News Pupils go up before bench

STUDENTS from the Maidstone area put their courtroom skills to the test in front of magistrates - but narrowly lost out to a team from Folkestone.

Theywere taking part in the 2017 Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial Com- petition, and groups of 12- to 14- year-olds took on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, magistrates, court staff and a defendant in the 23rd annual competition. The event is run by the Citizen-

ship Foundation with the Magis- trates’ Association. The students eanacted a specially- written case in which the defendant stands accused of domestic bur- glary. The competition enables students

to learn about all aspects of the crim- inal justice system - the law, proce-

Less rubbish is

landfill-bound THE amount of household waste being sent to landfill from Kent is at its lowest ever. Kent County Council buried just

0.26% of domesticwaste in Decem- ber and 2.6% over the year. Better use of rubbish for energy generation, improved contracting, and new technology that allows the recycling of mattresses and hard plastic has helped beat the county’s target of sending no more than 5% of householdwaste to landfill. Kent’s latest and ambitious

Waste Disposal Strategy will form the backbone of further improve- ments in the disposal of household waste from now until 2035, with an emphasis on achieving zero land- fill.

The county council’s cabinet member for environment, Matthew Balfour, says the plan will assist in the face of a “significant increase in housing growth forecast across Kent”, which is expected to see an increase in waste of about 20%, from 725,000 tonnes to 870,000 tonnes, by 2031.


POLICE are warning homeowners in Maidstone to lock up their sheds following thefts of garden equip- ment and power tools. A Husqvarna sit-on lawnmower

and trailer were taken from a con- tainer at a house in Chegworth Road and a lawnmower, power tools and strimmer were taken from a shed in Pheasant Lane. A police spokesman suggested

using close shackle padlocks, alarms and security lights on out- buildings; locking garden gates from the inside; security marking objects and disabling mowers and machinery and securing them with a chain.

32 Maidstone April 2017

workings of magistrates’ courts and hosting court visits. There is also a court artist and court reporter com- petition for budding journalists and artists. The Maidstone local heat hosted students from St Augustine Academy, St Simon Stock (pictured left) and Folkestone School for Girls (FGS).

dures, consequences and the staff – and to develop confidence in per- sonal skills such as public speaking, analysis techniques and working as

a team. Local magistrates, law stu- dents and other legal professionals help the teams prepare by giving them information on the everyday

Organiser Alvin Shaw, a local magistrate, said: “We really enjoyed working with the young people from local schools and this year has once again visited many of the schools in the area to conduct highly interactive and educational talks about the justice system.”

Uniforms abolished in mock debate

IF IT were down to pupils, uniforms and homework would be banned and holidays in term-time allowed. Youngsters from three schools in Maidstone cast their votes on the controversial issues following a de- bate at County Hall. However, the referendum was all

part of a day learning about democ- racy, courtesy of the county council. Pupils from The Oaks, Molehill Pri-

mary and Treetops took their seats in the council chamber, where Gary Cooke, KCC’s cabinet member for democratic services, presided. After a brief history of democracy,

the children began their first debate: Should school uniform be banned? While some felt it gave a “sense of community” and saved time in the morning, those in favour of its aboli- tion insisted they should have the freedom to express their personali- ties through their clothes, winning the day by 33 votes to 23, on coun- cillors’ electronic voting system. A second debate on homework re-

sulted in a vote for that to be abol- ished, too, by 42 votes to 14. Pupils

also agreed by 52 votes to three that their families should be allowed to take holidays in term-time. Youngsters were disappointed to

learn that their votes would have to remain just a demonstration of democracy at work. Mr Cooke said: “I was really im-

pressed with the well-thought argu- ments both for and against the various motions, and I hope that the visit will encourage pupils to at least

understand how important it is that people use their voteswhen they get the opportunity in the future.” Molehill Primary teacher Richard

Harris said: “Despite their grand and potentially awe-inspiring surround- ings, the children really enjoyed using the microphones to voice their opinions and spoke clearly and artic- ulately. The day was a great learn- ing experience and an opportunity for all involved.”

School place offers on the table

PARENTS have until March 16 to accept or refuse the secondary school places offered to their chil- dren and until March 29 to appeal. The advice follows the most challenging year yet for the county council, which has the job of allo- cating school places across Kent, with a surprising 810 places going to pupils from outside the county. Roger Gough, KCC’s cabinet member for education, said an- other 645 desks had to be found this year for the 19,442 pupils ap- plying for a secondary school place

in Kent from September. He added: “Aswe predicted, this

has proved Kent’s most challeng- ing year, due to record numbers of applicants. “In spite of the significant in- crease, 13,446 families will receive their first preference and 1,857 their second preference school (a slight dip to 80.53% of applicants on last year’s 81.37%).” He also said the job had been

made harder by parents who only provided one school preference and the 2,745 requests for places

received from parents from outside the area; about a third of which were offered a place. Cllr Gough said: “As is the case

each year, a large number of appli- cations have been made for Kent schools from outside of Kent and although this is a credit to our schools and their growing popu- larity, it makes meeting parental preferences ever more challeng- ing.” He assured parents that a spe-

cialist county council team is now on hand to deal with queries.

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