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Schools are struggling to find enough places for all eligible children as demand rises

‘The majority of pupils are eligible for places’

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Schools have pleaded with parents to be ‘completely honest’ about whether they are key workers or not.

Across England, a number of schools are struggling to cope with the demand for school places while also offering remote learning simultaneously. 

It appears the problem is the government’s broad definition of a critical worker, which includes everyone from university staff to those who can claim to be essential to the provision of food and other key goods and services.

The Department for Education explained there is ‘clear guidance’ that children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school. 

They said: “The published guidance on critical worker and vulnerable children is clear about who can still attend school and we expect schools to work with parents to ensure all these children are given access to a place if required.”

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However, a primary headteacher in Greater Manchester explained that school staff spent Wednesday ‘interrogating’ parents after receiving 210 applications from key workers, reports The Guardian. At the start of the first lockdown, the school had 30 vulnerable and key worker pupils in attendance out of 500 in total.

The headteacher added: “You’d be hard-pressed to find any job that can’t be fitted into most of the categories.”

Some schools are now ignoring government advice, which explains that children qualify if one parent is a critical worker, and instead are asking that both parents prove they are doing essential jobs they cannot do from home. 

The Greater Manchester head added that some parents are going as far as to make up fake companies to make their case. She said she understood the difficulty for parents, adding: “I’m a teacher and I don’t want to home-school my kids, but at the minute I have to put the virus first.”

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At Our Lady of Lourdes primary school in Bury, the headteacher wrote to parents asking them to reconsider. 

They said: “We have been inundated with requests from parents. If we were to accept all the requests as well as the vulnerable children we have asked to come into school, we would have more than 50% of the school population attending school. This goes against the national lockdown of ‘stay at home’.

“I would ask for your complete honesty when applying for a critical worker place. If you are working from home or have another adult in the household who is not a critical worker, I would expect your child to access remote learning from home.”

The Association of School and College Leaders union (ASCL) has urged the government to reconsider the eligibility rules to mean children should only be able to go to school if both parents are key workers.

The director of policy, Julie McCulloch explained that there was a 20% cap on children in school in the first lockdown but there is no similar cap in the nation’s third lockdown.

She explained: “We are certainly receiving some quite worried messages from members around the country, who are finding that if they look at the eligibility criteria for school places, in some cases they might have 50, 60 or even 70% of their pupils who fulfil the criteria.

“At the moment, heads are completely in the dark, not knowing whether they can or should be saying to parents – ‘I’m sorry, we are full.’

“They don’t know what ‘full’ means. If the whole point is to reduce community transmission, if we are ending up with half of children coming into school, it seems unlikely that will be achieved.”

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The executive member for children and schools at Manchester City Council, Garry Bridges, explained that schools are experiencing extreme demand for places. 

He said: “In Manchester, we have very high numbers of children in the vulnerable categories as well as high numbers of those who meet the government criteria of critical or key workers.

“Those vulnerable groups of children are some of the most vulnerable children in the country and schools are obviously keen to make sure they have a place offered.” 

Mr Bridges added: “Instead of properly planning for a period of closure, the government plunged schools into closure overnight leaving many questions unanswered. It is now schools, staff, parents and children who are dealing with the consequences.”

 

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Student suffers severe heart failure after drinking four cans of energy drink a day

‘I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children’

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A young man who consumed two litres of energy drink a day was admitted to intensive care with severe heart failure.

According to a leading medical journal, the university student landed himself in hospital after drinking four cans of energy drink per day.

The 21-year-old spent nearly two months in intensive care due to heart failure, with the British Medical Journal stating this was ‘potentially related to excessive energy drink consumption’ in a report.

According to the report, the man drank four 500ml energy drinks every day for two years, becoming so ill that medics thought he might require an organ transplant.

The patient went on to describe his medical episode as ‘traumatising’, eventually seeking medical help after he suffered from weight loss and shortness of breath for roughly four months.

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Doctors performed blood tests, scans, and ECG readings, and found that he had both kidney and heart failure – however, the kidney failure was discovered to be linked to a previously undiagnosed condition.

Each energy drink the man was consuming contained around 160mg of caffeine, and medics said that ‘energy drink-induced cardiotoxicity’ was the most likely cause of the severe heart failure.

In the report, the authors from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust wrote: “We report a case of severe biventricular heart failure potentially related to excessive energy drink consumption in a 21-year-old man.”

They said the conclusion to their report ‘adds to the growing concern in the literature about the potential cardiotoxic effects of energy drinks’, adding that the man’s heart function seems to have returned to normal nine months later but with ‘mildly impaired function’.

AlienFood / Wikimedia

The recovered patient added his own thoughts to the article, saying: “When I was drinking up to four energy drinks per day, I suffered from tremors and heart palpitations, which interfered with my ability to concentrate on daily tasks and my studies at university.

“I also suffered from severe migraine headaches which would often occur during the periods when I did not drink energy drink; this also restricted my ability to perform day-to-day tasks and even leisurely activities such as going to the park or taking a walk.”

He added: “I think there should be more awareness about energy drinks and the effect of their contents.

“I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children. I think warning labels, similar to smoking, should be made to illustrate the potential dangers of the ingredients in energy drink.”

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Drivers could soon be fined for parking on the pavement under new rules

Make sure you’re aware of the proposed rule changes

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Jaggery / Geograph

A ban on parking on the pavement could soon be implemented across England, under new laws which are expected to be rolled out this year.

Parking on pavements would be a thing of the past, with £70 penalty fines for offenders coming into effect under the proposed new rules.

According to reports, the new legislation would see a ban on antisocial parking introduced, in a bid to make pavements safer for people with disabilities and visual impairments, as well as families.

The changes to the law which are being considered have already been implemented in London and would be rolled out nationwide.



They come in response to complaints about pavement parking and the risks it brings with it to those whose use pavements, with the Department for Transport (DfT) initially launching a proposal on the subject in September 2020.

The proposals came after a review discovered that almost half of wheelchair users and a third of visually impaired people were less willing to go out on the streets alone due to ‘antisocial’ parking on the pavement.

A spokeswoman from the DfT explained to The Mirror that the government is currently collating responses after receiving ‘overwhelming’ feedback.

The public consultation period for the proposals ended back on November 22nd, and as such a decision on the plan is expected imminently.

Jaggery / Geograph

However, Mark Tongue, director of Select Car Leasing has said that ‘the guidelines are currently quite confusing for motorists’.

The motoring company conducted a report which discovered that local authorities would have the power to dish out £70 fines if a vehicle was considered an obstruction, even if it was parked outside the driver’s house.

Mr Tongue said: “A pavement parking ban is 100% needed nationwide – anything that puts pedestrians at an increased risk requires action.

“However, the information given so far is slightly confusing for drivers. At the moment, there’s no clear guidelines for those who park on the pavement due to having no room on their own drive. Most households have more than one car, so it will be interesting to see where motorists are expected to park if not on the pavement outside their homes.

“Clear guidance is required for drivers so they know the correct location to park in order to avoid a fine.”

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Operation Forth Bridge: the full plan for what happens next after Prince Philip’s death

Buckingham Palace confirmed the sad news of his passing earlier today

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Buckingham Palace announced this afternoon that HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh has died.

The 99-year-old, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in June, passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle this morning, Friday April 9th.

Buckingham Palace said: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

“Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

There were already strict procedures put in place for when Prince Philip died, which have now begun, and they’re known as Operation Forth Bridge.

According to the plan there are several steps that need to be followed, including everything from national mourning to a burial site for the Duke.

Operation Forth Bridge has been around for many years, with Buckingham Palace, in consultation with both the Queen and Prince Philip, regularly updating and reviewing it.

Part one of the operation was the announcement from Buckingham Palace confirming the death of the Duke, which was distributed to the Press Association and BBC first.

Then the country enters a period of national mourning, meaning a set of rules, like flags being flown at half-mast, must be followed.

According to reports, it’s thought newsreaders and other TV presenters must wear black out of respect.

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Next, plans for the funeral will be drawn up, and while Prince Philip is entitled to a state funeral he reportedly wanted something more discreet – a private service in the style of a military funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, followed by burial at Frogmore Gardens.

The funeral is still expected to be televised despite the current restrictions, although it remains unclear how many people will be able to attend it.

The Queen’s private secretary and senior adviser, Sir Edward Young, will be on hand to help her during the undoubtedly challenging days ahead.

As well as being responsible for supporting the Queen in her duties, Sir Edward is also the channel of communication between the Queen and the government.

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