Saturday, 27 May 2017

Brent Central candidates have their say on the school funding issue

With some hustings cancelled due to the Manchester incident last night was one of the few chances to hear from Brent Central's General Election candidates.

It was a sometime rumbustious meeting but well chaired by Lucy Cox with Labour supporters in the majority. I am afraid my camera work is very shaky as a result from being fresh out of hospital and failed completely when the Ukip candidiate began to speak. My apologies.

This extract focuses on school funding which is very much the question of the moment although of course the purpose and focus of education is also a matter of debate.

I will be publishing more of what Shaka Lish the Green Party had to say on the Brent Green Party blog LINK

South Kilburn - the Non-consultation putting putting entrepreneurs ahead of residents

The official Brent Council view - is this the reality?

Guest post by Pete Firmin, South Kilburn resident

I went to the consultation on the future of the Granville Centre on Wednesday afternoon LINK with another member of our Tenants and Residents Association Committee. Not because we think those events are particularly useful, but because if no-one goes and makes critical remarks, they will say everyone welcomes their proposals. [Although sometimes they say that anyway]

We were greeted by someone from the Architects, who told us "this is what we are going to do". Of course, the architects are given a remit to carry out, but this is a long way from what consultation should be - the latest in a long line of Brent consultations where you are told what is going to happen, whether you like it or not.

Apart from pointing out that that isn't consultation, we said that their proposals - partitioning the large hall - effectively destroyed one of the few remaining community spaces in South Kilburn. She said it was underused by the community, to which we pointed out that that is because Brent has run down the services which did use it. Being from the architects, rather than those promoting the scheme, she didn't go there.

The main proposal is to partition the main hall to create workshops for entrepreneurs. SK Trust's sole emphasis now seems to be on "promoting entrepreneurs". Not quite sure how that fits in with representing all SK residents (as Brent always claims on behalf of SK Trust). And we were told `some' of those entrepreneurs will be local, which I take to mean most won't be.

The largest community space left will be about 1/3rd of the size of the large hall, meaning larger events (like the recent meeting with Zadie Smith, or the coming election hustings) could not be held there.It means the only largish `community' spaces left in SK will be tied to religious establishments, not the Council.

We were interviewed about the proposals on a video for the SK Trust, in which we said most of the above. Unfortunately the person filming asked us not to stray on to our criticisms of the SK Trust (now that would have made the visit worth it!).

As ever with such events, there was no-one present who actually favour and promote these proposals. So much for accountability. Leslie Barson from the Granville Centre and kitchen was there, and we went partly to support her and the work the Granville does, but they have their backs to the wall with no alternative but to accept what is happening.

I'm not naive enough to think that this steamroller can be stopped, but think it worth sharing so people know what is going on.

For the masochists among you, there is a further "consultation" on Wednesday 14th June, 3-8 p.m. at the Granville, renamed "South Kilburn Studios and Community Space @Granville 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Extra security at Wembley this weekend plus Manchester tributes

Photo: Evening Standard/Getty Images
During the consultation on 'Shaping a Healthier Future' which proposed closure of several A&E services, including Central Middlesex, I repeatedly raised the issue of whether what remained could cope with a 'major incident' in Brent which includes the Park Royal Industrial Estate,  several railway lines, the North Circular, Wembley Arena and Wembley Stadium all potential accident or attack sites.

On event days at Wembley roads in the area are very congested, particularly for the recently increased full capacity events, making acess for emergency vehicles extremely difficult.

The events in Manchester make this question even more relevant. I understand there is a special committee that keeps security in Wembley under constant review although its proceedings are not made public.

It appears that we may see armed police patrolling in Wembley this long weekend of Stadium events.

Meanwhile the Stadium has issued the following guidance to fans:


The safety of fans is of paramount importance and we have robust security measures in place at Wembley Stadium connected by EE. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Police and the local authorities there will be an enhanced security operation for all upcoming events. 

All supporters attending the upcoming matches at Wembley Stadium are advised to arrive as early as possible to avoid queues and to support commemorations of the tragic events in Manchester this week.

Fans can be assured that all appropriate security measures are in place for the upcoming matches, which includes thorough searches upon entrance to Wembley Stadium, and they are encouraged to arrive as early as possible to avoid any delays in entering the stadium.  We strongly advise that all supporters arrive at the stadium no later than 1 hour prior kick-off to be inside for the start of the match and we encourage spectators to not bring any bags or unnecessary items with them.

The FA plans to appropriately remember Monday’s Manchester attack before the kick-off of the Emirates FA Cup Final including: 
  • A period of silence will be observed prior to kick-off
  • Commemorative wreaths will be laid by The President of the Football Association, his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge and The Football Association Chairman, Greg Clarke
  • Arsenal and Chelsea players will wear black armbands as well as the match officials
In addition, all four teams and match officials taking part in the Sky Bet Play-Off Finals on Sunday and Monday will wear black armbands and observe a period of silence prior to kick-off.

On Tuesday night The FA lit the Wembley Arch in England colours to remember the victims and to show support for all those affected by the attack, as well as displaying ‘For Manchester’ on the front of the stadium.

The Emirates FA Cup Final matchday programme was printed prior to this weekend’s matches, so there is no reference to Monday night’s tragic events due to print deadline. The FA will instead be showing its support with the plans listed above.

We thank all supporters for their cooperation and understanding.

Saturday 27 May
Emirates FA Cup Final: Arsenal v Chelsea
17:30 kick-off

Sunday 28 May
Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Final: Blackpool v Exeter City
15:00 kick-off

Monday 29 May
Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final: Huddersfield Town v Reading
15:00 kick-off

Support the BEST education - not the most STRESSED!

10,000 meals for the vulnerable this Ramadan

 From Sufra Foodbank and Kitchen NW London
 BRENT - To mark the start of Ramadan, local Muslim communities across North-West London have launched a special appeal to deliver 10,000 meals over the next 30 days to disadvantaged and vulnerable families in the local community.

      Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting, charity and penitence, when believers abstain from food and drink between dawn and dusk – which extends beyond 19 hours of the day during the summer months.

      At a cost of £1 per meal, local Muslim communities aim to raise £10,000 over the next month, which will ensure that Sufra NW London’s food bank and community kitchen can support over 500 people during Ramadan.
Donations towards the appeal can be made here.

      “We are very proud of our strong relationship with all faith communities who help to sustain the food bank throughout the year with their donations and in-kind contributions. We would like to wish our Muslim donors, friends and supporters a blessed month of Ramadan,” said Diarmuid O’Hegarty, Chair of Sufra NW London.

      Throughout Ramadan, local mosques are planning food collections, cooking sessions for the homeless and fundraising events coinciding with ‘iftar’ – the fast-breaking meal at sunset in aid of Sufra NW London.

      The charity has also launched a Ramadan Giving Calendar for children to learn about the importance of giving regularly to charity. The calendar is available here.

Headteachers' review of the education policies of the three main parties

Ahead of tonight's Education Question Time at 6.30pm tonight at Queens Park Community School it is worth reading the National Association of Headteachers review of the three main parties education policies. It is a great pity that they do not consider the Green Party's views.

New reports comparing the general election manifestos from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Education Policy Institute are published today. 

Commenting on these reports, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said:
Education continues to be an important issue for voters in this election. Anyone with the best interests of children and young people at heart will be glad to see that all the major parties have devoted space to education in their manifestos. 

There are clear differences in policy and priority for the parties, so there’s plenty for parents, teachers and school leaders to think about. Older pupils, who may be voting for the first time, will also have a view.

Thanks to continued pressure by parents and schools, there is now cross-party recognition that school budgets are at breaking point. This is not a moment too soon because our research shows that seven out of ten school leaders believe their budgets will be untenable by the 2019/20 academic year. However, there are elements in all of the manifestos that will leave voters wondering how proposals will be funded and whether they will achieve the benefits to pupils that the parties claim.

NAHT had been focussing on five key priorities which we believe all parties should sign up to:
  • To fund education fully and fairly, reversing the £3bn real terms cuts that schools are facing and providing enough money to make the new national funding formula a success.
  • To put forward a national strategy for teacher recruitment and retention that recognises teachers as high-status professionals and guarantees enough teachers for every school.
  • To adopt fair methods to hold schools to account, recognising that test and exam results are only part of the picture when judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness.
  • To value a broad range of subjects in the school day so that pupils’ opportunities are not limited and they are properly prepared for adult life.
  • To make sure that schools are supported by health and social care services to allow schools to fulfil their role to promote pupil wellbeing rather than making up for cuts to other services.
So far over 150 parliamentary candidates have signed up including Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, and Natalie Bennett, former leader of the Green Party. Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader has also signed up. To date, no Conservative candidates have signed up. The list of signatories is continually being updated, and can be found here


Mr Hobby said: “Funding is still the number one issue in education, without sufficient cash, schools will always struggle to implement any new or established policies. The rest of the debate about education begins and ends with that fact. It is welcome, for instance, that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have proposed to address the current reductions in real terms funding for post-16 education, which have left the 16 to 18 phase relatively underfunded compared to secondary school education. It is time for the whole education system to be given the investment it so desperately needs.”


Mr Hobby said: “Disappointingly, there is not much from any of the parties on how to solve the teacher recruitment crisis. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to abolish the 1 per cent public sector pay cap, which would certainly help, but the Conservatives have not made any commitments to remove the cap, which is likely to cause teacher pay to continue to decline in real and relative terms, making it a less attractive career choice. Guaranteeing enough high quality teachers for every school is a sufficiently complicated and important enough requirement to demand that the government takes overall responsibility for it by implementing a national strategy.”


Mr Hobby said: “Whilst there are some areas of concern, England’s schools are overwhelmingly of a high quality. School leaders have earned the right to fair methods to hold schools to account, recognising that test and exam results are only part of the picture when judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness. Narrow, high stakes accountability causes activity damage. The Conservatives’ plans to increase accountability at Key Stage 3, demonstrate an unwillingness to build a fair system and will dismay many school leaders. Reducing the target for participation in the English Baccalaureate from 90 per cent to 75 per cent merely proves how arbitrary that target was and we will continue to campaign to see this dropped altogether. 

“Whilst all three parties are pledging to reform assessment in primary schools, Labour have made an explicit commitment to abolish any baseline assessments. As the EPI says, the development of a new baseline assessment does need to be handled with care, but it is disappointing that Labour have ruled out further examination of its possibilities, given its potential to provide a measure of pupil progress over the entire course of primary school. We would urge all three parties to build on the significant impact that our ‘Redressing the Balance’ report has had on the assessment and accountability debate.”

Mental Health

Mr Hobby said: “There is cross-party consensus of the need to make significant changes to children and young people’s mental health services, which is welcome. Although recognition must be given to the increasing contribution that schools are making to support the mental health needs of pupils, there can be no expectation on any school to provide health and social care services funded from the school budget. NAHT does not believe that it is fair for schools to be held to account for mental wellbeing when their efforts are so dependent on the quality and availability of other services that young people need.”

Students with Special Needs

Mr Hobby said: “In terms of the way the education system works for every student, regardless of who they are, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have also outlined strategies in their manifestos specifically directed towards the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). With a significant gap in attainment scores for SEND and non-SEND pupils, they risk being left behind. These commitments are therefore welcome. In contrast, the Conservatives have made no reference to the needs of pupils with SEND in their manifesto, which is extremely disappointing.”

Narrowing the Gap

Mr Hobby concluded: “All the main parties state that they want to improve things for pupils who come from less well-off families but their chosen methods are very different. Much has been made of the two most high profile Conservative Party priorities; the end of Universal Infant Free School Meals and the return of selective education. Ending the school meals entitlement for infants after only three years and without a proper evaluation of the project takes a much too short term view of the issue. Almost a million children will be affected, so we believe the entitlement should be retained. It is likely that ending the universal entitlement will reduce economies of scale and further damage school budgets. 

“The plans to offer free breakfasts instead have not been costed properly and do not include additional funding in order to meet upfront costs, increased demand and the need for additional staffing. Labour and Liberal Democrat plans to expand free school meals to all primary students are noble but will only work if funding is sufficient and the all the practicalities of simultaneously feeding a greater number of pupils have been taken into account.

“NAHT does not support any plans to expand grammar schools. As the EPI states in its report today, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are seriously under-represented in grammar schools and additional selective schools have no significant net positive or negative impact on pupil attainment - instead they modestly redistribute educational attainment towards the small number who gain entry to grammar schools and away from the much larger proportion of children who do not. Pupils from black and minority ethnic families are particularly ill served by grammar schools, which cannot be a good thing for social mobility of cohesion.”

You can read our summary of the main parties’ manifestos here

(Note it is a pity the NAHT did not include the radical Green Party policy for education here)

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Brent to abandon Community Asset Transfer in favour of commercial marketing of its property (our property?)

The Bowls Pavilion, KIng Edward VII Park
The Brent Cabinet on Monday will consider an 'Urgent' supplementary item LINK which will end the Community Asset Transfer scheme in 10 days time on May 31st - giving the public and councillors very little time to comment.

The Council claims that the scheme has been unsuccessful in meeting its objectives and although it mentions some of its own policy and practices as getting in the way of Third Sector Organisations (TSOs) making bids for Council property it claims it is the quality of the property that is the main problem:
The most important factor, however, is the lack of high quality assets available for CAT in Brent. The Strategic Property Plan currently lists just three properties available: Chalkhill Police Office, Welford Centre (Units 1-3) and the Millennium Day Centre. Moreover, those that are made available are of low quality, meaning that local TSOs - which are best-placed to realise the community benefits of CAT - are left with poorer accommodation, or else are less likely to apply because they are unable to commit the investment required to bring assets up to standard.
These are the CATs considered so far.

The Officers' Report states:
Four properties have been approved by Cabinet for marketing as CATs: Gladstone Park Pavilion (Kilburn Cosmos clubhouse); Tenterden Pavilion; Northwick Park Pavilion and Butler’s Green toilets. However, authority to market Northwick Park Pavilion was subsequently withdrawn by Cabinet in January 2017 owing to its inclusion in the One Public Estate programme. A fifth property, Barham Park Card Room, was approved for marketing under the council’s CAT policy by the Barham Park Trust Committee in July 2015.
Four properties have been identified as unsuitable for CAT: Kingsbury Resource Centre, Wembley Youth and Community Centre, Church Lane Recreation Ground and King Edward VII Park buildings. This has been on the basis they had already been marketed through regular property channels at the time of the CAT submission. The Old Refectory in Central Middlesex Hospital property is ineligible as it is not council-owned. 
In addition to this, one property - Welsh Harp Environment Education Centre - was identified for CAT as part of a council initiated service review and leased to Thames 21 in January 2016
The change of policy means in effect that earlier commitment to considering the social benefit of bids as well as the commercial return on property has been ditched.  The financial return, the highest bid, will now be the main factor.
 It is worth readers looking at what the report says about the processes involved in voluntary organisations seeking a community asset transfer from the Council to the organisation and considering whether the Council could have taken action to make things less difficult. (Highlighting mine)
From the consultation with Brent TSOs, partners and officers in March 2016, the evidence indicates the CAT policy does not meet the intended goals of enabling better management of assets, enabling more effective delivery of Borough Plan outcomes by TSOs, and empowering local communities. Some of the issues identified concern the supporting processes and tools, which can make applying for CATs more difficult for TSOs. These include the accessibility of information on assets eligible for CAT, and communication between TSOs and the council in relation to CATs. These could be resolved with relatively straightforward operational changes.  
However, other factors also discourage some TSOs from CATs. These include choices that the council has made about policy and its underpinning principles, such as criteria for applicants, open marketing of CAT opportunities, and the length of leases offered.
They also include lack of capacity in smaller TSOs, limiting their ability to successfully engage in a CAT. Overall, contrary to empowering local organisations, these factors have served to exclude them and discourage them from taking up potential opportunities to engage with the council. The original ethos that a straightforward Expression of Interest is sufficient to kick start the CAT process has been lost, with applicants expend considerable time and resources in developing a full property bid from the outset.
 The report concludes:
The report finds that the CAT policy is not meeting its objectives, and recommends that the council discontinues the existing CAT process in favour of marketing all council assets in the usual way

Where to hear your candidates debate GE2017

Brent Central Public Political Debates: 

Education Question Time
Friday May 26th 2017 at 18:£0
Queens Park Community School, 
More info HERE

Brent North Political Debates

Brent Carers
Carers and Social Care Hustings
Wednesday 31st May 2017 6:30 - 8:30pm
Church End & Roundwood Unity Centre
103 Church End London, NW10 9EG
Buses 260 & 266

Hampstead & Kilburn Political Debates

West Hampstead Life Hustings
THIS TUESDAY May 23, 2017
@ 7.30 pm – 9.15 pm
Sherriff Centre
Sherriff Rd
London NW6

We would love to see you attending, but if not they have promised to live stream this event.

To make the evening flow smoothly, they are encouraging you to send questions in advance – the candidates will not see these beforehand. They will then ask some of the popular submitted questions before handing over to the floor.
To send a question, simply drop Jonathan Turton an email before midday on Tuesday. There will also be a question box in St James’ Church over the next few days.
Each candidate will get a 4-minute slot to pitch themselves, and then we will structure the evening in three parts. First, questions on Brexit, then questions on other national issues (incl. foreign policy), and then questions on local issues. If there is time then there’ll be time for free questions at the end.
Doors open at 7pm and will start at 7.30pm. They will aim to finish around 9.15pm. The Sherriff Centre café/bar will be open.

Granville Community Kitchen and South Kilburn Trust Hustings
Wednesday 31st of May  Time: 7-9pm
At Granville Plus Centre
Carlton Vale, NW6 5HE.

Questions to: