Banksy says Yes

 
     

     

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Butterflies and an AyePad

Bella Caledonia has been running a competition for the best independence poster, and the twenty that have made it onto the shortlist can be seen on this page.

There are two that I particularly like. The first is one that I've shown before and is well worth showing again.

 
     
 

The second is by G Connelly:

 
     

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No love

Better Together, the group campaigning for a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum, launched a video aimed at women voters yesterday. It was immediately described as "insulting" by the Yes campaign because it portrayed women as "daft ditherers" ... although it's hardly likely that either side would have anything good to say about what the other side produces.

What surprised me, however, was what Blair McDougall, the director of the No campaign, said at the launch:

"The key factor for people isn't the love of our country – as both Yes and No voters love Scotland. The key factor is the love of our families."

Which can only mean that he thinks those who vote No love their families, but that those who vote Yes don't love their families.

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Scotland Yet

If you can carve out an hour-and-a-half, I'd recommend using it to watch this film from Rough Justice Films. This is what they have to say about it:

Scotland Yet is a feature length documentary that takes a radically different approach to the debate on Scottish independence.

Blissfully free of sound bites, politicians and statistics, Scotland Yet examines the sum of several personal stories from across the nation to explore the many reasons why we find ourselves at such an historic impasse.

Filled with remarkable characters and sparkling with collective imagination, vision and humour, this is the story of a society that’s beginning to see itself in a whole new light. From the old to the young, from veteran activists to bold artists, Scotland Yet delves into the past, documents the present and asks poignant questions about Scotland’s future.

This film focuses on the real referendum debate, the one taking place in the streets, homes and communities across Scotland. It documents the most important discussion we have ever had, as democracy, place, what we have here and what we lack, come to the fore.

A coming of age story about a whole society: Scotland Yet is a unique and radical cinematic journey about a country that will never be the same again.

     

Click the four-arrow button at the bottom right to watch it in full screen mode.

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Welsh Language GCSE Results, 2014

Each year at this time I take a look at what the GCSE results can tell us about the way Welsh is taught in our schools.

There are three different types of Welsh GCSE: Welsh First Language, Welsh Second Language (full course) and Welsh Second Language (short course). However a substantial number of Year 11 students, even though they study Welsh, still do not take any Welsh GCSE. The number of entries for each can therefore be used as one indicator of the state of Welsh teaching in our schools.

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This year the figures are again quite positive. Although the size of the cohort has decreased by about 1,100 compared with last year, the overall number taking Welsh GCSEs has increased by more than 200, and the number of students not taking any form of Welsh GCSE has fallen from 5,768 to 4,447 ... its lowest level ever in both numerical and percentage terms. These are the figures:

Total number of students aged 15 at start of year
35,262 (was 36,361) ... down 1,099

Welsh First Language
5,591 entries (15.86% of year) ... was 5,636 (15.50%) ... down 45 (up 0.36%p)

Welsh Second Language (full course)
10,566 entries (29.94% of year) ... was 10,183 (28.01%) ... up 383 (up 1.93%p)

Welsh Second Language (short course)
14,668 entries (41.60% of year) ... was 14,774 (40.63%) ... down 106 (up 0.97%p)

Total Welsh Entries
30,815 entries (87.39% of year) ... was 30,593 (84.14%) ... up 222 (up 3.25%p)

Number who did not take any Welsh GCSE
4,447 (12.61% of year) ... was 5,768 (15.86%) ... down 1,321 (down 3.25%p)

Source for GCSE results
Source for Cohort Size (Maintained Schools)
Source for Cohort Size (Independent Schools)

The graphs below show how the numbers and percentages have changed over the last couple of decades, and a spreadsheet with full details is available here:

Although the Welsh First Language entry is down very slightly in numerical terms, it has again risen in percentage terms. The long term trend should continue steadily upwards. The latest figure for Year 2 assessments in WFL is 22.4% of the cohort and, given the new emphasis on continuation between primary and secondary school, this should mean that the figure for WFL GCSE entries will be comfortably over 20% when these pupils reach Year 11.

In terms of Welsh Second Language teaching the percentage entries for both full and short course GCSEs have risen, but it is encouraging to note the significant increase in those taking the full GCSE rather than the short GCSE. It probably won't be very long before the short course is phased out altogether, and the challenge will be to make sure that pupils do in fact take the full GCSE exam rather than opt out of taking any exam in Welsh at all.

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Cardiff's re-think on WM school places

For those who might have missed it—and because the news doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere in English—I thought I'd re-post this report from Newyddion 9 yesterday evening.

     

Each local authority is required to produce a Welsh in Education Strategic Plan which, among other things, details how they intend to increase the provision of Welsh-medium education in their area. Cardiff's WESP (available here) had said that it intended to create another 47 reception places over the next three years, broken down as follows:

Ysgol Glan Ceubal ... 2 new places
Ysgol y Wern ... 15 new places
New school in Grangetown/Butetown ... 30 new places

Total ... 47 new places

But this has now been revised to:

Ysgol Glan Ceubal ... 2 new places
Ysgol y Wern ... 15 new places
New school in Grangetown/Butetown ... 60 new places
Splott/Adamsdown ... 30 new places

Total ... 107 new places

In addition to this, an extra 15 reception places would be available by refusing children who live in Rhondda Cynon Taf access to Ysgol Gwaelod y Garth ... although I think this would be a retrograde move as it is the most convenient school for Taff's Well, just across the river.

I've searched for details of the new plan, but haven't been able to find any so far. However I think it's fairly clear how the additional places would be provided.

First, it must mean that the new WM school for Grangetown/Butetown is going to be a two-form entry school from the outset. Cardiff produced a shortlist of six possible sites back in March, and I looked at each of these in some detail in this post. As I see it, the only two viable options for this new WM school are the Channel View Leisure Centre site in Grangetown (in turquoise) and the site immediately north of County Hall (in yellow).

     

Second, the most obvious way of expanding provision in Splott/Adamsdown is by increasing the size of the existing Ysgol Glan Morfa from one- to two-form entry.

Ysgol Glan Morfa shares a site with the English-medium Moorlands Primary (and Nursery) School. In the picture below Moorlands Primary is the two storey building, Moorlands Nursery is the single story building in the top left, and Glan Morfa is at the bottom.

     

On the right of the picture is a building which used to be a library but is now empty, although the grounds are used as a play area. My guess is that this would be used to provide the additional accommodation to make Glan Morfa into a two form entry school. The building is not in particularly good condition, so it might well be better to demolish it than try to refurbish it. But it was quite a handsome building in its day, and if it were up to me I'd look at a way of keeping the façade, but building something completely new behind it.

     

All in all, it is very good news indeed that Cardiff Council have re-thought their original plans, and are now aiming to provide more than double the number of new WM reception places originally proposed. These 107 new reception places will, as children move up through these schools, mean an extra capacity of 749 WM primary places. It will also make it all the more necessary for Cardiff to have a fourth WM secondary school.

The other piece of good news is that Cardiff intend to open the new Grangetown/Butetown school by 2016 rather than 2017 as previously proposed.

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Europe's Dirty Thirty

A new report has been published today highlighting the thirty power stations in the EU with the highest CO2 emissions. Nine of these thirty are in the UK, including our own Aberthaw. The report itself, plus additional maps and graphics, can be downloaded from this page.

     

In terms of polution, burning coal is just about the worst possible way of generating electricity. Coal-fired power stations are the single biggest global source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 40% of global energy production, but fully 70% of global energy sector emissions.

Burning any fossil fuel to produce electricity is bad, but burning coal is much worse than burning gas for these reasons.

• First, burning gas typically emits about 400g CO2/kWh, but burning coal typically emits 780-990g CO2/kWh (see p41 of this document).

• Second, as well as CO2, burning coal also releases nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, dust and heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic into the atmosphere, which are major causes of acid rain and ground level ozone (smog), and are associated with a range of human health problems including asthma and cancer. Although the EU has gone some way towards limiting these other emissions, they are an inherent part of burning coal.

• Third, coal is not a particularly flexible way of generating electricity in response to changes in the pattern of demand at different times of the day. This makes it (and of course nuclear) unsuitable to use alongside renewables, most of which are intermittent.

For these three reasons, we must wean ourselves away from using coal to generate electricity, especially as we can easily produce more than all the electricity we consume in Wales from renewable sources. We must be looking to close coal-fired power stations such as Aberthaw, and we must make the decision to keep the coal reserves we have left in Wales in the ground. There is no reason at all for Wales to be among the dirty countries of Europe.

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