The use of ‘cartograms’ for displaying comparative geographical statistical analyses has become well-established, being accessible and easy to extract meaning from. I seem to recall buying a social statistical atlas – ‘The State of the Nation’ (if memory serves) during the mid-80s. There is a dictum about ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics’ which always makes me chuckle. However stats should serve to illuminate, not obfuscate.

Lifelong Learning Matters

I was in London overnight between work commitments on 27 June so went to the 2012 Beveridge Lecture at the Royal Statistical Society.  Prof. Danny Dorling spoke to a full house on the subject of “Fairness and the changing fortunes of people in Britain.”

Dorling has been researching and writing on inequality for many years. Inevitably there were strong parallels in this lecture with Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket’s findings in their book TheSpirit Level – which was the focus of Prof. Wilkinson’s keynote lecture at the WEA’s Biennial Conference in October 2011. Various references to the contrasts in wealth between 99% of the population and the richest 1% reinforced the message behind the Occupy movement and Dorling’s graphs showed a wide range of inequality even within the wealthiest 1% of people in Britain.

He gave examples of educational segregation and geographical inequality as well as statistics on income inequality…

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Another Sunday Morning…

4.59 am clicks over to 0500BST. My eyes open and neural activity increases exponentially.  My first thoughts are of her. Nothing new there. My wetware deals with this and I think: “I really ought to get up and go for a run.”

So I roll over and stretch out and lie still and do precisely nothing.

0600BST. Same thoughts, same musings. Same inaction.

At 0744BST however I pull myself to my feet, select my kit, feed my cat, lace up my runners and by 0755BST I am pounding along the canal towpath towards Aston Science Park.

As I run, I muse. I wonder. I rehearse what I might say to her, if she gave me the time of day on the subject that is forever off-limits. I solve my own personal problems and by the time I reach Salford Junction I have found a solution for most of the pressing problems afflicting humankind at present, as well.

I reflect as I run beneath Spaghetti Junction that this iconic Birmingham landmark has just turned 40 years old. The river and canal bridges beneath it are somewhat older. One of the brick bridges was built by my great-grandfather, a master bricklayer, just after the first world war.

So in a little less than four miles I have put the world to rights. I head up a new arm of canal, away from Gravelly Hill and up the incline back towards Birmingham. This link is usually quiet, with fishermen dotted along the lower level of its course. The sun has come out, the sky is blue. the makings of a beautiful day. I wonder what she is doing, I run on, cheerful and no longer feeling my age. Yes, my Achilles tendons ache; my cruddy right knee complains about the condition of its cruciate ligaments.

And I say: “Pah! Doesn’t hurt, isn’t sore, ignore.”

Hey presto – pain is gone!

Then, as I approach the locks at Saltley I encounter the first evidence of the rain that must have fallen overnight.  The lock is overflowing, cascading, white water is spilling over the lock gates. The lock itself has overflowed and white water cascades down the towpath toward me. I’m excited as I pound through the ankle-deep, fast flowing stream. I splash my way through up to the next level.

“Don’t see that every day,” comments my internal narrator.

Another lock, another change in level, another torrent of white water, another flooded towpath. Deeper this time. I plough my way, knee-deep now, under a bridge and towards what can only be described as running water. Unlike the canal, which is, by definition, static, the water running along the towpath has both a source (the canal itself) and a directional flow (downhill, under gravity, away from that source.). Water which flows from a source to a outfall could be considered to be a river. So for a few hours, at least, Birmingham has had another river feeding into the Tame and the Rea.

Now I’m full of adrenalin-fuelled, energised, excitement.  I can’t get enough of this!

I charge through the deluge toward a chap wielding a video camera recording the event for posterity.

Splash! Splash!  We greet each other with that most Brummie salutation, the Thumbs-Up.  I pound on. The resistance offered by the water flowing against my direction of travel is hard work. Running up the incline is hard work.  But the sun shines on, and it is bloody great fun.

Eventually, as I approach the plateau on which the city-centre sits, the torrents subside. I am soaked.

As I press on towards Bordesley Junction, I am fielding the occasional enquiry from others out on the way down the gradient: “Is the towpath still flooded down there?”

My answer is in the affirmative!

Thereafter I run on along the link from Bordesley Junction to Fazeley Street without incident. Back through Aston Science Park, past the top lock where I had turned off earlier to head for Salford Junction.

I see two new, fluffy, gosling chicks on the water as well as my gaggle of five older, larger, more straggly goslings. A young woman heckles that I should get my shorts off. I invite her to catch me and try.

Finally I end my run and leave the towpath at Water Street, less than a minute from my apartment, have banter with a group of youngsters outside my local bar, pay my respects to the Naval dead in St. Paul’s churchyard and walk home to open a Father’s Day card and present from my son and his fiancee.

0920BST: I have already had a good and eventful day! Anything else will be a bonus.

I wish everyone understood that life can be marvellous and full of surprises as long as one is open to the marvel of it all and is willing to be surprised.

“Decent employment is the best anti-poverty strategy and it’s time to be more imaginative about progressive education and training for unemployed people so that we can get through the recession and prepare for better economic conditions…Working with people who might be left behind (is) an economic and social imperative.”

This is common sense, surely?

Lifelong Learning Matters

Allegations of major fraud and exploitation in welfare to work schemes have hit the headlines in recent months with businesses such as A4E and Working Links being investigated. Now there has been adverse publicity about stewards’ work placements at the Jubilee river pageant. Various media reports claim that some unpaid security staff had to work in appalling conditions. 

These apparent problems are set against even bigger issues about the overarching Work Programme and welfare to work schemes.

The Work Programme’s model is one of payment by results. Organisations working with unemployed people are only paid after their clients have completed a specified period in a job.  Many experienced charities and community organisations with proven track records of moving people into work are squeezed out of the process as they can’t deal with the cash-flow problems and risk. Ironically the charity Groundwork South West took the gamble of taking on a Work Programme contract but ended up making 130 of its own staff redundant (according to the Guardian, Saturday…

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If I were rationed to only one reblog this year, it would be this one.
You can be elected a school governor of a LA school as a member of staff or as a parent. You can be co opted on. Or you can be appointed as a LA governor.
As a governor in a Birmingham LA school you will have access to training and support. You can develop a voice that demands meaningful democratic oversight of the management and direction of a local school. Though there are governing bodies which are spineless rubber stamps for autocratic headteachers, there are many more where the governors behave like the managers they, in fact and in law, are supposed to be.
Why not give it a try!

Ask Parents First

There have always been good reasons to become a school governor, but in these times of change with schools being bullied into giving up control to private sponsors, the looming threat of our schools being run for profit and the consequent loss of education as a public good, it has never been so important.

Becoming a school governor is a significant commitment, but is a great way to ensure you have a say in the future of your local school. You don’t need to have a family member at a school or college to become a governor. Enthusiasm, commitment and an interest in education are the most important qualities.

You can apply to be a school governor:

  • directly to your school
  • through your local authority
  • by filling in the application form on the School Governors’ One Stop Shop (SGOSS) website

Find out more about who can become a governor, what…

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Sounds like a good event…

Birmingham Against The Cuts

On Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd June, Birmingham Trades Union Council and Banner Theatre present Taking The Gloves Off. You can view and download the (folding) flyer by clicking here for the PDF

2012 is the 40th anniversary of the historic working class victory of Saltley Gate, closing the huge Saltley coke depot and helping win the 1972 strike for the miners.

At a time of unprecedented attacks on our living standards and welfare state, Taking the Gloves Off looks at key battles and victories of the past – not in nostalgia but seeking ideas for winning a better world for the future.

In 1972 the Tory government introduced the Industrial Relations Act aiming to make workers pay for the crisis of capitalism. Resistance followed. The miners, with solidarity from 30,000 Birmingham engineers striking in support, broke the wage restraint and put the Tory government on the defensive…

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A case where truth can be much stranger than fiction, what a murky world where deals are brokered by brokers who then retire.
What does it all mean…?

Ask Parents First

Staff and parents at West Heath Primary are strongly against the proposed academy.

Parents are holding a public meeting  on Thursday 14 June at Oddingley Hall, Oddingley Rd, West Heath, B31 3BS.

Parents were understandably outraged to discover a few weeks ago that plans to convert are at an advanced stage and negotiations with a sponsor, The Elliott Foundation,  are in the process of being finalised, despite parents not having been consulted at all on the future of their community school.

The Elliott Foundation is a brand new enterprise with no previous experience of running schools, having been formed just this Spring to take advantage of a perceived ‘gap in the market’ as a result of the Government’s forced academy programme.   Read more here

Despite apparently brokering the deal with the Elliott Foundation against the wishes of staff and without consulting parents, it is understood that the headteacher Mr Duggan…

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Best wishes to Cormac and concerned staff and parents. Make your voices heard.

Ask Parents First

UPDATE: Parent-campaigners Cormac Loane and Karen Shurrock who are fighting for a parent vote on academy conversion at Waseley High School were interviewed on BBC Hereford & Worcester this morning (19th June) – about 65mins in..

Parents of Waseley Hills High School, concerned about the lack of open and democratic consultation on proposals to convert to academy status, have organised a public meeting and vote on Waseley Hills High School academy conversion.

  • This meeting may be the one and only opportunity for parents to hear full information on this vitally important issue, and to express their views to School Governors through a vote.
  •  Speakers will include parents and experts on academy conversion.
  •  It will be a fair and balanced meeting, with both sides of the argument being invited to speak

The meeting will take place on  Wed. 20th June,  7.00pm at the Beacon Church …

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One feels bound to ask the question: “Why?”

Ask Parents First

Following the decision in October 2011 not to proceed with academy conversion (read more here), Bournville School and Sixth Form Centre in Birmingham is consulting on Foundation Status.

A meeting for parents and carers to participate in the consultation is to be held on Wed 13th June, 2012. Governors will be available in the PPC, in the Bronte building, from 6 pm.

A Q&A document about Foundation status has been made available on the school website

Parents are being asked ‎to provide comments in writing to the Clerk to the Governors, Karen Seleshe either by email ( or hard copy, care of the school by 22nd June.

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Says it all, no further comment necessary.

Pride's Purge

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has blamed leading Euro 2012 football championship players – particularly Germany’s and France’s – for the UK’s double-dip recession and for “killing off” Britain’s prospects for economic recovery.

In a stark message to the leaders of the 16-nation football championshipsthe chancellor said the Euro 2012 players were facing a “moment of truth” if they were not ready to accept the blame for the financial mess he has brought to the country’s economy and he voiced his exasperation at the repeated failure of European footballers to find a permanent solution to the economic crisis facing the continent.

The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, however said Osborne should not blame Europe’s sportsmen for his own mistakes in handling the economy:

The Chancellor urgently needs a change of course and a Plan B. If we fail to act now over his countless own goals, we will pay a very heavy…

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