Screeching U-turn on Grading by the Government

Image of disappointed student now with large tick to show success of campaign.After howls of protests from tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lecturers the government has decided to reverse its policy to determine A Level exam grades using a statistical algorithm rather than by student ability.

We are pleased to hear about this result, which will support young people in North Devon - especially those at Petroc who were disproportionately impacted.

This U-turn is a victory for common sense and rightly answers calls from Liberal Democrats and others, but it should never have gone this far. There is still a long way to go to clean up this mess. Government must provide the clarity young people need, including supporting and resourcing universities to ensure all provisional offers are honoured.

We’ve always called for placing trust in North Devon’s teachers, not some suit in Westminster.

Right of Free Appeal - Update

A Level appeal fees update

GRaphic of student disappointed with results, over laid with Update messageWe are thrilled to have received the news that neither schools/colleges nor students will have to pay for appeals.

The Liberal Democrats called for this and we are pleased to see the right decision for students after such enormous failure from the Government and from Gavin Williamson.

Pressure was increasing on the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson while the Liberal Democrats called for his resignation.

Successful appeals are already free, but the Department for Education will also cover the costs of unsuccessful ones

A spokesperson for North Devon Liberal Democrats said:

"This is the right decision for young people in North Devon who had a kick in the teeth form the Government after a tough year. We're also pleased for teachers and school leaders who should have been trusted with their predictions and assessments from the outset. This is proof again that loud voices on the ground - students, teachers, parents and activists - they can and will be heard. It's now important that the process is efficient, effective, and stress-free to support students in what's next - especially those relying on these grades for their next steps."

Right of Free Appeal

Graphic showing student with disappointing exam resultsThird of students grades downgraded - they must have a free right to appeal.

More than a third of results in England (35.6%) were downgraded in at least one A Level grade yesterday, following the handling of results by the Government which has come under much criticism. North Devon students can appeal to receive their mock results, but at a cost to schools, colleges and in many instances - families.

Grades have been badly received following news that they were amended based on historic results for schools. Costs for appeals are as much as £120 depending on exam board and the reason for appeal. The cost is incurred should the grade not go up. Schools and colleges are the recipients of the fee, but with many establishments passing these to students as procedure.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding pupils have the chance to appeal their grades directly at no cost. This would involve them presenting evidence that best reflects their performance and progress.

Will Topps, North Devon Councillor for Bickington and an English teacher at Pilton Community College, said: 

"It is hugely unfair that students from state schools and colleges have been more heavily downgraded than their peers at private schools, and even more unfair that they are being priced out of appealing these results. Over the years I've taught many students who have surprised their teachers and achieved better grades than expected - this year those students haven't been given the chance and are being limited by the Tory government. 

"I and my colleagues spent hours agonising over the awarding of Centre Assessed Grades for students and so did lecturers and teachers at A-level. It makes me angry that the government has seemingly ignored this hard work. It's just another example of this government ignoring expert advice and simply doing as it pleases."

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Strengthen Test & Trace

Covid-19 Test & Trace graphic showing network of peopleGovt must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year, else ND kids will be left behind.

Scientists have warned that current Covid-19 contact track and trace is inadequate when schools in the UK reopen next month.

After six months of being cooped up at home, millions of children are looking forward to getting back to school in September, but safety must remain the top priority. The Government needs to be honest about the very real risk that if they do not get the NHS Test and Trace system in order - or in the event that we see a sharp rise in infections - children may have to go back to learning from home.

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Lib Dem Council delivers affordable homes for villages

North Devon Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson Alex White discussing housing needs with local developers.North Devon Council has heard how it has helped develop plans for 57 new homes for families in villages throughout North Devon. Lib Dem Housing Spokesperson Nicola Topham says:

Cllr NIcola Topham”It is sometimes really difficult for local families to afford to live in the village where they grew up and where they may work, support the local school or look after relatives. Through our support for the Community Land Trusts, we are helping to ensure that our villages don’t lose their young people and that they remain as vibrant, sustainable communities"

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North Devon Tory MP fails to support local needs

Image of Alex White and the letter he has written to the North Devon MP.North Devon Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson, Alex White, has written to our Tory MP expressing concern about her unwillingness to support a cross party amendment to the Trade Bill. 

The amendment would have offered some protection to Farmers and the NHS in any future trade deals.

The amendment would have given MPs the right to vote on any trade deals negotiated by the government.  In his letter, Alex White says "The Government promised to 'take back control', but instead they're doing the complete opposite."


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Government must protect our farmers and food standards

Sheep in Devon Lane

Devon Liberal Democrats have launched a petition calling on the Government not to sign a trade deal with the USA that would expose British farmers to cheap food imports, lower UK animal welfare and food production standards and damage the environment. The call is supported by North Devon Liberal Democrats who earlier this month wrote of the North Devon MP voting against an amendment to support food standards and British farmers.

Sign the Petition

Currently the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but if the UK gives in to Trump's demands it would allow practices currently banned in the UK such as producing eggs from battery hens, chlorine washing of chicken and treating cattle and pigs with growth hormones. This wouldn't be good for Devon, our farmers, or consumers.

It would also mean:

  • British farmers having to compete against cheaper imports that have been produced to a lower welfare standard, putting many UK farmers out of business.
  • The British public eating meat, eggs and dairy products produced to lower animal welfare standards than are currently allowed.
  • An increase in food miles and greenhouse gases because of import distances and the intensive farming systems in the USA.

Shamefully, the Tory MP for North Devon did not support a recent amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill which would have stood up to the Trump administration and guaranteed the preservation of British standards. They have let Devon down badly.

The Bill is now in the Lords for its second reading.

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Dogs in Parks and Beaches - Thanks

Picture of a dog ready for a walkA big 'thank you' to all of you who took part in our recent survey on how our parks and beaches are shared by dog walkers, walkers and families. Your answers were really helpful to councillors when they met yesterday to discuss the issue. The Council have decided that they will carry out their own, more comprehensive survey of the public over the next 8 weeks and make a decision based on that. 

Our survey found that most of the responses were in favour of dog friendly areas on beaches but were split nearly 50:50 on whether there should be an outright ban on dogs on the main holiday beaches. 

If dog bans were renewed, our responses showed that the beaches where these would be most unpopular would be Instow and Combe Martin. 

Responses were more than 90% in favour of fines for owners who did not pick up after their dogs in playgrounds, parks, sports fields and cemeteries. Nearly all  of you also thought that dogs should be kept on their leads in cemeteries and playgrounds and a majority (more than 60%) that dogs should be kept on leads on sports pitches.

The council survey is going to be widened to include questions on the Tarka Trail and footpaths around Braunton, Fremington and Instow. If you want to take part, please follow this link.

Selaine Saxby MP must back calls for Dominic Cummings to go, and put the fight against coronavirus first.

Letter to Ms Saxby - Click to enlargeThe Liberal Democrats have written to the Conservative MP for North Devon urging them to end the distractions and support calls for scandal-hit Dominic Cummings to go, so the country can focus on the coronavirus emergency.

The call comes alongside Liberal Democrat demands for an independent inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, while several Conservative MPs have also broken cover to call for Dominic Cummings to quit, amid claims he broke coronavirus lockdown rules twice.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Alex White for North Devon said:

“People right across North Devon have made incredible sacrifices to stop the coronavirus. Even if the Prime Minister keeps his blinkers on, the Tory MP here cannot be oblivious to
how angry people are with this scandal.

“Each minute this scandal is allowed to drag on is another minute the Government is distracted from upscaling Britain’s testing capacity, securing PPE for frontline workers and preventing the tragic deaths in our care homes.

"The MP must come out and put the health, wellbeing and economy of our country before efforts to save the Prime Minister’s adviser.”

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey added:

“By failing to act, the Prime Minister undermines his own authority to lead the country through this appalling crisis, bringing his own judgement into question.

“The Prime Minister must come clean about what he knows and terminate Dominic Cummings’ contract. It is now clearer than ever that, once we are through this crisis, there must also be an independent inquiry to review the Government’s actions."

North Devon MP tells tourists 'there is plenty of space'

Graphic showing Woolacombe and prohibited road signOn Tuesday 12th May, the Conservative MP for North Devon claimed in a Facebook post that there was 'plenty of space' in North Devon. Today, Wednesday (20th) May, tourists flocked to North Devon beaches.

This week the MP has come under fire on her own Facebook live, accused of encouraging visitors over the last ten days. It follows images across social media, local and national press of cars queuing to gain entry into beaches.

Dozens of locals, along with us at North Devon Liberal Democrats, warned the MP that this was coming and encouraged her to put out a clearer message.

On May 12th, North Devon Liberal Democrats wrote to the MP and relevant ministers seeking for a clearer message, forewarning of an influx, and pushing for a clear 'come back later' message. These requests were ignored.

In the Conservative MP's own survey of over 1,100 people during the w/c 4th May, only 6.7% of North Devonians said they would welcome tourists back to the area. This is feedback that the MP ignored, choosing instead to be the voice of her Conservative government from Westminster in North Devon and not North Devon's voice in Westminster.

As a result, immense pressure has been put on the police force; council staff are run off their feet and our vulnerable hospital has been open to the potential for more cases. All of this could have been avoided. North Devon has been put at risk because of her failure to stand up for North Devon, and the Government's lack of understanding of areas like ours. In this MP, North Devon had no voice.

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