News from the UK in the first week of December 2020

News from the UK in the first week of December 2020

 Edinburgh Free meals for all: The SNP has promised that every primary pupil in Scotland will be eligible for free breakfasts and lunches, if the party is re-elected at next May’s Holyrood elections. Addressing the party’s virtual conference last weekend, deputy leader John Swinney explained that the new policy would come into force in August 2022, and would operate year-round – during term time and holidays. In England, universal free school lunches are only available in the first three years of school. In her speech, party leader Nicola Sturgeon told the conference that she had “never been so certain” of achieving independence. “Scotland is on the brink of making history,” she said. “Let us demonstrate – with cool heads and patient persuasion – that [it] is ready to take its place in the global family of independent nations.”

Ampleforth, North Yorkshire School closed: Ampleforth College, Britain’s most prestigious independent Roman Catholic school, has been banned from accepting new pupils because of safeguarding failures. The school, which counts Julian Fellowes and Antony Gormley among its alumni, was informed of the enforcement action by the Department for Education last week. It said the decision was unjustified, and that it would be appealing. In 2018, a report highlighted decades of “appalling sexual abuse” at Ampleforth. Last year, the head teacher (the third in a year) stepped down after a separate report identified a number of failures relating to bullying, leadership, and complaints handling. An emergency Ofsted inspection in September concluded that while improvements had been made, these were not sufficient.

Northallerton, North Yorkshire Avian flu: A highly pathogenic strain of bird flu was identified at a turkey farm in North Yorkshire last week, forcing a cull of all 10,500 of its birds. The fattening farm, near Northallerton, sells turkey to Avara Foods, which supplies Tesco and other supermarkets in the run-up to Christmas. Although Public Health England has said the risk to the public is very low, animal-health experts are concerned that two other farms, in Gloucestershire and Cheshire, have also been infected by the H5N8 virus in the past two weeks. One theory is that it is being transmitted by migrating waterfowl.

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