SENTINEL: School results, gambling, council budget


Sentinel casts his eye over matters in Boston...

Ah the school league tables. It’s that Government favourite where each year they helpfully change the goal posts so that schools are caught out and don’t realise that you’re only top of the league if 99 per cent of your left handed pupils with O positive blood type took and passed GCSE hieroglyphics. Of course it gets reported because people, rightly, care about how their schools are performing but there are so many numbers attached to the tables these days that is it even possible to decipher what constitues a ‘good’ performance? The Government has conjured up a nifty system whereby each school is in a mini table of 55 to show how they are doing compared to like-for-like schools elsewhere. Those tables show the high school is doing well and the grammar school not as well. How do they work out these tables? Who knows, except perhaps onee or two uber boffins who are presumably locked up in the number crunching cellar beneath Michael Gove’s lair. Sentinel is inclined to agree that some sort of ‘value added’ score is a better measure - showing (again using some mind-boggling formula) where a school helps to improve children’s performance beyond the progress they could be expected to make. Maybe anyone able to decipher the tables to find those schools who make the most difference to their pupils’ lives also deserve a GCSE foor their efforts?

*Sentinel notes that Boston High School was in celebratory mood upon news of the statistics. A touch of irony that the celebrating head has only just moved over from William Lovell, where results fell by 38 per cent? The Stickney school offered ‘no comment’ - maybe fair enough since the cheering head from down the road would be the man best placed to analyse the drop in results. Let’s just hope, for the pupils’ sake, that both schools are in the frame for the obligatory congratulatory snap next time.

*Ever sent an email you wished you hadn’t? In which case maybe you had sympathy with the people behind a pair of email blunders this week. First the council sent out its new bulletin to 600 people while inadvertently also revealing all the recipients’ addresses to each other. Second, and more embarrasingly, saw our MP send out the ‘good news’ that the Boston barrier would be coming sooner than expected as a result of his lobbying. Except it won’t. The time saved has already been incorporated into the original timescale. A Defra spokesman said: “I think there was a small typo that had the wrong tense but when I read the letter it is quite clear. Maybe it was a bit of optimism on the behalf of the local MP?”. Whoops.

*The council’s budget is out. It’s not exactly bed time reading but there is at least relief in the fact that we won’t be getting a third year of car park price rises. The council says it has cut almost £2.5m since 2009/10 and needs to find £1.79m more down the back of the West Street sofa in the next five years. You do have to wonder how many more cuts it has to take? It’s easy to kick the council becauce it’s on our doorstep and does the most obvious services we pay for (the bins et al) - but is it a victim of the Government devolving responsibility downwards? Cut the budget but then let the council make the direct decision on what physically has to be axed to pay for it and therefore take the blame? It’s maybe a cynical view but plausible? Sentinel fears so. The lack of cash for the council to play with probably makes that £1 million lottery money even more important since the nice ‘cherry on the cake’ stuff is surely well beyond the means of the local authority?

*Does, then, the council have the power or money left to make a difference? Well there’s £300,000 towards rolling out broadband. That’d certainly help, but it’d be nice to see something done about phone coverage too. Maybe the Government ought to have told these firms that are desperate to roll out ‘4G’ in big cities that they are only allowed to do so once those of us in this area can get a basic ‘G’ (is it even called that?) signal. Still, better broadband would be positive as would a solution to the housing crisis. The council has put aside £373k for its housing strategy but you feel that unless the developers can be helped/nudged into action we will struggle to ease a situation where we have rents that are too high for wages and house prices well beyond the means of our young people without conducting a raid on the ‘bank of mum and dad’.

*What no PRSA? No mention of the sports centre in the budget. Is an end in sight for public cash to prop it up at long last? Let’s hope so.

*Owen Baily’s story this week is a pretty powerful and honest account of the dangers of being addicted to gambling. There’s certainly never been more avenues to feed a betting addiction - with a host of websites, apps and a seemingly ever-increasing number of bookies on the high street to cater for gamblers. Sentinel is not one for stopping people having a cheeky flutter here and there but Owen’s point is pretty well made in relation to ‘Fixed Odds Betting Terminals’. It would certainly seem sensible to limit the cash that can be put into the machines - £100 every 20 seconds is just obscene.

*No comment from Edinburgh Woollen Mill after two-and-a-half weeks of asking if the store will stay open? That’s pathetic. Let’s hope they’ve been a little more talkative with staff than with customers. Nobody wants to see such a large prominent store empty.