Game over: The biggest Dutch toy shop group goes bust

Toy shop chain and Dutch market leader Intertoys has gone bust, three weeks after being given court protection from its creditors. The company has 286 of its own stores, with 3,200 members of staff.  A further 100 stores are run by franchisees, which are not affected by the bankruptcy. The Dutch shops are remaining open while the curators investigate the possibility of a restart or partial sale. Talks are already 'at an advanced stage' with a potential buyer for the Belgian arm, which operates under the name Bart Smit Speelgoedpaleizen. The Blokker group sold its Dutch toy store chain to British investment house Alteri Investors in October 2017. Financial details were not disclosed at the time. Intertoys, the biggest Dutch toy group by far, has faced increasing competition from webshops as well as the likes of Blokker and Action. 'The far-reaching step reflects continuing pressure on the entire retail sector,' Alteri said in a statement. Increasing online sales have reduced toy store sales by 50% in ten years. Also, specialist stores like Intertoys have faced increasing competition from discounters outside the traditional toy market.  More >

Saliva test catches more drugged drivers

Some 2,000 people have been threatened with losing their driving licences since saliva tests for drugs were introduced in mid 2017, the AD said on Thursday. Most drivers who fail the on-the-spot test are fined €850, have to hand in their licence, and pay a further €1,200 for a follow-up investigation to find out if their drugs use poses a danger to other road users. If they don't pay, their licence is automatically destroyed. In the first six months of the saliva test, 538 people were referred for further investigation and last year over 1,500. There are, as yet, no figures for how many actually did lose their licence, the AD said. The saliva test indicates that the person has been taking drugs, but a lab test is needed to establish exactly what. There is no ‘safe’ limit in law, unlike with alcohol. Research last year showed most had taken cannabis but a number were also driving after taking amphetamines and cocaine. Almost half those stopped had more than one drug in their system, including alcohol.  More >

Police call-outs for mental issues double

The police were called out 90,000 times last year to deal with people causing disruption due to mental health issues, double the 2010 total, the NRC said on Thursday. There are various reasons for the increase, including cuts in the number of beds in psychiatric institutions, as part of a 'care in the community approach', the paper said. 'Psychiatric patients are more likely to live among us, but there is not the money to give them the care they need,' Leeuwarden mayor Ferd Crone told the paper. In addition, society has become more complex and the rise in computer use has made it more difficult for people to ask for help or benefits, the paper said. According to police spokesman, Henk van Dijk, the nature of the incidents is also becoming increasingly serious. The police have now set up special teams to deal with 'confused behaviour' and most districts also have purpose-built vehicles to transport people, so they don't have to be handcuffed in police cars, the paper said.  More >

Beavers return to Twente

Beavers are making a comeback in Twente, in the east of the province of Overijssel, local paper Tubantia reports. Ecologists have found beaver droppings along the Schipbeek, a tributary of the river IJssel. ‘We don’t know how he did it but the beaver has crossed the Twentekanaal. That means we are doing something right,’ ecologists and photographer Michiel Schaap told the paper. Beaver coordinator Robert Pater, who is part of a group of volunteers who monitor beavers and otters, said the province is now home to 60 beavers of which 90% live along the IJssel. ‘The reason it’s here is because smaller rivers are increasingly allowed to follow their natural course and we are creating more attractive areas for beavers. And that is great because the beaver belongs in the Dutch landscape.’ Beavers (Castor fiber) were hunted for their fur and musk and became extinct in the Netherlands in the early 19th century. They were successfully re-introduced in the Biesbosch nature reserve in 1988. Although beavers have a reputation for causing damage, Schaap said the animal is good for biodiversity. ‘They gnaw away at trees in inaccessible places and that means the sunlight can reach the bottom of the river and promote plant growth.’ Beavers are also good for tourism. The number of visitors to sites where beavers have been sighted is going up. ‘Beavers are very impressive animals, they can grow up to 1.20 metres in length in some cases, and children especially like them. That helps create future ecologists,' Schaap said. Pater said the provincial water board is justly afraid of beavers undermining dikes but this can be solved by making the key area less attractive to beavers. Water board spokesman Arjen Heugens said beavers are welcome but that should they damage dikes the water board would have to take measures. ‘There is no settled population as yet but we have seen signs of beavers around our waters,’ he said.  More >

Dutch teacher up for world's best award

A Dutch primary school teacher has made it to the finals of the Global Teacher Prize 2019 to find the 'best' teacher in the world. Daisy Mertens, who teaches at the De Vuurvogel school in Helmond, is one of 10 finalists competing for the $1m top prize, awarded to 'an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession'. Mertens works at a large community-based school with 440 pupils and up to 30 different nationalities. 'The pupils have huge learning differences – children with severe learning problems are mixed in with gifted children – and in addition,her pupils face prejudice from students in wealthier areas, have poorer language skills than the average, and struggle to realise their life chances,' the organisers say. 'At the heart of Daisy’s teaching is the equal participation of children in planning their own learning...  this mean carrying out their own research projects on a meaningful topic or theme – for instance, designing a sustainable amusement park,' the judges said. Mertens won the Dutch teacher of the year competition in 2016. The prize is awarded by the Varkley Foundation, an Indian family foundation which, according to the website, was established to improve standards of education and raise the status and capacity of teachers throughout the world. The finalists were selected from over 10,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries around the world.  More >

Paedophiles should lose passports: MPs

A majority of MPs back the idea of confiscating the passports of convicted paedophiles so they cannot travel abroad, the Telegraaf said on Thursday. This, MPs say, would prevent them going on to abuse children in countries such as Thailand and Cambodia. Judges can now impose a travel ban but rarely do, the paper said. The call, backed by MPs from the coalition VVD and CDA, the anti-Islam PVV and the Labour party, follows the case of Hans V, a convicted paedophile in the Netherlands who went on to abuse young girls at an orphanage he founded in Kenya. 'There is a reason why the law allows for long-term supervision,' Christian Democrat MP Madeleine van Toorenburg told the paper. 'But if sex offenders have a normal passport, that law is vulnerable.' 'We want to be sure that paedophiles cannot strike again abroad,' said Labour MP Attje Kuiken.  More >

Dutch FA moves Ajax tie ahead of Real game

Eredivisie logo The Dutch football association KNVB has postponed next weekend's Ajax-PEC Zwolle tie by 11 days, to give the Amsterdammers more time to prepare for their key Champions League game against Real Madrid. PSV, the current league leaders, and PEC Zwolle are furious at the move and have made their feelings plain to the KNVB.  Ajax and Zwolle were due to meet on March 2, but this has now been moved to March 13. Ajax play Real away on March 5, having lost the first leg. 'This was never discussed with us,' Zwolle technical director Gerard Nijkamp said. 'We have to play three matches in eight days and our supporters have to be in Amsterdam at 6.30pm on a weekday, so they will have to take time off work.' Nijkamp said the club had not ruled out legal action. The KNVB says it has taken the decision in the interests of Dutch football. Agreements were made with the Eredivisie clubs about European obligations, spokesman Jan Bluyssen said. 'Ajax is the only Dutch club which can bring in points for the Uefa rankings,' he said. A good placement in the rankings would mean that the Eredivisie champion next season would qualify directly for the Champions League competition.'  More >