Tuesday 30 July 2019

Free African Drumming & Dance School 20th-23rd August in Wembley - 12 year olds & above

Join Learning Through The Arts for an exciting four days of African Drumming and Dance workshops at Patidar House, Wembley.

Each day you will build your newly-learned skills in this fun and interactive series of workshops.

We welcome all abilities and all young people aged 12 and above.


Booking essential – Free to Attend.

Get in touch at events@learningthroughthearts.co.uk / 07510 917 517 for more information or to book, or alternatively use the booking form HERE

These workshops are part of Learning Through The Arts project Creative Ideas, with support and funding from BBC’s Children In Need.

Editor This may get you in the spirit:

Monday 29 July 2019

Should Queens Park Farmers Market be able to open on Friday evenings?

London Farmers Market have put in an application to open the market at Salusbury Primary School on Friday evenings in addition to the present Sunday opening. They claim that Friday opening would raise additional funds for the school, maintain the market's popularity in the face of competition from local supermarkets and appeal to a younger customer base. The Friday market would be half the size of the Sunday market.

This is an extract from their application - full documentation and a link to making comments on the application can be found HERE. There are no comments so far.

The Sunday farmers market in Queens Park is a popular local institution, the level of popularity can be demonstrated by the numbers of letters of support received for the 2015 planning application. It has been trading for 14 years but like any food business needs to evolve and grow with the times. Trading 4 hours per week may not be enough to secure its long term future as in recent years 2 new supermarkets have opened and a third plans to open later this year this is equivalent to 336 extra hours of competition since the market was established and therefore we are looking to trade for an additional 4.5 hours per week

The Friday event will be a smaller test event as we do not plan to operate weekly all year at the moment and it may not be viable for stalls in terms of sales at all, even for just a few weeks. Even if sales are viable it is unlikely that such an event would trade every week of the year it would be subject to weather constraints from January to April. A premises licence application is in process for the event if it becomes weekly and TENS’s have been received for the first 4 weeks. The Queens Park Farmers Market planning application was submitted retrospectively 14 years ago after a 14 week trial under permitted development and a similar approach has been adopted here with the intention initially of only a 4 week trial. However after discussions with planning officers we were advised to submit a planning application before the change of use occurred.

From the feedback we have had to the premises licence application for the event. There would appear to be some main themes identified in the letters of concerns from residents and these largely stem from a comparison with the Sunday Farmers Market. These themes are:

·      Parking / Traffic volumes.
·      Noise
·      Litter
·      Anti-Social Behaviour around entrances

The Sunday Farmers Market has grown into a popular local destination for food shopping over the last 14 years. Since the market opened, Salusbury Road and the surrounding area have changed completely both in terms of its retail offering and late night entertainment. The farmers market is part of the changing face of Queens Park but is not solely responsible for the above concerns raised by local residents and therefore a general increase in commercial activity at weekends has been responsible for making weekends more of a popular destination. In the last few years 2 new supermarkets have opened both trading until 11pm additional bars and restaurants have also opened in Lonsdale Road and Salusbury Road. Numerous big chain coffee shops now dominate the high street. The area is a vibrant place and as an established business of 14 years we wish to expand in a very limited way.

It is understandable that residents would compare this proposed Friday event with the Sunday market but they will be very different events in terms of content, scale and use, which we believe will mean less of an impact on the surrounding area and neighbours. For a start it will be much smaller compared to the Sunday Farmers market. Only 50% of the existing Sunday customer base in a survey said that they would use a Friday evening event and those that would come would not attend every week. Around 15-20 stalls will be present compared to 40 plus on Sundays. It is designed to be a place where local neighbours and families can meet each other after school and work and relax with something quick to eat. The event is planned to be of similar size and scale to a school fete, but if it is to be a regular event Temporary Event Notices alone will not be a suitable way to licence such an activity. We propose that the event could be weekly but it may well be seasonal. The event has two aims:

-       To help raise additional funding for the school
-       To help support small independent businesses and give them a platform to launch and grow their businesses
-       To future proof the Sunday farmers market from growing supermarket competition in Salusbury Road by attracting in a different younger customer base on Friday evenings

In the farmers markets 14 year history at the site there have been no reported problems with alcohol sales, no reported complaints about noise and as far as we are aware no complaints of any nature to the Councils licensing or enforcements teams. The market is loved by the community where it takes place. We therefore believe that a smaller event for just 4 hours is even less likely a cause for concern especially when there are other businesses surrounding the site staying open much later than our proposed hours. A brand new COOP opened north of the market site this year, next to residential properties staying open until 11pm. To put this variation into the context of other businesses; we are requesting an extra 4 hours sales per week to add to the 4 hours we have already on Sundays, this is tiny compared to the retail giants of COOP and M+S who opened in recent years, trading 7 days a week 7am – 11pm and now with Planet Organic opening in August a combined 336 hours of extra food and alcohol sales per week, we are requesting a total of 8 hours per week.

To respond to the residents main concerns in turn:

Parking / Traffic Volumes:

-Our attached Sunday customer transport survey shows that a majority of customers on Sundays do not drive to the market. Only 23% say that they drive. The postcode map attached also shows that a majority of customers are very local which again would indicate a high percentage of pedestrians and cyclists

-On Fridays a CPZ is in place until 6.30pm which will deter many drivers. We also expect the customer base to be more local popping in on their walk home from work. Those going out on Friday evenings are also less inclined to drive if they are planning to drink alcohol with a meal.

-Parking will be available on site for all traders vehicles on Fridays due to lower visitor and stall numbers

-All traders are booked in advance none are permitted to turn up and trade on the day


-There is a general level of background noise in the area due to the busy street and other commercial activity. The southern part of the licenced area where we propose to hold the event is surrounded by school buildings on two sides, Salusbury road on one side and as we will only be using approximately half of the main playground for the event there will be at least 30m between the residential apartments and gym building to the North (See Friday Event Area Below). We expect the event area to be used to be almost 50% smaller than on Sundays.

-Given that the event is planned to be 50% smaller compared to Sundays and will have 50% less people on site than during a school day we cannot see noise being an issue. We would be happy to stick to the maximum 499 visitors on site as required by a TEN to protect the amenity of our neighbours

-In order to ensure that we respect the views and concerns of our neighbours we have agreed with the representation from your licensing officers in that last orders should be at 21.30 not 22.00 and the event will close at 22.00pm to the public. The site will be cleared and we believe secured no later than 23.00 which is sometime earlier than the other surrounding businesses.

Litter / Waste

-Managers will be on site to check that all waste will be disposed of correctly at the end of the event – we are happy for them to check the perimeter of the site at the end of the event to ensure no related waste is on the street
Anti-social behaviour around entrances.

-This is largely designed to be a food / dining event, alcohol will form a small part of the sales and will be from small independent vineyards and craft breweries who have their own brands and reputations to consider as well as their own personal licences, one of whom is the DPS.

-Only one gate will be open on Fridays to the public. The main school gate closest to Lonsdale Road will be used for all public access and this is not near to any residential properties

-The event will be managed to ensure we fulfil the 4 licencing objectives and there will be a challenge 25 policy in place at all times. Alcohol sold in compostable cups will need to be consumed on the premises before leaving, supervised gate control will prevent drinks being taken on to the street-

-visitor numbers will be controlled in line with a temporary event notice and kept below 499.

Sunday 28 July 2019

Brent Cycling Campaign calls for Council action as the health of Brent streets falls behind other London boroughs

From Brent Cycling Campaign

London Cycling Campaign has been collaborating over the last year with several other active travel campaigning groups on the first ever “London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard”. 

The health of Brent’s streets is falling behind other London Boroughs. A recent report by a coalition of transport organisations gave Brent a score of 3.7 out of 10 measured against the Mayor of London’s Healthy Streets approach. Brent falls well below the London average on a range of measures including: road safety; and number of people choosing to walk or cycle.

Brent Cycling Campaign welcomes this publication, and hopes that it will spur Brent Council into action. Brent urgently needs to act to prevent the inactivity crisis hitting the borough, Brent is 26th out of 33 in number of people choosing to walk regularly, and 3rd worst in number of people choosing to cycle. Of Brent’s 500 km of roads only 10 km have safe space for cycling (with a further 13 km away from roads, mostly in parks). In contrast London’s best performing boroughs have over 50 km of protected bike lanes, and more in the pipeline. Brent consistently fails to remove rat-running traffic from residential roads, coming 24th out of 33 for this easy to implement and highly effective measure.

We encourage Brent to look at the best ideas from within and beyond London. For example the 20 mph speed limit zones in neighbouring Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham, and the success in active travel of the recent Waltham Forest Liveable Neighbourhood. As a campaign for people who cycle or support cycling in Brent we know what the barriers to active lifestyles are. Brent is the borough Will Norman, the Mayor’s transport commissioner, described as one of the worst places [for cycling] he had ever cycled

Saturday 27 July 2019

Wembley Park’s tile murals – now you see them … soon you won’t!

Guest post by Philip Grant

On Thursday, I saw the tile murals on the east wall of the Bobby Moore Bridge subway, for the first time since they were covered over with vinyl advertisements in October 2013.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a cause for celebration. Work was in progress which will see all but one of the mural scenes hidden, perhaps permanently, behind illuminated advertising screens, attached to vertical metal struts, screwed into the joints between the tiles.
One of the workmen saw me taking photographs, and asked me if there was a problem. I said that I was sorry to see such a beautiful piece of Wembley Park’s story being covered up, and he replied ‘Yeah. This is history.’ He was right. THIS IS HISTORY, but it should not be “history”.
The heritage importance of the murals was the subject of a blog on 11 June LINK . Despite the evidence they had, Brent’s Planning Officers did not even mention heritage as a key issue in their reports to the Planning Committee meeting on 16 July. Although we tried our best to correct that false impression at the meeting, and explain the heritage and public art value of the tile murals for both residents and visitors, the Planner’s recommendations to approve the Bobby Moore Bridge applications were accepted, by 5 votes to 2 LINK .

Fixing metal struts over the Michael Jackson mural scene, with the 1948 Olympics show jumping mural next in line.
To be fair, the men I saw fixing the metal struts over the murals in Thursday did seem to be taking care not to damage the tiles. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have been the case with whoever fitted the struts that barriers around their “building site” are attached to, particularly at the southern end of the subway’s west wall:-

Damaged tiles at the edge of the “Olympic flame” mural scene.  

In their “Statement of Significance”, submitted as part of the application documents, Quintain’s agents said:
‘The lightbox panels will be fixed to the walls using screws placed between the tile joints, allowing the tiled mural to remain in situ and unharmed and therefore will not result in any loss or damage to the original mural.’
That statement was unrealistically optimistic, and in an “Addendum” to that document on 1 July, they said:
‘Quintain fully commit to repair any damage that is caused during the installation of the light boxes, should this occur.’

I hope that Brent Council will hold them to that promise.
For now, I would encourage anyone interested in the tile murals to pay a visit to the subway. Remind yourself of what a valuable record, of famous sports and entertainment events at Wembley Stadium and Arena, we are about to lose (thanks to Brent Council’s neglect, and Quintain’s commercial opportunism). Take some photos of your own, and perhaps share them on social media. It may be your last chance.

Philip Grant.

Friday 26 July 2019

Death of former Brent councillor, Pat Harrison

I am sad to report that Pat Harrison, a former Brent Labour councillor and member of the National Union of Teachers has died.

This is the announcement made on the Brent Council website:

Former Preston Ward councillor, Patricia Harrison, passed away at St Luke’s Hospice this morning (25 July) following a period of illness.

Pat was a committed member of the community, serving as a Governor at Preston Park Primary, at the Crest Girls Academy for over 10 years and at Malorees Junior School for 9 years, where she was Chair of Governors.

She was a hard working councillor, spending time visiting all the schools in her ward, attending several community meetings, knocking on doors to hear residents’ concerns and serving as Labour group chair. She was part of several committees including Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny, the Alcohol and Licensing Committee and was a member of the Task Group on Youth Offending.

Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said:

“Pat was quite simply a one of a kind councillor, selfless in her dedication to public life, generous and compassionate with her time and company; a true stalwart of the Labour movement, the like of which we can be proud to have known, we will cherish her memory indefinitely.”

The Mayor of Brent, Cllr Ernest Ezeajughi, said:
“Brent Council has suffered a great loss today. It was extremely saddening to hear the news of Pat’s death this morning. When I was first elected in 2014, Pat was a welcoming face and worked hard to help the many new Councillors settle in. I offer my deepest sympathy to her friends and family, on behalf of all at Brent Council.”
I have known Pat for many years through our membership of the NUT and involvement in local issuess. Despite latterly being in different political parties we maintained a positive relationship through our mutual interest in education and support for progressive policies. She will be greatly missed.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Great opportunity for 11-18 year olds at Sufra Summer Academy

From Sufra NW London (Ed: This is brilliant!)

The Summer Academy is our latest AQA accredited course aimed at young people between 11-18 years of age who have an interest in food – whether it’s eating it, growing it or cooking it!
The week-long course will be taught from our kitchen as well as on St. Raphael’s Edible Garden, and is designed to give participants a deeper insight into the principles of healthy eating, food preparation and horticulture. The course runs from Monday to Friday, with a free day-trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew on the Wednesday.

It’s a fun and engaging course that will help develop self-esteem and confidence, whilst also teaching young people to cook a range of nutritious meals. We provide additional support with literacy, numeracy and CV writing where necessary – which could open up routes into future employment or apprenticeships in the gardening or catering industries.

Course dates and times

We have two courses running over the summer holidays:
  • Monday 19th, Tuesday 20th, Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd August 2019, from 10am to 5pm
  • Monday 26th, Tuesday 27th, Thursday 29th and Friday 30th August 2019, from 10am to 5pm
Notice: Please be aware that there will be no classes on Wednesdays.
If you are interested in enrolling, please download and compete the Registration Form (see link below) and return it to admin@sufra-nwlondon.org.uk
If you have any questions, please email us or call 020 3441 1335


Barry Gardiner's trenchant views on Brent Council's proposal to close Strathcona School

Roe Green Strathcona staff, parents & pupils protest at Brent Civic Centre
 The Brent Council Cabinet is likely to make a decision on the future of Roe Green Strathcona School at its September Meeting. The formal consultation closed last night.  It is worth reading the detailed letter that Brent North MP, Barry Gardiner, wrote to the June Cabinet which made the decision to move to formal consultation.

Meanwhile there is speculation about the possible plans that Brent Council may have for the Strathcona site including possible sell-off to a developer or provision for the Islamia Primary School which is short of space at its present site LINK.

Barry Gardiner wrote: 
I write to you prior to the cabinet decision to be taken on Monday 17th June 2019 in relation to the future of Roe Green Strathcona Primary School.
You will be aware that it is very rare that I comment upon what I recognise to be the proper functions of the council. That I do so now is because I am deeply concerned by the proposal to move to a formal consultation on the closure of the school which I believe to be flawed on every level.
On the evening of the 6th of June, 120 people attended a public meeting at the school to voice their protest against the Council, the substance of the proposal and the process by which the council has conducted its dealings with the school.
The officers report for the meeting of the council where the informal consultation was set out, presented what can only be described as an extremely partial view of the history of the school. In particular it failed to explain the discrepancies between the current reasons for the proposed closure and the original reasons for opening the school in 2014 and for confirming it with permanent status in 2016.
Brent Council’s stated rationale for closing the School is in response to an estimated surplus of pupil places in the borough’s “Primary Planning Area 2” at reception level, which has been predicted in Brent Council’s 2019-23 School Place Planning Strategy. The Council have also said that other high quality schools in the area have capacity to provide education to those pupils who would need to be relocated. It has also been suggested that the school receives an additional amount of funding for operating on a split site and closure would therefore save scarce resources.
However, this rationale is in stark contrast to the decision made at Cabinet only three years ago on 11 April 2016 to permanently increase the age range and expand Roe Green Infant School on a split site. At that time councillors were explicitly informed that whilst there was a shortage of places predicted up to 2019/20, thereafter there was expected to be a surplus of places. Councillors in 2016 were advised that this would enable Brent to meet the guideline of a 5% surplus which was deemed necessary to give appropriate parental choice. The current figure was then only 2.2% and was deemed insufficient. It is simply untrue therefore to claim that the current surplus was unforeseen and that the council are having now to respond to a new set of circumstances.
One of the key reasons put forward in 2016 in favour of making Strathcona permanent was that it would save the council £500,000 and it is therefore a matter of concern that councillors are now being told that the £200,000 split-site funding is a reason to close the school. I trust the cabinet will want to examine very carefully the basis upon which the original cost saving was predicated and why it no longer appears to be the case.
When doing so councillors will no doubt also consider that their decision in 2016 to make the school permanent also means that those teachers’ contracts which had originally been temporary, were at that point made permanent. A decision now to close the school would therefore also lead to serious redundancy costs which appear not to have been quantified in the earlier officers’ report.
Perhaps the most perplexing issue relating to the estimated surplus of places however, is that the council gave approval for a major expansion of places at Byron Court Primary and the creation of a new primary school at East Lane Primary AFTER the decision had been taken to make Strathcona permanent. The development at Byron Court was extensively opposed by local residents, and yet the council pressed ahead on the grounds that these places would be required. It seems perverse now to decide to close Strathcona when it was known at the time that the bulge in nursery admissions would decline by 2019/20.
The officers have suggested that other schools in the area would be able to provide places for the students who needed to transfer after any closure at Strathcona. This ignores the disruption to the education of those children who would be asked to change schools. Such disruption would be particularly acute for those children expected to go into year 6 at a new school just before they sit their SATS. The need to make new friends and settle into a different school routine would inevitably be damaging for those children’s achievement.
It is also right that the council consider whether their action has been fair on the whole school.
Roe Green Strathcona opened in 2014, in response to an emergency request from Brent Council. A large number of children were unable to be provided with a primary place. In fact many children had been out of mainstream education for as much as ten months. It was on this basis that Brent asked Roe Green Infants if they would set up a second site. Originally a site owned by Kingsbury High School was to be the location, but when that proved too costly the Council asked Roe Green to open the new site at Strathcona — some 1.6 miles away from their central site. This was an enormous challenge for the school, but it was a challenge Roe Green readily accepted.
The Governing Body of Roe Green Infant School agreed to manage a new provision of Students at the Strathcona site at a Governing Body meeting of 14 January 2014. Teachers and staff worked day and night for seven weeks in order to convert the dilapidated Strathcona buildings and meet the Council’s deadline for a fully operational School. This was achieved and the Roe Green Strathcona site successfully admitted its first pupils in two months later in March 2014.
In October 2014, the Cabinet approved the “School Place Planning Strategy 2014-2018”. A refresh of the strategy was subsequently considered and agreed by Members at the November 2015 Cabinet.
In this report, the Council recognised the need for school places, and also acknowledged that such places should be established through the expansion of existing schools.
In 2015, Roe Green Strathcona were informed by the Department of Education that their temporary status prevented the School from extending by more that two year groups. The School would be in breach of DoE rules, if a permanent school status was not formalised by the next academic year. It is important to understand that the Council officers did not approach the school to advise them of this. It was the DoE that notified them of this deadline. On 11 April 2016, a determination was reached by Cabinet, agreeing to expand and alter – on a permanent basis – the age-range of Roe Green Strathcona School, effective from September 2016 on the grounds I have set out above.
Despite all the significant work that the school has done and the cooperation it’s staff have given to help the council resolve the very serious problem they had with a lack of places, the council appears not to have reciprocated that good will. It has long been a matter of contention that Brent Council have continuously failed to ensure the school is properly advertised on the Council’s electronic enrolment system.
There have been significant difficulties experienced at the School with pupil admissions. Within the Cabinet Report of 11 April 2016, Brent Council acknowledge that pupil admission arrangements will be a big challenge for the School:
“Currently there is no mechanism for parents to select the Strathcona site. By making the provision permanent it enables the authority (as the admissions authority for Roe Green Infant School because it is a community school) to consult in winter 2016/17 upon admissions criteria for 2017/18 year that would enable parents to express a preference for the Strathcona provision.”
Despite this statement, the most recent Council report dated 17th June 2019 now states that pupil admission arrangements at Roe Green Strathcona are “not considered to be sustainable”. This is hardly surprising when Roe Green Strathcona does not appear on the “drop down” list on the council’s website. It is unacceptable for the council to fail to ensure that parents are able to access information about the school on the electronic enrolment system and then accuse the school of not having “sustainable admissions”.
The effect is that parents are presently not able to choose Strathcona as a main option for primary provision on Brent Council’s website, and that the Strathcona School only ever appears as a subsidiary option of the Roe Green Infant School site. Indeed, councillors might be shocked to find that even when one uses the School’s postcode as a student’s residential address on Brent Council’s enrolment system, the Strathcona site is not offered. Only alternative local Schools are suggested in the search results. It is clear that there is a strong positive correlation between the decrease in pupil intake at the School, and the difficulty many parents have in registering their children onto the Strathcona roll.
Council officers have been alerted to this issue repeatedly but have never resolved the matter. It is also the case that in the past five years, up to 85% of pupil admissions at the Strathcona site have been during the middle of the academic year. I understand that Ms Sidhu, the headteacher, believes that in-year admission data has not been properly accounted for in any of the drafted Brent Council reports.
If council officers had actively been trying to prepare a case for the closure of the school, these are precisely the measures they might have taken. First ensure nobody knows about the place and even when they live next door, refer them to another school. In fact the head teacher has said that she has several reports of prospective parents who asked for their child to come to the school actually being told by council officers that the roll at Strathcona is full and they can take no more children. I would ask that the cabinet investigate these allegations which, if true, represent a serious breach of trust on the part of public officials.
Of course much of this might be more understandable were the school underperforming. In fact despite all the problems it has experienced, Roe Green Strathcona School is an excellent School, with their first cohort of Year 6 students achieving progress in the top 3% of Schools in England this academic year. This is particularly remarkable when one considers the extent of mid year admissions. In the public meeting held at Roe Green Strathcona on 6th June 2019, which was attended by local councillors, many parents testified to the quality of teaching and the quality of pastoral care that the school provides.
Just 3 years ago Council officers made an urgent recommendation that Roe Green Strathcona School become permanent by September 2016. They are now trying to persuade councillors that the school is not viable. What was then a saving is now said to be a financial drain on the council. What was then required to cope with the primary admissions crisis is now said to be part of an unnecessary and unsustainable surplus. What was then said to provide parental choice into the future is now having its very existence airbrushed from the Council admissions website.
Teachers and staff at the Roe Green School are rightly proud of the progress that has been made since the creation of the Strathcona school five years ago. In a borough where children had been out of formal education for many months, the School has added significant value to the educational development of every child that has entered its classrooms. They have served the council well. If the cabinet were to rubber stamp the proposal to launch a formal consultation for the closure of the Strathcona School site. I believe they would be betraying that service and acting arbitrarily.
Thank you for considering the matters I have raised.


Green Party backs September 20th climate stoppages and strikes - 'we can win a fairer world and safer climate'

The Green Party has expressed its support for the University and College Union (UCU) motion to the Trade Union Congress (TUC) annual conference calling on affiliated unions, student unions at colleges and universities and politicians and community groups, to support the call for a 30-minute workday stoppage in solidarity with the global school student strike on 20th September.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader, said:

The Green Party has been proud to support the climate strikes, and we’re proud to be the first party to formally support UCU’s call for a stoppage of work in solidarity with the general climate strike this September.

We call on all individuals, workplaces, companies and institutions to support this call, and stand in solidarity with climate strikers everywhere.

It’s amazing to see the teachers at UCU pick up the torch from their students, and take it straight to the core of the union movement. Workers are at the heart of the solution to the climate emergency.

When we transition to a zero-carbon economy in the decades ahead, we’ll put the whole country to work. A Green New Deal would unlock billions of pounds of investment in this transition, ensuring a good, green unionised job for everyone who wants one.
With workers standing with school strikers and activists, we can win a fairer world and a safer climate.
Green Left , an influential Eco-Socialist group within the Green Party (GPEW)  also backed the strike.

Green Left said:

The struggle against Climate Change is taking mighty steps forward in the UK with three Trade Unions, University and College Union (UCU), Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) and National Education Union (NEU).

The Unions are both declaring support for the Youth Climate Change protests and strikes and are now taking a motion to the 5.6 million strong Trade Union Congress (TUC) asking for solidarity action on the day of the next Global Strike on the 20th September 2019.

Ordinary people, including workers are the ones who will be most impacted by Climate Change and we need to take action to defend ourselves.'
The motion is a call for workers to show support in a work stoppage for 30 minutes on the day as well as other actions.

A model template is available for local union branches at the CACCTU site HERE


Wednesday 24 July 2019

Kilburn organic grocery store launches crowdfunder to go plastic free

The Olive Tree, an organic grocery store owned by Costas and Virginie Papantoniou, has launched a crowdfunder to enable the store to go plastic free.

They have a target of £2,130 to raise funds to buy the food dispensers needed to enable custoomers to fill their own containers or plastic free bags.

With 8 days to go they have raised £1,645 from 40 supporters.

To support the cause go to LINK

The store is at 152 Willesden Lane.

Solidarity with Strathcona staff, parents & pupils - Meeting tonight at Brent Trades Hall

Protest at Brent Civic Centre
SPEAKER: Hema Dahale, NEU Rep from Roe Green Strathcona, fighting and striking to save her school:

Wednesday 24th July, 7.30pm, Willesden Trades Hall, 375 High Road, London NW10 2JR.

Strathcona School was opened by Roe Green School at the request of Brent Council to accommodate rising numbers of primary pupils. The two schools have been run as one and now the Council is consulting on the closure of Strathcona which would result in reductions in staff numbers and children having to find new schools.

Come and hear the case against closure and what you can do to help.

Monday 22 July 2019

E-ACT moves to shrink Crest Academy

Architect's image of the Crest Academy building
The academy chain E-ACT has embarked on a consultation exercise to reduce the intake of Crest Academy (Planned Admission Number -PAN) from 330 a year to 200. If you take class size as 30 this reduces the number of forms from 11 to 7.

At first sight this seems in contradiction to Brent Council's claim in in its School Places Planning Strategy that MORE secondary school places are required as the primary school bulge, which meant expansions and bulge classes in that sector, move into primary schools LINK:
Demand for places in Year 7 increased in 2017 and this is expected to continue as the significant growth in pupil numbers in the Primary phase in Brent progresses into the secondary phase. The 2019-23 School Place Planning Strategy identifies the need for an additional 13 forms of entry (see section 5) by 2023/24. This additional capacity could be provided through a combination of permanent school expansions, temporary bulge classes and new free schools.

The Council is working with secondary schools that have expressed interest in expanding. In addition two new free schools that were approved by DfE in November 2016 will help to meet increasing secondary demand. The North Brent Free School, which will provide 900 secondary places, is expected to open in September 2020 on the Chancel House site. The Avanti Free School, an all-through school, is expected to provide a combined capacity of 1320 places (60 per primary year group and 180 per secondary year group). The school will be unable to open until a permanent site is identified by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The Avanti Free School will have a Hindu ethos and is expected to attract students from a wide geographic area. As it is difficult to find sites, the Avanti Free School may not be located in Brent.
The North Brent Free School will be in the same planning area as Crest Academy although it may attract pupils from beyond that area. In a letter to parents Christina Fernandes. headteacher of Crest, states:
Our projections show that there will be sufficient places available for local children if the PAN for this school is reduced. Should the demand for additional places increase in the future, the Trust will consider raising the PAN again.
These are Brent Council's figures for the Crest's Planning Area that show sufficient capacity WITHOUT the North Brent Free School.

SCHOOLS: Capital City Academy, Convent of Jesus and Mary Language College, Newman Catholic College, Queens Park Community School, The Crest Academy

It could be argued that the North Brent Free School is needed for the Wembley growth area rather than Neasden  but its site depended on the availability of land and is decided by the ESFA rather than Brent Council. Pupils would travel south on the Jubilee line from Wembley Park to Neasden or via the 297 bus route. It will be counter to the present south to north flow of pupils going to Ark Elvin, Wembley Ark, Michaela and Preston Manor.

Clearly this is one consideration for Crest but there are others. Crest has had difficulty in filling up all its places despite the new £40m building, a major reason for the original academisation bid by the heads of the separate John Kelly Boys and Girls Schools.  When schools do not fill all their places it means that they become the school allocated to Year 6 pupils who do not get any of their choices of secondary school and for pupils who arrive in the country too late to apply for a place. This skews the intake and introduces a 'churn' when pupils leave as places become available at their school of choice.  This in turn presents a challenge for teachers and affects performance data.

A PAN of 200 could stabilise the school with E-ACT Braintcroft Primary School, just across the road from Crest, providing up to 90 of the 200 pupils.

Crest under its previous leadership in June 2015 scrapped the separate teaching of girls and boys inherited from the John Kelly Schools despite opposition from some parents.

Parents protest outside Crest  in favour of single sex education- then under construction
Mohsen Ojja, Principal at the time, explained:
Our outcomes are significantly low. We have to do something about it. The two factors driving this change - a duty to ensure every single pupils can access the best education possible by managing the performance of teachers appropriately, and recruiting better teachers and leaders - and our duty to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.
The move was supported by Ofsted and Crest was inspected in 2016  was categorised as 'Good'.  However there remains a group of parents who favour single sex education and resent the fact that it is not available  at secondary level except in Roman Catholic schools or the private sector. Crest may have lost some pupils to the private sector.

Ironically a monitoring visit by HMI and Ofsted in 2018 was very positive but noted regarding the building:
The extensive school site poses some challenges for school leaders. A school ‘line up’ happens three times a day and is intended to ensure that staff know where pupils are and are able to prepare them better for the next learning session. However, leaders accept that they need to give further thought to the rationale for this activity, the allocated time and the consistency of approach by pupils and staff.
The building, designed for 11 forms on entry will now house a much smaller number of pupils and raises questions about 'value for money' for the £40m spent on it.

Money is of course another factor, maintaining staffing and facilities for a larger number of pupils than actually attend produces a budget gap.  Cristalina Fernandes tells parents:
A large portion of funding received by schools is directly related to the number of pupils attending the school. If there are too many vacancies in our school this means that we will not receive the maximum venue possible. Therefore we are proposing to reduce the number of available places to enable the school to operate more efficiently and cost effectively.
Depending on how resources are deployed at present this may mean both a reduction in the number of staff and an increase in class sizes in the future.

More widely of course the whole matter raises the issue of the secondary sector academisation that has taken place in Brent, depriving the local authority of any real say in planning school places and creating a competitive 'market' between schools.

The consultation began on Monday July 8th and ends at 3pm on Friday 8th November.   Responses should be sent to The Headteacher, Cristalina Fernandes, The Crest Academy, Crest Road, London NW2 7SN.