The WGPlus editorial team welcomes back its readers after the summer break with a newsletter that provides a quick ‘catch-up’ facility of the main news releases of the last 3 weeks - providing links to the reports, guidance, consultations, etc. that readers may need to ‘action’ on their return from their own holidays.

Newswire – CivitasDo we really believe it can improve EVERY year? - A report from independent think-tank CivitasStraight A's? A-level teachers' views on today's A-levels - based on a nationwide survey of randomly selected senior A-level teachers, reveals that:
* 0% of A-level teachers surveyed think that the increase in A grades is down to more able students
* Only 4% think better quality teachers are the main reason for an increase in A grades at A-level

Instead, the findings show that 80% of teachers who expressed a view think they themselves would have achieved higher overall grades had they taken today's A-levels - and just 16% think they would have achieved the same set of A-level grades.

The general consensus is that the system today allows the same calibre of students to achieve higher grades.  Specifically, the majority of teachers surveyed regard the increase in top grades to be down to students knowing more about what will be examined. In addition:
* 71% of teachers who expressed a view estimated that 50% or more of their last year's A-level students did at least one re-sit
* 69% of teachers who expressed a view estimated that 50% or more of those students who re-sat achieved a higher overall A-level grade as a result

'Teachers and students are understandably riled by the annual criticism of A-levels, but the point is not that students and teachers aren't working - it's that the system isn't,' commented Anastasia de Waal, Director of Family & Education at Civitas and author of the report.  The A-level has become a means to an end - about grades for university, not knowledge & understanding.  The irony is that universities are now rejecting A-level results as reliable indicators. A-levels are therefore running the risk of becoming defunct.
Press release ~ Straight A's? A-level teachers' views on today's A-levels ~ Civitas

MoDThe least we can provide to help rebuild their lives - A milestone in care provision for injured soldiers was reached recently with the official opening of the new Army Recovery Centre at Erskine's Edinburgh Home, Gilmerton.  The state-of-the-art centre, a dedicated 12-bed wing of the £8.6m Erskine Edinburgh Home, is the result of a partnership between the Army, veterans’ charity Erskine and Help for Heroes who together are providing accommodation & support for soldiers wounded or injured during duty.

This is the first purpose-built Army Recovery Centre to be launched in the UK. Continuous evaluation of this pathfinder scheme will show the way to deliver similar services wherever the need is identified, with planning already underway towards a second pathfinder facility in Colchester.

The centre has been named Mark Wright House in honour of Corporal Mark Wright GC who was killed in 2006 in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, when a routine patrol encountered an unmarked minefield.  Mark was posthumously awarded the George Cross in recognition of the courage he displayed during the incident.

Prior to the new Army Recovery Centre, once patients left hospital or the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, most continued to convalesce at home.  However, some families simply cannot provide the required level of support & care needed to allow patients to return to duty or gain a smooth transition to a skilled & supported civilian life.

In addition, news has subsequently been released that the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have formed a new Royal Marine Unit called Hasler Company specifically to help aid the recovery, rehabilitation & re-integration of Marines needing focussed & individual attention.  It is based in HMS Drake, HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth, and was officially opened on Monday 7 September 2009. 

HMS Drake is also home to the Khumbu Challenge 09 – a mountaineering expedition taking place this autumn for various troops recovering from war or accidents.
Press release ~ Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court ~ Erskine – recovery Centre ~ Help for Heroes ~ Subsequent press release ~ Khumbu Challenge 09

DefraA drop in the ocean compared to the £2bn bill for summer 2007 damage - Local communities across England will benefit from £16m funding to help them tackle surface water flooding,  Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has claimed. £9.7m has been awarded to 77 local authorities for areas where the evidence shows that the risk & potential impact of surface water flooding could be highest.  Local authorities for all other areas will also be able to bid for a share of £5m to help them deal with known local flooding problems.

Defra will publish details of how local authorities can bid for the £5m funding and the criteria on which bids will be assessed, in the next few weeks.  Innovative proposals for tackling surface water flooding especially in rural areas will be particularly welcomed. Defra is also spending £1m on making training, data & other tools available to help all local authorities manage flood risk.
Press release ~ Defra - Improving Surface Water Drainage ~ EA – Prepare for Flooding ~ Environment Agency - Flood risk maps ~ Making Space for Water programme  ~ Atlantis Initiative ~ Foresight study on Flood & Coastal Defence ~ UK Climate Impacts Programme – Scenarios Gateway ~ National Appraisal of Assets at Risk of Flooding and Coastal Erosion in England and Wales ~ Flood Ranger ~ 2007 Flood damage news report

DfTIs this just another way for the government to keep tabs on us? - New technology, enabling mobile phones to double up as ‘swipe & go’ cards and bank cards to be used to pay directly for journeys could revolutionise how travellers purchase & use tickets according to a new consultation (closes on 23 October 2009).

The Government estimates that the benefits of universal 'integrated smart' ticketing could be as much as £2bn per year through improved journey times and faster, more convenient & reliable purchasing and use of tickets, with benefits for local government & operators too.

Central to the vision is the implementation of smart ticketing infrastructure using the Government backed ITSO specification to allow seamless travel between, and within, cities & regions; and different modes of transport.  The Government hopes that the Smart & Integrated Ticketing Strategy will build on the success already seen in London where 'Oyster’ smart cards are now used for 78% of bus & tube journeys.
Press release ~ ITSO ~ Consultation on developing a strategy for integrated and smart ticketing

Newswire – Audit ScotlandNot prepared for every eventuality yet - A new report by Audit Scotland - Improving civil contingencies planning - says that there is a long history of organisations working together in emergency situations.  Key organisations are working well together to plan for dealing with major disruptions and events such as severe weather and the current flu pandemic. However there is still more they could do to improve their arrangements.

There are 8 Strategic Coordinating Groups (SCG) across Scotland, which are the focal point for local multi-agency planning.  They bring together local authorities, health boards & organisations such as utilities & telecommunications companies and also provide for some involvement from the voluntary and private sectors.

The Audit Scotland report says that:
* arrangements for dealing with incidents that cross organisational boundaries or borders are often untested
* mutual aid agreements for sharing resources between different parts of Scotland during emergencies are often too informal
* There needs to be a standard approach to the handling of sensitive information
* Greater clarity is also needed on leadership, roles & responsibilities, accountability and priorities
* Communicating with local communities needs to improve so that the public are better informed
Press release ~ Main report ~ Key messages ~ Report supplement ~ Podcast ~ Civil Contingencies Act 2004 ~ Audit Scotland ~ Strategic Coordinating Groups (SCGs) ~ ScotGov – Civil Emergencies ~ Preparing Scotland

OSMapping out a basic skill for childrenSchoolchildren across England & Wales have the chance to get their hands on free Ordnance Survey maps, following the launch of the national mapping agency’s the Free maps for 11-year-olds scheme (teachers must place their order by 30 November 2009).  The initiative offers every Year 7 pupil a free OS Explorer Map and has been an great success since its launch in 2002, with the 5 millionth map given away last year.

This year Ordnance Survey is working with Natural England to offer teachers an additional resource.  A booklet entitled - The language of landscape (also created with help from the Geographical Association) - will be distributed to teachers in England and features practical lesson ideas & tips on further incorporating map work into the curriculum.

As well as a free OS Explorer Map, pupils are also being given the chance to win an all-expenses paid day out with the Field Studies Council in Exmoor National Park.  The 12 winners that can correctly complete the answers to 5 questions will have the chance to put their map-reading skills into practice and enjoy the many activities planned for the day. 
Press release ~ Free OS Maps for 11 Year Olds 2009 ~ Geographical Association ~ Ordnance Survey's MapZone website ~ OS - Explore ~ The language of landscape

ScotGov:  Will 13 be a 'lucky' number for the SNP in the run up to the General Election? - In a recent statement to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, outlined the Government's priorities contained in the document 'Towards a More Successful Scotland'. 

The 13 proposed bills include plans to tackle alcohol misuse, allow for the construction of a vital new Forth Crossing, end the right-to-buy for all new social housing, and pave the way for a referendum to ‘allow the people of Scotland a free & fair choice on the country's constitutional future’
Press release ~ 'Towards a More Successful Scotland'Summaries of the 13 bills and FM’s statement
Industry NewsIf Public Sector Organisations want to exchange data they have to learn to CoCo - The aim of the Code of Connection (CoCo)  is to develop the trust required both within and between communities;  the CoCo then becomes a minimum set of security standards that organisations must adhere to when joining the Government Secure Intranet (GSi). 
As a Tier 1 ICT OGC Prime contractor, Equanet provides bespoke IT solutions to public sector organisations which ensure their clients’ compliance with the Code of Connection controls.  With the release of V4 and the tightening of the requirements, a large number of the SHOULDs have become MUSTs, it's now time to start planning for your annual CoCo reauthorisation.
Click here to find out more ~ Government Secure Intranet (GSi) ~ Code of Connection (CoCo) ~ Government Connect ~ Trusted Services and Protected Data Video (scroll down and ‘click’ on ‘IT’ blue button – then select video ~ 'Transformational Government -Enabled by Technology'
Forthcoming Event: Gartner Data Center Summit 2009 | 5–6 October | Royal Lancaster Hotel, London - Cost Optimization and Beyond: Enabling Business Change and the Path to Growth.
Cost optimization, cost reduction, cost… has been the focus for many organisations so far in 2009. But business does not stop, should not stop, will not stop.
The aim of this event is to help you to manage this unique turbulence of our time: cost optimization and enabling business growth at the same time.
Experience with the best in the industry:

* Leading-edge Gartner Analysts
* Keynote Presenters
* Pioneering End-User Case Studies
* In-depth Foundation Sessions
* Top-tier networking with over 400 of your peers
* An exclusive opportunity to speak one-on-one with a Gartner Analyst

Key Benefits:
* Meet business needs
* Make wise investments
* Sound deployment of resources
* Safeguard clients
* Deepen tactical knowledge
* Strengthen strategic vision
* Develop your knowledge and skills
Click here to view the full Agenda and to register online.

For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

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