Sunday, 25 September 2016

Alarm bells should ring! 'NW London NHS 'Transformation Plan' to be discussed on Monday at Brent Civic Centre

From Brent Patient Voice LINK

For the first time since the local NHS and Council bureaucracies started drawing up the NW London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) in January of this year, they are going to allow members of the great unwashed British public to discuss it in a face to face meeting on 26 September.

Cllr Krupesh Hirani, Chair of Brent’s Health & Wellbeing Board, responding to a BPV Steering Group Member, writes:
I am hosting a Public Engagement event where anyone can attend on Monday 26th September at 6pm (Brent Civic Centre – Grand Hall).
The Health and Wellbeing Board is on Thursday 6th October at 7PM (Brent Civic Centre – Boardroom). 

The Plan claims to be able to save £1.3billion from the NW London health budget by 2020 and at the same time make lots of improvements to your care. Do you believe it?

Meanwhile in another part of the wood the Chief of NHS Providers (hospital trusts around the country) says “the NHS can no longer deliver what is being asked of it for the funding available.” Observer 11.09.16. It seems he has not heard of the STPs – or does not believe in them.

Brent Council meeting on 'extremism' leaves community voices off the platform

Invitation from Brent Council:
As a respected community and voluntary sector organisation doing valuable work in the borough, we are writing to you to make you aware of the second of a series of events called It’s Time to Talk - focussing on important matters affecting our local community. The event will take place at Brent Civic Centre on the 3rd of October 2016 at 6pm, discussing the challenging issue of extremism in all its forms.  We would like to take this opportunity to invite all members of the community and voluntary sector in Brent to the event.  

There will be a number of high-profile speakers attending including Alex Krasodomski-Jones of the think-tank Demos, Dr Sara Silvestri of City University London and a number of other speakers who will participate in a ‘question time’ style event on this challenging but important issue. Attendees will be asked to submit their questions online prior to the event.

This event is part of the Council’s wider It’s Time to Talk campaign which aims to empower residents and community leaders to talk about difficult issues like this one and work together with partners to tackle them. If you would like to have your say on the issues, please come along to this FREE event and help us create a stronger, safer Brent.
Since the above invitation was sent to me a further speaker has been added: Dr Varun Uberoi of Brunel Univsity. The meeting will be chaired by Cllr  Michael Pavey, Brent Council  lead member for Stronger Communities.

It strikes me as insulting that there is not a single member of the local community, or a local community voluntary organisation on the platform.  They are just there as audience to hear from the experts. Surely these grassroots organisations are experts on how the government's approach to extremism is affecting people locally?

Local organisations have challenged Cllr Butt, the leader of the Council, on its implementation of the Prevent programme, without success and were unable to elicit any information from him about which local organisations he had consulted on the issue. A request to him from An-Nisa, a group working in  Brent for more than 30 years, to facilitate a meeting with Brent headteachers on the extremism issue, and particularly the implementation of Prevent in schools, has also met with no response.

Prevent itself has been criticised by Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham who said:

The Prevent duty to report extremist behaviour is today’s equivalent of internment in Northern Ireland – a policy felt to be highly discriminatory against one section of the community. 

  That single event  (9/11) shocked us out of the optimism and unity that had been so tangible just five years before. That is exactly what it was designed to do, just like the Manchester bomb, but this time, instead of building bridges, we seem to have slipped back into the language of division, suspicion and alienation.
An Early Day Motion has been tabled in the House of Commons reflecting community concerns over Prevent:

Early Day Motion 425

That this House welcomes the Government's strong commitment to keeping Britain safe from terrorist attacks; believes that the Prevent strategy is no longer fit for purpose to serve this agenda; notes that there is little evidence to support Prevent or the conveyor belt theory of radicalisation; further notes that no impact evaluations or indicators are available that show Prevent has been successful; further believes that the severe lack of transparency with the Prevent strategy strongly undermines it; notes that Prevent has had a worrying impact on freedom of expression at schools, colleges and universities; believes that the behavioural indicators of possible extremism are vague and unhelpful; believes that the rhetoric of British values is alienating to many who already believed in those values and encourages ministers to adopt a more inclusive approach and rebrand these as universal values; is strongly concerned that the British Muslim community has been particularly stigmatised by Prevent; encourages ministers to engage with affected communities and their relevant grievances, including around foreign policy issues; further encourages ministers to engage with community actors and organisations that have grassroots credibility; believes that ultimately extremism is best tackled by the Government working in partnership with communities and engendering genuine two-way trust, neither of which Prevent has enabled; and therefore calls on ministers to scrap the Prevent strategy in its entirety and replace it with a community-led programme that builds institutions and resilience for tackling social problems, has grassroots credibility and empowers communities rather than alienating them.
If the policy stigmatises and alienates the Muslim community it appears entirely wrong to leave them off a platform where there is a real danger of the presentations being academic and unconnected with the real issues on the ground - although of course I may be proved wrong.

These are notes on the panel:

Alex  Krasodomski-Jones (Demos):

Alex is a researcher of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media. His primary research interest is political extremism and its reportage on social media. He also manages CASM’s analytics capability, including data collection, analytics and visualisation. 

Alex is a frequent media commentator, and writes regularly for the Huffington Post and Spectator. He led Demos’ project mapping the political Twittersphere ahead of the 2015 General Election, which was launched on BBC Newsnight
Dr Sara Silvestri (City University):
Dr Silvestri has directed the Islam in Europe programme at the European Policy Centre (Brussels) and has been a research consultant to the British Council, Ethnobarometer, the European Commission, and the British Government. Prior to that, she had worked in the Cabinet of the European Commission President and had been an Associate Fellow with Chatham House (London).

As an expert on Islam in Europe, religion, and intercultural relations, Sara serves in the advisory board of the British Council's 'Our Shared Future' programme, the ESRC 'Radicalisation Research' portal, and the EuroMediterranean Foundation Anna Lindh (for which she contributed to the first Gallup opinion poll of the EuroMediterranean region).

She is also a member of the scientific committee of GIERFI (a network for the study of Islam and women in Europe) and is a member of the UN Alliance of Civilizations' Global Experts group.
Dr Varun Uberoi (Brunel University):
  I combine normative political theory and political science to examine the theory and practice of fostering unity amongst the culturally diversity citizens of modern polities. My theoretical work examines what unity amongst the citizens of a polity is, how it differs from similar ideas like loyalty and belonging, why such unity is important and how it can be fostered ethically. My empirical work utilises archival and elite interview data to examine how the governments of two parliamentary democracies, Britain and Canada, have attempted to foster such unity as well as the role that Muslims often play in contemporary debates about unity.
Michael Pavey, none the less, sees this event as involving the community, and reflects some of the approach recommendations of the EDM:
The issue of extremism, and how best to prevent it, is a complex, emotive, and highly debated one.

Here in Brent, our aim is to use this event to really involve the community and create real, community-led solutions to tackle the issue of extremism, in all its forms, in our Borough. I hope that residents from all backgrounds will come along and share their ideas.
I am far from convinced that this event, given the format, will fulfil Pavey's aim.

To attend you need a ticket available HERE

Friday, 23 September 2016

Fancy some lopping in the woods at the Welsh Harp on Saturday?

This is the work that will be undertaken tomorrow:

1. Cutting back hawthorn and blackthorn with sheers and loppers along the path to the education centre so children do not have to walk on the road. After we have cut that area back, we are hiring a contractor to strim the area so children do not have long grass going up to their knees whilst using the path.

2. We are going to be cutting back vegetation near the garden centre which is blocking signs. Drivers cannot see the 10mph speed limit sign as an example.

3. We are also going to be moving one of the log circles nearer to the classrooms as well as the one furthest away from the classroom is too far away for the younger years to use.

Contact Billy Coborn
07557 970 812

Slippery Standards meeting on Butt complaint

Cllr Muhammed Butt

I was unable to attend last night's Brent Standard's Committee Meeting last night as I was chairing a school governing body meeting elsewhere. It appears I missed a fascinating event. I am grateful to Cllr John Warren for providing the following first-hand account. Any views expressed are his own as I was not present.
I had a fascinating evening at last night’s Standards Committee..... it was 50 extraordinary minutes. The only item to discuss was the Penn report on Cllr. Butt - whether he had breached the members' code of conduct in his role in the " Tayo Oladapo " saga?

When I entered the meeting I thought I was in the wrong place, as the public gallery was packed. Why were there so many people here? On closer examination it was more like a Council meeting - not a packed public gallery you understand, but the number of Councilors in attendance.

Cllr.Allie was in the Chair.... as the meeting moved on he contributed very little. I was going to challenge Cllr.Kabir as not being an objective Committee member. I was going to refer to her e-mail to Labour members telling them to " rally round their leader." However, the redoubtable Cllr.Mahmood substituted for her.

I did challenge Cllr.Allie, however, on the grounds that he had been involved twice previously with Cllr.Butt in potential changes in political allegiance...and so was too close to him to be objective. The only response I got from Cllr.Allie was a series of scowls.

The meeting progressed with officers going through Mr. Penn’s report. It seemed that only Cllr. Collier and myself were engaging in this report, although Cllr. Collier was heckled for his efforts. From my position it looked like  Cllr. Wilhemina Mitchell-Murray was the main cheerleader.

In my experience Committee chairs take the lead. Not this chair! The report revolved around the meeting of Cllr. Butt and the Labour party official on 2/3/16.

Why did Cllr. Butt specifically ask her to make enquiries about Tao - after all he had all the Council resources available for others to take on this task?

Why did he not follow up on this enquiry- seemingly not being pro-active in finding out what the official had found out? As we know she found out that Tao had died five weeks earlier.

Why did this party official put her career on the line by making her statement?

Eventually, Cllr.Mahmood's contribution was to read verbatim the Penn recommendations. These stated that Cllr.Butt was not in breach of the code of conduct. In doing so, Cllr.Mahmood informed us that he had not read the whole report on which he was about to vote.

Oh yes, I forgot that Cllr.Krupa Sheth was also part of this committee.

The inevitable outcome was that the Penn recommendations were agreed. When it is one person' s word against another with no independent witnesses it is difficult to argue otherwise.

I found the whole exercise an experience I do not wish to repeat, and left with a feeling of sadness that a young Councillor - who died ridiculously too soon - had figured in an unwanted part of Brent Council history.


Commons Education Committee to investigate primary SATs tests

From the TES LINK

MPs are to investigate how this year's new tougher Sats tests have affected primary schools.
This was the first year that ten and 11-year-olds took the new tougher tests in reading, maths and spelling, grammar and punctuation. Pupils were also assessed in writing by their teachers according to a new controversial national framework.

Now the Commons Education Committee has launched an inquiry into primary assessment – looking at the implementation of the new system, its impact on teaching and learning schools and the wider issue of what primary assessment is for.

“This summer saw the introduction of arguably the biggest reforms in primary assessment since external assessment was introduced 25 years ago,” said Neil Carmichael, chair of the committee. “In this inquiry we want to look at the impact of the new national curriculum assessment (Sats) and how the current system affects teaching and learning."

Just 53 per cent of ten and 11-year-olds reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths this year.

The introduction of the new Sats, taken by more than 500,000 pupils, has been described as “chaotic” by unions. The NAHT, ATL and NUT have said that urgent changes are needed or they will consider a boycott in 2017.

The government has already put on hold plans to introduce multiplication tables tests next year and has said that proposed Year 7 resits will not begin in this academic year.
The committee inquiry will look into what should happen now the reforms have been made.
Other areas to be covered are:
  • The purpose of primary assessment and how well the current system meets this;
  • The advantages and disadvantages of assessing pupils at primary school;
  • How the most recent reforms have affected teaching and learning;
  • Logistics and delivery of the SATs;
  • Training and support needed for teachers and senior leaders to design and implement effective assessment systems;
"News of Sats boycotts in certain parts of the country and data showing almost half of pupils in England failed to meet the new tough standards in reading, writing and maths point to unresolved issues in the way we prepare our children for secondary school and help them reach their potential," Mr Carmichael said.

The deadline for written evidence is Friday 28 October. The public evidence sessions for this inquiry are due to begin in November.

Amy Johnson - free local history talk at Kingsbury Library - Wednesday September 28th

In a further example of Brent Libraries working with local voluntary organisations Philip Grant will be speaking about another famous former Brent resident on Wednesday 28th September:

In 1929 a 26 year-old typist came to live in Kingsbury. Within a year, she had become one of the most famous women in the world, after flying solo to Australia in a light aeroplane. Kingsbury Library invites you to join Philip Grant, from Wembley History Society, for an illustrated talk about Amy and her remarkable flight to Darwin, via Vienna, Istanbul, Aleppo, Baghdad, Bander Abbas, Karachi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Bangkok, Singapore, Java and Timor (what did these well-known places from recent history look like in 1930?).

A memorial to Amy Johnson in Herne Bay. She died nearby when her Air Transport Auxillary plane came down in January 1941
Amy Johnson had the rare distinction of having a song written about her achievements that became a hit. The record was innovative in including sound effects and commentary extracts:


A Wembley Matters reader has sent me a photograph, taken in Kingsbury yesterday morning. He remarks:
This year is the first time, in over 25 years, that I have seen ripening apples and apple blossom on a tree in my garden at the same time. Is this another example of the seasons getting mixed up, as a result of climate change?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Will Ark get into the Secondary Modern business?

Guest blog by Ray Singh-Standids

In 2014 Copland School was taken out of local authority control and forced to become an academy.  The reason given was that Copland, (a school whose staff and students had suffered a unique period of  mismanagement and corruption which resulted in the sacking of the governing body and criminal charges against the headteacher and his management team), was judged to be a ‘failing school’.  The consequence of this judgement was forced academisation, a move which parents, staff and students voted against but which Cllrs Pavey and Butt publicly supported. 

In 2014, Copland’s last year, 46% of students obtained  5 GCSE subjects including English and Maths at grades A*-C . This followed improvements of 3 percentage points for each of the previous 2 years despite this  being a period in which senior management was helping the police with their enquiries and Ofsted inspectors and other nuisances constantly cluttered up the classrooms hampering  the continuity and flow of the educational experience of staff and students.

Copland was forced to become  Ark Elvin Academy  in September 2014. By the end of Ark Elvin’s  first year the headline 5 GCSE figure had dropped from 46% to 36%. For  2016 the figure is apparently  an even more dismal 31%. Those figures again:
2012  Copland School            5 A*-C  inc English and Maths       40%
2013  Copland School            5 A*-C  inc English and Maths       43%
2014  Copland School            5 A*-C  inc English and Maths       46%
2015  Ark Elvin Academy       5 A*-C   inc English and Maths       36%
2016  Ark Elvin Academy       5 A*-C   inc English and Maths       31%

If Copland was judged to be ‘failing’ at a 5 GCSE rate of 46%, what does that make Ark Academies’ effort of 31% only 2 years later? Ark would no doubt blame the 31% results on Copland’s teaching in earlier years. But that doesn’t stand up as Copland’s 46%  was achieved in those exact same  circumstances (arguably worse circumstances, in fact,  as Copland’s 46% students hadn’t had the benefit of Ark Academies’ claimed excellence at ‘driving up standards’).

So, what’s to be done, Cllrs Pavey and Butt must surely be asking themselves.   When comprehensives ‘fail’ they’re  forced  to become academies, (with your enthusiastic support, Cllrs Butt and Pavey). But Ark Elvin already is an academy. So when an academy ‘fails’  you’ve got a problem.  Do you turn it back into a local authority comprehensive? Not allowed, I’m afraid. But don’t worry, Cllrs,  the Tories  have come up with another wheeze to help you  out. Theresa May has said she’s going to bring back grammar schools (for the very small percentage who pass the 11 plus exam). But for every one grammar school she brings back, (though she hasn’t said this), she’ll have to bring back three  secondary modern schools  for the very large percentage who fail the 11 plus.  And that’s where Ark Elvin comes in. Those sharp hedge fund billionaires who run Ark Academies Inc  know a business opportunity when they see one  and are probably already making plans for this one.  Expect the Ark Secondary Moderns ‘charity’ to be announced within weeks with Ark Elvin as the flagship model (after due consultation, of course) . Problem solved. Tories to the rescue again, just like last time! And don’t worry,  Cllrs Butt and Pavey.  You liked forced academisation so you’re going to love forced secondary modernisation!   Magna Aude! (Or Big German Car  as we’ll probably have to change the motto to for the sake of  those secondary modern duffers).