News round-up May 23

22 May 08
Children's minister Beverley Hughes has announced a £35m pilot scheme to improve access to childcare for parents with disabled children. Part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Aiming High for Disabled Children programme, the £35m investment will initially fund ten local authorities in England to help parents who struggle to find suitable childcare. The DCSF says these difficulties mean parents are less likely to work and disabled children are more likely to live in poor households.

23 May 2008

Children's minister Beverley Hughes has announced a £35m pilot scheme to improve access to childcare for parents with disabled children. Part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Aiming High for Disabled Children programme, the £35m investment will initially fund ten local authorities in England to help parents who struggle to find suitable childcare. The DCSF says these difficulties mean parents are less likely to work and disabled children are more likely to live in poor households.

Bruce Robinson has been named the new head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, taking over from Sir Nigel Hamilton. Robinson, currently permanent secretary in the Department of Finance and Personnel, is expected to take up the post in the summer. He said he was looking forward to ensuring the civil service delivered on the challenging agenda set out by the Northern Ireland Executive's programme for government. Robinson, a chartered accountant, spearheaded several economic competitiveness initiatives at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment before joining the DFP as second permanent secretary in 2006.

People living in 23 urban neighbourhoods across England can now monitor noise levels in their areas with the click of a mouse. A new website created by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs provides maps showing the level of environmental noise generated by industry, roads and railways. Users are able to search by postcode to find out noise levels over an average 24-hour period. Environment minister Jonathan Shaw said the noise maps would provide a 'springboard to go forward and tackle unnecessary and unreasonable noise pollution'.

The water regulator has called for the water and sewerage industries to be opened up more to competition where this will benefit consumers. In a report published on May 16, Ofwat says the current scope for competition is severely limited by legislation and has not developed successfully. The watchdog calls for the market to be opened up progressively, starting with services to business customers and followed by those for private households when appropriate safeguards are in place. Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn said: 'Competition will drive benefits such as greater responsiveness to customers' needs, innovative approaches to adapting to climate change and downward pressure on costs.'

A plan for an Armed Forces Day national holiday has been supported by a government-backed study, National recognition of our armed forces. The report, by MP Quentin Davies, published on May 19, said: 'If the government were minded to propose to Parliament the creation of another public holiday, we believe that an Armed Forces and Veterans' Day, on a set Friday or Monday at the end of June, would be the right solution.' Among 40 other recommendations in the report are: a drive to persuade more state school pupils to join cadet forces; making it a criminal offence to discriminate against people in military uniform; and homecoming parades for military personnel returning from conflict zones.

Eton College is to join a partnership with local state schools in an effort to share best practice. The leading public school is involved in one of 23 projects announced on May 19 by Schools Secretary Ed Balls covering 145 state and 37 independent schools, focusing on gifted pupils and improving standards in maths, science and languages. Schools minister Andrew Adonis described this next phase of partnerships as a 'new era for independent/state schools partnerships'.

 

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