This week's UK news: 16 January 2009
16 January 2009

Mr Bean breaks box-office records

Rowan Atkinson, the performer who created the silent comedy character Mr Bean, has helped a new London stage musical become the fastest-selling show in British theatre history.

He plays criminal mastermind Fagin in Oliver!, the story of an orphaned boy who finds himself with a gang of young pickpockets in London a century ago. The musical was first staged in 1960 and was filmed in 1968.

The show, which opened this week, has won rave reviews for the performance of Rowan Atkinson. It is also attracting interest because another performer won a lead role by taking part in a televised competition, voted for by judges and members of the public.

Trains and planes

Like the weather, transport is often in the news in Britain, especially if things go wrong.

The best news came for Eurostar, the fast train service linking London to Europe via the undersea Channel Tunnel. It carried ten per cent more passengers last year, partly because of its new London station, and partly because of the currency exchange rate, which is making Britain a cheap place for Europeans to shop.

The news that the Government has approved the building of a third runway at London's Heathrow airport is more controversial. About 700 homes will have to be demolished to make way for the runway, which will increase the number of flights using Heathrow from about 480,000 a year now to 702,000 by 2030.

Campaigners for the plan say it is essential for the nation's economy, whilst protesters argue that it should not go ahead on environmental grounds, and because it will be very noisy for many London residents. The battle is expected to continue in the courts for years.

Education and jobs

There was lots of debate about Government plans to improve the life chances of children from the most disadvantaged areas. This will include paying more to the best teachers in schools serving poor neighbourhoods and helping clever children from disadvantaged families to get a good education and go to university.

There are also plans to help this summer's graduates get internships until the jobs market recovers from the current economic problems.

School leavers' exam results were published in an annual league table. These have become big news as journalists look for the "best" and "worst" schools, and parents are encouraged to use the information when choosing where to send their children. This means that some schools are very oversubscribed and if they choose pupils who live the closest, the price of nearby houses rises enormously.


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