General News

DfT:  An Air Transport Auxiliary Veterans Badge ('ATA Veterans Badge') can now be issued to any man or woman who served in the ATA between 3rd September 1939 and 30th November 1945.
 
The men and women of the ATA, including the female pilots known as the 'Spitfire Women', delivered over 309,000 aircraft between factories & front line airfields during the war and returned them when they were damaged.
 
The group had a remarkable delivery record and very few aircraft were lost or damaged.   Tragically 173 air crew personnel lost their lives on ATA missions, including Amy Johnson, the pioneering female civil aviator.  By 1945 there were 650 ATA pilots from 22 countries around the world including Chile, South Africa and the USA.
Press release ~ Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) ~ Air Transport Auxiliary Veterans Badge
 
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network (LSN) reports that Triple science is seeing a resurgence in popularity, with a sharp rise in the number of entries for GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics this year.  Nearly 23,000 more students in England took biology this summer compared with 2007 – an increase of nearly 36%.  Chemistry saw 17,807 additional entries, a rise of almost 30%, while 17,383 more students took physics, an increase of over 29%.
 
This increase in numbers taking the three separate science GCSEs is good news for this country’s economic future.  The CBI has highlighted the potential lack of science & maths skills as a major future issue for the UK.
Press release ~ Triple Science Support Programme ~ National Science Learning Centre ~ Institute of Biology ~ Royal Society of Chemistry ~ Institute of Physics ~ The Learning and Skills Network (LSN) ~ Success in Science ~ Science Learning Centres ~ Association of Science Education ~ Teaching Science - How Do They Do It In Japan? ~ House of Lords Science and Technology Committee: Science Teaching in Schools ~ Royal Society: Who is teaching science and mathematics? Don’t ask the Government ~ Teachernet - Science ~ Online interactive consultation hub ~ Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ~ STEMnet ~ The Royal Academy of Engineering – Educational schemes
 
STFC: Cameras on NASA's Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn have detected faint arcs of material in the orbits of the small Saturnian moons Anthe and Methone, providing further evidence that most of the planet’s small, inner moons orbit within partial or complete rings.
 
The faint ring arcs from Anthe and Methone likely consist of material knocked off these small moons by micrometeoroid impacts from outside the Saturn system.  This material does not spread all the way around Saturn to form a complete ring due to gravitational influence or resonance from the nearby moon Mimas, which acts to confine the material in a narrow region along the moons’ orbits.
 Press release ~ Science and Technology Facilities Council ~ Images of Anthe and Methone ~ British National Space Centre ~ Imaging Operations Centre (CICLOPS) ~ Cassini-Huygens mission
 
PCS: The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has announced that it would be balloting 270,000 members (from 24 September to 17 October) across civil & public services on a programme of national industrial action (that will extend into the new year) over the government's policy to cap public sector pay to below inflation.
 
With a quarter of the civil service earning less than £16,500 and thousands earning just above the minimum wage, the government’s policy has hit some of the lowest paid in the public sector the hardest and led to pay cuts & pay freezes (40% of staff in the DWP, which includes Jobcentres, will have no pay rise whatsoever this year, whilst coastguard watch assistants have had to receive a special pay rise to keep their pay above the minimum wage.
Press release ~ PCS
 
TfLTransport for London (TfL) has responded to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Arbiter’s Guidance on Tube Lines second period costs, covering the funding of their maintenance and renewal works on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines from 2010 to 2017.
 
The Arbiter’s Guidance gives a rough estimate of the demand that Tube Lines can be expected to make for their work over the period, and this suggests a potential shortfall in funding in excess of £1bn from that currently available.  Given this extraordinary circumstance, TfL expects such a shortfall to be met by the Government, which imposed the PPP structure on the Tube and Londoners.
Press release ~ Public Private Partnership (PPP) Arbiter’s Guidance on Tube Lines second period costs ~ PPP Arbiter
 
MoD: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced the sale of its remaining ordinary shares in QinetiQ Group plc at a price of 206p per share (218p as at end of last week).
Press release ~ MOD and QinetiQ ~ PAC report on the privatisation of QinetiQ ~ Previous NAO press release ~ Previous MoD press release ~ Previous PCS press release ~ NAO: The privatisation of QinetiQ ~ QinetiQ
 
TfLActive Steps, an initiative to improve the health of Sutton residents by helping them to change their travel habits, has been launched by the local NHS, Sutton Council and Transport for London (TfL).  By encouraging people to leave their cars at home and cycle & walk more often, the programme aims to help improve people’s health & wellbeing and reduce traffic congestion at the same time.
 
Figures from Sport England reveal that approximately 112,000 Sutton residents could potentially benefit from increased physical activity of the kind proposed by Active Steps – over 80% of the borough’s adult population.   
 
Patients who could benefit from more exercise will be directed to the scheme by a health practitioner, such as a GP.  During a 12 week programme they will meet with a specially trained NHS advisor who will help them to overcome barriers to walking or cycling, create personal goals and provide them with information such as cycle maps or access to free cycle training.  They will also be sent weekly messages of support by text or mail and be interviewed at the end of the course to see how they have got on.
Press release ~ Sutton and Merton NHS Primary Care Trust ~ Smarter Travel Sutton ~ Sport England’s Active People Survey 2005-2006 ~ Enterprise – a new way to work
 
FDA: The Security Service (MI5) and the Security Service staff association have this week reached an agreement with the FDA (formerly The First Division Association - the union for senior managers in the civil service) - for the union to provide professional industrial relations support to staff.
 
Staff will not become full members of the FDA, but the FDA will work closely with the Service Staff Association on issues that affect the interests of staff.  This agreement builds on the successful arrangements that the FDA has in other sensitive areas of government and is designed to improve the access of the staff association to support & advice, whilst protecting personal anonymity and national security.
Press release ~ Security Service (MI5) ~ FDA
 
DSA: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has announced a delay of six months to the introduction of the new practical motorcycle test (originally scheduled for 29 September 2008) to Monday 30 March 2009. The move comes after the Agency considered representations from the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), the Motorcycle Rider Training Association (MRTA) and other motorcycle interests.
Press release ~ Driving Standards Agency (DSA) - Motorcyclists ~ Motorcycle Industry Association ~ Becoming a driving instructor ~ Registered Post test Motorcycle Trainers (RPMT) ~ 'Enhanced Rider Scheme' (ERS) ~ Government Motorcycling Strategy ~ Revised Motorcycling Strategy Action Plan ~ IHIE Guidelines for motorcycling ~ National Motorcycle Council ~ Use of Bus Lanes by Motorcycles ~ SHARP - the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme ~ Bikesafe - Motorcycle Rider Safety ~ Motorcycle Rider Training Association (MRTA)
 
LSN: To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first Crick report – which led to the introduction of citizenship education in the national curriculum – the Learning and Skills Network (LSN), in association with the ACT (Association of Citizenship Teachers) and DCFS (Department of Children, Families and Schools), has launched a short film competition.
 
Young people are invited to produce a short (3 minute) film looking at how to give all learners a louder & more effective voice both in their learning and more widely across their organisation.
Press release ~ More information about the competition and how to enter ~ First Crick report ~ Association of Citizenship Teachers (ACT) ~ Citizenship Foundation ~ Sir Keith Ajegbo's review of Diversity and Citizenship in the curriculum ~ Schools Linking Network ~ Who Do We Think We Are? Week ~ Lord Goldsmith QC's Citizenship Report: Citizenship: Our Common Bond ~ Global Gateway: Community Cohesion Toolkit
 
NE: Numbers of hen harriers – England’s most threatened bird of prey - are flat lining with no sign of a recovery. Latest figures from the RSPB and Natural England show the English population bumping along the bottom, with just 10 successful nests from 19 attempts in 2008.
 
The RSPB’s Director of Conservation, Dr Mark Avery, said: “There is no natural reason why hen harrier numbers are so low.  If there is no illegal killing, as some grouse-shooting interests would have us believe, then where are the missing birds? This year’s numbers are a huge disappointment given the good track record of lowland land managers in helping to conserve iconic birds of prey like the red kite.”
 
The Forest of Bowland in Lancashire remains the hen harriers’ stronghold with 14 of this year’s 19 nesting attempts.  Much of the land is managed by United Utilities and their estate saw 10 attempts, seven of which were successful.  Surrounding driven grouse moors saw four attempts, one of which was successful.
Press release ~ Natural England ~ Forest of Bowland - Hen harrier ~ RSPB – Birds of Prey ~ Bowland Project ~ Hen Harrier Recovery in England ~ EC Birds Directive ~ National Birds of Prey centre
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