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Lancashire Cricket Board - Goodness, Gracious me
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Goodness, Gracious me

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Controversy used to be my “middle” name

I feel a bit of a grumble coming over me, but before I get on my high horse I am pleased to say that both Thomas and Sophie got their first Westbury FC footy matches in this weekend since the end of November!!


Thomas won on Saturday but Sophie lost yesterday. He was at home but Sophie’s game on Sunday was at Turf Moor, Burnley – the home of Burnley CC not Burnley FC. She did rather well in goal keeping the opponents, Pennine Rangers, to only three goals. They had a player who could “throw-in” almost as far as Rory Delap. Quite amazing.


As you can gather I was on Grandad duties on Sunday with Sophie whilst Grandma substituted for me taking Thomas to Old Trafford for the Under 12 Squad Session. It was a lengthier journey than normal for Tom as Grandma does not do motorways. A note of warning here for Mr John Stanworth. He was at Old Trafford on Sunday with the Under 17’s and he had the temerity to walk past the good lady not once but twice without recognising her. Now she was working at the time on her iPad (???) sorting her Zoo out. I suggested to her that Stanny may not have been able to see her for all the elephant poo that was flying around, but that did not cut any ice at all. So Mr Stanworth – watch out next time you see Mrs H.


Before getting on my high horse I can report that 106 letters will be posted on Tuesday to all the schools who have entered our Inter-School Comps. Another good entry. The draws for these competitions will be posted on the LCB Website as well along with the District ones.


I have lots of other things to attend to but first - the High Horse.


Most of what I read in newspapers or see on television news these days tends to wash over me, but occasionally something grabs my attention. The reports this weekend about the Schools Minister, Mr Gove, spouting on about abolishing “authorised absences” has most definitely got my goat. I am no stranger to controversy – that became my middle name when I was in the hot seat at Hayward School.


Let me tell you a story. Towards my final years at Hayward I was able to obtain a significant grant to help complete our In-School Centre for those with serious special needs. We had a man in the Town Hall who we called Mr Funny Money who was adept at identifying sources of money from unusual sources. You never asked where from you simply said thanks. We had spent the money to good purpose when one day I received a letter from the Department of Education and Science in London asking me to complete a questionnaire about our project and its impact. It was 48 pages long and the most bizarre document I had ever seen focussing on a series of implausible targets.


I decided to grab the bull by the horns and I compiled a lengthy letter to the Head of the Section at Head Office in London. I needed a catch phrase to capture attention. I came up with the suggestion that everyone had gone “target bonkers”. Now to try and safeguard my position and possibly encourage visitors to my cell in the Tower of London I decided to let the Director of Education in Bolton cast an eye over my epistle before posting it off. I caused an outbreak of amazement with almost everybody at the office having sight of my letter in little or no time. The Director thought it was brilliant, and that she would be my first visitor. No one expected me to send it – but I did.


Not that long after my secretary at school rang through to me to say that there was a lady from the “Department” asking to speak to me. Ah ah, I thought, here comes my come uppance. The lady introduced herself and said she had just read the questionnaire for the first time. She then went on to say ….. that she wholeheartedly agreed with me, and apologised. Phew ?? Good on her I thought. I did then get conned into helping her produce a report with the person who had submitted the initial questionnaire which was withdrawn. Now this was well over a decade ago. I am not too sure there are many civil servants in post today who would admit to being in the wrong and most certainly no politicians.


On to Mr Gove. I can remember when the concept of “authorised” and “unauthorised” absence first appeared and the instructions on how to handle them. A Primary School Head near to me had a record of 100% authorised attendance at the time hitting the national press. He said he knew why his pupils had not attended so they must be official and “authorised”. They came for him in a yellow van soon after. I jest, but the whole thing looks like spiralling downhill as the powers that be look to ensure from their viewpoint that you now cut down on “authorised” absence and let truancy reign supreme.


Heads will no longer be able to say to parents who apply properly that their children’s absence can be authorised. There are a variety of reasons why sensible parents need to be able to do this. But just because a minority of parents anxious to get cheaper foreign holidays in school time abuse the system it is almost criminal to punish everyone.


This move I believe is another example of the idea of the world going “target bonkers”. It could have a major impact upon county age group cricket. We rely very heavily each cricket season on Heads giving our young players permission to miss school to represent their county. Our development programme is one to be envied. If we were not able to have continued support from our schools the result would not be good for us or for cricket. We have always insisted that our young players put their educational development as their number one priority and we seek written permission from their schools for them to play in any match scheduled in term time. If a school declines permission we accept the decision. I have to say that this usually centres on Key Stage Assessments and Examinations. We have become very adept at avoiding key dates. Over the long years I have been doing this role I have found most Headteachers more than anxious to give their pupils the chance they want.  I hope that this relationship is not going to be damaged by a policy that is more about grabbing headlines than sense – completely bonkers in fact.


When the Head at Woodhey High School in September found out he had two county cricketers in his new Year 7 he made the point of speaking to both Tom and Lewis Dove, and then their parents to assure them they would receive the full support of the school. What would you say about that Mr Gove? Will your decision to stop Heads giving authorised absences impact on them and many, many others. If so, get a grip on reality. Oh and have a word with the Head who gave Andrew Flintoff his full support for so many years.


Time to get off the High Horse – although as my old Grandma used to say – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Too many people in politics at the moment are so far up their own backsides they cannot see the wood for the trees.


To finish with I hope to have news before the end of the week about how each and every one of you, and a few thousand others as well, can place an order for the book sensation of the year – “WHO’D HAVE THOWT” – LSCA 90 Not out - A Personal journey Through Life & Cricket and the History of LSCA over the past 90 Years” by yours truly John  Heaton.


It might add to the appeal of the situation if I find myself being carried away to the “Tower” for daring to express my view that everyone in the world of politics has gone “target bonkers”.


I thought the Resident Zoo Keeper might not approve of my “HIGH HORSE” mood with this Blog, but elephant poo aside she has given it the nod. Did I tell you she now has a Prehistoric Village in the early stages of development as well?


Definitely time for a Tesco Moment.


Before the Yellow Van appears ??????

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (2 posted)

ted 21/02/2012 06:50:28

I dont think Mr. Gove studied History at school because if he did he might have seen that years ago towns in the north of England had wakes weeks, weeks where the whole town shut down for two weeks. These wakes weeks were done on a rotational basis so that everyone could go on holiday and factory maintenance sould be done whilst the supply chain of goods wasnt affected. Common sense.

This isn't a political blog so one final point. There aren't that many planes to transport families to holiday destinations and when they get there there wont be accommodation. And then there is the cost in the 'high season'.

Mr Gove needs to do two things, go back to night school, and put the soap box on the bonfire.

I do hope that these 'new plans' dont get in the way of school sports. There are many children who are very good at sports and not much else and these kids should be given their chances. Besides all sports build character and create good citizens.

Melanie Brownlow 23/02/2012 16:51:43
I work in school admin and unless Mr Gove decides to remove it there is an attendance code that can be used for 'approved educational activity' - and another that can be used for 'receiving education elsewhere' - perhaps the schools could be encouraged to use these codes to allow the youngsters to be away from school for cricket ?
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