Category Archives: featured

Somerset schools below par

Data released by the Department for Education suggests that performance in Somerset schools is now below the average for England.

Using the new “Attainment 8” measure and taking the pupil average across each constituency, only Wells did better than the English average.

Attainment 8 scores are calculated by adding up the points achieved by each pupil in eight English Baccalaureate subjects taken at GCSE, and dividing the total by 10. The maximum score is 90. While students don’t have to take eight subjects, they will score zero for any unfilled slots. A school’s attainment 8 score is the average of all of its students’ scores. The constituency average in the same way takes an average of all the school scores in any one constituency.

For the sake of comparison the lowest average attainment 8 score per pupil in England’s state funded schools was 35.2 this year, in Knowsley, Merseyside, the highest was 58.0 in Sutton in London’s suburbia.

There will be a full report in the next Leveller, but meanwhile here are the Attainment 8 scores by Somerset constituency:

School performance by constituency.xlsx

Chard Regeneration update

South Somerset District Council have announced that the launch of their Chard Regeneration scheme was a success. Last month SSDC held its second consultation event regarding the regeneration plans for the town centre.

Initial plans for a library and community hub were shared, along with plans to ensure the heritage of the site is reflected within the scheme. The launch provided an opportunity to discuss the wider public realm enhancement plans for the town centre alongside the transport and parking provisions that are being considered.

We are told that the “consultation event unveil(ed) detailed plans to more than 500 people.” And further that “Over 100 people left written comments and several emails were received. These have been read by the project team and a list of the key questions that were asked have now been answered and posted online.

The population of Chard is 13,000 and with the villages that form its natural hinterland that look to Chard as a centre, that rises to around 20,000.

Suspicious fires in Yeovil

Avon & Somerset Police are appealing for the help of the public. A series of fires have broken out in Yeovil over the past two weeks. Police believe they were started deliberately.

The first incident happened between 3am and 4am on 30th March outside Roman Villas in Higher Kingston when a bin was set alight.

On Saturday 13th April between 1.30am and 2.15am Police received reports of three separate fires:

  • a skip set alight outside Yeovil Womens’ Hospital, High Kingston;
  • a set of bins set on fire on The Avenue, which caused damage to a car and fence;
  • and another bin fire in Kingston View in Yeovil.

Whilst none of the fires to date have been major incidents, Police are concerned that if one of these incidents gets out of hand, or a larger fire is started, there could be a considerable danger to the public.

We understand that the Police have arrested a 32-year-old man on suspicion of arson with intent. He’s been released on Police bail pending further enquiries.

They are now keen to hear from anyone who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously in the above areas at the time of the incidents.

If you have any information which could help, please contact either, or call 101, quoting reference 5219080319.

Close – but not that close

This morning primary school admission figures were published across the country. In Somerset 97.7% of children were offered a primary school place at one of their top three choices. And of those 92.17% received their first choice.

So that’s good? With 5,664 children entering primary school getting everyone to the school they want is quite a logistical exercise. But that still means that over 100 children did not get one of their top three choices.

It isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t as good as last year. For the 2018 intake though Somerset County Council managed to get 98.4% of pupils into one of their top three choices and 93.8% into their first choice. So this year’s performance is less impressive.

SCC confirmed to The Leveller that anyone who applied for places online will receive the outcome by email today (16th April). Those who applied using paper forms will receive notification by post “in the coming days.”

Street, Shepton assaults – man jailed

Last year we reported on three sexual assaults, in Shepton Mallet and Street. The Police from the first appeal for help suspected the incidents were linked.

Today the 36-year-old man from Evercreech who sexually assaulted the women was jailed for four years and seven months.

He had  previously admitted three counts of sexual assault, today’s hearing at Taunton Crown Court was for sentencing. After serving his time in prison, on releas he’ll be on licence for a further three years and will be on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.

At today’s hearing, Judge Cook said the man had committed serious offences which showed an “escalation in violence”. He said the offending was planned as he had “lain in wait” for his victims.

In the first incident on Tuesday 5 June, he attacked a 24-year-old woman in Somerton Road, Street. He pushed her against a wall and sexually assaulted her but ran off after she shouted out for him to stop. However the victim was able to give officers a detailed description including the fact the offender was wearing brightly coloured construction trousers.

From CCTV footage officers identified a man matching this description close to the scene of the incident and an image was circulated as part of the public appeal that The Leveller promoted.

In the second incident happened on Thursday 19 July an 18-year-old woman was attacked shortly after leaving a supermarket. She managed to force him off and run home where her mother contacted the police.

The third incident happened in Dark Lane, Shepton Mallet, at about 7pm on Friday 31 August when a 20-year-old woman was out jogging when she was grabbed around the throat and pulled to the ground. She fought back and managed to release his grip. As she tried to run off, he attempted to rugby-tackle her to the ground but she kicked him again and escaped.

In a statement given to the court, the victim described how the incident had left her “paranoid” and had affected her emotionally “I have started to go running again but I have changed my route and how far I run. I am very paranoid about seeing anyone, especially a man. The few days after the incident, I couldn’t sleep as it was troubling me and I couldn’t process what happened.”

Investigating officer DC Catherine King told us “I’d also like to recognise the immense courage shown by all three of the victims. They’ve all been through a terrifying ordeal and I hope they can move forward with their lives in the knowledge their attacker is now behind bars.”

Taunton Park & Ride back tomorrow

The Gateway Park & Ride site by the M5 will reopen again tomorrow (Tuesday 9th April). Apologies to those who noticed the original text of this piece read M25 – I promise you Taunton has not moved!

The Park & Ride was closed today (Monday) on safety and security grounds after a number of travellers illegally entered the site late Friday afternoon.

Somerset County Council served legal notice on the Travellers this morning and they started to leave the site early this afternoon.  Normal business will now resume at the Park & Ride from 6.45am tomorrow.

In the meantime we wait to see what SCC will do to get the site into more regular use so that there is less opportunity for Travellers to take over the site as often as they do.