Sunday, 18 March 2018

Alperton's Andria Zafirak a deserving winner of Global Teacher Prize

Andria Zafirak, a textiles teacher at Alperton Community School, has won the Global Teacher Prize. Andria's commitment to seeing her pupils lives in a holistic way, going beyond the school gates and recognising the role of creativity in education, are an imnpressive aspect of her practice. Congratulations Andria!

The BBC in reporting the award LINK said:
In her acceptance speech, she said schools should be "safe havens" and called for greater recognition for the value of arts subjects in school.

She warned of "deprivation" and "tough lives" where "children may not eat well because their lunch boxes are empty".

But she said school could make a great positive difference - particular through creative subjects.

"Too often we neglect this power of the arts to actually transform lives, particularly in the poorest communities."

The teacher from Alperton Community School has been praised for her work with the local community as well as with pupils.

She says the mix of people and languages in this part of north London is a "beautiful challenge" which creates a "buzzing" atmosphere.

Brent is claimed as one of the most ethnically diverse places in the UK, with 130 different languages spoken in the London borough. 

She has learned basic phrases in languages such as Hindi, Tamil and Gujarati and has visited homes to build links with the school.

Mrs Zafirakou has been praised for making her pupils feel secure, working with the police to make sure they travel to and from school in safety.

And she will have to stay in teaching, because a condition of the prize is remaining as a teacher for at least the next five years.

Quiet place to work

When she reached the top 10 shortlist, she spoke of the disadvantages facing many of her pupils.

"By getting pupils to open up about their home lives, I discovered that many of my students come from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property," said Mrs Zafirakou.

"It's often so crowded and noisy I've had students tell me they have to do their homework in the bathroom, just to grab a few moments alone so they can concentrate."

In response, she organised extra lessons during the day and the weekend, including giving pupils a quiet place to work.

 The nominations from Andria's school said:

"I am submitting a nomination for a teacher who is a true gem, one who inspires such possibility and potential in her students, their parents, the staff, her peers, the local community, and future teachers and leaders." 

"A phenomenal teacher and leader. She is guided by a moral compass that underpins a passionate desire to give every student at her school the world - no ceilings, no limitations, no boundaries." 

"She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to ensuring that students deserve the best education possible."

"One lady with care and passion can make a huge difference to the lives of many. She is upbeat, full of character, highly regarded and I wish all schools were blessed with a senior leader such as her!"

Friday, 16 March 2018

Somalis in World War 1 - tomorrow Willesden Green Library

Conservation event at Welsh Harp Environmental Studies Centre tomorrow

The frogs had been busy in the lower pond at the Centre when I visited today
Friends of the Welsh Harp Environmental Studies Centre are holding another conservation event tomorrow  Saturday 17th March, 10am – 12.30pm

We will be starting at 10am and finishing at 12.30pm. Here is a link to the event with details:

At the next event we will be working on the following tasks:

-          Vegetation and small tree stump clearance in Forest School Zone
-          Prune the apple trees in front of the buildings.
-          Cut back shrubby vegetation growing in the meadow and pond.
-          Other tasks as they come up.

A present the event is planned to go ahead despite the forecast of snow. If cancelled an update will appear here.  Wrap up warm.


Leopold Primary School

I will not be reporting on this issue because I have an interest in the matter. I am Chair of Governors at Chalkhill Primary School and in that role have approved the appointment of our headteacher as Executive Headteacher of Chalkhill and Leopold starting after the Easter Holiday for one year in the first instance.

For the same reason I will not be publishing any comments on this issue.

Martin Francis

Wembley & Alperton Residents' Meeting Monday March 19th 7pm

This is the rearranged date for the meeting that was cancelled due to the 'Beast from the East'. Better luck this time!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Brent gives a little funding to family play project

Press release from Brent Council. (Given the closure of the Stonebridge Adventure Playground and all but one of Brent's youth centres,  as well as Brent's child obesity problem, this funding seems rather stingy.)

Place2Play, an inspirational project which hopes to transform underutilised parks as venues for inclusive and family play challenges, has received £1500 funding from Brent Council.

The pledge follows Brent's partnership with Spacehive, the UK's crowdfunding platform for projects that improve local places, to support local groups to get their great community project ideas funded.

Spacehive's project, Place2Play, will help local families get fitter and they will also have the chance to learn new lifelong skills together through access to qualifications.

Brent's pledge comes at a critical time for the campaign with only 19 days left for Place2Play to raise the remaining £7821 of their £22,361 target.

Cllr Krupesh Hirani, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing said: "I am thrilled to be supporting the Place2Play project which will create exciting opportunities for families to be active and enjoy physical activity together while learning new skills. I'm calling on everyone in Brent to help us make this project a success and make our parks even better."

London Sports Trust, the group running the Place2Play crowdfunding campaign have run an incredible campaign, attracting over 110 pledges from local individuals and organisations.

Ulick Tarabanov, CEO of London Sports Trust, said: ""London Sports Trust is delighted that Brent Council have pledged £1500 towards our new family play programme Place2Play. We are looking forward to using local parks and open spaces across Brent for inclusive and fun family play challenges bringing families together outside teaching healthy lifelong skills. If we can teach a parent or carer to play with their children then we will change a lifetime of behaviour."

If the campaign is successful, Place2Play activities will take place in the following parks in Brent: Roundwood Park, Gibbons Rec, King Edward VII Park.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Diabetes Awareness Preston Hub Friday 16th March

Shefffield Trees and Labour: 'They just don't get it'

Lobbying Labour

Guest blog by Alan Story

When you in a very bad relationship or in a marriage that cannot be saved, the first thing you need to do is to admit to yourself: “you know what, I've made a horrible mistake.”

But nearly six years after Labour-control Sheffield City Council (SCC) signed a disastrous £2.2 billion PFI contract and on a day when the Sheffield trees crisis featured in the New York Times no less, the local Labour Party has again pulled down the shutters and refused to address the havoc that SCC’s relationship with Amey plc is causing to our now-privatised streets and privatised street trees.

The occasion was the monthly meeting Tuesday night (13 March) of the Sheffield District Labour Party (DLP) meeting. Outside, 35 picketers/ tree campaigners had come together for what was likely the largest picket ever held in front of a Sheffield Labour Party meeting.

But as delegates inside discussed the draft election manifesto it will use for the 3 May election, it was clear that most of those in attendance at the local party's highest decision-making body still did not grasp the basics of what was going wrong on the streets of Sheffield. (Those in attendance included Council Leader Julie Dore who came late and, sadly, after most of the 35 picketers had dispersed.)

Yes, there was concern raised about the contracting out of public sector jobs as a result of the work being done under the profit-making auspices of Amey plc. And yes, that is ONE problem with this PFI deal and, indeed, all PFI deals.

But what delegates failed to understand is that it is the very nature of THE WORK being undertaken which is the main problem. In other words, the planned felling of 17,500 street trees is NOT the same thing as the contracting out of NHS jobs to a US-owned healthcare corporation. Or transforming state schools into profit-driven academies.

This is what a significant number of LP members just do not get.

On one level, to bring contracted out jobs "in house" has, since the September 2017 national Labour Party convention, become National Labour Party policy. It is becoming harder and harder for the SCC to operate a PFI deal that is in direct contravention to the national policy of its own party.

But by focusing almost exclusively on the contracting out jobs issue, the local Labour Party last night again missed the big picture, they didn’t see the forests for the trees ….if you will.

As several observers at last night's meeting confirmed, most DLP delegates failed to address a wide range of issues, such as:

1) Why 17,500 mostly healthy trees were ever planned for the chop back in 2012. (It took a recent successful FOI request by Paul Selby to uncover that SCC has being duplicitous to Sheffield residents about planned tree felling number since the 25-year-long contract was first signed.) More than 5500 mostly healthy trees have already come down.

2) The value of trees for the slowing climate change. SCC cabinet minister Jack Scott, who also attended last night's session, denies they have any value.

3) Why SCC is acting with such contempt for local democratic functioning when it ignores the advice of tree experts and the wishes of local residents and simply carries on willy-nilly with its ruthless chainsaw war.

4) Why squads of South Yorkshire Police have been mobilised across the city and are at the beck-and-call of SCC, who are in a serious political fix, and Amey, who are only interested in their bottom line. (It is hardly surprising that tree campaigners now call SYP “Amey’s police.")

5) Why SCC has applied for civic injunctions to stop peaceful protest and has forced tree campaigners to raise tens of thousands of pounds to defend themselves against the actions of this profoundly authoritarian local council. (Pardon the plug: in the current campaign, 440 supporters have raised more than £11,500 in less than five days:

6) In fact, you don’t even get the sense that some of these so-called LP “lefties” really grasp what privatisation means. For example, how can it be a step toward socialism when a public agency like SYP (directed by a Labour Party Police Commissioner) protects a Spanish-owned multinational corporation (operating under a PFI deal negotiated by the free market LibDems) as it pillages a street of much-loved cherry trees on Abbeydale Park Rise (that are lit with lights every Christmas to raise funds for a hospice)?

7) The value of street trees as things of beauty, as a home for birds, and as promoters of mental health (If I hear one more Labour Party flunky tell me that working-class people "hate trees" I will scream.)

8) Why it is just so wrong to call in (or threaten to call in) social services against the parents of youthful tree campaigners, one of whom rode over on his bicycle and was with us last night.

9) Why there was a leak to the media of the preposterous tale that a 59-year-old architect served poisoned tea to three street tree fellers on her own street. Hold The Star’s front page: next thing you know they'll be telling us that Calvin Payne's backpack is stocked up with nerve gas.

The list could on and on.

What local Labour does not get is what a newspaper headline said back in October: “Look to Sheffield: this is how state and corporate power subverts democracy.”