Current Affairs 2015-2016

The Current Affairs Group held its first meeting at the Golden Lion pub, Luddesdown, on Mon 21st Sept 2015 from 7.30-9.30pm

The structure of future meetings was agreed:
3rd Monday in the month, 7.30-9.30pm
Venue for meetings - group members' homes in turn where possible
Host generally to be convenor for that meeting
No charge to be made for tea, coffee and biscuit refreshment
Two thirds of meeting time for main topic, one third for free discussion

The main topic for the Oct and Nov meetings was the PARIS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE taking place Nov-Dec 2015. The focus was on defining 'Greenhouse gases' and learning more about why Climate Change is significant. 19.10.2015.

The radio 4 programme on three Monday evenings 16, 23 & 30 Nov 2015 at 8pm and also on I-player, follows on interestingly from our sessions.
How will climate change affect us?
- scale is uncertain, however possibilities include:
- freshwater shortages, bringing sweeping changes in food production conditions
- many deaths from floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts, because climate change is expected to increase frequency of extreme weather conditions
- increased rainfall overall, but inland droughts during hot summers - strong regional variations which are likely is to hurt poorer countries most
- plant and animal extinctions as habitats change faster than species can adapt
- increased threat from malaria, water-bourne disease and malnutrition
- increased uptake of CO2 by oceans will make them more acidic, damaging/ destroying coral reef
We await the outcome of the Conference with interest …
With grateful acknowledgement to the Science and Environment section of the BBC

For 18 Jan and 15 Feb 2016 the areas we all agreed to look into are:
Single Sex Schools
Faith Schools
Selective/grammar schools
Public schools
Special needs education
Sevenoaks school expansion
Did you have a good education? After thinking about academies, grammar, secondary modern and single sex schools, we tried to understand what having a good education meant. 'Instilling a joy of learning' was highly rated as one of the main purposes of education, and everyone in the group had acquired this one way or another, although not necessarily at school. 'Having a brilliant and demanding teacher' was another. 15.02.2016

We decided it was time to move on to the very serious matter of learning more about 'Syria and its neighbours' for the next few sessions. The Current Affairs group had agreed at our previous meeting to tackle the question of the war in Syria...and it was clear that we did not know much about the region and the relationships between Syria and her neighbouring countries. We thought this was a good place to start and each member of the group took a country on Syria's borders to research.
These were: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, some research into the Shi’a and Sunni tribes in the region. We had maps to look at while the discussion was going on, and we had definitely learnt a lot more about the historical, political, economic, social and religious inter-relationships of the area by the end of this meeting.

What could be more `current` than the EU referendum? Having each done our `homework` with regard to investigating various issues – i.e. trade agreements, freedom of movement, defence and security, human rights, and finance – we succeeded in having an amicable debate on the pros and cons of remaining or leaving the EU. With so much biased information and `scaremongering` from both sides coming via media, it was quite enlightening to exchange basic facts, and although we refrained from indicating our personal decisions regarding the vote we all agreed that the issue was an extremely complex one, and if those of our leaders supposedly `in the know` couldn’t agree, how could the ordinary `man in the street` be expected to make the right decision!

On 16 May the topic was 'The NHS'. Each person presented an aspect of the way the NHS functions. Group members presented short but detailed reports, often backed-up with statistical data, on issues such as waiting times, doctors on strike, and PFI initiatives. Lively debate and discussion took place as members learned more about these important aspects of the NHS and considered the ramifications of some of the underlying processes that affect this organisation. 16.05.2016

The NHS debate continued on 27 June 2016, with presentations on the functioning of Darenth Hospital, and also a wider view of NHS organisation and privatisation. The date of our regular meeting had been changed in order that we could examine the results of 23 June's EU Referendum. As the consequences began to emerge it was agreed to continue with this topic at the final meeting of the year in July, with participants each presenting an outcome that has struck them as significant. 27.06.2016

On 18 July 2016 there was open discussion about the changes that had taken place since the Referendum, the change of Prime Minister, and the lack of a credible Opposition party. This was the last meeting of the present group. 18.07.2016