collapse of public accountability

I have just received an email from the chair of the Tower Hamlets Safer Neighbourhood Board (SNB) asking me to meet him for coffee to see if I can be of use. He copied in 3 serving police officers at the Met too.

I refused. It is abhorrent to think that one person can decide who gets the local voluntary positions. That is not democratic and there is no accountability.

There is now a collapse of democracy evident so far as the voluntary sector is concerned.

I used to be the chair of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association. That was a post created out of a network of elected local Neighbourhood Watch panels, who democratically elected the chair of the local Association, which in turn worked in partnership with the local Metropolitan Police.

The then Mayors Office for Policing in Crime (MOPAC) funded the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association.

When my daughter became a successfull performance athlete in her sport, I needed to spend a lot more time to bring her to training sessions, starting at 6am, ending at 9pm and in between there was schooling.

I had a good relationship with local Safer Neighbourhood Teams and Neighbourhood Watch was set up through the SNT officers verifying the residents who registered as Neighbourhod Watches. I helped establish over 100 Neighbourhood Watches in Tower Hamlets.

Now my daughter has grown older and no longer needs as much help to get to and from places and I have more time to commit to the community again.

Unfortunately my successor in Tower Hamlets dissolved the Association. A new system called OWL was established, which is in fact just a communication system that works one-way. The police use it now to communicate with registered users only to give information on current situations and distribute news letters and invites to events.

I have been in communications with the national Neighbourhood Watch Network and attended one of their seminars. The former London Neighbourhood Watch Association has also been dissolved and there is no infrastructure left as it was previously.

Local people now often use WhatsApp to communicate among themselves, which is quite effective. Meetings with police are held via the SNT network and take place 4 times per year.

The SNT panels have a representative with the local Safer Neighbourhood Board.

Pollution in Tower Hamlets

Here is the most recent map on pollution in Tower Hamlets.

It shows, for example, that the location of Raine’s Foundation school is in a better spot than other schools near Commercial Road for example.

Yet the council will determine school quality only by the amount of academic results achieved and not by the health of the pupils as part of the equation.

My personal experience is that my daughter went to a school near Commercial road for 2 years and ended up having to get a brown inhaler for asthma. Then changing school to near Victoria Park at the north of the borough, was found to be healthy.

Leisure in Tower Hamlets

Leisure facilities in Tower Hamlets have seen an enormous increase of use during the last 7 years. From 2002 – 2019 visits jumped from 80K to 2.2 Million.

A great statistic to see, published by Tower Hamlets council with their OS Leisure Facilitiesv4 papers to be discussed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 25. November 2019.

Yet the council wants to invest only 1.9 Million to maintain and improve 7 Leisure centres. That is simply not enough in my view. Anyone interested can go to the Overiew and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Monday 25. Nov at the Town Hall and make their views known.

I have lobbied the Council officers to consider increasing that spending and to consider a greater involvement in swimming for secondary school pupils because there is little happening in Tower Hamlets at the moment.

 

election promises

A good point has been made in a TV discussion today in that any party can promise as much as they like but if there is no majority government, whoever wins will probably not be able to put any of the promises into reality.

Labour promised free university education once before and took that back. It is extremely unlikely that Labour will get a majority government to put those promises into action.

For us here in East London, we are seeing the stark reality of a borough being run by Labour, which is leading to the closure of a Church of England Secondary school and 6. Form because the Labour led council is seeking this as a problem solution.

Pupils in the school are severely affected by the stress the closure of the school causes and all we get in answer to questions is that the school is not profitable enough. Hence a large school with a capacity of 750 has to be closed in favour of a nearby smaller school, who is supposed to absorb the extra pupils, being spewed out by the closing school.

How much sense does this make to anybody?

The Church of England school, that owns the property to provide education by having not only one but two modern school buildings is being closed so that another smaller school can take over education in the area.

Council will no doubt threaten purchasing at least one building by way of compulsory purchase.

It would have been possible to do it the other way around, by integrating the smaller school with the larger school. But it seems that just because the larger school is affiliated to the Church of England, the Labour run council rather dismisses that school in favour of a non denomination school.

Demographics show that the Christian population in Tower Hamlets is shrinking. the 2011 Census shows there are only 30% of Christians left, compared to 38% Muslims, the rest are from smaller churches or have no religion.

2018 estimates now put the Bangladeshi population numbers above the white ones.

It is quite obviously discriminating against the Church of England, whose admission policies are not restricting access to the school to Church of England members. All church schools usually accept members of all churches as long as their church leaders attest to their church attendance, whether that is Mosque, church or chapel. There is also a percentage of places guaranteed for non denomination pupils who live locally.

The council applies a rule which is based on the per pupil income, yet there are a lot of schools in Tower Hamlets which do not supply their accounts yearly and they are not strictly scrutinized to that extent.

It seems an easy option for Tower Hamlets Council to close a Christian school, when Christians appear in the minority and are the least able to fight back and loose the least vote when it comes to elections.

The schooling can be done by a Christian organisation as long as it serves the national curriculum and results are good.

Yesterdays’ parents were scared for their children but the council will only offer help once problems have ocurred. There is little appetite to do preventative measures. My daughter says she has been threatened with being knived if she wants to join certain local schools and that threat is enough for us not to go there. We really do not want to find out whether such threats are really going to happen.

Obviously if one group of residents is being marginalised the preferred groups may want to bully those who are driven out.

 

 

Researching school governance

Whilst now the parent representative for Raine’s parents on the Steering Group, I feel myself thrown into the Deep End. Having requested training from Tower Hamlets, this was refused. Apparently there is no formal training available for Steering Group members, though the Steering Group is supposed to oversee the planned closure and transfer of pupils to Oaklands.

Doing this one needs quite a bit of knowledge about school governance. Yet, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has no training scheme for associates and refuses governor training for me. I was trained during my time as LEA school governors 10 years ago but times do change, but I do have some ideas.

I am now finding myself looking up School governance regulations in my own time. I will continue to blog along those lines once I have studied lengthy documents that deal with the issue.

What is important for me is that Interim Executive Boards can be set up to help a school improve performance. Question for me is, would dissolving a school be within the scope of those rules, as obviously closing is different from improving.

As I have mentioned in my previous blog, the current IEB board of Raine’s Foundation school was staffed by Sir Alasdair MacDonald who from the start recommended the closure of Raine’s and proceeds to do so.

We now have entered the second phase of the process and I am having to read up on a lot of paperwork.

What I find interesting from reading around various blogs on the Internet is, that LEAs do not have to consult building owners but only the executors of educational strategies, e.g. in the case of Raine’s the Diocese who deliver the education under lease of the Foundation Trust for the building.

It is always good to know the rules and make qualified remarks rather than wasting time on polemics.

Last ditch effort to save Raine’s

The school needs a

  • fresh approach, a board of positive governors who leave no stone unturned to get the school back on its feed.
  • A maverick headteacher who wants to save the school and breathes new life into the school
  • An inventive new focus on specialisation in subjects like sport or others to be determined
  • A focus on the green location of the school with good access to the nearby Victoria Park
  • A quality school run by the Church of England for the Community.

Mr Alan Parker, who chairs the Steering Group, which is occupied mainly with amalgamating Raine’s pupils into Oaklands, should Raine’s close is not as independent as it seems.

Mr Alan Parker is a Consultant and Council member of the New Visions for Education Group, which is chaired by Alasdair MacDonald.

Sir Alasdair McDonald is also Board member at Drum Works, who work with pupils of Raine’s Foundation school and his profile there says:

“He was headteacher of Morpeth school and during that period, attainment at the school rose significantly and Ofsted inspections in both 2007 and 2013 rated Morpeth as Outstanding. He “was achieving against the odds”.

Sir MacDonald does not want to allow Raine’s to try the same miraculous improvement and delivered a Feasability study on 1. April 2019, which he recommends the school (Raine’s) should be earmarked for closure on 31. August 2020. .

Because that is Sir Alasdair Macdonald’s view, he should not have become an IEB board member because he was pre-judgemental in all his activity during his time as Interim Executive Board member.

The board should have been staffed with neutral members who had an open mind as to the future of Raine’s and not with significant persons who – from the outset – saw no future for the school but closure like Sir Alasdair MacDonald.

I think this was an erroneous decision by the Department of Education to appoint Sir Alasdair to the post and then instal Alan Parker as chair of the Steering Group, when Alan Parker has already gotten a fairly close working interest and relationship with Alasdair MacDonald.

I do not wish to retract in any way from both as teachers, I am sure they are excellent at that. Both Alan Parker and Sir Alasdair McDonald have very distinguished careers. However from the view of a parent who wants to keep Raine’s open as a local school, I must emphasize that I cannot be wholly positive about the appointments.  I know Mr McDonald personally when he worked as headmaster at Morpeth school and also find Mr Parker pleasant to work with on the Steering Group. This article is not a personal attack on either of those two gentlemen.

Whilst of course somebody who supports the closure of Raine’s would be very proud to have such distinguished persons overseeing the process.

There are ways to try and save Raine’s with a maverick headteacher who believes in the school just like Alasdair MacDonald believed in Morpeth when he started there in 1991.

I am certain that a well qualified, positive headteacher could attract parents to enrol their children in Raine’s and together with specialising in some subjects – as Raine’s already spearheads sport as a special subject – and with the great location of the school it would be easy to market the school and turn it around. Certainly there would be no shortage of publicity with the East London Advertiser reporter Mike Brooke has himself been a pupil at Raine’s Foundation.

I completely agree with the aims of the New Visions for Education Group as it is stated within their website, but I cannot agree that the closure of Raine’s school is the only solution of the problem that occurred with Raine’s.

It had been said by Christine McInnes during the Cabinet meeting on 30. October 2019, that the board of governors failed to follow recommendations in 2016. But because of that, to close down a school is unfair on the community and the children.

I really hope people will attend the next consultation meeting.

The meeting will be held from 5:30 – 7:30pm at the Professional Development Centre, 229 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6AB. From Monday 4th November more information can be found at: https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/council_and_democracy/consultations/Proposal-to-close-Raines-Foundation-School.aspx

It would definitely be interesting to get the view of all the parents involved to be able to get a better picture of what parents actually want. There is quite a lot of opposition to the closure of Raine’s as the publicity trail shows.

Raine’s to be closed

I watched the Cabinet meeting and listened to the arguments and reasoning behind the Mayor’s decision to endorse the recommendations and issue the Statutory Notice to close Raine’s Foundation school, saying that he, John Biggs, is in the borough since 40 years and that Raine’s used to be the Bees Knees and he is sorry that it came to that conclusion for the school.

  • Councillor Wood, who used to be a great supporter of the school also did not have much opposition to offer in respect of the Report to the consultation and the facts that
  • Raine’s was refused conversion to Academy status because education results weren’t good enough.
  • Christine McInnes explained that the council can only intervene and offer suport initially in the hope that the Board of Governors take advice and initiative required changes.
  • The Board of Governors was replaced by an Interim Executive Board in October last year, effectively dismissing the elected board of governors who used to be in place.

I wasn’t aware of the exact history of the school governance as I had not been involved prior to September this year, when I joined the Raine’s / Oaklands Steering Group to manage the proposed closure of Raine’s and proposed expansion of Oaklands school. I had been at a meeting in the Spring of 2019 and voted for the Patrice Canavan taking over as Executive head teacher.

Of course as the school has problems recruiting pupils, Ofsted has given not only once but twice a ‘in need of improvement rating’ and the school’s academic results are below average, those three factors now lead to that decision.

There will be further consultation to try and soften the blow this will be to parents and digest further input about the issue.

I find it very disturbing for my own child at the school, that Christine McInnes thinks, pupils at Raine’s would achieve a grade higher at another school because we could not move schools whilst the GCSE course had commenced last year. It makes it harder for my child to achieve the best grades possible. My child’s grades will be good enough though to study Maths and Science in 6. Form college, achieved in Raine’s. The GCSE exam will follow in the spring of next year.

Achievement percentages are usually determined by the amount of high achievers in a school. The lower the pupil numbers, nomally the lower also the number of high achievers and that then lowers the achievement percentages overall.

I think that the council assesses the situation mainly on strict statistics instead of applying some common sense and actual emphathy.

Of course if pupil numbers lower, then the achievement statistics will automatically lower unless you are a Grammar school and only accept high achievers in the first place.

Education has become a bit of a rat-race. Open school, attract pupils and you are in business.

We will be having a further consultation meeting in the very near future and that will be announced to parents very shortly.

 

Political Sunday

Sunday mornings have become sports, political and shopping days, perhaps in that order. The BBC channel starts the day with ‘Match of the Day‘, then comes ‘Politics live’ and ‘Sunday Politics‘. The bigger shops open at 11:00.

Personally I do not want to be a member of any political party as I cannot find any I can fully agree with. I strategically support some political parties at certain times but only temporarily.

Residing in Tower Hamlets, a large Muslim population, Labour stronghold, I am completely in a reversee environment as soon as I help at my sports club in Hackney, which has a big Jewish community. Both boroughs are now policed by a joint force from Met Police, which sort of streamlines relgious frictions.

Our council, like all councils, relies on finance restrictions imposed by central government. Yet it always depends who lives and works in a borough to see what services are needed. Obviously councils with a larger proportion of financially secure residents can enjoy a different electorate from those who have another demographic.

There are national policies like the PPI refunds, which helped us recoup some of the debts incurred up to January 2005 and the Pension policies, which enable us to be excempt from the bedroom tax and gives us the Freedom pass are national policies, currently upheld by the Conservative government, which I find attractive.

Just for the purpose of reason, making council tenants move out of bigger flats, does not make the space available in private homes and houses. So I oppose Bedroom tax as it is needlessly discriminating and ineffective.

Unfortunately Britain has a history of stupid taxes, like taxing the amount of windows (1696) or the Poll tax.

Environmentally friendly policies are pushed by the larger parties, they need to do it to get the votes, which is a good thing.

I have just had an email from Gov.uk stating the non-EU trade agreements, which are in place should we leave the EU without a deal. This makes some grim reading, you can see all the agreements in place and it is not a lot.

That makes it very understandable why so many politicians argue day and night about the Brexit issue.

Some political parties have now come the conclusion that they should reverse the Article 50 and remain in the EU.

This is all good and valuable but to get engaged in those current affairs to a great extent would literally make it impossible for me to keep an eye on the bigger picture. It is very time-consuming.

 

 

 

 

Worrying breakdown in local services

I have never experienced such a breakdown in local services.

  1. Our local secondary school, Raine’s Foundation is under threat of closure
  2. 2. Our local GP, The Mission Practise is refusing to give patients appointments.
  3. The London Chest Hospital was closed some time ago.

Taking this as a sign of a reduction in local services, residents should be concerned and make enquiries to their local Member of Parliament, their Councillor and perhaps the Mayor of Tower Hamlets as to why our local services are not delivering the care our community needs.

XR are the new A

A stylized 'A' with a circle around it.
By Derivative work: 0eanarchist (talk)
Circle-A red.svg: LiftarnCircle-A_red.svg, Public Domain, Link

They yused to be called Anarchists and put all those A’s in a circle around our towns. You hardly see them now but instead we have Extinction Rebellion, who want to rid us of everything usual.

The cost of policing the Extinction Rebellion protests was huge. So far they had bills of

  • 3.5 Million for overtime
  • 6 Million for officers drafted in from 38 other forces
  • 11.8 Million staffing costs

for two weeks of protests, with costs constantly rising. As ER are supported by Billionnaires, they should have to pay those costs.

I used to support Extinction Rebellion’s online petition against the concrete works near the Olympic Park, that was an acceptable form of protest. I know they use our local community centre to do their road blocking art works and I shall – as a member of the committee – argue strongly that Extinction Rebellion will no longer be allowed to use our community hall to make their implements. If you don’t want our community hall used for making road obstructions please feel free to follow this link and contact the Secretary of the Residents Association.

We need new rules in what is sensible and what is a nuisance. Think, does it help me, does it help us now and in the future. If the answer is yes, then support and if it is no, do not support.

If XR really loved us they went spend all those billions, they have into installing vertical Moss walls onto our most polluted roads and put more trees out there.

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Older Entries

Blog Stats

  • 53,254 hits