Thursday, 21 April 2011

Everton Jury

IT’S the fag end of the season with nothing to play for.

Injuries to our best players – Arteta, Fellaini, Cahill, Saha, and a subs’ bench that looks like the old Youth Training Scheme, a bunch of willing lads with no experience.

But we are Everton, so being contrarians we produce our best form in unlikely circumstances.

As a fan, I never really enjoy the Old Trafford experience – overpriced tickets and parking charges, getting body searched by over-zealous stewards before you even get in and then the knowledge that any banner that doesn't profess undying love for Man United and all of its players will be instantly seized and confiscated by jobsworth officials.

As for the 'atmosphere' (Everton fans excluded) how can 70,000 football fans be so quiet? Shhhhhh...

This Saturday it's our best chance for years of getting a result. Good to see at Wembley that United haven't lost the art of losing gracefully – not.

TES letter on academies

Regarding last week's editorial on academies ("The battle against academies was never about principle. And now dogma has had its day"), is TES editor Gerard Kelly desperate to gain recognition as an intellectual gadfly or is he just trying to provoke controversy?

Academies aren't just opposed by a few union "diehards". Numerous ballots of teachers in schools threatened with academy status have led to strike action - Shorefields in Liverpool being the latest example. In many cases, plans for academies have been delayed or rescinded.

In removing themselves from council control, academies are potentially destroying borough-wide services such as libraries, music and provision for special educational needs. The governing bodies of academies are dominated by the sponsoring organisation. A large number of academies are socially, ethnically or culturally divisive because they are sponsored by religious organisations. The existing academies also have a rather patchy record when it comes to pupil achievement.

Why the rush for academy status? One major reason is the outrageous financial bribes - with a stroke of Michael Gove's pen, a new academy emerges debt free. De La Salle in Liverpool has passed on its £500,000 debt to the city council.

Have unions ignored academies? Far from it. In every case they have negotiated recognition agreements and protected national pay and conditions. However, if academies do reach a critical mass, what is to stop them from following the example of further education, using the law of supply and demand and paying below national "guidelines"?

Some readers may enjoy Gerard Kelly's lightweight, knockabout editorials; for me they just undermine the newspaper's credibility.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

'Manchester ' derby

The "Manchester" derby, FA Cup semi-final (Paul Scholes the only locally born player, and he didn't last long) was a bit like watching Alien vs Predator. I didn't want either side to win – City with their £700m from Arabian despots and United loaded down with debt from American owners.

Letter Independent

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Everton Jury April 14

WITH so many of our best players injured, David Moyes asked for others to come to the fore. So step forward Leon Osman.

If he could recreate his persona on Second Life, he’d change his nationality to Brazilian and would be known simply as ‘Leon’.

Every time he scored or made an assist, his agent would be hinting about a move to the continent: ‘He loves playing at Everton, but...’

When he was dropped to the bench he’d have a hissy fit, throw his toys out of the pram and complain about the lack of shopping facilities in the frozen north.

Inevitably there’d be the missed training sessions and when he did turn up, there’d be the customary strop with the manager.

However, in the age of celebrity football, he’s always going to be Leon from Billinge and then there’s Tony from Huyton...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Nuclear accidents

It's interesting how after every nuclear 'accident' or disaster we hear the same mantra, 'lessons learnt... can't happen again. Only it does.

Britain is certainly not squeaky clean. There was the Windscale fire of 10 October 1957, ranked in severity at level 5 on the 7 point International Nuclear Event Scale. The graphite core of a nuclear reactor caught fire releasing substantial amounts of radioactive contaminants.

Then there was the incident at the Wylfa Magnox power station on Anglesey on 31st July 1993. A 3ft long, 130lb steel grab on the end of crane used to lift nuclear fuel rods broke off and fell 40ft into a reactor. It lodged in one of the 6,150 fuel channels in the reactor, blocking a small part of the flow of carbon dioxide coolant gas through the structure. After control room staff detected the breakage they allowed the reactor to keep operating for nine hours before shutting it down.

In 2005 a leak of highly radioactive nuclear fuel dissolved in concentrated nitric acid, enough to half fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, forced the closure of Sellafield's Thorp reprocessing plant. The highly dangerous mixture, containing about 20 tonnes of uranium and plutonium fuel, leaked through a fractured pipe into a huge stainless steel chamber which was radioactive that it was impossible for workers to enter.

Finally there's Japan and the Tokai-mura accident in 1999 a direct product of cost-cutting and appalling safety standards.

The JCO Corporation, which operated the Tokai-mura plant, ran an experimental reactor known as Joyo. The process involved mixing a uranium oxide with nitric acid in a dissolving tank to produce uranyl nitrate. JCO had altered the safety manual to permit workers to combine uranium oxide and nitric acid in steel buckets rather than the dissolving tank. The solution was manually poured into the buffer tank.

To save time the untrained and unsupervised workers mixed seven buckets, or some 16 kilograms, and poured them directly into the precipitation tank instead of the specially shaped buffer tank. As the seventh bucket was poured in the mixture reached critical mass initiating a sustained chain reaction.

The nuclear reaction lasted up to 20 hours exposing the plant and 500 metres beyond to levels of radiation many times above the official safe dose.

No government regulator had inspected the operation in 10 years. As a result the Labor Ministry conducted inspections of 17 facilities. Health and safety violations were found at 15. Inspections of nine nuclear fuel processing plants and laboratories found 25 violations ranging from inadequate training of staff, failure to provide workers with regular medical checkups and failure to report radiation exposures.

Lessons learnt in time for Fukushima?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Everton Jury March 31st

ALONGSIDE Antiques Roadshow, there are two other word combinations that are guaranteed to induce the advanced stages of narcolepsy – ‘England Friendly’.

A currency that has become completely debased, the FA desperate to fill Wembley to pay off the debts. So many substitutes it’s impossible to keep track of who is playing.

You don’t need more than 100 words to describe the utter futility. So, eat my socks! Ghana, with their will to win and backed by 20,000 impassioned fans, created a fantastic atmosphere.

Baines should be starting every England game, he is without doubt the best full-back in the country. Now that Jagielka has signed a long term contract I’m not willing him to have a mare in the England games – in case he gets poached by another club.

Who knows I might start watching England now. Terry, Lampard, Cole, Gerrard, Carroll, Rooney... Hmmm, on second thoughts...


History Teaching - Letter Education Guardian

After Jamie's Dream School we now have the musings of Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson (Reduced to odds and sods, 29 March). Ferguson might have mentioned primary schools, where just 4% of curriculum time is devoted to the subject. He quotes extensively from Ofsted: this is a bit like asking a serial killer to advise the homicide squad. Testing, league tables, the resultant narrowed curriculum, all of this enforced by the Ofsted inspectors. Ferguson's view of history is narrow and reductive, but despite that, some history, any history would be welcome.