Friday, 25 October 2013

School meals

I went to visit some primary schools in Oxfordshire earlier this week.  My primary school was very different to those I visited this week.  My school was an old Victoria building where the youngest children joined the school on the ground floor and the older you got the higher your progressed up the building.  Each floor had separate classrooms and its own large assembly hall.  In contrast the schools in Oxfordshire were all largely open plan with two or even three classes in one (large) room.  Also noticeable was the small size of the school halls and the number of them.  As I say, my primary school had four assembly halls, three of which were large enough to fit the whole school for the dreaded whole-school assembly.  This was a useful feature as the first floor assembly hall was used daily by the whole school as the lunch hall.

Noticing that the schools had just one small assembly hall each we posed the question, "where do the children luncheon?" (Obviously, I didn't actually phrase it like that but I'm trying to sound posh).  The answer shocked me.  It seems that the children take their lunch at their desks, which as an adult I am always being told is a bad thing in the work place.  It also raised the question as to how the kids get their food before it goes cold.  Now that turned out to be less of a problem because it turns out schools no longer feed children proper food.

The children all get sandwiches for lunch and the old school kitchens have been converted into classrooms and offices.  This is a problem for a couple of reasons.  First, kids who eat a healthy meal at school are more likely to do well and be better behaved in class and, secondly, there are some kids who rely on schools for their only healthy meal of the day - an extreme example is Daniel Polka who was so tragically let down by adults all around him.

Nick Clegg has (after 3-years as DPM) decided to do something about it.  From next year Reception and KS1 kids will get a proper cooked meal.  However, since none of the schools have kitchens the only way this can be done realistically is to buy the food in from an outside contractor and, let's face it, the quality is likely to be poor.

At the same time, one of the head teachers I met with had an appointment with another solicitor after me.  The other solicitor was interested in selling the services of his firm to the school.  I'm reliably informed that the retainer for this firm will be £25,000 per year followed by hourly rates.  I told the head that if he doesn't know how to run a school without a lawyer watching over him he should quit and if he does know how to run a school he should spend his money on something more useful!  I'm 100% certain that if he requires legal advice in the future the firm in question will give it at their hourly rate without the expensive retainer and the money saved can be put into things that benefit the children.

There's no great point to this post, merely a small effort to raise awareness that the problems with school meals go far beyond the turkey twizzler saga of a few years ago.

I hope this makes sense and that I can be forgiven for not proof reading it as it's now 1am and it's time for me to meander up the wooden path to Bedfordshire.  Good night.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Drink driving sentencing

I spoke to a chap today who has been accused of a drink driving offence.  He denies it, but that's not really important because this post isn't about him or his case.

Like many people I meet dealing with drink driving offences at The London Drink Driving Solicitor this chap faces losing his driving licence and with it his job and so not being able to afford his mortgage.  Understandably, he's very worried about feeding his family if he loses his job and cannot pay the bills.

Now, many people take the attitude that he has brought the punishment on himself and I can understand why people would take this view.  But, is taking people out of work and making them and their families reliant on the state for their accommodation and food really the best way for us to deal with this offence?

It's just a suggestion, but why not change the drink driving law so that it no longer carries an obligatory driving ban but instead has a sentencing guideline that starts with everybody being banned from driving, but allows the court to chose not to disqualify where the magistrates believes that the likelihood of further offences is low and they consider that the offender could be better punished with another sentence, such as unpaid work.  The court could also impose a probationary period on the offender during which any driving offence (or any one of a list of offences that the Secretary of State deems serious enough) would result in an immediate driving ban.

The chap today was hopeful that he could undertake 800-hours of unpaid work in the community and pay a significant fine to avoid the driving ban and why not if there's little chance of further offences?  He can't, of course, because a) the law requires that he is banned if convicted; and b) the maximum unpaid work hours is currently 300.

There are clearly some people who are a menace to others and who should not be allowed near a car; however, many of the people I meet are middle-aged, working and have never been in trouble before.  Many of these people can safely be allowed to continue driving.