Sunday 20 November 2011

Chalkhill demonstrates its 'Get Up and Go' at community event

Willow plans - will Chalkhill residents lose out?
Chalkhill residents displayed a 'get up and get things done' attitude yesterday when they met for their AGM and Community Information fair.   The regeneration of the estate and the recent positive publicity around Chalkhill Primary School's excellent 'good with outstanding features' Ofsted report fed a mood of optimism, although the impact of cuts cast a shadow over the future.

On the optimistic front we were told that there was a meeting in a few days to consider the bids for the work on constructing the new Chalkhill Park and work should begin within 4 weeks. It is hoped to open the park by June 2012 but things could be delayed in the event of severe winter weather.

Winston Small, the new manager of the Poplar Grove Youth Centre told the meeting he had already taken action to restore the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) at Poplar Grove.  Along with a possible restoration of the BMX track at St David's Close and installation of a skateboarding area, the shared community/school play area at Chalkhill School, and the new park with its two children's playgrounds, adult exercise equipment and 'kickabout area' much needed facilities for children and youth seem to be taking shape.

Barry Gardiner spoke about his work with youth and particular concerns about disproportionate use of stop and search of black youth. Gardiner and Chalkhill youth had raised the issue of lack of respect and transparency in the way stops were carried out with the Borough Commander. A new App had been adopted as a pilot in Brent. This will allow youth to record the reference number of the stop, the officer's number and whether they had been treated respectfully.  The information would be publicly available making the process more transparent and accountable.

We applauded Elmi. who had worked on this issue with Barry Gardiner,  a member of the CRA and the Chalkhill Wanderers football team, who has just been awarded a Masters degree. He said that he would not have been able to achieve what he had without the support of the Residents' Association. Louisa, another young member who works with local youth spoke about the success of the Chalkhill Sports Academy, which is funded by Ward Working. She said, "We're all neighbours but we don't know each other. Working together lets you know that we have issues in common and we can do something about them".  She paid tribute to the support they received from Barry Gardiner and Shafique Choudhary, one of the local ward councillors.

Among issues that residents felt needed to be addressed were confusion over the new recycling arrangements and the 'cyber inequality' experienced by residents who could not afford land telephone lines.  I told residents that we had 20 free (15 hour) nursery vacancies at Chalkhill available for any children who have their 4th birthday before August 31st and some residents said that full-time places would be really appreciated by the community.

The current consultation on the future of the Willow Children's Centre was a concern. There was some confusion over what the proposals might actually mean for local families.  It was strongly felt that the Willow was a resource that formed an integral part of the regeneration of the estate and a route to tackling deprivation. If the number of places was reduced because it was switching the priority to providing for disabled and special needs children this would impact on the community.

The information note to parents and carers states (LINK):
Nursery services will continue at Willow but the focus from 2012 onwards will be towards providing places for children with disabilities or children in need. Although there will no loss in terms of the number of places at Willow, the allocated places for children with disabilities and children in need will increase. The current children will not be affected in terms of places but in the future this will lead to a reduction in the number of general fee paying and NEG (15 hour free entitlement) places. In addition to this as a result of the proposed restructure your child’s key worker may change
It is not clear what proportion of the available spaces will be taken up by children with SEN or disabilities and how many ordinary places will be left for local children. The proportions will also dictate whether the Willow is mainly a 'special nursery' or an integrated provision.

Full consultation details are HERE. The consultation ends on December 14th and decisions on the reorganisation of the Willow Children's Centre and closure of Treetops and Hamony nurseries will be made in January 2012.

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