do happen. Assaults on police officers are far more common.
In the same way doctors, nurses and paramedics are often exposed to violence in the course of their work helping patients who often require assistance because of their own stupidity and excess. NHS statistics report that in 2008 twelve percent of staff had been physically assaulted by patients or their relatives and friends in that year alone.
Our firefighters place themselves in harm’s way daily. In 2007 four firefighters were killed on duty in Atherstone on Stour, Warwickshire whilst tackling a blaze, caused by suspected arson, at a warehouse in the village. There have been a number of firefighter fatalities since that tragedy eight years ago.
Now clearly not everyone can be a firefighter, nurse, policeman or soldier and not everyone would want to be. There is nothing wrong with that. Our society needs entrepreneurs willing to take risks to generate profit as much as it needs people to work for their businesses to make those companies successful but on the whole those people, us, do not put our lives at risk for the good of our wider community.
Those men and women that do deserve our gratitude for their service to us.
It should however also be a tangible gratitude. Many members of our armed forces eventually leave the services and face difficulty finding employment in civilian life all too often because their years of experience, and indeed transferrable skills, do not easily manifest themselves on job application forms against more traditional qualifications.
It is great to see businesses and other organisations recognising such problems and taking positive steps to address them through measures such as guaranteed interview schemes for forces veterans.
We need to see a lot more measures being put in place for those men and women who have offered so much.
At a time when amongst the pressure of academic subjects our young people are also rightly being taught work related learning and enterprise skills it is imperative that the notion of public service to our community is every bit as important as individual rights and opportunity.
Our government’s National Citizen Service scheme for 15 to 17 year olds is a great start but so much more can be done.
This week a serving police officer told me that it was 27 years to the day since he had passed out from training and first received his warrant card. I thought that there was no better time to try out that American custom and so I said to him ‘thank you for your service’. He told me that he truly appreciated such gratitude, it is the very least that I could have done.
I’m not saying we should start running up to every police officer, soldier or other uniformed service personnel every time we see them and lay ourselves prostrate at their feet. But next time you see a bobby on the beat or an old gentleman proudly wearing his regimental tie just think about taking a moment to say hello and maybe saying thanks to them for what they were prepared to lay on the line for us all. Their lives.
We will all soon be proudly wearing our poppies and rightly thinking about those who gave everything in wars that have passed. Let’s make that act of remembrance not just an annual event but an all year round expression of our gratitude.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Turmoil doesn't help our teachers to do their jobs - my Catholic Universe column

….And relax!

The summer has ended and the children have gone back to school. After six extraordinarily long weeks parents and grandparents no longer are having to think about how to entertain young minds day after day.

We can all stop rubbing our foreheads and screaming ‘How much?’ every time they open their mouths.

It’s the one time of year when we give thanks for teachers. Just how do they manage to cope with thirty of them all year round?

Of course I exaggerate slightly. The vast majority of us have had a lovely summer with our children but it is time now for the hard work to begin once more and we are genuinely grateful for the amazing job our schools do with our children in helping them to become fully rounded young adults.

Teachers will tell you it is lovely when they get letters from parents at the end of the year expressing gratitude for how their children have come on. It is perhaps now though at the end of the summer when we should say thanks because undoubtedly it’s the best time when we can truly understand the magnitude of the job educators have ahead of them.

Teaching has been a tough job for a very long time. As someone who has worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors during my career, and as someone who now works in education, I can honestly say it is one of the hardest jobs out there.

Unless you have actually experienced it can any of us truly know what it is like to handle a class of 30, many of whom may have behavioural or pastoral issues, whilst trying to differentiate work suitable for each of them and making sure every single one is continually challenged?

Do many of us have the slightest idea how much time is put into planning schemes of work, lessons, marking and accurate assessment?

The truth is of course, and we have all heard this before, teaching isn’t a job but a vocation. These days the teachers who see it as anything less are the ones that aren’t teachers for very much longer.
The world is constantly changing and educators fully accept this realising the need for what things and crucially how they are taught need to reflect Britain’s global position at any given time. But to give of their very best teachers, and just as importantly head teachers and governors, really do need a culture of organic, gradual change not the significant steps that we have seen over the past five years.

Like him or loathe him Michael Gove had a transformative effect on education. There is every likelihood that he will remembered for both good and bad long after this government has left office.

His time as Secretary of State for Education witnessed the advent of free schools and the widespread formation of academies, it saw the introduction of performance related pay for teachers and the contradiction of more freedom for heads to decide what children should learn whilst prescribing that teachers should teach more traditional subjects.

Everyone thought that when Mr Gove was effectively sacked for being too divisive that the new Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, would seek to be much more consensual. Educators hoped that after a period of turmoil Mrs Morgan would be the steady hand that was needed to reassure teachers and undoubtedly more importantly allow time for change to bed in.

Many commentators, very unkindly in my opinion, suggested pre-election that rather than being a steady hand Mrs Morgan was indeed an ineffective one and that she would be gone shortly after May 7th. It certainly seems that that prediction was wrong it also seems that the assertion of being the captain of organic change may be as well.

Very seldom will a minister be the first person to suggest any change of policy that they are considering. They understand that if a change they are suggesting falls flat on its face in the media and the wider public that they look very silly indeed. It is therefore far more preferable to allow a civil servant or, for the more extreme ideas, a think-tank to ‘float a balloon’ and see if it gets shot down.

It is always worth keeping an eye out for what sources ‘close to government’ are saying in the press. It’s amazing how often what they say ends up as policy. You may well have not noticed but there is a raft of trial balloon ideas in the media right now.

In the past few days many newspapers have reported on the ‘right of centre’ think-tank Policy Exchange’s idea to fine secondary schools up to £500 per pupil for those who don’t achieve at least a GCSE Grade C in English and Maths. The fine would in theory at least be forwarded to Further Education colleges who at 16 become responsible for attempts to get young people up to a decent academic standard.

Of course Further Education needs to be properly compensated for its new responsibilities but what would the impact of such a fine be to schools, all too often in highly deprived areas, with lower than average pass rates?

At the same time as Policy Exchange have been talking about their ideas the DfE’s new ‘behaviour tsar’ has been expressing his belief that schools are no place for iPads. In comments reported by The Sunday Times Tom Bennett, head of a working party to guide teachers on improving conduct in class said ‘There is absolutely no research evidence that giving kids technology helps them learn.’ Could we be about to see a policy change which will be very costly to those many schools who have indeed invested heavily in the latest IT because students find learning with them more engaging?

When an idea is perhaps a little less contentious the Secretary of State can let a junior minister free with it. The schools minister Nick Gibb has gone on record this week suggesting that admissions policies, for primary schools at least, are likely to be amended to give preference to siblings. On the face of it there is very little room for contention with such a suggestion but who can forget that legally at least academies are their own admissions authorities, setting their own criteria, and just what will the effect be on faith schools? Will we see Catholic children rejected in order to make room for siblings of non-Catholic pupils?

It seems that step change is a long way from being temporarily halted let alone finished in education and through all of this teachers carry on. Or maybe they don’t?

As we see our schools open for the new term perhaps the most disturbing story has been saved for last.

There is an emerging chronic shortage of teachers and people willing to become them. The Observer reported on government figures suggesting a 10% shortfall in teacher trainees with recruitment for some subjects being more than 50% down on what is needed. English is 12% below the necessary numbers of teacher trainees, Maths is 11%.

The stark facts were stated by Professor John Howson who works on the Government’s teacher supply modelling when he said ‘Without drastic action, more head teachers will be forced to employ staff not qualified in their subjects or for the age group they are teaching, or simply remove subjects from the curriculum.’

It’s been a tough time for the teaching profession and it’s not looking likely that it will be getting easier anytime soon. At the start of the year maybe we should be thanking those wonderful people who are so dedicated to our children?