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What is wrong with education in Bath? Surely the decision to close Culverhay school is shortsighted

The council's argument is that since there are fewer children going to Bath's secondary schools one or more schools should be closed to save money.  The reason why there is a decreasing demand for Bath schools is that of the total school population of eighteen thousand children, School Census parents of over seven thousand, have chosen to pay to have their children educated in independent schools. This does not mean that the State schools are bad, just that parents are prepared to pay for higher results.

The population is NOT decreasing, it remained stable between 1988 and 1998 but is now increasing at an estimated rate of 15 per cent.  Whether, parents will be able to afford to continue to pay to have their children educated at an independent school in the future is debatable. We are, according to the Liberal Democrat Conservative coalition government, now in an economic period that is the worst since the end of the Second World War. It is probably much, much worse because we have used up North Sea oil and gas and closed nearly all our coal mines. We have even used up all our salt deposits!

If parents are unable to pay for independent education then there will be an increasing demand for state education. Far from a decline in state education the predicted rise in population coupled with an increasing proportion of parents who are unable to continue to pay for independent education for their children must lead to more demand for state education. 

Bath is subject to high levels of pollution from traffic yet continues to build shopping facilities that attract more and more shoppers and their cars on to its roads. Closing Culverhay school, or any school in Bath will result in even more traffic in the city when people are trying to get to work. So much for sustainability! Many children will not be able to enjoy the luxury of having their parents take them to school, they will have to either walk or use public transport. When a parent chooses to apply for admission to a school that is remote from their residence then that is their problem but otherwise children should be able to get to a local school easily, by walking preferably.

B&NES Education should have the capacity to provide secondary education whether the population is declining or increasing.  If a school is closed, then inevitably, there will be overcrowding in the near future in other schools. Building new schools to solve the issues due to closing a perfectly good existing school or two is just a waste of money. Keeping, at present under subscribed schools open means that capacity is available for accommodating more pupils in future. The actual cost is negligible compared to building new schools.

Link to earlier article on Culverhay and secondary education provision in the city of Bath

Posted on 27 Nov 2010 by Geoff Edwards
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Bath & North East Somerset Council road safety - can't be bothered or forgotten?

The photograph shows the sole remaining tree, one of two that were reported as being a menace to anyone using Staples Hill Freshford in Bath and North East Somerset and also Wiltshire. The trees are dead and could fall on Staples Hill. The trees are in BANES not Wiltshire.  BANES did not take  action on this report, or if they did what action? Who is responsible for road safety in BANES?  If the remaining tree falls and injures someone. or kills them what will happen to the responsible person?  Until this tree falls or is removed anyone using Staples Hill will be at risk when there are gales.

.dangerous tree

Posted on 11 Nov 2010 by Geoff Edwards
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Parental choice of school in the World Heritage city of Bath 2010

Politicians promised parental choice. Giving parents a choice is a little difficult to achieve in Bath as there are seven secondary schools: two boys and two girls schools and three mixed schools. Two of the mixed schools are denominational, Catholic and Cof E. Geographically, the schools are sensibly placed or would be if they were all mixed schools.

Closing one school, apparently the school that has been identified for closure is Culverhay, a boys school, will mean that the geographical balance will be destroyed. Pupils from Culverhay would need to be bussed to other schools in a city where there is already severe congestion. Culverhay was last inspected by OFSTED in May 2009. the school gained a grade of 2 Good across all areas of inspection. The highest grade is 1 Outstanding. Here is a short extract from the inspectors report:

"Students enter the school with standards that are consistently below average. In relation to their starting points, students progress well and achievement is good. Students regularly exceed the challenging targets set by the school. The excellent progress made by students in Year 11 relative to their starting points placed the school in the top 6% of schools nationally in 2008 for achievement. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those who are vulnerable make progress at least as good as their peers because of good provision. The school's latest analysis of performance, coursework assessments and externally assessed tests for 2009 suggests that students are on track to achieve even better results by the end of this academic year."

A spokesman from the school said:  I think the main thing that concerns us is that Culverhay serves the most deprived area of Bath and it is going to cause considerable financial hardship for our parents to have to send their children elsewhere, not to mention the lack of coordination with the council's desire to get more pupils to walk to school.

Closing Culverhay Boys School is disruptive to both the boys their parents and the staff. It is short sighted as the population may increase, is bound to increase isn't it?.  There will be once again overcrowded classes occupying cramped school sites. In the case of Culverhay School it will have to reopen or be rebuilt.  This will be expensive. But a school is not just a building but it is a living entity, closing a school destroys what cannot be seen and disperses the energy that was put into the school.  

The existing provision is far from ideal; Hayesfield Girls School for example has a split site location with a parking problem for staff, who might have to commute twice or more a day between sites or move their cars to avoid a parking fine!

There is an alternative, keep all the schools open but change their status to mixed (co-educational for transatlantic readers). This is relatively easy and would be fairer for parents. Oldfield and Hayesfield? Girls School has a mixed sixth form that works well.

It all sounds to me to favour no one but the builders.  Bath has spent a vast fortune on rebuilding and on the daft project to recreate an inferior Roman Spa and place it on top of a building. For cheapness the architects chose paint rather than tiles, and then the paint turned out to be wrong. It's so idiotic it's not worth debating.  So I suppose, to close some schools presents a golden opportunity to save a few quid.

The city has new supermarkets planned and under construction for a population that is apparently not growing as the school population is shrinking (at present). maybe the desire for procreation is being replaced by an increased appetite for food and drink. Or maybe the supermarkets have become warring tribes that compete for customers. The supermarkets are mainly located centrally, attracting more cars into the city central area. Planners should be trying to reduce motor traffic not approving projects that will attract more traffic or force people to travel by motorised transport to get to school or work, or to shop.

Does Bath really care for those who work there and live there? Take the case of the Royal United Hospital. The hospital charges its staff over £300 a year to park their cars, which I gather is a sort of punishment for not being able to get to their workplace by public transport. A policy approach that ignores the fact that only the rich can afford to actually live in Bath. 

When frugal Wiltshire is having to consider closing swimming pools and raise rates, where is the national vision to apply proper control to these incompetent councils. It is not there! It wasn't there with the last Government and it is not here with the new Government, unless I am missing something.

Good luck to all the staff of all the schools involved, at least one can be sure of one thing in education that is the teachers and their schools care for all their pupils in spite of politicians short sighted decisions.

Posted on 23 Jul 2010 by Geoff Edwards
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A36 Link road to A46 is unnecessary

Whilst it is not at all difficult to understand why the city of Bath wants to divert through traffic from the A36 to the M46 without traffic going through the town. The resurrection of the proposed link road is not necessary. It is not necessary because most of the HGV traffic should not be using the A36 to reach the M4.

Save the A36 from heavy goods vehicle traffic

The A36 road winds its way through some of the finest countryside in the West of England and through many fine villages. There are alternative routes which traffic could take from the South coast ports. The A350 is one suggestion but that does not remove traffic from the greater part of the A36.  A much better solution would be Southampton  M3, A34 to M4 at Newbury. But then why is there this traffic? Why do ships use the south coast ports when so much of the goods need to be taken by road to an area of the country that already has an excellent port?

The Port of Bristol vs South coast ports

With the approval of the new deep sea container terminal (DSCT) for Avonmouth comes the opportunity to virtually axe the HGV traffic that needs at present to travel up to the Bristol area. The DSCT when built will be able to service the ultra large container ships (ULCS) when they enter service. The environmental benefits of the new facility amount to a saving of fifty million HGV kilometres with the resultant saving of thousands of tonnes of CO2. Port of Bristol DSCT benefits The Port of Bristol is closer to a higher proportion of the UK’s container market than other ports in the South and East. economic benefits  A map showing UK Container Imports shows quite clearly that it makes no sense to use HGVs to deliver goods to the West country from the South coast ports when they could be deposited in the region -at the Port of Bristol.

A36 to M4 Link road would increase traffic on the A36

If the link road were to be built then the effect quite apart from the damage to the Bathford area of the Avon valley would be an inevitable increase in traffic on the A36. There would then be a demand to convert the A36 to a  dual carriageway road, leading to a further increase in damage to a precious area of the country.

The A46 winds down through a wonderful valley to the word Heritage city of Bath except that as it enters the Avon valley the ancient hillside has already been hideously savaged by the deep cutting at the foot of the A46. The cutting and the dual carriageway is a completely pointless development as the rest of the A46 is single carriageway. Pointless? Unless they intend to further develop the A46 to dual carriageway up to the M4.


The A36 to A46 link road is not only unnecessary it is also undesirable. In relation to the special quality of the environment through which the A36 lies consider this from Environmental Assets:

5.4 The A46 from Bath to the M4 lies entirely within the Cotswold AONB. Of particular note is the section of the A36 which passes through the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs AONB. At the southern end of the A36 approaching the M27 at junction 2 the route passes adjacent to the northern edge of the New Forest, itself a designated RAMSAR site, a Special Protection Area and a Candidate Special Area of Conservation. It is also currently the subject of a public inquiry for a new national park. The route also passes close to or through a number of designations found under the Countryside Agencies character initiative which include the New Forest character area, Salisbury Plain and the West Wiltshire Downs, the Avonvale and the Cotswolds. Bristol/Bath to South Coast Study

Posted on 10 Jun 2010 by Geoff Edwards
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Whilst Bath is over five miles from Freshford it is a place where many locals work and prefer to shop. Whilst I enjoy the occasional shopping trip to Bath I usually shop a little nearer in Trowbridge. I also often cycle to shop, so a congestion charge is not all that relevant to me. 

I am not really sure where the traffic in Bath is going and whether it can avoid the central area? There must be vehicles that need to head for Bristol who are travelling from North of the river Avon who can't head up the A46. It does seem unfair to penalise these drivers. Are all the other drivers going shopping? As Freshford is located South of the Avon I usually head for Sainsbury's Homebase car park via the A36 and lower Bristol Road and walk. I can always manage to find something to buy in Homebase or Sainsburys, as payment for my free parking -which is only fair. If I did have to pay a congestion fee or car park fee I would probably arrange for Home Delivery instead.

The present government is hell bent on building more, and more, houses in this area without considering the infrastructure. So there will be even more demand on Bath as a shopping centre, or perhaps not.

Napoleon's observation that we are a nation of shopkeepers, whilst perhaps true in his time but altered by the rise of the supermarket in the Twentieth century - which swallowed up the small shops, still has some relevance today.  But now we are a nation of shoppers!

However, whilst this might be good for Bath and Cribb's Causeway and Cabots Circus and other out of town shopping centres, shopping  does rely on people having money to spend. Shopping requires money. This money should come from earnings and a return from investments. But is it coming from those sources? No! shoppers' money is coming from those who have cashed in some of the value of the rise in their property value (which could fall and has fallen!) and ignorant youngsters who pay through the nose to use their credit cards, as if there to be no tomorrow.

There will not be so many people who are ready to go shopping in future. These shopping cities and out of town shopping centres are probably going to become white elephants in future,  probably in the near future.

An increase of thirty per cent in home energy bills doesn't help! Fuel whether for the home or the road is never, never going to get cheaper, is it? Unless the government reduces the fuel tax  (and pigs can fly!). So travelling by car will get more and more, and more expensive.  It will take several hundred million years to recreate the conditions for fossil fuel to be created again, and then by and by we will repopulate the world and use up nearly all of that fossil fuel in a little under two hundred years once again.

I won't be paying any congestion charge and I don't expect many others will be doing so either. I don't even see any need for a congestion charge.

Posted on 06 Oct 2008 by Geoff Edwards
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I don't understand why James Dyson wants to build a school of engineering in Bath. Bath University already has an excellent school of engineering. let's read an invitation from the University written to attract new students:

Welcome to the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath

The University of Bath has an enviable history of excellence in Mechanical Engineering Education and Research. The University has been placed at the highest possible level for its quality by the Quality Assurance Agency  which has confirmed that broad confidence (the highest quality level) can be placed in the soundness of its programmes and the academic standards of its awards.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is graded as a double 5A* for its research, the highest grade possible. This, together with its state of the art laboratories and computing facilities, means that it is one of the top Mechanical Engineering Departments in the UK. Our excellent links with industry ensure that our teaching and undergraduate project activities are industrially relevant and our students can further enhance their experience by undertaking a placement in industry. All of these factors help ensure a high demand for our graduates.

We trust that any questions you have about the programmes will be answered in the following links and associated documents. Should you have any other queries, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are always willing to help you.

Professor Paul G Maropoulos, CEng FIMechE

(Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering ) Not only mechanical engineering

Bath University can obviously provide a first class education for anyone who wants to pursue a career in Engineering. One wonders what James Dyson has in mind for his school of engineering. Is he going to poach students from Bath University? Who is going to teach in his school? How does this aging man think that he can provide continuing inspiration for a new centre of excellence? And, he doesn't seem to realise that he is proposing to build his school of engineering in a flood plain, some engineer; any sensible designer would build on a hill. Or is building in the flood plain the cheap option?

There are also other benefits for studying for a degree in a University like Bath: the option to work with other faculties for one. Rather than educate would be engineers in isolation Bath University offers the option to combine engineering with, for example, business studies or medicine.  Or have I missed something? Is the Dyson school of Engineering going to interact with Bath University?

James Dyson doesn't even have a conventional education in engineering, moving from Furniture and Interior Design to Engineering at the Royal College of Art. Nothing wrong with that, but then why does he want to restrict students to engineering? He obviously has talent and the money to get the school going, but that is not enough to warrant supporting  his desire to open a school of engineering in Bath. It all seems rather personal.  And as for being concerned about British engineering design and its possible contribution to the British economy- he has moved production of his vacuum cleaners to the Far East.

Further Investigation

On further investigation, which I might be criticised for not carry out before, for which my excuse is I was not aware of the nature of the project as reported in the press, the Dyson school, is just that a school. A school that teaches just one subject. It will not be in competition with Bath University. Unfortunately, the project still does not make economic or educational sense. As a school it can only accommodate children from B&NES and if permitted the local area - as children will be living at home. It will also restrict students to those who live in B&NES as that is the local educational authority. And those children who live in Conservative Wiltshire are not welcome. Even though geographically they may live nearer than children who live in B&NES to Bath. Also a similar argument may be aimed at South Gloucestershire that is not that far away.

The trouble is that Universities can accommodate students and children of 18 year or over who may also live in digs, but obviously younger children are at risk. So one wonders how these children will be bussed to and from Dyson's school? And how much that will cost?  If the school were to be a regional centre, to which children can go to experience something that cannot be provided locally then fair enough. But this is not to be. Why should the government fund this school at the expense of underfunding schools not only in B&NES but also Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire? Because that is exactly what they will do. If they don't, then they will be accused of spending more money in this area than elsewhere. Or is there going to be extra funding?

I know that there is funding from Rolls Royce and other companies but are they going to fund similar experiments elsewhere? No of course not, they probably can't. But then if the idea is worthwhile we need regional centres (schools) and independent companies may need funding to support their contribution-which is essential.  Do they do this in other countries? And if so how do they do it?

Design and Technology Destroyed Engineering Education

There is something quite daft about trying to teach children about design when the traditional foundations for design education have been undermined. Woodwork, Metalwork and Technical drawing syllabuses have been replaced by Design and Technology that has less time, obviously than someone who opts for all three. Design and Technology does not provide sufficient time for the majority of children to gain physical skills and become acquainted with the basics of engineering which is necessary for intelligent design. Except of course for the more able.  One must bear in mind that a new aeroplane probably requires over a million parts (and almost as many drawings) and a new car costs over £60,000,000 to design!

Assuming that the school goes ahead the factors that at present are a cause for complaint and could be resolved are:

1. entrance to Dyson's school is not restricted to B&NES children.

2. schools in B&NES, Somerset,  Wiltshire and South Gloucester will not receive less funding

3. transport to the school will be provided free of charge to schools & parents, wherever they live

4. facilities for adults should similarly not be restricted due to their geographic location

5. Bath University or any other educational institution should not be disadvantaged in any way

The trouble with engineering design and the lack of skilled workers is partly due to the destruction of the traditional trade approach to teaching the subject in schools.  In order to get the subject more acceptable as an A level by universities the new subject Design and Technology was introduced. There would be more theory and consequently as mentioned above less time for practical work. School studies that involve physical activities have had less and less time as more and more subjects are introduced. 





Posted on 11 Aug 2008 by Geoff Edwards
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