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.

 

 

Measuring air quality

Just trying to compare air quality in various areas of East London because a comment to my last blog pointed out the good air quality at the northern end of Tower Hamlets.

So I used some air quality measurement websites to get exact results.

Using the London Air Quality Network, a message popped up that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has opted not to be a member, so detailed information cannot be displayed. this service is run by Defra.

When I go to another site, addresspollution.org, all I can find is the same information for all areas of Tower Hamlets, an amber warning sign, saying that air pollution exceeds legal limits. The same message appears whether it is for E1 with the highly polluting Commercial Road or E2 near Victoria Park.

There is no distinction and that propably serves the current council strategy to deploy services by cost rather than distinct air quality.

This makes it very difficult for recent immigrants or residents of Tower Hamlets to actually know which areas are healthier than others. Just because a recent comment on my previous post pointed out that planners knew in the 19th. Century that the area around Victoria Park had health benefits.

So it is easy for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to argue that parents didn’t choose Raine’s because of the healthy location, because they make it impossible for peole to find out that the location actually is healthier.

The Raine’s Nov 2019 consultation

green leafed trees under blue sky

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

After the issue of the statutory closure notice, the Council put on another public consultation. I went there tonight, despite having problems with my foot, and sat there for the duration.

All those council representatives gone on about was the past decisions, problems occuring in the past and that financially the school is not viable because nobody wants to go to the school.

Of course nobody can go to the school because they won’t let anybody enrol. Just the pupils who are now in year 11 have to go to the school because they started their GCSE courses there last year.

There is a residential trip forthcoming but some pupils would not want to go there because they would just be incredible sad all weekend because their beloved school is about to close and some pupils simply cannot cope with that.

I mentioned during the meeting, that my daughter actually started her secondary career off at Bishop Challoner school in Commercial Road; an area with an immense amount of traffic outside.

My daugher never had breathing problems before but when she started going to Bishop Challoner she started to get short of breath, kept on coughing and it became so bad that she was given a brown inhaler.

After two years she changed school to Raine’s Foundation, the school next to Victoria Park, and then, after about 1 1/2 years attending Raine’s her consultant told her that her breathing is absolutely fine and that she can throw away her inhaler.

So the council said that people did not send their kids to Raine’s because of the clean air in the past and then I said that in the past people weren’t aware of those climate emergency issues and surely if it is put to them now that a school like Raine’s in a healthier air environment is good for their children, they would surely prefer to send their kids there.

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 can still be saved

A public meeting is being held on Mon 11th Nov following the decision by Tower Hamlets Council to issue a statutory notice on the proposal to close Raine’s Foundation School. This means that the proposal to close the school and expand Oaklands to accommodate some displaced pupils, is being progressed to the next stage and will initiate a statutory 4 week consultation period, due to begin on Mon 4 Nov. You are invited to attend this meeting to find out more about the next stage of the process and to feedback your views to senior leaders. 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

My last post was rather depressed because watching that council meeting really gotten me down. But I met Father Alan from St. John’s on Bethnal Green and speaking to him gave me some new energy.

I have gotten some great ideas for the next stage of the consultation because I still believe that a closure of Raine’s school can be avoided. There is still hope.

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.

 

Tower Hamlets forecast

Prediction of an increase of 4% more children and 1,600 extra school places needed.

I think  that the Council shuts down a secondary school with a brand new building in a pleasant healthy air and green-leaf environment just because it has had some bad statistics in the past is beyond comprehension.

Why doesn’t this council show initiative and revive Raine’s Foundation school with innovative intervention instead of closing it down?

Perhaps it has to do with finance, that debts accrued over falling pupils numbers and the resulting per-pupil funding short-fall caused a deficit and the only way to absorb that deficit is to close it down and start afresh?

chest-hospital

Raine’s is next to the Chest Hospital, view from Victoria Park, 1 minute away from the school

We need to achieve continuation for Raine’s pupils and the current strategy is to move them to Oaklands. Oaklands also has a nice new building but less capacity than Raine’s has at the moment and the envronment is far less nice than the Raine’s neighbourhood. You will not find many trees around Oaklands school but you find many trees around Raine’s school.

I would rather see Raine’s extended and the building used for education as it is in a healthier environment. Health is important.

Tower Hamlets council is going to deliver a decision on the consultation tonight at the Cabinet meeting.

Whilst clean air strategies are being developed to make the air cleaner all around the borough, methods include extra charges for vehicles who enter the inner London zones, at the moment we still have too much difficult areas. It would be inventive of the council to move schools into clean air zones rather than leave schools where they are and wait for another few years until traffic measures bring carbon levels down.

Unfortunately there is a distinct lack of flexibility both in national and local government policies to adapt to health needs because institutions are too fixed on locations.

In Fairness the Mayor promotes traffic stopping measures around Oaklands school in Old Bethnal Green Road and there is an ongoing consultation at the Professional Development Centre from 9. November at 10am and 14. November at 5pm.

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.

Destruction of local council-led education

Normally the Government comes up with rational arguments to close down council run schools.

  • With Raine’s Foundation, it’s less demand on places and a needing improvement Ofsted rating. But the reduction in demand came also after the Bobby Moore Academy was started near the Olympic Park where the children suffer from inflamed lungs from the cement dust generated nearby. The fact that Raine’s has one of the healthiest environments for children in the borough is not important to the adjudicators, only money is. “Although the devastating effects of large scale concrete production in the middle of a residential area and next to two schools is already apparent, there are a proposals to build a concrete plant on the site. The proposal will mean 520 HGV trucks going in & out of the site, past the school, on a daily basis.” Qutoe from ER Facebook page
  • In Cornwall, a local 6th. Form school suffered financial trouble when nearby a 6th. Form Academy started, which offered more subjects to study. Yesterday’s parliamentary debate saw the local MP complaining to the Minister for Education, which was rebutted with arguments like more subjects on offer in the Academy school.
  • Historically the government demanded a conversion into Academy status when council run schools failed to achieve academic results. At one time 300 schools were forced to convert.
  • Cyril Jackson Primary school in Tower Hamlets is the proof that the government just looks for reasons to dismantle council run schools because that school is being turned into an Academy, despite having outstanding Ofsted ratings. It is being amalgamated with the University Schools Trust, whose other school is in need of improvement. “Only one of UST’s other schools, Royal Greenwich Trust School, has had an Ofsted inspection since conversion – and received Requires Improvement grade from the regulator. Cyril Jackson is currently rated Oustanding.” Quote from East London Advertiser.

One regular complaint is lack of transparency and consultation.

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