Wednesday, April 27

He, she or it. 517 School Policies. This is Britain in 2022.

Something's gone wrong in this country. I think it has also gone wrong in many other parts of the world too but I can only write about the one I live in. 

There are now 517 officially recommended policies which schools should have documented and implemented. I am sure that, if I searched, I would find a similar number for Further Education Colleges and Universities. Then, no doubt, any firm that has any dealings with government departments will find that it needs many of these too.

How on earth have we come to this? I suspect two forces at work; one is the Woke Brigade and the other is the inclination of people to sue organisations. The Woke Brigade I will come to in due course. The inclination of people suing organisations has definitely developed considerably in the last few decades. This has been the foundation for many Health & Safety rules and regulations. Once upon a time, an employee or visitor might have an accident - a genuine bit of bad luck or actually a case of their not being very observant and tripping over something. Unfortunate but that was the end of it. No-one was to blame, no-one deliberately caused the accident and there may even not have been any injury of note. Then someone consulted a solicitor who reckoned that he could obtain some significant damages, and some income for the solicitor too, by suing the organisation. Even without physical injury it could often be claimed that someone had still 'suffered' and deserved compensation and, with defence in Courts costing a fortune, organisations would often just pay. This, of course encouraged more and more and organisations were advised that they would need to have to be able to show that they had taken all steps reasonable to prevent these accidents in order to get suitable insurance cover and/or some respite from the Courts.

I am rather unconvinced that there are now less accidents at work than there used to be, despite all the rules and regulations and despite all the policies introduced and the never-ending stream of training now virtually compulsory for staff.

If for 'accident' you now say 'offence' then we now have to beware that anything we do might cause offence to someone. By 'do' I also include 'say' as now much offence seems to be taken by some individuals on what we may say or write in conversation or material, even that which is not designed for general publication or hearing. It seems that such 'offence' could be taken by someone in connection with a comment regarding race, belief, colour, gender, sexual orientation, height, weight, age, accent, ability, disability, attire, residence . . . in fact, I am not sure there is anything which might not 'offend' a particular person who is determined to delegate control of their motions to this new attitude of existence.

It is now a hate-crime to do, say, almost think something which another finds offensive, quite regardless of whether there was any reference or direction of a comment or action to that person. That person can report you to the police and the police are duty bound to record the complaint on your record. It seems unnecessary that you are informed of this and if you are not approached by the boys in blue to seek some explanation (not that I can see how that will make any difference to the record anyway) then it remains there for others to see. That next DBS check, for example, or a reference check may well reveal that you have a number of these hate-crimes registered against you and may have a major impact on your ability to be employed, take on a contract or be allowed to rent a property, open an account somewhere.

There are so many minority groups of which someone could claim to belong to and those groups would be the first to support their allegation of 'offence'. We used to talk of 'equal opportunities' but it wasn't long before that was deemed inadequate and we needed to be more specific about which minority group a policy would be introduced for and, almost by implication, not doing the same for another minority group could be seen as ignoring them and the ridiculous spiral of nonsense has been the result we see now.

The 'hate-crime' thing has to be the worst recent development and I cannot imagine how it has managed to become part of British legislation so quickly and, seemingly, without most of the population even being aware it existed. Next on my list of hated, yes, I'll use the word, hated developments is the ridiculous nonsense about a man 'self-declaring' that he is a woman, or vice versa. As a consequence a man goes to a women's jail, can use women's toilets, changing rooms and goodness only knows what else. How the hell did that happen? There can be no doubt about one's biological components: you are either a man or you are a woman. You are a male or you are a female. There is no argument. You may dress differently, prefer to be treated as something different and you may have had all sorts of operations and treatment to attempt to change your physical appearance from one to the other, with varying degrees of success. I maintain that it is quite reasonable to go along with someone being referred to in most circumstances as being of whichever gender they prefer and we have for generations had what we called 'trannies', transsexual people who were men dressing and behaving like women and, to a lesser extent, women dressing and behaving as men. With the exception of those bearing a doctor's certificate that they have completed to a certain degree the physical transformation and/or who have some legal change of reference gender, biological males should not be permitted to use female toilets, changing rooms or similar facilities.

If you're going to talk about 'offence' then surely there would be a real case where one could reasonably expect a woman to be offended by some bloke offering full frontal views to all in the room or, more worrying, not showing any body parts but merely enjoying gazing at those around him. But, no, it seems that I am on the wrong side of the law and should accept that if someone wishes to be considered a man or a woman then so be it. No questions asked. Similarly, a kid at school can claim that they want to be a boy or a girl, with parents seeming to have little say in the matter. Weird or what.

Then we have those who wish to be called non-binary. I think this means they do not wish to be considered as either a man or a woman but merely a person of indeterminate gender. Perhaps the word indeterminate is wrong here as it implies one might actually try to determine, maybe by asking a question or looking closely and that would be offensive and something else to add to your DBS print-out.

There may be other variations but my head is beginning to hurt just trying to explain them to myself, never mind you. I turned to outrightinternational.org for assistance on this. They tell me:
Gender identity refers to a person’s understanding and experience of their own gender. Everyone has a gender identity; for some people, it corresponds with the gender assigned at birth, and for some others, it does not. Gender identities are expansive and do not need to be confined within one collectively agreed-upon term. There is no one authority that dictates the boundaries of gender, except the individual concerned.
Well that could mean anything! You are what you think you are would be a shorter way to put that, I think.
Gender expression refers to the ways in which a person chooses to present their gender to the world around them. This can include clothing, mannerisms, pronouns, names, etc. However, it is important to note that while things like names, clothing, and others can be an intentional part of a person’s gender expression, these things also do not necessarily need to have a gender attached to them. This is to say that a person’s gender identity can sometimes inform a person’s gender expression, but a person’s perceived gender expression does not dictate their gender identity.

OK. Whatever you may be, this is what you give the impression of being. 

Collectively used terminologies can be helpful for societal understanding and acceptance, as well as for advocacy work.

Yup. The lawyers. And give something a name and it exists and is immediately a minority that requires legislation, rules and can take offence even if you've never heard the expression before.

So here we go:
Agender
Agender means that a person identifies as not having a gender. A person who identifies within this term often will consider themselves as either having a type of non-binary gender identity or as not subscribing to any gender identity at all.

Cisgender
Cisgender is commonly used to refer to people who identify exclusively with the gender that they were assigned at birth.

Demigender
Demigender is a term used to partially identify, or feel a connection, to a particular gender. For example, demigirl or demiboy. These identities vary by person but hold in common the fact that there is not a full identification with one gender, only an internal leaning towards it.

Gender Questioning
Gender questioning describes someone who is questioning all or parts of their gender (identity or expression) and does not wish to identify themselves to a specific gender identity.

Gender Fluid
Gender fluid, like gender questioning, is a term that can be used to describe a person’s gender identity, expression, or both. Gender fluid describes a person who moves fluidly between genders, or whose gender shifts over time.

Genderqueer
Genderqueer describes a gender identity that can not be defined as exclusively masculine or feminine. Genderqueer people experience their gender in all unique ways (hence the name). The impossibility of defining the term is part of its appeal for people who identify as genderqueer. The identity can include elements of feminine, masculine, or non-binary identities, or none of these. In part, it can be seen as a rejection of association with a label.

Intergender
Intergender describes a gender identity that is a mix of both masculine and feminine identities. Intergender is not the same as Intersex. Intersex people can identify within any gender identity or expression.

Multi-gender
Multi-gender describes people who hold more than one gender identity. This can be further specified by bigender, trigender, etc.

Non-Binary
Non-Binary is widely used to describe a gender identity that can not be categorised as masculine or feminine. Non-Binary people experience their gender in all different ways. It could be experienced as a combination of male and female, neither male nor female, nor something completely independent of notions of conventional gender identities. Non-Binary is an expansive umbrella term, and many gender identities discussed in this article fall under it.

Pangender
Pangender is a gender identity where a person identifies as all, or many, gender identities. This is similar to Polygender, although Polygender is more limited.

Transgender/Trans
Transgender is used to describe any person who has a gender identity that is different from the gender that they were assigned at birth.

Androgyne/Gender Neutral
Someone who expresses themselves in such a way that they do not wish to be perceived as any one gender.

Boi/Boy/Tomboy
These terms describe someone who expresses themselves in a way that is traditionally described as “boyish.”

Butch/masc
Butch, or masc, describes someone who expresses themselves in a way that is traditionally considered “masculine.” While commonly used by female members of the LGBTIQ community, the term can be, and is, used by everyone.

Femme
Femme is used by people who express themselves in a way that is traditionally perceived as “feminine.” Femme can also be used as a gender identity, but it is most commonly used as a term to describe an expression.

Gender Nonconforming
While occasionally used as a gender identity, gender nonconforming is most commonly used to describe a gender expression that is different from cultural stereotypes associated with that person’s perceived gender or their gender assigned at birth.

Māhū
Māhūs, of indigenous Hawaiian and Tahitian culture, are people who embodied both male and female spirits. These people were often given honorific roles, as their fluidity was seen as a form of spiritual liberation.

Bissu
In Indonesia, the Bissu are priests who either present as male with a female spirit, or vice versa. Their duality of gender allows them to serve as a conductor of spirits, hence their role as priests.

Khawaja Sira
Specific to Pakistan, although close in relation to other cultural third genders in the region, the Khawaja Sira are people who do not identify as male or female and have been seen as “chosen people,” with the ability to give curses or blessings. They commonly serve as gurus.

Two-Spirit
Two-Spirit is a cultural third gender used amongst over 150 indigenous tribes across North America. While the word varied prior to colonization, the meaning remained the same. Two-Spirit individuals refer to people assigned male at birth who go through special rituals to determine if they also hold a female spirit. Similar to other indigenous cultural third genders, Two-Spirit people held an honoured role in their societies.

I think it will be pretty obvious that all these new terms, that we're supposed to know and write policies about and avoid causing offence to anyone who says they are one of these, are just ways of saying either I am a man or I am a woman or I don't know/don't care. So I'll treat those who are or seem to be a man as a man, those who are or seem to be a woman as a woman and sod the others. I mean, if you don't know what you are then it's a bit rich to expect us to know how to treat you. Well do our best but don't expect miracles and don't demand some special policy to be developed for you.

They go on to say that "this is certainly not a complete list, and sadly, many cultural third genders were erased after colonisation spread a strictly binary view of gender". Looks like us rotten English people screwed up some chances of a third gender amongst our other dreadful sins in the past". Third genders?? Good grief? What's that?

Then we have the matter of colour. You can say someone is a person of colour but not that they're coloured. Good luck with that. If your black then you're black and it seems you have to be proud that you're black and you can say you're black but I may be in trouble for saying that you're black. I get into even more trouble by criticising Black Lives Matter, an organisation which achieved almost God-like status and could not be referred to in any other than a positive way without one being regarded as racist and, ping, another entry on the criminal record at the cop shop.


From Douglas Murray, writing in the New York Post:
One year ago the details of BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors’s real-estate empire emerged. She owned four homes and seemed to be shopping for more. And this month we found that BLM, funded by well-meaning gullible folk who gave generously to the cause, bought a $5.8 million California mansion.

And from Taki in The Spectator:

Far more important than the facts of BLM co-founder’s riches are some facts revealed by the Brit canary in the coal mine. Here’s what Douglas had to say in a nutshell: left-wing papers like the NY Times and Bezos-owned Washington Post, plus CNN and MSNBC, pretend that racism is a pandemic and unarmed black people in America are killed with impunity by the cops. Among liberals, 40 per cent believe the figure is between 1,000 and 10,000 annually. The actual number in 2019 was about ten. For any of you who failed maths at school, as I did, the big lie by the lefty media simply multiplies the number by 1,000. Just think of it for a moment. Platforms supposed to objectively inform the public leave them misinformed a thousand-fold in order to discredit the police, and to convince the world that Uncle Sam is a racist beast.

So please don't ask me to donate or in any way support that organisation or take the knee as so many of our leaders and otherwise respected people did, mostly because they felt obliged to, especially with the amazing slew of propaganda that dreadful organisation managed to produce. 

I remember trying to get the Academic Board at Dunstable College in the late 1990s to reduce a massive and unwieldy Equal Opportunities Policy to one simple and readily understandable sentence. "We will endeavour to treat all staff and students with respect and provide opportunities  for everyone, whatever their background, religion, beliefs, gender, race or physical or mental impairments". They opted instead for a 40 page document which no-one ever read after the meeting and which was, itself, based on a draft from another College which was a copy from another institution . . . and originally a Department of Education suggestion. Since then the DofE and their subsequent re-inventions have been busy.

All this has happened under a Conservative government! This is the stuff of the loony left but they were supposedly thrashed and sent packing with Corbyn. Clearly not. Or maybe now it is of no matter who is in Government. The power to affect our lives is now in the hands of those 30-somethings on committees left, right and centre, well, left mostly, in schools, councils, local government, nationalised bodies, quangos and so-called minority groups. I fear that it has all gone far too far and there is little hope of normal life ever returning. These people are everywhere, usually female, from one or other minority group loud, good debaters with quick put-down lines for anyone opposing them at meetings and definitely not Conservative or in any way supportive of the elected Government. In fact one wonders who gave them the power they do have. They were almost all not elected but appointed. Probably by some manager anxious to tick a box.

I would very much like to see a massive rebellion against all things woke. Let us return to being the normal, mostly decent and caring people that the British are and always have been. We can show you that we do not need legislation to treat people the same. We'll show you that it is quite natural to prefer the company of some people than others, that we work better with some than others and not something anyone should be offended by. We can tell jokes and will more than often laugh more at ourselves than at others. Idiots will say things they shouldn't but there is little actual offence taken when people joke about white people or Christian religion but we run the risk of being beheaded if a white person even tries to explain a joke about a black person or a certain Islamic religious bloke. Maybe a brown person would be in trouble too, I don't know. But i do know a teacher in the West Midlands is still in hiding several months after trying merely to tell his class about the dreadful killing of staff in a French publishing agency and encourage debate about the images.

I really do not know what has happened to this country. Do you? Read on. 

Here are the 517 officially-recommended policies, which may or may not cover all you need. [Acknowledgements to policiesforschools.co.uk]


Safeguarding and Welfare of Children School Policies
  • Acceptable Internet Use and Agreement Policy
  • Administering Medicines Policy
  • Advocates and Independent Visitors Policy
  • Anti-Bullying Policy
  • Anti-Cyber Bullying Policy
  • Anti-Violence, Aggressive and Anti-social Behaviour Policy
  • Child Sexual Exploitation Policy
  • Child Gone Missing On or Off Site Policy
  • Confidentiality Policy
  • Dealing with Extremism and Radicalisation Policy (Prevent Duty)
  • Dealing with Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence
  • Designated Teacher for Looked After and previously Looked After Children Policy
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Checks Policy
  • Domestic Abuse and Operation Encompass Policy
  • Drones Over-Flying the School Policy
  • Eating Disorders Policy
  • Educational Visits Policy
  • Educational Visits and Terrorist Incidents Policy
  • E-Safety Policy
  • Emergency School Lockdown Policy
  • FGM Policy
  • Intimate Care Policy
  • Intruders Policy
  • Knife Crime Policy
  • Looked After Children Policy
  • Mobile Phone Safety and Acceptable Use Policy
  • Online Code of Conduct for Students Policy
  • Online Code of Conduct for Teachers Policy
  • Online Safeguarding for an Online School Policy
  • Parent and Community Use of Social Media Policy
  • Photographic and Video Images Policy
  • Positive Handling (Restraint of Pupils) Policy
  • Private Fostering Policy
  • Pupil Behaviour and Discipline Policy
  • Safeguarding and Child Protection Part 1 of 4 Policy
  • Safeguarding and Child Protection Part 2 of 4 Roles and Responsibilities Policy
  • Safeguarding Child Protection Policy Part 3 of 4 Recognising the signs of Abuse and Neglect Policy
  • Safeguarding Child Protection Policy Part 4 of 4 Safeguarding Procedures Policy
  • Safe Physical Contact with Pupils Policy
  • Safer Recruitment, Retention and the Single Central Record Policy
  • School Personnel Code of Conduct Policy
  • School Security Policy
  • School Trips Policy
  • Searching, Screening and Confiscation Policy
  • Self-Harm Policy
  • Sick Child Policy
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Policy
  • Students on Placement Policy
  • Supervision of Pupils Policy
  • Supporting Children with Health Needs who cannot attend School Policy
  • Supporting Pupils with Long-Term Medical Conditions Policy
  • Troubled and Vulnerable Children Policy
  • Uncollected Child Policy
  • Visitors, Visiting Speakers and Contractors Policy
  • Whistle Blowing Policy
Statutory School Policies
  • Admission and Attendance Registers Policy
  • Admissions Policy
  • Anti-Bullying Policy
  • Attendance and Truancy Policy
  • Biometric Data Protection Policy
  • Charges, Voluntary Contributions, Remissions and Refunds Policy
  • Collective Worship Policy
  • Community Cohesion Policy
  • Complaints Policy
  • Conditions of Service Policy
  • Data Protection and the General Data Protection Regulation Policy
  • Data Protection Procedures Policy
  • Dealing with Allegations against the Headteacher, Teaching and Support Staff, Supply Teachers, School Volunteers and Contractors Policy
  • Disability Equality Scheme and Disability Accessibility Plan for Pupils Policy
  • Disciplinary Procedure Policy
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Checks Policy
  • Equality and Diversity Policy
  • Fire Safety Policy
  • Freedom of Information Policy
  • Governors’ Allowances Policy
  • Grievance Procedure Policy
  • Home-School Agreement Policy
  • Instrument of Government Policy
  • Liaison and Transition Policy
  • Minutes of Governing Body Meetings Policy
  • No Smoking Policy
  • Performance Management Policy
  • Positive Handling (Restraint of Pupils) Policy
  • Pupil Behaviour and Discipline Policy
  • Pupil Exclusion Policy
  • Register of Business Interests of Headteacher and Governors Policy
  • Relations Education, Sex Education and Health Education Policy
  • Risk Management and Risk Assessment Policy
  • Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy
  • School Council Policy
  • School Prospectus Policy
  • School Staff Pay Appeals Policy
  • School Website Policy
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Policy
  • Staff Capability Policy
  • Supporting Pupils with Long-Term Medical Conditions
  • Teachers’ and Support Pay Policy
School Health and Safety Policies
  • Accidents and Emergencies Policy
  • Administering Medicines Policy
  • Alcohol and Drugs Misuse Policy
  • Allergies Policy
  • Asbestos Policy
  • Asthma Policy
  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Policy
  • Communicable Diseases Policy
  • COSHH Policy
  • Diabetes Policy
  • Display Screen Equipment Policy
  • Disposal of Nappies and Personal Protective Equipment Policy
  • Educational Visits Policy
  • Educational Visits and Terrorist Incidents Policy
  • Electrical Safety Policy
  • Emergency School Lockdown Policy
  • Epilepsy Policy
  • Fire Safety Policy
  • Health and Safety Part I of 3 Policy
  • Health and Safety Part 2 of 3 – The Curriculum Policy
  • Health and Safety Part 3 of 3 – Safe Procedures Policy
  • Legionnaires’ Disease Policy
  • Lone Workers Policy
  • Management of Health and Safety Regulations Policy
  • Manual Handling Policy
  • Medical and First Aid Policy
  • New and Expectant Mothers at Work Policy
  • Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Policy
  • PE Safety Policy
  • Portable Appliance Testing Policy
  • Premises Manager Policy
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Policy
  • Risk Management and Risk Assessment Policy
  • Road Safety Policy
  • School Crisis Management Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Arson Attack Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Asbestos Disturbance Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Bomb Threat Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Chemical or Biological Contamination Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Child Gone Missing Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Communicable or Infectious Diseases Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Dangerous Weapons in School Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Evacuation of the School Building Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Flooding Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Gas Leak Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Outbreak of Fire Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Physical Assault on Pupils or School Person Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Re-Occupation of the School Building Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Road Accident Policy
  • School Crisis Management – School Security Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Severe Storm Policy
  • School Crisis Management – Severe Weather Warning Policy
  • School Disaster Recovery Policy
  • School Minibus Policy
  • School Toilets Policy
  • School Transport Policy
  • Sick Child Policy
  • Sharps, Blades, Needles and Syringes Policy
  • Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents Policy
  • Smoke Free School Environment Policy
  • Stress Management Policy
  • Swimming Safety
  • Traffic Management Policy
  • Travel Code Policy
  • Voice Care Policy
  • Working at Height Policy
  • Workplace Environment Policy
School Improvement School Policies
  • Assessment Policy
  • Classroom Observations Policy
  • Co-Curriculum Policy
  • Continuing Professional Development Policy
  • Curriculum Policy
  • Curriculum Intent, Implementation and Impact Policy
  • Curriculum Planning Policy
  • Dedicated Headship Time Policy
  • Differentiation Policy
  • Emotional Health and Wellbeing of Children and Young People Policy
  • Involving Pupils in School Policies Policy
  • Involving School Personnel in Decision Making Policy
  • Leadership and Management Policy
  • Leadership and Management Structure Policy
  • Leadership Development and Succession Planning Policy
  • Marking and Feedback Policy
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Policy
  • New Standards for Headteachers Policy
  • Outside Agencies Policy
  • Planning, Preparation and Assessment Time Policy
  • Policies and Procedures Policy
  • Preparing for a School Inspection Policy
  • Professional Learning Communities Policy
  • Pupil Participation Policy
  • Pupil Premium Policy
  • Quality Assurance Policy
  • Reducing the Impact of Poverty and Disadvantage on Pupil Attainment Policy
  • School Effectiveness Policy
  • School Improvement Plan Policy
  • Self-Evaluation and School Improvement Policy
  • Senior Leadership Team Policy
  • Standards of Excellence for Headteachers Policy
  • Target Setting Policy
  • Teaching and Learning Policy
  • The Resilient School Policy
  • Using Data Policy
  • Vision into Action Policy
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities School Policies
  • Administering Medicines School Policy
  • Advocates and Independent Visitors Policy
  • Alternative Provision Policy
  • Anti-Bullying Policy
  • Calming Room Policy
  • Disability Equality Scheme and Disability Accessibility Plan for Pupils Policy
  • Disabled Access Policy
  • Dyslexia Friendly School Policy
  • Early Help Policy
  • Inclusion Policy
  • Integration of Pupils into a Unit Policy
  • Looked After Children Policy
  • Manual Handling Policy
  • Mental Health Policy
  • Pupil Behaviour and Discipline Policy
  • Pupil Premium Policy
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Policy
  • Supporting Pupils with Long-Term Medical Conditions Policy
School Community School Policies
  • Charitable Fundraising Policy
  • Community and Local Industry Links Policy
  • Community Cohesion Policy
  • Distribution of Leaflets and the Display of Posters Policy
  • Employer Engagement Policy for BTEC Courses Policy
  • Establishing a School Food Bank Policy
  • Marketing the School Policy
  • Police and the School Liaison Programme Policy
General Curriculum School Policies
  • Academically More Able, Gifted and Talented Children Policy
  • Access to Fair Assessment Policy
  • Animal Friendly School Policy
  • Blended Learning Policy
  • Character Education Policy
  • Co-curriculum Policy
  • Developing the Use of ICT Policy
  • Digital Competence Framework Policy
  • Educational Visits Policy
  • Educational Visits and Terrorist Incidents Policy
  • English as an Additional Language Policy
  • Examinations Contingency Plan Policy
  • Extra Curricular Activities Policy
  • Financial Education Policy
  • Gardening Activities Policy
  • Homework Policy
  • Home Learning Policy
  • Internationalism Policy
  • Key Person Policy
  • Management of GCE and GCSE Non-Examinations Assessments
  • Online Lesson Policy
  • Outdoor Education Policy
  • Outdoor Learning and Forest Schools – Procedures Policy
  • Outdoor Learning and Forest Schools – Responsibilities Policy
  • Performing, Visual and Multi-media Arts Policy
  • Promoting British Values Policy
  • Public Examinations Policy
  • Reading Policy
  • Reading for Pleasure Policy
  • Recognition of Prior Learning Policy
  • Relations Education, Sex Education and Health Education Policy
  • Remote Learning Policy
  • Road Safety Policy
  • School Readiness Policy
  • Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) Policy
  • Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development Policy
  • Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) Policy
  • Swimming Policy
  • Teaching Hours Policy
  • The Teaching of Politics Policy
School Curriculum (England) School Policies
  • Art (England) Policy
  • Citizenship (England) Policy
  • Computing (England) Policy
  • Design and Technology (England) Policy
  • English (England) Policy
  • Geography (England) Policy
  • History (England) Policy
  • Languages (England) Policy
  • Mathematics (England) Policy
  • Model Music Curriculum Policy
  • Music (England) Policy
  • Physical Education (England) Policy
  • Relations Education, Sex Education and Health Education Policy
  • Science (England) Policy
Early Years School Policies
  • Accidents and Emergencies Policy
  • Admissions Policy
  • Complaints Policy
  • Confidentiality Policy
  • Confidentiality – Parent Involvement Policy
  • Disability Equality Scheme and Disability Accessibility Plan for Pupils Policy
  • Display Policy
  • Disposal of Nappies and Personal Protective Equipment Policy
  • Early Years Foundation Stage Policy
  • English as an Additional Language Policy
  • Equality Policy
  • E-Safety Policy
  • Fire Safety Policy
  • Foundation Phase Policy
  • Health and Safety at Work Policy
  • Intimate Care Policy
  • Key Person Policy
  • Outdoor Learning and Forest Schools – Procedures Policy
  • Outdoor Learning and Forest Schools – Responsibilities Policy
  • Photographic and Video Images Policy
  • Play Policy
  • Pupil Behaviour and Discipline Policy
  • Settling Children into Nursery Policy
  • School Crisis Management Policy
  • School Readiness Policy
Environmental School Policies
  • Adverse Weather Conditions Policy
  • Anti-Litter Policy
  • Eco-School Policy
  • Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Policy
  • Energy Management Policy
  • Gardening Activities Policy
  • Recycling and Waste Minimisation Policy
  • School Travel Plan Policy
  • Sustainable Development Policy
School Finance School Policies
  • Anti-Bribery Policy
  • Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy
  • Budgeting and Financial Planning Policy
  • Charges, Voluntary Contributions, Remissions and Refunds Policy
  • Debt Recovery Policy
  • Handling School Cash Policy
  • Procurement Policy
  • School Finance Policy
  • School Fund Policy
General School Policies
  • Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Policy
  • Bereavement Policy
  • Bilingual Communication Policy
  • Celebrating Success Policy
  • Communicating with School Stakeholders Policy
  • Copyright Policy
  • Cyber Security Policy
  • Dealing with Sensitive Incidents Policy
  • Dealing with Subject Access Requests Policy
  • Dealing with the Media Policy
  • Digital Competence Framework Policy
  • Equality Impact Assessment Policy
  • Ethos Policy
  • Extended School Policy
  • Meetings Policy
  • Management of School Records Policy
  • Ramadan Policy
  • School Data Retention and School Data Management Policy
  • School Documentation Policy
  • School Rules Policy
  • Sharing Good Practice Policy
  • Volunteer Helpers Policy
  • Vital School Records Policy
School Governors School Policies
  • Governors Allowances
  • Governors in School Policy
  • Governors Written Statement of Behaviour Principles Policy
  • Induction of New Governors Policy
  • Instrument of Government Policy
  • Minutes of Governing Body Meetings Policy
  • Register of Business Interests Policy
  • School Governors and School Governance Policy
Parents School Policies
  • Home-School Agreement Policy
  • Parent and Community Use of Social Media Policy
  • Parent/Carer Code of Conduct Policy
  • Parent Involvement (Engagement) Policy
  • Parent Involvement Confidentiality Agreement Policy
  • Parental Responsibility and Change of Name Policy
  • Parent Teacher Association Policy
  • Parent-Teacher Consultations Policy
  • Same-Sex Families Policy
  • Volunteer Helpers Policy
School Premises School Policies
  • Asset Management System Policy
  • Buildings Maintenance Policy
  • Calming Room Policy
  • CCTV Policy
  • Cleaning Policy
  • Disabled Access Policy
  • Display Policy
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Friday, April 22

Ukraine, nearly two months later . . .


In my previous post I noted how I had learned that Ukraine men would fight and not give up easily but, nevertheless, expected that, by now an unpleasant situation would have arisen with Russia trying to run the country, businesses reluctantly trading as part of the Russian economy but those who chose not to fight accepting that life needs to go on and secretly hoping that there would be an opportunity to put things 'right' again once more decent leaders took over at the Kremlin. I expected that there would be a large number of military people still actively disrupting Russia's attempts to run things, with varying degrees of success. In some cities and towns I could imagine resistance being particularly effective and there being little impact from the invader's presence other than it being a thorn in the nation's pride. In others resistance is troublesome but no match for Russia's supposed superior numbers and general might.

I was quite wrong again. 

What has transpired is absolutely appalling, dreadful and downright evil behaviour by Russia's troops who, at the same time, have achieved very little. Indeed, at the time of writing, Russian troops have been taken out of all areas apart from the Donbas region in the East and along the South coast areas. Russia failed miserably to take any towns or cities other than some small areas in the East where there had been fighting and no real success by either side since 2014. Aided by a great deal of equipment, training and resources from other countries, the Ukraine fighters have achieved a lot and surprised everyone.

Whilst the bravery of Ukraine men and some fortuitous supplies and assistance here and there has prevented Russia from taking control of anywhere, Russian bombardments, missiles and general destructive activities have destroyed vast swathes of towns and cities in the East and South. Kharkiv looks wretched, once a large, vibrant and pretty city. Mariupol looks like something from an apocalyptic movie, almost every building either flattened or blackened, scarred by an extraordinary amount of bombs and missiles. Many other towns look almost as bad - even outskirts of Kyiv have been badly damaged and we now read reports not only of residential property being blasted out of existence but the people living there too, nearly all women, children and old folk who either chose or had to stay, also being killed - shot, many executed after being tortured or subjected to the cruellest of degrading acts by the invaders.

However much one tries to understand the reason for Russia wanting to take control over this area, this destruction and wanton killing is almost completely incomprehensible. What is the point of destroying infrastructure, resources, factories, food production, power generation, civilians? If you wish to steal a neighbour's car a normal person certainly wouldn't dream of wrecking it first. If you wanted their house, a normal person wouldn't dream of destroying its roof and walls and its contents. What has happened there is more like one of two things: a sort of punishment, revenge for such successful resistance and the massive loss of life and equipment experienced by the Russians, much like a mother might in the old days have whacked her child if he didn't behave as she wants, or as a bully beats up some kid who refuses to part with a toy, or could it be simply that Russia just doesn't care and if vast swathes of Ukraine become ugly, concrete-strewn dusty fields over the years then so be it. They simply don't care.

I feel it is a bit of both but mostly the former with two types of individual doing the damage. The first type is the frightened and very inexperienced young Russian boy with a gun in his hand or weapon at his disposal. Faced with resistance he just fires as one might in a video game. Shooting first and asking questions later does make some sense to this kid. He is scared, he's seen many of his colleagues blown up in tanks stuck in the mud or troops killed, cornered by Ukraine military and he reckons he may be next so he shoots whoever is approaching him. He probably has no idea of the procedure he'd have to follow in taking a prisoner, never mind a bunch of prisoners. They may only have been six or seven old women shouting at him but he simply had no idea what to do. So he shoots them. And the little girl that was with them. That I can understand although that doesn't in any way excuse it, of course. What I can't understand is the rape and torture and execution of people with their hands tied behind their backs. That's a different story altogether and shows some sort of planned intent, not just an instant defensive reaction.

And that's where the second type come in. The more experienced fighters brought in to support the Russian army from Chechnya, Syria and other countries. These men are tough and used to war and know how to win skirmishes and don't panic or just react blindly or stupidly. They'll have decided what to do and just go in and do it. If they need information about where Ukraine fighters may be hiding then they'll get it one way or another. If they just fancy the look of a pretty girl, or boy, I suppose too, then they'll take what they can get as no-one's going to stop them. They rule the roost but are no chickens. In many ways they may prove to be the worst aspect of the whole thing when bodies start to be counted and stories begin to be told. I doubt they're operating under any guidance other than the most loosely-worded instructions to take a town, village or factory.

The Russian forces themselves have been pretty useless but these mercenaries and some groups, like the Wagner Group, are the ones who have caused the real damage. They don't care. It's not of interest to them who lives or who dies, What remains or is destroyed.

Add to the equation the missiles fired from distant fields which have landed in almost every town, ostensibly to destroy some military targets but, in practice, merely destroying hundreds of homes instead and you have a recipe for this dreadful scene which we now can see unfolding.

Forces backing Russia - I can't honestly say Russian troops - now do appear to be likely to take some sort of control over who goes where in the Donbas region and, to a lesser extent, along the South coast from Mariupol to Odessa. 

I suspect that Putin might like now to stop and claim that he has taken these two tracts of Ukraine and ended the 2014 project in the East successfully and effectively closed off Ukraine's economy by sealing off access to the sea through ports in the South, as well as opening a corridor through to Transnistria in Moldova, which has been pretty much cut off to date. Whilst not exactly a defeat of Ukraine by any stretch of the imagination, this could be presented in an uplifting and meaningful way to justify what the Russian people must be beginning to see has been more than some military exercises, or whatever terms the Kremlin insisted media use instead of war or fighting, killing, bombing or destruction. He could probably hope to get away with this and no-one would ask about the earlier huge losses or many thousands of young Russians dead.

This might even be seen as a way to bring some sort of  'peace' in the country. Ukraine people thus expected to brush themselves down, fighters to put down their guns and people who ran away to return to the places that remain Ukraine and start rebuilding property, infrastructure and lives.

But no, this is not going to happen. Putin may well make 'success achieved in the South and East' his message (and hope people forget his earlier statement of intent, de-militarisation and de-Nazification) but only Russians will be listening and only Russians will be foolish enough to believe him. The rest of the world will not accept Russia simply walking away and pretending nothing untoward happened. For 'untoward' read 'criminal'. That's what Russian-supporting forces have been in many, many instances already and, I fear, there are plenty more yet to be documented and even more offences to be committed and atrocities enacted, either planned, in revenge or in desperation. Ukraine will continue to fight in every single place. They will receive more weapons, more training, more money and, I do believe more actual manpower and military support too, and we will see some more terrible scenes but we will also see Ukraine gradually retake all the ground it has lost and a very different outcome to that which anyone might have expected.

There may ultimately be an area to the East and in the Crimea where some independent control is instigated for a period. Over time the people in these areas will be able to determine for themselves how they are governed - by Moscow or by Kyiv or even by themselves. Russia's actions of late, however, cannot have made the Moscow Option more likely - which just goes to emphasise the stupidity of the whole affair.

For Ukraine elsewhere, though, there will eventually be a remarkable sense of achievement when it does come to the end. There will be an absolutely massive amount of work to do to rebuild the bricks and mortar but that can be done in a positive manner and I believe there will be plenty of financial support to help this happen and to happen quickly. Cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol, as well as countless others we know little about today but which will have been badly damaged, will need to be redesigned in some cases, with the opportunity to take advantage of new techniques in materials and design and cityscape generally which will be fascinating to watch and, I'm sure, for many residents to become part of.

With Russian influence considerably diminished, Ukraine should benefit from the desire of Europe to assist and welcome them into a trading fold, although I don't see much chance of EU membership for a while. Their economy will need to improve very much and there are many questions about how they manage banking and finances generally, with a tendency to corruption in the past amongst rather too many of those in positions of influence and power. They won't get into NATO either but let's just say that I don't see NATO being fooled again by any future Russia moves.

Russia itself will be a much poorer and rather unwanted country, much like some of its neighbours like Kyrgystan or Tajistan, perhaps, which were also members of the USSR, like Russia and Ukraine had been. We seldom see or hear much of these places now. Russia is a vast geographical state, though, and no doubt will try to be heard but whether we believe what it says, or even want to listen, depends a lot on the extent to which it changes over the years. Russian people will have a hard time in any discussions with the rest of us as they will take some time to come to terms with the total deceit to which they were subjected by their leaders and media. Parents in Russia refuse to believe adult children in Ukraine about what happens now in 2022 and it will be very difficult for any of them to admit that they were wrong. Few people will want to visit or deal with Russia whilst it maintains its silence and lies about events this year. How can we go if we find ourselves arrested for talking about it? At the moment even talking to each other about it could land us in trouble, never mind actually trying to tell residents there the truth! How can anyone do business if every email or phone call is subject to a similar test? I hope no-one, either because they really want to see some Russian scene or because they want to trade there, allows themselves to be gagged and accepts the restrictions which I expect to remain for some considerable time yet. No, leave Russia to stew. Any Russian people who are prepared to listen and accept the facts of 2022 are welcome here and I hope that more and more do leave the country of repression and of no freedom. 

Russia once so proud will soon be a mere shadow of its former self and no amount of parades or holidays celebrating this or that military event will make any difference. Russia will soon be dead. RIP Russia. Long live Ukraine.

All of this is my hope, of course. That is all. I may, again, be proved completely wrong and some very different outcome emerges. This may drag on for years with just enough support from us to keep Russia at bay in most parts but not enough to push them back. That does require us, or someone, actively to get involved. We need to grasp the nettle of war to end this quickly and achieve maximum advantage for Ukraine. We need to put ourselves at some risk of being hit by a missile from somewhere a little north west of Moscow. Every single person in Ukraine at this very moment is subject to that very same risk. We cannot hold our hands to our faces and peep through our fingers any longer. There is a monster. We don't like it but it needs to be defeated and Ukraine is a little kid in its grip who will cease to exist if we just turn away and hope someone else does what we dare not.

So, yes, there are still many different ways that this can end. I know which way I'll vote for.


The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

A colleague sent me a link to a poll type of thing regarding the request by the United States for the United Kingdom to extradite Julian Assange. The general gist was to ask Boris and Priti Patel to resist on the grounds that Assange would be sentenced to 175 years in prison almost as soon as arriving in America.

I have to admit to being less well-informed on matters Assange. It has been a curious affair that I have never been able to get my head around, as I suspect has been the case for most politicians who would prefer that the problem simply goes away as they are unlikely to benefit, whatever the outcome. From what little I do know I have a lot of sympathy for the chap but I don't think he has helped himself either. There are ways to obtain information and ways to release it and I fear that he or his associates took their eye off the ball in both respects and opened the door to enable authorities to prosecute them.

Some secrets deserve to stay secret. Some don't. Probably most don't, in fact. However, to preserve the security of those that really do then laws and regulations have been constructed and need to be enforced for the benefit of those few. That system certainly may need review and the legislation may be poorly drafted but people who wish to expose the wrongdoings of a state need to do so in a way that doesn't get them caught.

The effect has been in this case that the general public is not aware in any detail of the events which Assange and his associates seek to share with us but, instead, have had headlines about his past and his being holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy and various other matters and very, very little memory now about what he actually wanted us to know.

In summary, it's a cock-up on all fronts and my guess is that, if it falls off the front pages and becomes less talked about then a deal will be made and the guy will not have to serve the ridiculous 175 years as some suggest and will be free but with some restrictions. The UK would prefer not to have to make a decision on this at all and are generally annoyed that the US has not done the sensible thing and swept this business under the carpet as a subject for historians to debate in the year 2525. There are idiots in the US as well as in the UK Civil Services, however, and there is an arrangement between the two nations that we will co-operate on matters such as extradition without argument. Assange and his people know this and have known it since day 1. They've hoped that people might have seen the sense of dropping the case but their supporters have not exactly helped that happen. It was the only way to resolve this and now he may well have to face the music over there.

Believe me, though, the support that he will have will be considerably louder should any nasty punishment be likely and it should be to the people that are requesting his extradition that we should be writing or, if unsuccessful, to the judges on the case if and when it starts.

I had to apologise to my colleague for sounding less than hopeful, but I don't see this particular protest achieving very much. If the US didn't request then wouldn't need to respond. The main threat is prosecution in the States for spying and it does seem, now that I have read more about this, that that is a bit extreme and there is a case for refusal to go along with an extradition request where the grounds for the request are political. I think the US will be effectively shooting themselves in the foot by following that line for long as the case will then be expected to cause much more rebellion and noise and, indeed, encourage more normal people to start reading all the stuff that has been put online for us to see. At the moment few of us have bothered but expect organisations soon to start digging out the juicy stuff and headlines will be all over the place when it could have all been, beneficially for everyone, left to become of interest only to the few.


Saturday, February 26

Ukraine. What happens next?

To answer many questions regarding this, how it affects us, my wife's citizenship, what happens etc., is not easy. But I'll try.

Initially I had written outlining what I reckoned would be the most likely scenario. That was Russia taking control of the government and calling the whole country part of Russia with new passports, Russian laws and regulations applying, enforced by Russian police and troops and so forth. I'd said that people wouldn't be happy and resistance would continue but the majority would need food and to earn money to buy food and so shops and factories would re-open and life, of a sort, would resume.

However . . . when I attempted to check this with Olga I realised I'd got it wrong. Yes, my likely scenario of Ukraine ceasing to exist and being part of Russia may be right but no, the vast majority of people will not accept that. They will simply not give up and continue to fight. It doesn't matter what happens in a legalistic way to them, they're not giving up and will continue fighting in groups, or joining together to create safer spaces here and there, making bread and gathering food and doing whatever they can to take back control in any place that becomes vulnerable.

So they will slowly diminish in numbers as they get killed by Russian troops or taken prisoner but no-one is going to submit to Russian police or start working in a Russian-controlled factory or store. So Russia will have to repopulate businesses and factories with people from elsewhere if this part of the continent is to continue to produce goods and trade. Being unable to trade with Europe will also have a big effect and it is conceivable that large areas will become unoccupied and turn to dust, although China might help and be a new trading partner but it will not be Ukraine nationals who man the machines or equipment or communications systems. They will, 90% of them at any rate, continue bashing away at whatever targets they can reach with whatever weapons they can get hold of.

It is a strange scenario to consider for me, as I'd been inclined to think that day-to-day needs would take priority and people would succumb, albeit secretly still hating the new occupiers, and use the new banks and shops that Russia sets up. But no, they won't. They'll get by without money and fuel. It'll be rough and children will be educated by parents at home. The internet and phone system may well collapse for them too although the brighter ones should be able to tap into the new Russian cables or whatever. Life will be basic and dirty for her son and family, as it will be for everyone, whether they were the company boss before or a bus driver.

This will go on for some considerable time. One of two things will follow. The resistance numbers fall quickly as nasty weapons wipe out people or massive troop imports arrest them and take them away. That's basically it and all is lost. Someone else will take over her apartment and chuck away her paintings and all that she has in the world that's not here in a tiny house in Astcote. Or, and we must cling on to this hope, the many protests around the world lead to a decision by one or more other nations to do more by way of support.

If such support is provided reasonably quickly then resistance numbers will be likely to be maintained and Russian equipment and troops may not be as successful in quelling rebellion. As has been seen so far, small amounts of resistance have kept Russian advances at bay in some places for a while. Heavy missiles and bombardment, though, could quickly wipe away such pockets and support which prevents Russia, or makes it much more risky for Russia to use more advanced weaponry, is, therefore, vital to be maintained and increased now.

There is a distinct risk of war with Russia happening, either by deliberate action or mistake. Required to fight then on several fronts against a rather more powerful mass of forces may well result in the eye being taken off the Ukraine ball and resistance will succeed even more effectively and even remove Russian troops from the country. That is then , though, a problem for the rest of us as we all become vulnerable to whatever Russia feels able to throw at us. At that point I believe very much that internal resistance in Russia will have developed to a point where Putin may either be obliged or, conceivably forced, to stop. I would expect a smart assassination by special forces but I would also not be surprised if wealthy and powerful people in Russia decide that enough is enough as those otherwise currently futile-looking sanctions do actually begin to bite some in the arse.

Even if air support is not provided by NATO, some undercover or anonymous support could be organised and would make a huge difference without causing WW3.

So these are the likely scenarios as we see them. There is considerable violence and loss of life and pain to come in all events.

Olga has a visa permitting her to live and work here until sometime in 2024, at which point she'll need to apply for an extension after passing another English exam or whatever further requirements may then apply. If Ukraine does cease to exist then so too will the validity of her passport but I believe the Home Office will find a way to cope with that at the time. So she is safe and expects to continue to be so. To visit her family, however, will be impossible for some considerable time as we see it, whatever develops in the short term.

Russia, as Ukraine may well be called then, will allow her to return, assuming there are flights there once more, but it is unlikely that she would get permission to travel to come back to the UK again. I would also most certainly be persona non grata in Russia! So only when either her family or friends get out of the country, should they ever have a chance to do so, or in that golden hope of success in retrieving Ukraine from the grasp of Putin, will she be able to greet them again. She is resolved to that being some years in the near-worst scenario, never in the worst where they're killed or imprisoned, six months in the best.

Anyone reading this will no doubt have concluded that this really only ends well with the removal of Putin. That will almost certainly only be possible if he dies, either of illness or being whacked as he is not going to be deposed. My guess is that there are plans in place and they may save the day for us all if someone has the guts to enact them.

Monday, January 31

Driving has just got really scary.

This year there will be a lot of very rich families or relatives of squished pedestrians or cyclists.

I think most drivers will recognise the occasions when they have most closely smashed into the rear end of some other vehicle; it's when someone in front of you does something unpredictable. For me, the classic example is, when approaching a roundabout, you see a car a little further ahead of you, waiting to pull out. You glance to the right and see that there is likely to be a gap in the traffic and your brain says that the car in front will have started off on to the roundabout. You glance back. It hasn't. Your brain got it wrong. He didn't move. He still could go but doesn't. That glance to the right may have taken no more than a second, probably significantly less, but at 60mph you're doing 88 feet per second. Even at a modest and undoubtedly legal 30 you'll cover more than 40 feet in that time. I don't know the stopping distance at 60mph or 30mph but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a lot more and you're so ruddy lucky if you don't smash into the back side of that car.

I fear that we're going to be having a lot more of these scary moments. The law has changed. Now some one walking or riding a horse, bike or motorbike will be able to assume priority in crossing a road at a junction. So you may be coming up to a left turn and, whereas before you'd be entitled to expect that the people on the path, or cyclists coming up to cross the road into which you're turning, would look and see you indicating and wait until you've passed. Now they don't need to do that because you, driving the car, are expected to look and see who might be about to cross that road and stop to allow them to do so. Whereas you in your car are pretty easy to spot - probably one vehicle, with a flashing orange light and in a position that looks very much as though you're going to turn, and probably doing a respectable 29.5 mph too and so likely to squish a person or cyclist in any impact - the pedestrian, of which there could be several, especially in a busy town high street, or cyclist, weaving between the people, bushes, lamp posts and trees are much, much more difficult to spot or, indeed, predict. They won't squish you or cause any harm other than a scratch to the paintwork or a small dent. It's pretty damn normal to assume that those likely to be squished will take a bit of care and do their best to avoid getting squished.

Now, it seems, overnight. It's all reversed. Those pedestrians and cyclists can simply carry on their way, crossing roads without a care in the world. And if they are squished, they or their families get rich as it'll be your fault as the motorist. Your insurance will pay massive sums and we'll all get bigger motor insurance premiums next year.

Not only that but if you do approach that junction carefully, look as best you can for any signs of pedestrian or lycra-clad life and do suddenly spot the possibility that a girl on a skate board might just make it to the kerb before you arrive and slam on the brakes then I'm going to be the poor sod behind you and it'll be my fault and you'll get your car repaired and the skater kid will be far away by the time we get our mobile phones out.

So all those walkie-talkie people chatting about wine, women or whatever as they stroll on and off kerbs in front of cars with dodgy brakes, those cyclists with ear buds that cancel out all background noise so they can peacefully listen to James Blunt while flying up the inside of a big truck actually indicating to go left and even those motorcyclists who sit on that blind spot by your rear wing and can't be seen as you check your mirror before indicating and pulling out to overtake the cyclist in front who is weaving around and not paying any attention to you anyway, all of them are somehow now in the right? We nasty, horrid people who sit in our nasty, horrid cars will be in the wrong if you get squished, which surely you will be as we're not saints. Some of us do drive a little too fast. Some of our cars are less than perfect. Some are legal but only just got through the MOT. Some have sharp pointy bits at the same level as your private parts. Some of us don't try and predict every conceivable movement of the people around them. We'll check for some kids near schools or playgrounds and for old ladies crossing after getting off a bus. Some of us simply won't see you because you're at a blind spot or come out of nowhere at a bushy junction. We'll do our best but we will fail if you folk on two feet or two wheels don't start being a bit more damn careful and less entitled!

The new laws are a disaster. 

I should add that I am perfectly aware that in Ukraine pedestrians and cyclist already have this priority. the difference is that everyone knows this and has been aware of it for years and years. It's kinda bred into people driving there and it a fact that the vast majority of people walk and ride in cities or large towns where there are marked crossings and traffic lights for pedestrians too. Where there isn't a crossing or light then the pedestrians and cyclists are actually pretty careful, despite having that priority. Here no new road markings are being considered. We drivers are just expected to change habits of a lifetime in a day.

I should also mention horse riders. They should get priority because it is a damn sight easier to control a bike than a horse when a car flies by with a couple of feet at 80 mph. Horse riders are invariably polite and take great care as they don't want the animal hurt. I will always treat them with great respect and happily dawdle at 6mph behind one on a country lane until it's safe to pass. 

Bikers and people can get out of the way much more easily and the idea that a cyclist should ride in the middle spreading his or her backside in the middle in full view of my dash cam for later viewing is preposterous. It takes them but a second to ease back and to the left, let me slowly past, even at a few feet without any real risk of squishing. Hogging the centre will invariably make a less patient version of me want to do damage to that rear wheel if not the backside itself. Unfortunately, the GoPro or helmet-cam cameras now look back as well as forward and it all gets recorded and they do so much like reporting us to Jeremy Vine or the Police, usually in the reverse order, so it's not a good idea. If I do find myself in that position I may well turn around and take another route. It would, indeed, be quite pleasant to meet them on a blind corner coming in the opposite direction with my sharp pointy piece in just the right position. For a change, I might even be in the right and a squishing of a cyclist might not be automatically my fault.

And yes, sod Holland. We're not flat. In our 20s and 30s, Brits have kids not bikes.


One year later: at last, a little freedom.

A few days ago most of the legal restrictions on our behaviour here in England were withdrawn. Some shops and premises may still ask us to wear a facemask but the social distancing, rules about how many may eat here or there and legal requirements for a facemask have gone. We are now, as I advocated we should be a year ago, responsible for our own behaviour and for the assessment of the risks we face.

It does, indeed, very much look as though the whole set of restrictions have been of little actual impact on the progress of the virus over the years. There is a distinct possibility that we might have been better off with good advice but not regulation, with businesses mostly continuing and not being forced to close and, in most environments, left to individual decision as to where we go, with whom and whether masked or not.

I am sure there will be plenty of reports written in years to come but I do feel very strongly that we will never again be asked to give up our freedoms of behaviour and association and movement again. It was a mistake but a mistake that is easily forgiven. Even I thought it reasonable at the time and may well have been persuaded by the 'science' and the 'data' which all looked terribly scary.

The fact is that those who make these decisions were advised by others who worked on scenarios for what might evolve. None, and I mean none, of these scenarios were even close to what actually transpired. Neither the numbers being hospitalised nor dying from the virus came close to even the most optimistic of predictions. But, as I have said, it is perfectly reasonable to accept that those who were making the decisions were unable to question those statistics in any meaningful way at the time. More recently, as other nations have taken fright once more as the omicron variant runs riot and bangs up infection numbers again and they have started locking down once more, closing borders and all sorts of other stuff, Britain has dropped the regulations. We have seen the numbers of infections rise, yes, but we have not seen any particularly dreadful rise in people becoming seriously ill. Some may say Boris and Co. took a chance last month when we were relieved of the legal burdens. It has proved correct. Denmark has done the same. Others will follow.

It is, of course, so difficult to argue with that person who screams at you about the extra risk that someone might die. It's true, by having less control there is a chance that someone , somewhere will do something stupid and cause someone else to be infected who is particularly vulnerable and they die. It is equally possible that fewer people will die as a result of more being able to be treated, perhaps in a particular way as a result of business developments that help the economy pay for more research which in turn make better treatment available, or more people to provide it through more freedom of movement. It is less easy to get across to the shouting person on Twitter who hates the government but it must be attempted.

Freedom from regulation and individual responsibility will, I am sure, lead to no more deaths or damage to health overall and, indeed, I maintain that it will help an awful lot of people suffering through frustration or worry at the moment, be that for a business that is barely surviving or some kid next door with a pervy parent.

The big thing that has made all this possible, and to which I referred one year ago, is vaccination. I had my first a year ago and now have had three. We've since had Delta, some other variants briefly of concern and then Omicron. The vaccine has dealt with all of them very nicely. I got a cold a while ago. It may have been COVID. It may not. I didn't care too much as it was just a cold and now it's gone.

That's what will happen now and next winter and, no doubt, in winters to come. People will catch colds. People will get the 'flu. Some may get some type of COVID-22 or -23 for all I know. But no more people are likely to die or get seriously ill than would be the case with colds, 'flue etc of old. We will naturally keep away from people and places where we think we might catch something. We will naturally avoid passing whatever we might catch to anyone else. We don't need laws telling us to behave that way. It's normal human behaviour. It has done us proud over goodness knows how many hundred thousand years and I'll bet on it continuing to do so.

The biggest threats have always been when people try to control us, be that as generals controlling soldiers or someone telling me what I can and can't think. Leave me alone. I want to live, not exist, please.


Saturday, February 13

Repeat after me: I am definitely going to die but probably not for some considerable time nor from COVID19

For many months now I have been doing my weekly shop at Tesco in Towcester early on a Saturday morning. This avoided the necessity of queueing and, more recently, with queueing not being required, also meant that I encountered few people when travelling round the aisles.

This morning I woke up a little later than usual and so my visit was at about 9am instead of 7:30am. There wasn't a huge difference but I did notice how many more people were around as I moved from the bacon to the bananas. I hesitated often, waiting for someone to move their trolley or leave room for me to reach for some butter. It was only later that it dawned on me that I had been vaccinated three weeks earlier. I was now most unlikely to get COVID19. Even if I did, or a variant of it, I was more likely to be involved in a motor accident on the way home than be seriously ill as a result. The COVID19 family of viruses now should be, to me, of no more concern than 'flu as I have had to look out for in all the years before.

That's quite a thought! It's over. For me, and for all the 15 million others who have now had their injection. We're really not going to get ill from this thing. But it seems very clear that this thought has not really had much, if any, impact on the vast majority of us. It was most odd. I was still slightly scared of other people today. I remember getting particularly worried a month or so ago when a supermarket in Zhytomyr became very busy. I was struggling both mentally and physically to make some space for myself, holding my breath until I could take a gasp which may not contain droplets of the virus I was sure must be being exhaled by at least one of the many people who had come into the warm shop from a freezing outside. I had to get out and it was such a relief to breathe the cold but cleaner air in the street outside. That was then. That was when I was vulnerable and might die from getting the virus, for all I knew, or, like many others we would see on TV, become extremely ill and have to be treated in hospital. Hospital, sadly the one place where it seems people almost definitely do get the virus if they haven't already got it. But that was then. When Ukraine's data for new cases, and certainly the lack of apparent effort by anyone other than the trolleybus ladies to minimise infection meant that I knew I was taking a risk being there. This is now. I am not going to get ill. Well, certainly not any more likely to get ill than in any other year. I have to tell myself this repeatedly and still don't quite believe it.

I am pretty certain that I am actually one of the few who is even thinking this far in the direction of positivity or optimism. I reckon there are massive numbers of old folk still huddled indoors and keeping as far away from anyone else as they possibly can, protecting themselves and 'doing the right thing', letting the State tell them what to do and until it tells them to circulate, act naturally again, this is their life. Locked away and at a distance. They feel safe that way. Why change? Someone says that there may be a variant that their particular brand of vaccine may not control. Someone else reminds them that 90% efficacy means that 10% of people may still catch the virus. These people will usually reckon that they could be one of those 10% and logic is on their side as, yes, they could be. But probability is not on their side and this is what the whole country is soon going to have to wake up to. Yes, some people will still die, even after having the vaccine, even after having the second dose. Indeed, we all have a 100% chance of dying at some point in the future. But the chances of dying from COVID19 are very small, even without the vaccine, With the vaccine they are already at a level which makes several other activities in which we are engaging  without a second thought far more risky. We need to think now that COVID19 is like 'flu in many ways. We may still get it but it is highly unlikely to cause us serious problems and extremely, genuinely extremely unlikely to give those of us who have been vaccinated, and an awful lot of others too, any problems now.

Try and let this thought settle in your mind. 

Yes, there are still dangers. We can carry the virus and transmit it to someone else. As that person may be vulnerable or at a particular risk of a problem from getting COVID19 then we do need still to maintain social distancing. Indeed, we are, at the time of writing, still under Lockdown anyway so none of us can circulate or greet people in the old-fashioned ways, get close to anyone we don't live with or have something called a bubble with. So it can only be a thought. But let it be a good thought. Let it grow and develop into some kind of confidence that this thing is beaten. Just as soon as the majority of the population have had their vaccine injection and there is no new nasty mutation of the virus then we will be free again to live pretty much as normal. Actually, it should be as normal

Once other countries have also defeated the virus or have adequate provision to treat it, it does appear then we should be able to travel freely again too, with people not being subjected to crazy restrictions on arrival or for us to have the same inflicted on landing elsewhere. Already I know of some countries where I could, if the law permitted, fly and not face all sorts of requirements before entering. There may continue to be a few places where the virus has not been properly controlled and risks remain by virtue of a new strain having developed. We should avoid those places and ensure people don't come here from them also. But these places are unlikely to be on our normal schedules for where we want to go. I will be more than happy to have my travels restricted to a few places in Europe, Ukraine and Malta for as long as necessary!

I do understand why I am having to stay at home and being careful with who I meet and how close I get while the rest of the world gets vaccinated. I will be frustrated however at a delay in lifting the Lockdown once all the vulnerable people and, say, over 65s have been vaccinated and no further nasty strains discovered which might still kill me. I will also be frustrated at a continuing plethora of restrictions to travel to places I wish to visit where I see no great risk either to my health or those of the people I may meet there. A test before I travel should be sufficient, plus proof that I'll be OK by virtue of my injection. If they're being really careful then, OK, put me in quarantine too when I get there, just in case I am carrying something, but not in some hotel at £2000 a throw and I certainly should not need this on my return to the UK.

If I don't visit a place with nasty new stuff and we're all pretty much vaccinated to the hilt in the UK then I am not going to cause anyone any harm by returning to my own country.

So, I shall remain patient. But not for long. From here on the delay is purely for the benefit of other people. Let that thought develop. It really is just like 'flu now for me and that didn't bother me. I was familiar with the probabilities then. We all need to be familiar with the probabilities now.