New UK tech regulator launched 

  • A new tech regulator will work to limit the power of Google, Facebook and other tech platforms the government has announced, in an effort to ensure a level playing field for smaller competitors and a fair market for consumers
  • Under the plans, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will create  a dedicated Digital Markets Unit, empowered to write and enforce a new code of practice on technology companies which will set out the limits of acceptable behavior
  • The code will only affect those companies deemed to have “strategic market status”, though it has not yet been decided what that means, nor what restrictions will be imposed
  • The business secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “Digital platforms like Google and Facebook make a significant contribution to our economy and play a massive role in our day-to-day lives…but the dominance of just a few big tech companies is leading to less innovation, higher advertising prices and less choice and control for consumers”

Golf course sex predator sent to jail

  • A man who sexually assaulted three young girls in Northern Ireland, after supplying them with drink and drugs on a golf course has been handed a 30-month jail sentence
  • Judge Patrick Lynch QC revealed the youngest girl is so frightened that she cannot sleep properly and fears that the predator “will come to our house and kill and rape me.”
  • Christopher Tully was previously given a three-year jail sentence in 2002 in Dublin for having unlawful sexual intercourse with a mentally disabled teenager. The court heard that the victim’s father sold the girl for sex “for the price of a pint”
  • Judge Lynch imposed a 10-year sexual offences prevention order which bars the man from entering any “romantic or intimate relationship” without first revealing he is a convicted sex offender and from having unsupervised contact with children

Ruthin School: Teacher texting showed ‘gaps’ in regulation

  • The case of a headteacher who sent messages to female students highlighted “gaps” in the regulation of independent schools, an inquiry has heard
  • Toby Belfield was sacked from Ruthin School, Denbighshire, in February
  • The Children’s Commissioner for Wales said a pupil contacted her in November 2019 with concerns her complaints had not led to Mr Belfield’s sacking
  • But Sally Holland also said there had been a “change of culture” at the school since a change in management
  • Ms Holland said she held a meeting after the girl had approached her in which she asked what could be done about Mr Belfield
  • “The meeting really highlighted regulatory gaps… there was nothing in between advising and reporting and removing registration,” Ms Holland told a child sex abuse inquiry
  • “The disappointing thing is that this is a gap which has been known for many years”

Drug gangs prey on excluded truants, warns Ofsted Chief

  • Vulnerable children expelled from mainstream schools are at risk of being “preyed upon” because of worryingly poor attendance at the specialist institutions tasked with teaching them, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England has warned
  • Amanda Spielman, the Head of Ofsted, said that the vast majority of pupil referral units (PRUs) and other providers who accepted excluded children were able to turn around the life chances of their pupils
  • She said PRUs should not be viewed as a passport to criminality, as they are sometimes portrayed.
  • However, before the publication of Ofsted’s annual report this week, she warned that those educators had to do more to ensure that pupils were actually attending classes
  • The rate of truancy at many of the schools is raising concerns about what is happening to the children outside the classrooms about what is happening to the children outside the school gates, with growing evidence that vulnerable children are being targeted by “county lines” drug gangs
  • Ofsted’s analysis will show that in some PRUs and other “alternative provision” (AP) settings, pupils are only in class for a fraction of the week, representing an absence rate is almost four times higher than in mainstream schools

Charity warns of lockdown loneliness for parents

  • Loneliness among parents of young children has “dramatically increased” during the pandemic, suggests research from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation
  • The charity gathered views from half a million people in the UK on bringing up children under the age of five
  • It found parents increasingly worried about feeling cut off from support, particularly in more deprived areas
  • The Duchess said it had been a “hugely challenging” year for families
  • “It’s very tough,” says Emily Wingrove, mother of three-year-old Franklin and Denis who had his first birthday this month, in celebrations muted by the lockdown