29/03/2009

Three post-16 education centres in Grays – is this overkill?

Posted in Education, Training at 3:53 pm by henrysgauntlet

Happened  to see an advert in the local paper for teaching posts at Palmer’s College in Grays.   They were for Health & Social Care;  Psychology/Health & Social Care;  Business Education;  Business Technology;  Biology/Chemistry;  and Maths.

Now Palmer’s is a Sixth Form College.   It used to be the girls’ grammar school, being part of the Palmer’s Endowed Grammar Schools.   When Thurrock went comprehensive in the early 1970s, they went for 11-16 schools with sixth form education being provided at Palmer’s.   The old boys’ grammar school building was closed, and the girls’ school took 16 year olds from across the borough.   Now it seems to market itself just as Palmer’s College, dropping the Sixth Form from the name.

At the same time, there was the old Thurrock Technical College also in Grays providing non-academic courses for 16-18 year olds, together with adult education and sandwich courses in conjunction with local industry.   Then the “Technical” was dropped, and it became just Thurrock College.   Finally it merged with the failing Basildon College to become Thurrock and Basildon College with sites in Grays and in Basildon.

But over the years the lines have become blurred.   Thurrock College offers both academic and vocational courses, and Palmer’s, as can be seen from the advert, now offers vocational courses as well as its academic remit.   What’s more these two institutions sit opposite each other with just a bit of scrubland between them.

I have always been concerned about this duplication of resources, and now there is further confusion with what is called “Thurrock Learning Campus”, (dear god, how dumbed down is that), which seems to have been set up at Grays Riverside in a collection of container boxes and is supposed to be a state of the art centre for skills training!

So now we have three post-16 education providers in Grays.

Wouldn’t it be better to have either sixth forms at the secondary schools or go back to a dedicated sixth form centre for academic 16-18 education, and then to avoid all this duplication of provision for other post-16 education and training?   That way financial resources and teaching staff could be centred in one place which must make more economic sense.

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22/03/2009

Where are the trains?

Posted in Transport at 10:03 pm by henrysgauntlet

Network Rail and the British Transport Police have launched a campaign in Kent, Essex and London High speed train on Eurostar lineto keep children and young people away from the Channel Tunnel high speed railway line.   A DVD about the dangers is to be shown to schools and youth groups.

Trains reach a speed of up to 186 mph on the 66 miles of the line, more than twice as fast as other rail services.   That works out at 262 feet per second, and means the trains will take about a minute to come to a complete standstill if they are travelling at maximum speed.    The DVD shows what would happen if someone were struck by one.     Trespassing on the line, like any other, is a criminal offence, but, more importantly, could result in death or serious injury.                                       

The action is probably necessary  –  railway lines do have an extraordinary fascination for children, but here’s a funny thing.

The line, which has been open since November 2007, runs through my part of the world, and our run-of-the-mill train service into London runs alongside it for a few miles.   When travelling into London myself, in all that time since November 2007, I have only once seen a train on that high speed line.

 

Losing the past: Marshall’s Cottages, West Tilbury

Posted in Local History at 9:25 pm by henrysgauntlet

One of the great advantages of being an early modern historian living in a long-civilised country lies in the survival of the art and architecture, the buildings and sometimes the landscapes of the distant past.   But this has its dangers too because these legacies may disappear too.   

Recently, I had to go to my dentist in the south of Essex for some minor work and, after visiting my parents’ grave in Orsett, I decided that I would go to West Tilbury to photograph an early fifteenth-century building I had often walked past in Blue Anchor Lane when I lived a few miles away.  

Marshall’s Cottages (as they are now known) had a well-preserved central range with attics above and two-storey jettied wings.   The house had been studied by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments and was known to have a fifteenth-century mantel beam with elaborate roll mouldings and crown posts supporting the roof.    The last time I had seen it in 1985 it was recognisably an old dwelling house.

I am sorry to report that my hopes were dashed.    The first time I drove past where I thought it had been I failed to spot it at all.    When I had circled West Tilbury’s green, I came back and saw a thoroughly modernised house:  the front and wings had clearly been not just repaired but also given new facings.   The house I had hoped to photograph was no longer there.  

I did regret this because motorists and pedestrians who will pass it in the future will not be able to recognise it for what it is, a part of this small village’s history.

Author  –  Christopher Thompson

13/03/2009

Another blow for anti-Stansted expansion campaigners

Posted in The countryside, Transport at 6:15 pm by henrysgauntlet

So today the campaigners learnt that their High Court battle to block the decision to expand Stansted Airport has been lost.

The case was actually a challenge that the government’s decision had not been made properly, but the Judge said criticisms of the way the matter had been handled were “unjustified and without substance”.   He has refused permission to appeal, despite the campaigners contention that the ruling makes matters less clear than they were before.  

The campaigners are opposing proposals for an extra 10 million passengers each year to use the single, existing runway at the airport.  They say the government is “steamrollering these plans every step of the way”.

This won’t be the end of the campaign by any means.   But it is a bad step.   Too many of our lovely Essex acres have disappeared under concrete for one purpose or another.   At the moment the airport, though extensive, is still surrounded by beautiful countryside.  

Essex must not be turned into a concrete jungle.   It is quite wrong that the quiet fields and woodlands will be no more, that the attractive houses and cottages will be demolished, that a village will disappear, that people will lose the homes they love in the place they want to live.

There are other airports where the locals want to see expansion.   Apparently Luton is one of them.   Then there are suggestions for an airport in the Thames estuary.   But will more airport provision be necessary in the future?   With a different economic climate and with the drive to reduce carbon emissions, what we have already may well prove to be sufficient.

Already if one is in the Stansted area there is a constant stream of aeroplanes taking off and landing.   There is seldom a space of more than a few moments without one coming down or another climbing away.

The government should look again, and should take the threat of expansion away from Stansted.