Matt

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  • in reply to: Labours Alternative Budget Proposals 2018/19 #144982

    Matt
    Participant

    I don’t think any of the current Lab councillors post on here (at least not overtly).

    Also many of the local Labour voters struggle to even connect/associate their Local Lab councillors with the party’s current wider anti-austerity & social equality goals. I’m also struggling to even identify a single spokesperson from the group who wants to champion these aims within Wrexham.

    A thoroughly lacklustre budget that they felt like they had to turn in like homework because it was expected of them.

    in reply to: Ysgol Bryn Alyn in Special Measures #144914

    Matt
    Participant

    If it is about budget how does Maelor School in Penley consistently hit high targets surely they get the same level of funding per head as the other schools in Wrexham- what are they doing that can be bottled and delivered to the other schools.

    1 simple statistical fact – Maelor School free dinners children – 4.6%. Bryn Alyn – 19.9%, Clywedog – 19.4%, Rhosnesni – 25.1%.

    Welsh Government uses free school meals as a key indicator of underprivileged children.

    The Welsh national average is 17.8% of children on free meals per school, so the struggling schools are all above and The Maelor is way below – it has a fantastically low level – signifying a wide level of affluence in that rural corner of the county.

    The Welsh Government states in this report:

    http://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/academic-achievement-free-school-meals/?lang=en

    “There is a strong link between achievement and the level of entitlement to free school meals in secondary schools: as the level of FSM entitlement increases, the level of achievement decreases.”

    “In 2017 the difference in performance between pupils eligible for free school meals and those who are not is 14.3 percentage points.”

    That is an absolutely astonishing performance gap & absolutely nothing is being done about it at all in the majority of Wrexham schools. We are talking about a large number of poorer students actually seeing a real class system imposed on them just from the backgrounds they were born into. Free dinners = expected low academic achievement = expected low earning or benefits reliant when of working age and then their own kids falling into the same fate creating generations of deprivation.

    The absolute joke is that the Maelor is running on a budget of £4,554 per pupil, lower than any other school in Wrexham

    http://mylocalschool.gov.wales/School/6655401?lang=en

    and Rhosnesni gets £5,547 per pupil! – An extra grand more per child than the Maelor & it’s still suffering from severe failure.

    http://mylocalschool.wales.gov.uk/School/6654048?lang=en

    The other schools are floating a few hundred quid per pupil above the Maelor.

    But it just goes to show bad the impact is on school ratings and pupil performance that even the existing additional funding in place isn’t making a dent.

    Versus inner-city schools in England we still have to consider the likes of Rhosnesni underfunded and totally without the ability to pay for turnaround specialist teachers and management or support staff dedicated to social inclusion. Who’d want to work in bad schools with all the added stress and pressures from kids, headteachers, inspectors, school governors, parents all screaming at them to magically make the kids do better in their exams?

    Teachers would much rather work in the actual rewarding learning environment of somewhere like the Maelor or across the border.

    We need millions invested into the local Wrexham’s failing education system.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 19 hours ago by  Matt.
    in reply to: Ysgol Bryn Alyn in Special Measures #144906

    Matt
    Participant

    Liz, the problem still lies with school budgets. Wrexham Council is proposing underfunding in real terms & I read an article that says they also have a similar situation in Flintshire. You can’t attract the top talent ‘troubled schools’ specialist teachers & managers who just aren’t going to come to Wrexham as we can’t afford the salary they can demand in England where academies etc… have more funding. Hence as I said before they have had success turning round some of the worst schools in the likes of Manchester where they have had gang violence & drug & weapons problems in the past that faced all ethnicities as they had the talent and the money and resources to deal with it head on. You only need to look at the top quality sports facilities on offer to English city school kids that even if they are not academically inclined they can develop some kind of sporting talent.

    Just what have youngsters got to look forward to in this town in general? Most of the sporting and leisure infrastucture is tired & neglected. The council have no real interest in youth recreation & services. It took the community to rescue Plas Madoc & put in provisions to renovate it. There’s hardly any youth clubs & public locations where you could put on activities are being sold off/demolished by the council, like our community centres.

    There’s countless playgrounds and MUGAs around the county that have been vandalised or are unsafe and outdated. Then you have to deal with smashed glass and litter everywhere on them as the council’s idea of litter action is fining people for dropping cigarette butts in town using rentamob Kingdom, rather than putting boots on the ground and cleaning up our parks and public spaces.

    Want your child to learn to play a musical instrument – but can’t afford the cost of an expensive instrument? A longtime proud town tradition, Fugheddabout it…cutting the money for that too.

    So yes to top it all off our kids then have to attend sub-standard schools at risk of special measures or in special measures unless they go into the Welsh medium route or the religious route.

    Most of us here will feel an air of disbelief at the shocking state of affairs that the young experience in Wrexham present. Anyone who finished school 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago will remember a very different picture of going through education and also the overall quality and quantity of things to do around the town and county. I was really proud of growing up in Wrexham, but now am a bit saddened at the current state of affairs. I wish there was something collectively we could do as a town to improve things.

    in reply to: Ysgol Bryn Alyn in Special Measures #144870

    Matt
    Participant

    Sadly the dire schools situation in Wrexham has been going on years.

    You only need to look at the super schools debacle – closing one of the main central Wrexham secondary schools & expecting to cope with 2 & trying to claim increased investment and excellence was going to happening within them, which they didn’t. So we had 3 relatively well functioning schools and ended up with 2 at breaking point. Of course now after all these years there’s still arguments over the disposal/bringing back into re-use of the Groves site – a side issue of course.

    Anyway what you have is 3 critical failure points in Wrexham schools:

    1) Underfunded – on average per pupil there is far less money available than say across the border in Cheshire and Shropshire.

    2) Talent drain – as a direct result of there being less money, top teachers are being poached across the border to teach in England under better pay with better teaching resources. Why wouldn’t you? Also means headteachers get paid significantly more across the border – so like with Wrexham council can’t best the best leadership people in. I’ve been aware of this happening within my former school of St David’s where I became very aware that a large number of teachers jumped ship before the schools merged into Rhosnesni & got plum positions elsewhere. Even the best trainee teachers don’t want to train in Wrexham – I have known quite a few people who decided to train up down Oswestry way & then looked for a teaching job down there.

    3) Large % of kids classed as underprivileged- now I don’t like sticking labels on the level of wealth a child’s family background involves and their academic ability, but obviously there is a huge correlation between underachievement and coming from a less well off background. This issue has been tackled head on in England’s inner cities with (contraversial) Academy schools and them effectively getting the top people and task forces to turn situations around in terms of improving fortunes of inner city children. Unfortunately we’ve had no such incentives in Wrexham and the situation has just been allowed to snowball. You combine that with increasing class sizes (build more schools please), teachers who are probably underpaid vs their peers in England and voila you’ve got the special measures picture we are seeing today. Oh yes, when the schools get dealt with during special measures they only get forced to improve to a standard that is considered borderline acceptable rather than an attempt to massively improve things. So further down the line, these schools have a high chance of red flagging again at the next inspection.

    The WAG need to give us some serious investment to turn the education situation round in North Wales.

    in reply to: Shopper count #144817

    Matt
    Participant

    It’s funny because years & years ago for a GCSE Geography study, about 50 of us positioned ourselves all around town & conducted a pedestrian count for about half an hour to get a rough idea of where was busy and where wasn’t. I remember being positioned by the bench that’s near Greggs now & it was bloody busy even on a weekday morning. We ended up generating a heat map back in school of the busiest and quietest areas of town.

    It’s crazy to think they are still using this methodolgy all these years in a digitised manner but only using a single location.

    They definitely would benefit measuring bus station footfall & perhaps the bridge from Eagle’s Meadow.

    People were saying about all the different type of pedestrians that cause a spike in footfall data. It’s almost like you need to apply visitor profiling like how advertisers and retailers track people’s browsing habits based on cookies online. Unfortunately (but probably rightly so) due to strict privacy & data protection laws you can’t do the same profiling to actual physical people. However, if you could it would be incredibly insightful. So you’d be able to profile the different people into different segments, such as funeral attendees (going to church – probably not spending) & football fans (going to the pub & the bookies then to the match – good for certain town businesses but not general shops), residents of the middle of town (not specifically going shopping every time they leave their dwelling) then actual shoppers who have come into town with the express purpose of spending money in bricks and mortar stores.

    If you were an existing retailer or a new shop looking to set-up on any given Wrexham street you’d want to know about that 4th segment of qualified purchasers. Then of course you’d want to break that down into further demographics men, women, age, family status, wealth – depending entirely on the type of shop you are running.

    Of course this is a major struggle for in-town retailers – the disadvantage in information availability versus what is seamlessly available for an online retailer.

    So the whole thing reveals the folly of footfall data alone to measure the popularity of a town centre. It could measure a herd of stampeding cattle for all it knew & measure that as an upturn in visitors. Bull in a china shop anyone?

    You only need to look at that Greenwoods location to mark another 2 major visitor destination biases within that area.

    1) Post Office – people just interested in going to post a letter/parcel or other PO business then leave without spending money elsewhere.

    2) Nationwide – people just interested in doing their banking at a very popular Building Society then leaving.

    I know I’m completely splitting hairs here, but there are a myriad of reasons people could be in town with no major spending intention.

    The problem is that Wrexham overall isn’t set-up as a reputable shopping destination. Visitor numbers being toted up at shopping destination places like Broughton or Cheshire Oaks would signal more legitimate volumes of people who have real spending intention.

    It’s not that Wrexham doesn’t have a significant population who are affluent with major spending intention – it’s just the town centre has to compete for £ these days with all the supermarkets, online, the previously mentioned shopping destinations & more attractive big cities like Chester, Liverpool & Manchester. Sadly all of those mean a net outflow of wealth from Wrexham rather than an increased spend within town in local businesses, meaning the town centre remains poor and undesirable as a retail environment.

    in reply to: Exec Board answering of questions #144718

    Matt
    Participant

    The thing is the current regime don’t want full open and transparent local government so the more bureaucracy they can use to muddy the waters the better & more authoritative & safe they feel.

    You go back 10 years – pre-popular social media time & highly politically aware reporters & activists sharing & scrutinising council information. Councillors then could pretty much get away with whatever they wanted unless some kind of major public local outrage occurred. No-one was monitoring their meetings or reports on progress of different functions – the information was readily available but no-one cared & they just got on with running things with very little scrutiny or demands for intervention from the public.

    Competency also wasn’t called into question as it was pre-2008 Global Financial Crisis, so it was the boom times & there was loads of public money to splash around & keep everyone happy. Also the retail sector was healthy, so a view of thriving business within the town meant most people were kept happy one way or another.

    Nowadays thanks to vital sites like Wrexham.com and other highly engaged folk online – the Exec Board & every council decision is under a microscope. Now you have a mix of old school councillors who are not used to the intense scrutiny of the public & up & coming councillors who do have social media experience but struggle from the demands and opposition that come with putting your heart on your sleeve online when being a public figure. There are a few in opposition who are able to do it well but are often allied with local activists & a strong political party structure, which means they are well backed up. The rest honestly don’t know how to deal with it and that is why they end up turtle shelling & you get them coming up with more & more sophisticated ploys to hold up or bury information that leaves then wide open to uncomfortable questions or criticism.

    It’s a natural political reaction, you only need to look at the Conservative Government, definitely on the back heel in terms of public opinion & favour, they keep their cards very close to the table, which is why many scandals only come out from leaks and undercover investigations. Plus they drag their heels on the publishing of crucial reports on contentious issues like Brexit.

    Now I don’t agree with this style of closed Government nationally or locally at all & think it just forces those who want the information to get smarter & adapt to come up with more sophisticated measures needed to get the information out. Ultimately it’s a losing battle for those in power to try & be so secretive because once it finally comes out & it always does, the issue just becomes completely overblown & increases reputational damage. Also it leaves them wide open to speculation & rumour, which many people believe & then they are forced to debunk these rumours with the actual true position anyway.

    in reply to: Tŷ Pawb (merged mega thread) #144680

    Matt
    Participant

    …and I hope that the discussion moves on to constructive ideas about how to turn this potential white elephant into a successful entity

    Very well written and objective post Alun. I think the whole white elephant thing reminds me of the biggest white elephant of our time – the Millennium Dome – the whole mania behind it meant money was thrown at aspirational projects and we ended up with something they didn’t quite know what to do with – just how do you celebrate the turn of a millennium?

    So of course hardly anyone visited & it flopped. Of course this left a fantastic functional venue that has seen many years of success with top international acts going to it. Perhaps we will see the refurbished People’s Market being brought back into something more useful if arts doesn’t work out.

    in reply to: Aldi Expansion Application, should be refused. #144679

    Matt
    Participant

    Expanding this Aldi Store would make what is a real bottle neck even worse. One road in and out of a congested site.
    Reduced car parking on the aldi site will only further add to long standing issues

    Signed J.Sainsbury…

    in reply to: Tŷ Pawb (merged mega thread) #144638

    Matt
    Participant

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you say about how it’s just an art gallery that few people are expected to visit.

    Most local people fall into a few camps who are unlikely to ever visit or add revenue to the place. The first lot being dead against Ty Pawb as they think it’s a huge waste of money for something no-one asked for & wish the money was spent on reducing cuts or on something more beneficial to local life. These people see it as a millstone around the council’s neck & actively want it to fail & verbally sabotage something within the local community just so the failure can bring about prospective regime change.

    Then there are local people who will have heard of it, read about it in the local press but quite simply aren’t into art galleries or arts and crafts stuff. You could move the Louvre to Wrexham & they’d still not visit. They quite simply just don’t care.

    Then there is a huge swathe of local people who don’t pay attention to local news & goings on & will never even have heard of it despite the extravagant launch. Lots of younger people (but not limited to that demographic.) They’ll have never stepped foot in the library or museum or even St Giles. Ty Pawb will quite simply just be off their radar & won’t make it through the filters.

    This leaves a remaining local slice of the pie who like to try new things when they open up, maybe families looking for activities. Of this slice lots of people will visit on opening day/week, be underwhelmed & never visit again. Others will go, quite like it but only visit 1-2 times a year as unless you are an absolute raving arts buff, that’s more than enough for most people.

    Then you have to look outside of the Wrexham fold for visitors/tourists and ask who is specifically coming to visit Wrexham town centre just to go to an art gallery? Hmm I think I’ll just travel a bit further up the road to Liverpool for the Tate and Walker galleries. I think a small number would be interested, perhaps a trickle but nothing signalling coachloads or car parks full of footfall.

    So yes, call me a cynic but I think there is going to be an uphill struggle for market traders.

    in reply to: Tŷ Pawb (merged mega thread) #144637

    Matt
    Participant

    The issue over longer hours is interesting- the target for the stalls as per the Arts Council funding was based on ‘Arts and Crafts’. Many of these traders are likely to be one person businesses – are they physically going to be able to trade for 64 hours- having staff will mean a cost that potentially will be too expensive.

    Also, has anyone seen how many hours and days a week each stallholder has to stay open — if visitors are being attracted but only 50% of the stalls are open what kind of impression would that give to people being encouraged to make repeat visits.

    You raise some very good points.

    Back in December Clr Jones made comments about who they were claiming they were touting would be taking up market stall space:

    http://www.leaderlive.co.uk/home/2017/12/13/gallery/councillor-defends-benefits-new-multi-million-pound-arts-hub-will-bring-to-wrexham-102241/

    “Ty Pawb will also bring jobs to Wrexham. In terms of the market element, it will provide an opportunity for start-up businesses from university and college students to develop their skills.”

    Now what 18-19 year olds from Coleg Cambria who still live at home with parents or 20-somethings up to their eyeballs in debt and still studying for a degree are they expecting to be able to acquire the start-up money through savings or go to the Bank manager with a fully fledged business plan with no previous commercial experience to get a loan. All to get a jumbo sized market stall where they propose to work 64 hours a week whilst in full time study?

    Something tells me Clr Jones just wanted to get a good soundbite at the time but forgets that published stories stay on the internet for a long time and end up sounding ridiculous in retrospect.

    I also query the job creation element of that claim if it’s the case that existing traders are just moving back in. No new jobs are being created and the markets are just getting thinned out again.

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