HS2: Chancellor Sajid Javid backs project ahead of crucial meeting


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A proposed design for an HS2 train

Sajid Javid has decided to throw his support behind HS2 ahead of a key meeting with Boris Johnson later.The chancellor is expected to tell the PM he supports the controversial London to Birmingham rail link after studying Treasury analysis of its impact, as first reported by the Financial Times.A leaked report has suggested the project could cost almost double the £56bn originally expected in 2015.Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the HS2 decision would come next month.No 10 said the meeting, also involving Mr Shapps, was expected to go a long way towards reaching a verdict.BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the mood music seemed to be pointing towards going ahead but massive anxieties remained.She said senior government figures had suggested that cancelling the project at this stage would be a “credibility issue”.
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Will HS2 ever get built?
During Transport Questions in the Commons on Thursday, Tory MP Eddie Hughes said: “One of the ways to address regional disparity in transport investment might be to continue with HS2.”Will the secretary of state join the chancellor in supporting continuation of that project when he meets with the prime minister later today?”Mr Shapps replied: “I don’t wish to disappoint my honourable friend but he won’t have to wait very long, and we will have an announcement on this next month.” Speaking on ITV’s Peston programme on Wednesday, Mr Shapps said: “This is probably the biggest investment, biggest infrastructure project possibly in the world, certainly in Europe, and the public would expect us to look carefully at it.”
HS2 rail project to be reviewed
Rail firm Northern to be nationalised
Phase 1 of the rail line between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026, with the second phase to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33. It is designed to carry trains capable of travelling at 250mph (402km/h).

The government commissioned a review into HS2 last August, designed, ministers said, to determine whether the project could still be deemed value for money.Billions of pounds have already been spent on it, but Mr Shapps has refused to rule out scrapping it entirely. He revealed last week he had asked for more data before making a “massive decision” on HS2, after a leaked government review found it could cost £106bn.The unpublished report, which was seen by the Financial Times, said there was “considerable risk” that estimated costs could rise by another 20% – but it did conclude that despite the ballooning bill, it should still go ahead.The government previously promised to make a decision on HS2 before the end of 2019.Mr Johnson faced calls to back HS2 from Conservative MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

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Media captionHS2: How much work has already been done?
Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, in North Yorkshire, called on the government to increase rail capacity “in and between the North, the Midlands, the South and Scotland”.This could only be done by investing in the Midlands Engine, the Northern Powerhouse and carrying on with HS2, he told the PM.But Tory MP for Buckingham Greg Smith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he and others would be ready to vote against the government over HS2.”It is absolutely wrong for my constituents,” he said, “and I believe it to be wrong for the country as well and I made very clear commitments in the general election that come what may I will oppose HS2.”Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, called HS2 a “catastrophic waste of money”.He said “better infrastructure” was needed in the North and West Yorkshire and he asked about the government’s intended timetable for completing Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).The NPR project was part of Mr Johnson’s wider commitment to deliver a high-speed railway link across the north of England.Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris said the government was “spending a huge amount of money” on improving infrastructure in the North.Mr Johnson said the government was looking at investing into the North and Midlands and added that MPs could “expect an announcement very shortly” on HS2.The PM also sought to reassure Paul Howell, freshly installed as Sedgefield’s new Conservative MP, who called for a “positive” decision to improve connectivity in his region.Keiran Mullan, Tory MP for Crewe and Nantwich, urged the PM to “get HS2 done to secure jobs across the country”.



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Sarah Sands: Radio 4's Today editor to stand down


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Sarah Sands is standing down as editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after three years.The news comes a day after it was announced 450 jobs are to be cut from BBC News under plans to complete its £80m savings target by 2022.Sands took over the reigns of the flagship news show in 2017. Before joining the BBC, Sands edited the London Evening Standard, where she replace by former chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne.BBC News announces 450 job cutsOther outlets to be hit by job closures announced on Wednesday include BBC Two’s Newsnight, BBC Radio 5 Live and the World Update programme on the World Service.The official reason for her departure has not yet been confirmed by the BBC.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.



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Muguruza beats Halep to set up Australian Open final with Kenin




Garbine Muguruza won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 20172020 Australian OpenVenue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 FebruaryCoverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.Garbine Muguruza continued her recent revival by reaching the Australian Open final with a straight-set win over Romania’s Simona Halep.The unseeded Spaniard, 26, battled past the fourth seed in a tense 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 semi-final victory.The two-time Grand Slam champion fought off four set points in the opener and twice came back from a break down in the second. She will face American Sofia Kenin in Saturday’s final.It is Muguruza’s first appearance in a Grand Slam final since she won the Wimbledon title in 2017.Muguruza clinched victory with her second match point when a six-shot rally ended with Halep hitting a return into the net.The way the world number 32 gritted her teeth and tightly clenched her fist as she celebrated illustrated how difficult a battle it was against the 2018 runner-up.”I’m very excited to be in the final – it is a long way to get there,” said Muguruza, who also won the French Open in 2016.”I wasn’t thinking I was down, I just thought keep going and knew I’d have an opportunity. “I was hanging in there and fighting with all the energy I had.”
Simona Halep led 5-3 in the the second set but lost the last four games of the matchMuguruza slipped down to 36th in the world at the end of last year, a little over two years after she was ranked number one.But she has looked close to her best in Melbourne, having reunited with former coach Conchita Martinez – the 1994 Wimbledon champion – at the start of the season.Victories over Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina and Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens earlier in the tournament marked her out as a potential champion at Melbourne Park.And she moved within one win of achieving that with a gutsy victory over Halep.Muguruza did not allow her opponent to take her chances in the first set – fighting off two set points at 6-5 and two more in the tie-break – to earn a valuable lead.Then, after losing serve for 2-1 and 3-2 deficits in the second set, Muguruza piled the pressure back on Halep, finally taking two of six break points on her way to winning the final four games.On Saturday, she will bid to become only the third unseeded woman to win the Australian Open, after home player Chris O’Neil in 1978 and American great Serena Williams in 2007.



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Two satellites in close shave over US city of Pittsburgh


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A drawing of one of the satellites on the near miss course

Two satellites hurtling across the sky at nearly 33,000 mph (53,000 km/h) narrowly missed a collision over the US state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday.The two objects “crossed paths without incident,” a spokesman for US Space Command told the AFP news agency.US Space Command said the two inactive satellites passed each other at 18:39 EST (23:39 GMT) some 550 miles (900km) above Pittsburgh.The last time a major satellite collision occurred was in 2009.Experts predicted that the satellites could pass within 40ft (12m) of each other. They are not operational, but it was feared a collision could create pieces of debris that would damage other objects in orbit.

The objects in question are an Infrared Astronomical Satellite (Irsa) that was launched in 1983 and another experimental US craft, the GGSE-4 satellite, launched in 1967.The GGSE-4 satellite has a 60ft (18m) boom – equipment designed to deploy antennae or solar sails – trailing it.Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said that given the size of the satellites – about the size of a car and a rubbish bin – “a 15-to-30 metre predicted miss distance is alarming” – a sentiment echoed by LeoLabs, which tracks space junk.Any debris would have posed no threat to the city, experts said, it would have simply burnt up in the atmosphere before it could fall to Earth. But a debris cloud that remained in orbit could have threatened other satellites.Debris can remain in orbit for decades to centuries.

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Media captionTackling the Earth’s orbiting space junk
The last large collision of satellites happened in 2009, when a US commercial Iridium spacecraft hit a defunct Russian satellite over Siberia, producing thousands of pieces of debris.International guidelines state that satellites in low earth orbit must be removed from orbit 25 years after being decommissioned, but these satellites were launched prior to the rule changes.The situation has renewed discussions over the importance of cleaning up space debris.”Events like this highlight the need for responsible, timely de-orbiting of satellites for space sustainability moving forward,” LeoLabs said. Currently, there are around 2,000 active satellites orbiting the earth. There are also more than 23,000 pieces of debris larger than 10cm (4in) in orbit, according to Nasa.

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Media captionWatch space debris grow from 1950s to 2017
According to data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the US has 1,007 operating satellites, the most by far of any country. The majority are commercial.A 2019 article in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review stated by 2025, there could be as many as 1,100 new satellites launching per year.



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US-Mexico border: 'Longest ever' smuggling tunnel discovered


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The sophisticated tunnel had a rail track

US officials say they have discovered the longest smuggling tunnel ever found on the border with Mexico.Stretching for 4,309ft (1,313m), the tunnel had a lift, rail track, drainage and air ventilation systems, and high voltage electrical cables.The passageway connected an industrial site in the Mexican city of Tijuana to the San Diego area in California. There were no arrests made or drugs found. Authorities did not say who they suspected of being behind the tunnel.But Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, described by the US government as one of the largest drug-trafficking organisations in the world, operates in the area. Its founder and long-time leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is serving life in prison in the US.
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The tunnel was discovered in August. Mexican officials identified its entrance and US investigators mapped it, before releasing the findings on Wednesday.It has an average depth of 70ft (21m) below the surface, with the tunnel being 5.5ft high and 2ft wide, US Customs and Border Protection said. It was not clear how long it took to build it.

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It is not clear how long it took to build the tunnel

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There were no arrests made or drugs found in the tunnel, officials say

“The sophistication and length of this particular tunnel demonstrates the time-consuming efforts transnational criminal organisations will undertake to facilitate cross-border smuggling,” Cardell Morant, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego, said in a statement.Several hundred sandbags were discovered blocking a suspected former exit of the tunnel in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial warehouse area, the statement added. The main tunnel had an incomplete offshoot.More than a dozen sophisticated tunnels have been found on California’s border with Mexico since 2016. The second-longest tunnel in the US, found in San Diego in 2014, was 2,966ft long, the CBP said.

Recent US-Mexico border tunnels

August 2018: A 600ft tunnel stretched from a former KFC in the state of Arizona to Mexico

April 2016: A sophisticated tunnel in San Diego was used to transport an “unprecedented cache” of cocaine and marijuana, according to officials

March 2016: A tunnel ran from a restaurant in Mexico to a house in California

August 2015: An unfinished tunnel with rails, lighting and ventilation is found in Tijuana

US President Donald Trump has made building a border wall one of his key priorities, saying it is needed to tackle illegal immigration and drug trafficking. But officials say most drugs are smuggled through legal ports of entry, hidden in privately-owned vehicles or transporter lorries, mixed with other goods.You may also find interesting:

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Media captionUS Customs and Border Protection released video from inside the tunnel



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Kenin beats top seed Barty to make Australian Open final




Sofia Kenin has won three WTA Tour titles2020 Australian OpenVenue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 FebruaryCoverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.Sofia Kenin reached her first Grand Slam final by beating a nervous top seed Ashleigh Barty in straight sets in the Australian Open semi-finals.The 21-year-old American, seeded 14th, won 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 in sweltering conditions at Melbourne Park.Australian Barty, aiming to become the first home woman to reach the final in 40 years, failed to convert two set points in each set.Kenin will meet Simona Halep or Garbine Muguruza in Saturday’s final.The Florida-raised player, who was born in Russia before moving to the United States as a baby, dropped her racquet on the floor and cupped her face with both hands when Barty hit a return long.”I’m speechless. I can’t believe it. I’ve dreamed of this since I was five years old. I’ve worked so hard to get here,” she said.Kenin is the first American to reach the Australian Open final, outside of the Williams sisters, since Lindsay Davenport in 2005.More to follow.



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Coronavirus: Death toll rises as virus spreads to every Chinese region


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The WHO warns the virus holds the potential for a much larger outbreak

The death toll of the coronavirus has risen to 170 and with a confirmed case in Tibet, the virus has now spread to every region in mainland China.Chinese health authorities have said there were 7,711 confirmed cases in the country as of 29 January.Infections have also spread to at least 16 other countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Thursday to discuss whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.”In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, pointing to Germany, Vietnam and Japan. “Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak.”While there is no specific cure or vaccine for the virus, many people who contract it have only mild symptoms and do recover from it. It can though cause severe acute respiratory infection and lead to death. Like the similar Sars and influenza viruses, the new coronavirus is thought to be particularly a risk for elderly and people with pre-existing illnesses. So far, most reported infections and deaths are in China’s Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

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Media captionLike others who’ve been in Hubei province, the BBC’s Stephen McDonell is staying away from the office for two weeks
The city has effectively been sealed off and China has put numerous transport restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus. People who have been in Hubei Province are also being told by their employers to work from home until it is considered safe for them to return.International evacuations from WuhanMeanwhile, the evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals from Wuhan to their respective countries has begun. Two flights to Japan have already landed at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and the passengers are being screened at medical institutions. So far, three have tested positive for the virus, Japanese media report.Around 200 US citizens have also been flown out of Wuhan and are being screened in the US.Flights to take British and South Korean citizens out of Wuhan have both been delayed after relevant permissions from Chinese authorities did not come through.According to the UK government, the arriving passengers are to be put in “supported isolation” for 14 days with “all necessary medical attention”.Australia plans to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas island, 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland.Two aircraft are due to fly EU citizens home with 250 French nationals leaving on the first flight.Canada, the Philippines and Malaysia have also announced plans to fly their citizens out of Wuhan.



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Sun's surface seen in remarkable new detail


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Media captionScientists can study features as small as 30km (18 miles) across in this sped-up movie
Behold the Sun’s convulsing surface at a level of detail never seen before!The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope on Hawaii has released pictures that show features as small as 30km across.This is remarkable when set against the scale of our star, which has a diameter of about 1.4 million km and is 149 million km from Earth.The cell-like structures are roughly the size of the US state of Texas. They are convecting masses of hot, excited gas, or plasma.The bright centres are where this solar material is rising; the surrounding dark lanes are where plasma is cooling and sinking.
Cheops telescope launches to study far-off worlds
Solar Orbiter ready to take on audacious mission
DKIST is a brand new facility positioned atop Haleakalā, a 3,000m-high volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui.Its 4m primary mirror is the world’s largest for a solar telescope.The telescope will be used to study the Sun’s workings. Scientists want fresh insights on its dynamic behaviour in the hope that they can forecast better its energetic outbursts – what is often referred to as “space weather”.Colossal emissions of charged particles and entrained magnetic fields have been known to damage satellites at Earth, to harm astronauts, degrade radio communications, and even to knock power grids offline.”On Earth, we can predict if it is going to rain pretty much anywhere in the world very accurately, and space weather just isn’t there yet,” said Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which manages the DKIST. “Our predictions lag behind terrestrial weather by 50 years, if not more. What we need is to grasp the underlying physics behind space weather, and this starts at the Sun, which is what the Inouye Solar Telescope will study over the next decades.”DKIST is a superb complement to the Solar Orbiter (SolO) space observatory which is being launched next week from Cape Canaveral in Florida.This joint European-US probe will take pictures of the Sun from the closest ever vantage point – from just 42 million km from the surface. This is nearer to our star than even the planet Mercury. SolO will see features as small as 70km across, but will sense a much broader swathe of wavelengths than DKIST and sample more levels through the Sun’s atmosphere. The probe will also fly a path that gives it an unprecedented view of the polar regions. “We have joint observing plans already made between DKIST and Solar Orbiter which will be amazing,” Prof Louise Harra from the Physical Meteorological Observatory in Davos, Switzerland, told BBC News.

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Artwork: Solar Orbiter launches from Florida at the end of next week

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos



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Most children sleep with mobile phone beside bed


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More than half of children say they sleep with their mobile phone beside their bed, according to an annual survey of young people’s use of media.The Childwise report found children getting mobiles at an earlier age, with most now having their own phone by the age of seven.The average time spent on mobiles by seven to 16-year-olds is three hours and 20 minutes per day.Researcher Simon Leggett says mobiles can “dominate children’s lives”.When phones are always so close at hand, as a “private and personal technology”, Mr Leggett says it can be tough for parents to put limits on how children use them.The survey, based on interviews with 2,200 children in the UK aged five to 16, shows the pivotal place of the mobile phone in young lives.There are 57% who always have the phone beside their bed and 44% who feel “uncomfortable” if they are ever without a phone signal.There are 42% who say they keep their phone on them at all times and never turn it off.Even though the average age of owning a phone is becoming younger, the step up to secondary school at the age of 11 is still the point at which many children get a phone and ownership becomes “almost universal”.

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Families are less likely to watch programmes together

For more than 70% of children, their phones will be connected to the internet.Whether it is chatting to each other, watching entertainment or getting information, mobile phones are the main online gateway for young people.For listening to music, a mobile phone is much more widely used than listening to a radio.The survey shows a media landscape dominated by digital and on-demand services.YouTube, a veteran by online standards, remains dominant, used by 61% of children every day, mostly on mobile phones.It is the favourite app and website of this age group, used as the most typical starting point for videos, particularly “funny” clips, listening to music, “how to” tutorials or watching programmes.

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This is followed by Snapchat, Instagram and this year’s fast-riser, Tik Tok, with WhatsApp also among the most regularly used. Showing the speed of change, Facebook is not even in the top 10 of favourites.In terms of watching programmes or video content, YouTube is again the most popular service, followed by Netflix.This is a resolutely online younger generation – only about one in five say they mostly watch programmes on a television set.The science fiction adventure series, Stranger Things, is the most popular programme on all channels, alongside long-standing series Friends and SpongeBob SquarePants.For young Netflix viewers, Stranger Things is the top pick, along with Friends, Riverdale and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.But for parents, research director Mr Leggett says the combination of mobile phones and internet access can make it difficult to know what children are watching.”The moment a child owns a mobile phone, it can be a challenge to monitor what your child is accessing online because it’s such a private technology that most keep literally close to their chest,” said Mr Leggett.



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The nursery putting fitness at the heart of learning


The statistics are terrible – study after study shows children all over the world are weaker, do less exercise and are less fit than in the past. In England alone, despite a slight improvement last year, fewer than half of five to 16-year-olds achieve the government’s recommended 60 minutes’ exercise a day and poorer children are most likely to miss out. Many experts think physical activity needs to start at a very young age, and one place taking up the mantle is Teddy Bears Nursery in Washford, West Somerset.Teacher Alison Welch leads a physical activity programme there, designed to boost children’s physical skills and teach them that exercise can be fun. One game involves children using cardboard tubes to push plastic balls around the hall, aiming for a series of coloured hoops laid on the floor.

It is all part of Healthy Movers, a government-funded programme for two to four-year-olds. It is run by charity Youth Sport Trust in 15 nurseries and early years centres in West Somerset, the area ranked bottom in the government’s Social Mobility Index. The index measures the chances that a child from a disadvantaged background will do well at school and get a good job. Lack of exercise is a huge factor in poor physical health and obesity. It is also linked with poor emotional wellbeing, and if children reach reception age without the core physical strength to sit straight in a chair or to grip a pencil, they start school at a massive disadvantage. ‘Physical literacy’Youth Sport Trust says children must start early, aiming to boost fitness, strength, agility and skills before they have the chance to be self-conscious about their bodies, and start trying to avoid school PE. Experienced PE teacher Flo Holmes, who co-ordinates the scheme, blames the childhood fitness slump on the burgeoning use of screens from babyhood, while fewer children play outside these days. She quotes research showing a mid-primary school tipping point, where girls in particular decide whether or not they enjoy being physically active. “We just need to be making sure that physical activity is fun and enjoyable,” she says, before adding it is also about “physical literacy”. “We mean improving their physical skills but also their motivation, their confidence and so their enjoyment.”In the hall, the children’s focus is paying off. Like mini hockey players, they weave the plastic balls around each other aiming for the correct coloured hoops with remarkable success. Flo is impressed. “I’ve taken Year 7 girls and they wouldn’t be able to do that,” she says. So far, only a few hundred children have taken part in the programme since it began in October 2018, but the interim results are encouraging.

The children are more active than expected, more physically confident and display better physical skills, object control and “locomotion”, say their teachers. “Some of the movements we might be doing are not just gross motor skills, they’re fine motor skills as well,” Flo explains. “We might be wiggling and weaving a ribbon or scarf and the children think they’re just having a lovely time. But actually what we’re really doing, is looking at their finger and thumb formation, and we’re using the left and the right hand, so we’re just trying to make control of a pencil that much easier for them.”

Alison says she “absolutely, wholeheartedly” loves the scheme. She says last year’s nursery children, who were the first to do the programme, were far more school-ready than previous year groups. “I think it really has made a difference to their ability to sit and concentrate, and their listening skills as well.”She is hoping for a similar boost for this year’s group.Alison says the children are so enthused by the activities, they repeat them in the playground and at home, improvising with whatever objects they have available. This helps their creativity and resourcefulness in the classroom.

Each child gets a backpack including a ball, a beanbag and activity cards, to help parents continue the good work. In the classroom, Eliza, four, proudly shows off her name, which she has written at the top of her latest painting. Her mum Lucy says she has detected a vast improvement in Eliza’s co-ordination.”She made her own games up and we’re playing them at home. So she would always find something like a bowl and would be chucking her beanbag into the bowl, trying to aim,” says Lucy.”I think it inspires them doesn’t it, and to think outside the box.”Alithea is just three and was premature so has always struggled with her co-ordination, according to her mum Katie.”It’s really nice to see a massive improvement. I just want her to be the best she can be at anything she wants to do,” says Katie.

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Lucy (L) and Katie (R) say the change in their children since the programme began is remarkable

Elsewhere the children have pushed a row of chairs into a line. “Is it a train?” asks nursery nurse Kirsty. “No it’s a helicopter and we’re going to Costa Rica to feed the animals,” comes the reply.The “pilot” decides she wants to land to load “food for the animals”, and the children climb off their seats to collect it in the shape of wooden bricks and other toys, before setting off again on their exciting journey.



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