Category: Science and Technology

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The UK fails to value our English language sector and students – letter to the editor

Editor-in-chief

Dear Editor Our exports are falling, farmers are discouraged from farming, fishermen from fishing, miners from mining, windfarms are blocked, and the London Stock Exchange has been overtaken by Paris. There is, however, still one profitable sector where the UK is genuinely a world leader – and Bournemouth is its second most important base. Publishing, entertainment, tourism, hospitality, […]

‘Keep the rubbish courses for the Brits’

Mick Fletcher

We have become resigned to the fact that many of the policies pursued by the present administration are inhumane, whether they relate to desperate people seeking asylum or poor children denied free school meals. We have also become accustomed to administrative incompetence – there is no need to think further than the Truss-Kwarteng budget for […]

Academics at Falmouth University say: enough is enough

Tom Scott

Lecturers started a three-day strike today against the use of a subsidiary company to hire staff outside national agreements that underwrite pension, pay and working conditions. This morning I was on a picket line at the entrance to Falmouth University as part of a three-strike with my fellow lecturers there. In the scheme of things, […]

Two years of telling it like it is.

Editor-in-chief

Wow! It’s our second birthday on 23 July. We started out as West Country Bylines and now we’ve completed nearly 7 months as West Country Voices and all thanks to the same great team of editors and proof readers, excellent writers – some new, some longstanding contributors – and a growing band of loyal readers […]

Education in crisis, and it can only get worse

Mick Fletcher

In any sane context the car crash that is Conservative education policy would be enough to bring down a government by itself.  The schools bill before Parliament has been so savaged in the House of Lords that ministers have stripped out 18 of the key clauses, leaving it bereft of its original purpose, yet doing […]

Mickey Mouse, Peppa Pig and the war on empathy

Tom Scott

The government’s trashing of arts education will do great harm to the UK’s ‘soft power’. But as Tom Scott explains, the damage will go deeper than that. A few days ago, I was at a meeting of University and College Union (UCU) delegates from around the country. Hearing from other delegates about the swathe of […]

Ghost gear: meet the heroes cleaning up our ocean’s frontline

Kristy Westlake

With our oceans quickly filling up with plastic and fish stocks dwindling, it’s time to start talking about the massive whale in the room: ghost gear. An enormous environmental problem caused by commercial fishing and fuelled by our ever-growing appetite for seafood. Kristy Westlake talks to some of the heroes on the ocean’s frontline and […]

Miss Snuffy is right about social mobility!

Mick Fletcher

To my surprise, I find myself agreeing with Katharine Birbalsingh, who tweets under the slightly eccentric name of “Miss Snuffy”. Birbalsingh is regularly referred to in the less serious type of newspaper as “Britain’s strictest headmistress” and her views go down well with the Conservative rank and file. I suspect that it is her strong […]

The real battle for control of the UK

Mark E Thomas

The battle in the UK is not the traditional competition between parties, but a much more dangerous struggle between a small number of billionaires and the bulk of the UK population. On 5 May, much of the country went to the polls: most for local and mayoral elections, and Northern Ireland for the Assembly. The results […]

Should we tell aliens where we are?

Jon Danzig

It’s reported that a Nasa-led team of international scientists is planning to beam a message across the galaxy in the hope of making first contact with intelligent extra-terrestrials. The message, including details about humans and Earth’s location, would be sent to a dense ring of stars near the centre of the Milky Way – a […]

Thanks a million, Eton

Mick Fletcher
Eton by Canaletto

If further proof were needed that ‘levelling up’ is a soundbite rather than a strategy, the proposal for a new cadre of elite sixth forms provides it. Mick Fletcher explains. Trailed as one of the key measures in a programme to address 55 ‘education cold spots’, the aim is apparently “to ensure talented children from […]

Power to the people! Citizen science: what it is and how to get involved

Colin White
SETI screensaver

The power and impact of citizen journalism is something I’m sure you are familiar with and, given that you are, right now, reading from this esteemed site, I’m also sure you fully support the concept. It’s all about concerned citizens playing an active role in democratically reporting, analysing and disseminating news. What is less well-known, […]

Hey! Teachers! Leave the truth alone! Government interference coming to a classroom near you.

Richard Murphy
The teacher puppet from Pink Floyd's The Wall

Requiring teachers to present a view in classes that our government is the benign deliverer of optimal outcomes for society is anything but neutral, but that is what the government is demanding that teachers do. Richard Murphy explores the latest dark initiative from this authoritarian government. The government issued this statement yesterday: New guidance to support teachers […]

Brexit, meritocracy and the retreat from reason

Mick Fletcher
Private Eye cover Leave special

Chris Grey, who blogs about Brexit and related matters, is someone well worth following. A recent post explored the fascinating links between the ‘partygate’ scandals currently engulfing the Johnson administration and the ideas and individuals that drove Vote Leave. It raised again a central paradox of current politics – that while Brexit and populism as […]

Au revoir to au pairs from Europe?

Tamsin Beadman
white black and brown hands on EU flag

“Carrero Blanco was blown up two streets away,” Isabel, my señora, mentioned casually on a chilly Madrid afternoon in December 1983 as we sat in her luxurious flat on Calle Hermosilla. “Have you heard of him? Ten years ago today, ETA blew up his car in Claudio Coello and it flew right over a church. […]

Elite sixth forms: a class idea?

Mick Fletcher
sixth formers in parliament

In a desperate attempt to divert attention from the mess in Downing Street, the government recently announced a flurry of ill-considered ’new’ policies. One was a proposal to develop a cadre of “elite sixth forms” which would “ensure talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to the highest standard of education this country offers.” I […]

Why I’m not returning to teach in Covid-stricken schools

Jane Stevenson
Teacher masked in classroom

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has asked former teachers to return to schools hit by the Omicron wave. Cornwall-based Jane Stevenson explains why she’s not answering this call from a government that has shown no concern for the health and wellbeing of school staff or the children they teach. I am a qualified science teacher who […]

A scientist’s homage to the creative artist

Colin White

Once again, it would appear the government is revisiting its plans, first mooted towards the start of this year, to limit the number of students studying what they deem to be inappropriate courses. Courses which they consider unlikely to create instant taxable wealth for the exchequer, and/or to lead to solid, reliable starting salaries which […]

“The most profound experience I can imagine”

Colin White
model of Captain Kirk, Star Trek

So spoke the nonagenarian William Shatner (a.k.a. Captain James Tiberius Kirk) as emotion overcame him on his return from what we can (questionably) classify as space. An historic defining moment in the evolution of space travel. However, it would appear not everyone agrees. The Duke of Cambridge, for one, has suggested in a BBC interview […]

Sidmouth Science Festival 8-17 October

Colin White

Fancy a bit of post-lockdown educational fun? Why not give a Science Festival a try? Think of Sidmouth and what springs to mind? The Regency architecture, perhaps? The wonderful rock formations and colourations of the Jurassic Coast? Or maybe the gorgeous, flamboyant, mad turmoil that is its famous annual folk festival? How about the Sidmouth […]

Closing doors: Brexit and TEFL teaching in Spain

Helen Johnston

West Country Voices has recently highlighted how Brexit is affecting the language teaching sector in the UK, with dire impacts on school trips abroad and on the TEFL sector in the UK. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) has also, for many years, provided many British people with an opportunity to move abroad, selling […]

Employers are in the driving seat, but they don’t train drivers

Mick Fletcher

In an attempt to pose as doing something to help tackle the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers the government has announced that the Department for Education (DfE) will be spending £10 million to train an estimated 3,000 drivers.  Set aside for the moment that this is a drop in the ocean compared with […]