Friday, 26 August 2016

NO PLAY FOR TODAY - funding cuts hit sports in English state schools

Taken from Big Issue North, 22 - 28 August, please buy a copy of the magazine  when you see a seller 
Sport in schools is at “crisis level”, according to a North Yorkshire head teacher. 
In the week the government announced its long awaited anti-obesity strategy – and Britain continued to bring home Olympic medals from Rio –Tony Gavin, head of Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough, warned that some school sports are “virtually extinct” outside the private education sector as a result of funding cuts. 
Specialist teachers 
Under Gavin’s leadership Laurence Jackson School was a specialist sports school and the organising centre for the East Cleveland school sports partnership (SSP) – a funding scheme introduced by the Labour government in 2000 to increase sporting opportunities for schoolchildren, with a commitment that every child would receive a minimum of two hours a week of high quality competitive sport. 
In 2010 the Labour government claimed it had met the two-hour target for 90 per cent of children, up from 25 per cent in 2004. But on becoming prime minister of the new coalition government that year David Cameron claimed only 20 per cent of children were participating in inter-school sport and called Labour’s record “woeful”. 
School sports partnership annual funding of £160 million was slashed by 80 per cent, and ended in 2013. Funding was absorbed into general schools budgets, with a government spokesperson saying: “Having enjoyed some £2.4 billion of public funds since 2003 every school should have embedded good practice in order to maintain the current sports provision.” 
But Gavin said schools sports partnership funding was effective. “Pupils participated in over 20 different sports because the programme allowed for the bringing in of specialist sports teachers that local primary schools could also borrow,” he said. 
“Many schools marked out tracks and pupils used them. Young children became playground school leaders and every school got bags of kit. The school sports partnership was positive and helped begin to tackle obesity. Scrapping it was short sighted.” 
Gavin said sports such as cricket have almost disappeared in state schools.
“Schools can’t afford groundsmen,” he said. “Consequently, pitches are not safe enough to allow a 14-year old to bowl on at cricket. Unless you can, like us, establish a partnership with a cricket club that means no cricket. Rugby is similar. Sport in schools is at a crisis level.” 
Coaching standards 
Gerry Sutcliffe, Labour MP for Bradford South from 1994 to 2015 and sports minister from 2007 to 2010, said: “We upped participation levels, created over 130 specialist sports colleges and later increased the numbers of coaches. We moved sport away from being just football, cricket and rugby for boys and netball and hockey for girls. Our research showed we were making progress.” 

Sutcliffe said the current approach to school sports “is a disaster area”, adding: “Free schools and academies provide no guarantee about sports provision. In Bradford too many schools have no sports provision or a playground. Coaching standards have fallen. There aren’t any reliable figures on schools sport. It is time for change.” 

The government though has defended its school sports record. A spokesperson said: “Since 2013 we have provided over £450 million direct to primary schools to improve physical education and sport provision. 
“The national curriculum sets out the expectation that pupils should be physically active for sustained periods of time and teachers have the flexibility to organise and deliver a range activities. The sport premium was doubled in the last budget to £320 million annually. Schools remain
free to work in partnership to deliver sport for their pupils if they wish. The numbers of people playing sport weekly has risen to 15.8 million.” 

Tony Gavin and Gerry Sutcliffe will be guest speakers at a public meeting on ’What future for school sports?’ on 20 October at 7pm at Unite’s regional office, 55 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7BW

Friday, 19 August 2016

The first Sunderland - Middlesbrough games.

Middlesbrough had been formed before Sunderland on 18 February 1876. 

In 1887-88, the sides faced each other for the first time and with Sunderland challenging their opponents place at the top of the North-East soccer ladder the game in a qualifying round of the FA Cup was a fierce affair. Sunderland took a 2-0 half time lead only for Boro, playing at home, to storm back in the second period to earn a draw. The replay at Newcastle Road saw the away side pegged back as their 2-0 lead evaporated as Sunderland scored four times to win 4-2. The losing side was though to go through as they immediately protested about the appearance of three Scots - Monaghan, Hastings and Richardson - in the Sunderland side. The trio had appeared as professionals but the rules was that any professional not local to a team had to live no more than six miles away over a two-year period if they were to play in FA competitions. The three were suspended and Boro were awarded the tie. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

16 August 1842: Workers killed in Halifax during General Strike

HALIFAX 1842: A Year of Crisis by Catherine Howe and published by Breviary Stuff Publications. 

Catherine Howe has done an incredible job by discovering a significant piece of West Yorkshire history that very few people know anything about. 

The period from 1838 to 1848 was made famous by Chartism. This was the first working-class movement in Britain. It sought to end exploitation by ensuring working class representation in Parliament, dominated at the time by the landed aristocracy, and had six demands: universal (male) suffrage, equal electoral districts, secret ballots, annual Parliaments, payment for MPs and no property qualifications for MPs. With just 8 per cent of the adult male population possessing the vote these were radical demands. 

1837 had heralded in the New Poor Law, which ended direct financial help to the poor, who from thereon would only receive help by undertaking monotonous backbreaking labour inside the workhouse. On 16 May 1837 a massive 100,000-strong gathering was held on Hartshead Moor. Other  similar gatherings but when they produced no change in government policies the People's Charter petition was drawn on 8 May 1838. 

Over 1.3 million, including 13,000 from Halifax, signed yet on 14 June 1839 it was rejected in Parliament by 235 votes to 46.

In autumn 1839, South Wales miners and ironworkers revolted and twenty died when they were shot down by armed soldiers armed waiting in Newport. Further disturbances in Sheffield, Dewsbury and Bradford followed whilst some Chartist leaders were convicted of seditious libel and imprisoned. Meanwhile, whilst newly industrialised workers, including many children, continued to be killed in factories, mills and mines, Parliament remained indifferent to their fate. 

On 2 May 1842, another giant three million strong petition was handed to Parliament and again swiftly rejected by 287 to 49 votes. In early August 1842 miners walked-out in the Black Country, which led to lay-offs in the neighbouring Potteries. Within days, workers in Lancashire were being laid-off and spotting an opportunity to direct the situation to their advantage the Chartists incited more walk-outs. There were fatal consequences when workers and the military clashed at Preston and Blackburn 

A meeting of the leaders of Britain's trades was held in Manchester where ignoring the presence of troops it was agreed to tramp over the Pennines and into Yorkshire. Halifax was being drawn into the conflict. 

On 15 August 1842, thousands were at Skircoat Green just outside Halifax to greet the Lancashire marchers. The authorities had decided to meet force with force and had sworn in 200 special constables to serve alongside 150 soldiers. Yet with thousands arriving from across Yorkshire this was never going to be sufficient to prevent the mills of Halifax from being stopped from working by the protestors, who entered and removed a few bolts or 'plugs' in the boilers so as to prevent steam from being raised. 

Halifax was at a standstill and a large meeting was held on Skircoat Moor around a mile from the town centre the following morning. 

When Skircoat Green was passed by the departing crowd they became aware that those arrested the previous day would be escorted by the military to nearby Elland railway station and they made to release their friends. Missiles were thrown at troops and, at least, three were badly injured in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to release those arrested. Following the stoning a number of the crowd moved back to the Moor and then later into Halifax town centre where the riot act was read and troops, still smarting from the humiliation that morning, fired into the crowd before attacking it with their sabres. Henry Walton, from Skircoat Green, received a fatal sabre head cut. By the time the military had done their worst hundreds had been injured and, at least, six were dead. Many protestors were also arrested and a number served terms of imprisonment that ultimately killed them. 

Such was the determination of those then in power to prevent working class people obtaining the vote and with it political representation. Six years later another giant Charter petition to Parliament was again rejected and it was not till 1867 when an alliance between the middle and working class brought about an Act that doubled the male electorate and thereafter the path was paved towards universal suffrage for men and women.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Longest League game ever


Wednesday and Villa played the longest League match ever during the 1898/99 season. In an era where there were no floodlights the game at Olive Grove on 26 November 1898 started late. Wednesday led 3-1 when referee Aaron Scragg, under pressure from Villa captain John Devey over bad light, abandoned the match after 79.5 minutes. 

The Football League management committee decided that Villa must return and play the remaining 10.5 minutes. This they did on 13 March 1899 and conceded another goal to lose 4-1. The game had started in November and finished in March. 

Villa was to end the season as League Champions. Wednesday was to be relegated just three years after winning the 1896 FA Cup when Fred Spiksley, who played in the longest game, scored both of the Wednesday goals in the final against Wolves. Spiksley scored Wednesday’s first goal at the club’s new ground, Hillsborough, the following season. 

The remarkable life - on and off the pitch - of Spiksley is now in print in a new book due out on 5 September. It will be sold in the club shop but Wednesday fans keen to order it in advance - and get a discount - should use code OWLS 2016 - and go to:-

Sheffield Wednesday v Aston Villa programme for 7 August 2016 

Tenth Leeds Pride is a massive success

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Nowt radical here - Rebecca Long-Bailey's attempt at economics

On Thursday 28 July I was part of a 150+ crowd in Halifax that listened to Rebecca Long-Bailey, who is the shadow chief secretary to Treasury, speak about Labour's economic policies. Halifax cannot be described as a radical town and therefore the attendance figures were impressive. However, the speaker was not. This is a view I believe the vast majority of those in attendance would not agree with.

The speaker gave a long speech and the main basis of which is that neoliberalism has been a disaster for many people. The speaker located neoliberalism as having started under Margaret Thatcher in 1979. 

Not once during her speech did she mention the word capitalism and whilst she stated she was a socialist on a number of occasions she failed to outline what this meant to her. Her speech was very good on outlining how neoliberalism has attacked the poorest in society, the working class in general and led to a situation in which the vast majority of wealth is held by a tiny 1% of the population. However I feel the speech offered little in the way of solutions for the problems caused by neoliberalism or capitalism in general.

I was able to ask a question at the meeting. 

I asked why she had wrongly stated that neoliberalism had started under Thatcher as this meant she failed to mention the bringing in of the IMF by James Callaghan's Labour government in 1977. I was suggesting that in truth there was little difference between Labour or Tory governments as both are dedicated to the maintenance of the capitalist system and take their policies from such an approach. 

The speaker had mentioned that Labour was going to set up an investment fund consisting of many billions of £’s.  I asked why should business borrow from this fund as after all many of them are currently awash with money but are not investing it as they are not confident of making an adequate rate of return on their investment. 

I asked if some of these funds would be used for carbon capture and storage as this would make possible the bringing to the surface of millions of tons of coal, which could be used for power generation, thus creating many jobs in impoverished communities across the North. The speaker said that this was something that needed considering. I had persuaded a friend of mine to attend the meeting. It was his first political meeting. Afterwards he told me that his impression was that the speaker had responded to many questions by stating  “this is something that should be considered.”

In response to my points about James Callaghan in 1977 the speaker said that she did not agree with the policies of many past Labour governments. 

In response to my question on investment the speaker said that it would be necessary to ensure that those businesses who did borrow money from the fund did not make excess profits. To me this sounds like what she wants is a better managed PFI style projects in which the capitalist class is promised an above average rate of profit if they borrow money from the government whilst being prevented from making large-scale rates of profit. It certainly isn't radical. 

The speaker was asked about the need for a minimum wage of £10 hour. She welcomed this but stated that she felt that some firms would not be in a position to pay it and may need business advice and financial support. I deduce from this that she is in favour of subsidies to companies or perhaps  - and I feel this more likely - she favours the reintroduction of the working families tax credit system that was introduced by the Tony Blair government. 

Not once during her speech did she outline a program of workers control of industry or even significant nationalisation - the railways being the exception - and as we know Labour is not really that committed to this anyway, as what Corbyn has committed to is to taking back the franchises line by line and that will mean a Corbyn government between 2020 and 2025 will renationalise only five out of the 16.   

As we know John McDonnell has committed a future Labour government to running a balanced budget and certainly the speaker gave no indication that she disagreed with such a policy. This of course commits Labour to the current austerity agenda making it a party that is promising much that it will be unable to deliver as it does not want to challenge the power of capital.