Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
This year the Academy failed to fill all its Reception places and there were vacancies in other local schools. Applications for admission in September 2009 close on Friday. Perhaps ARK is failing to persuade parents to send their children to a school which consists of temporary huts in the middle of a building site. It would be fun if all the infant and primary schools in Brent set up a stall in ASDA - there would be no room for shoppers!
The brochure states that ARK will launch the admissions process in September for the first secondary cohort due to start in September 2010 'if planning permission is granted'. This is an important caveat as Brent Council is still waiting for revised documents that it commissioned following the GLA's rejection of the Stage 1 Planning Application for the permanent academy. The revised traffic report will be crucial and the council will be re-opening consultation only when all the documentation is complete. This adds up to a significant delay for a process that was supposed to be completed earlier this year. The earliest possible date for the application to go to committee now looks like March 24th but it it more likely to be April.
Meanwhile shoppers at ASDA should be wary of adding a pig in a poke to their shopping trolley.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
Supporters of the Campaign gathered outside Central Middlesex Hospital on Valentine's Day, Saturday 14th February, to declare "We love our NHS". This was one of many protests across London and the country as a whole called by Keep Our NHS Public declaring support for the ideals of the NHS and opposition to cuts and privatisation. The campaign will be organising more events and activities as the effects of the cutbacks become clearer.
If you are interested in joining the Campaign to Defend Brent's Health Services, you can email Sarah Cox, the coordinator, on email@example.com or ring 07951 084 101
Friday, 20 February 2009
The Review’s recommendation that schools should be freed of SATs and league tables is in line with Green Party policy on education. We want children to become eager, empowered learners who are given the chance to explore their own individual needs and interests. As a primary school headteacher I strived to promote learning but had to constantly battle the dead hand of government targets and league tables. This 'Big Brother' presence in the classroom narrowed the curriculum and turned teachers into stressed target chasers and children into passive recipients of lessons geared to maximising SAT results and the school's league table position.
Research for the report has been extremely thorough and I was pleased to meet up with its authors, alongside other local headteacher, some time ago. Its recommendations have been backed by teaching unions and major educational organisations. The government must take notice and return the encouragement of a love of learning to its vital place in primary education.
End the blockade on Gaza
Suspend the EU-Israel Trade Agreement
Bring Israeli war criminals to justice
End the arms trade with Israel
Urge the government to act to implement international law, including an immediate end to Israeli occupation
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
- Brent has one of the lowest ecological footprints in London at 5.02 global hectares per capita, ranking it 29th out of the 33 London boroughs. It is lower than the total London footprint of 5.48 and the UK footprint of 5.30
- In Brent housing accounts for 26% of the total ecological footprint and food 25%
- Brent has one of the lowest carbon footprints in London at 11.28 tonnes CO2 per capita, ranking 29th and lower than the London average of 12.12 and the UK of 12.08
- In Brent commercial consumption accounts for 34% of the emissions and the primary contributor is electricity
- Brent has one of the lowest recycling and composting rates in London at 20.98%. It ranks 29th out of the 33 boroughs. The recycling rate is 12.08% ranking lowest in London.
- However the household recycling/composting rate has improved dramatically since 2000/2001 rising from 6.4% to 20.98% in 2007/8- but still well below the total London rate of 25.5%
- Approximately 4% of Brent land is within flood zone 2 (1 in 1000 year probability of flooding) and 6% within flood zone 3 (1 in 100 year probability). This land is predominantly located around the River Brent, Wealdstone Brook and the Wembley Brook.
- The water quality of the Grand Union Canal and the River Brent is historically poor, with a slight improvement in the latter. This means only pollution tolerant species can survive.
- The most common invasive plant species in Brent is Japanese Knotweed found on both the Wealdstone Brook and the River Brent.
- The borough has one SSSI, the Brent Reservoir(South)/Welsh Harp (illustrated) and the Reservoir, canals and Fryent Country Park have been designated sites of Metropolitan Importance by the London Mayor.
For a PDF of the full report go to:
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Thank you for your email.
As you may have seen from our NW London Greenways consultation document, the idea is to promote the concept of a cycling and walking 'Greenway' network, rather than the detailed consideration of the exact alignment of particular routes. We do not have a detailed proposal for Fryent Country Park but, following site investigation, believe that it may be useful to upgrade some the existing mud tracks. To deliver this kind of improvement would require detailed local consultation and very specific plans (this process is outlined in our consultation document). We are not at this stage yet and I am aware that there is particular local interest in Fryent Country Park. Feedback from the consultation will help shape our final report on which the proposed greenway network will be developed.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Illustrated (in green) are possible routes in Fryent Country Park. Fryent Way is the road running from left to right down the centre of the map and the Jubilee line can also be seen. This would mean the construction of tarmac paths over meadows and grass paths.
Although, as a 'Greenie' and a member of the London Cycling Campaign I support the construction of more cycle routes and the promotion of cycling for commuting, exercise and leisure, I have reservations about these proposals because of their impact on the unique environment of the Park which includes woodland, hay meadows, wetland and many ponds. As well as being a certified organic farm the Park is also a haven for wildlife and has remained relatively unspoilt for many years. It is one of the last remaining examples of Middlesex countryside. I am also concerned that the cycle paths will disturb the peace and tranquility of the Park and will reduce the pleasure of visitors, including those primary school children who accompany me on nature walks there as part of my work with Brent School Without Walls.
Barn Hill Conservation Group, which is a voluntary organisation that helps maintain the Country Park is also concerned about the impact of the cycle paths. They are proposing that the pavements either side of Fryent Way, which are currently under-used and in poor repair, should be upgraded for use by cyclists instead. Their are also proposals for other parks and roads in Brent which can be seen on the Sustrans consultation website.
The consultation, which has received little publicity in Brent and has not been discussed in Area Forums, ends on March 6th, 2009. For documentation and to fill in a questionaire go to:
Pictures and information about the park can be seen on Barnhill Conservation Group's website:
or Brent Schools Without Walls website:
Thursday, 5 February 2009
ASDA have said that it hopes to apply for planning permission soon to move its goods depot gates back so as to end the danger posed to pedestrians by parked lorries.
Brent Greens have been campaigning about the issue for some time raising it with Brent Council, the police and ASDA head office. The Greens met with the Wembley ASDA manager in December and presented photographic evidence of the hazard.
The issue is even more urgent now that young children and their parents cross the access road to go to the ARK Academy in Forty Lane.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
They call for the plans on be put on hold until the Council have completed an analysis of the likely impact on the borough of a long-term recession and the subsequent restructuring of the local economy. This should include a green economics approach that would create a low-carbon economic sector in the area based on developing green technologies, providing local jobs at a time of rising unemployment.
Despite evidence of a down-turn in retail and the building industry, the non-availability of mortgages, the over-supply of office space locally, and existing Wembley hotels operating at under-capacity, the Masterplan depends on the development of more retail outlets, up-market flats, office space and hotels. It relies on developers supplying Section 106 money for projects such as the rejoining of North End Road to Bridge Road, a swimming pool and the Wembley Live! project despite Quintain Estates, Brent's main developer partner, stating that the Masterplan is 'unrealistic, undeliverable and unaffordable'. Their fall-back position of relying on cash from central government or the Mayor's office is similarly unrealistic in the current dire economic situation.
The Greens support the Government Office for London's demand that Brent provide 'strong and convincing evidence on realism and deliverability of the Masterplan's aspirations'. They also support the Wembley Community Association's call for urgent, realistic short-term action in the area rather than grand long-term schemes.
Brent Green Party strongly supports the Masterplan's approach to improving the area through tree planting, the naturalisation of the Wealdstone Brook and provision of a variety of green spaces. They call for the provision of a variety of children's play areas including spaces for team games, bike and roller blade courses, fixed play equipment and areas for adventurous and exploratory play. They oppose the rejoining of North End Road to Bridge Road to create through traffic flow in the area as this will encourage cars in the area and be detrimental to the quality of life of North End Road residents.
Too often, consultation seems to offer us a way of affecting decisions but leaves us feeling disgruntled and rather cheated. What starts as an extension and deepening of democracy leaves us cynical about decision makers and politicians. Despite a fight post offices closed, despite a fight Heathrow expansion is going ahead.
“It doesn’t make a difference. They’ve already decided anyway.”
For Brent Council I suggest the questions should be:
1. What do we consult about? When do we decide a consultation is necessary? How do we justify not consulting on some issues? It sometimes seems that the most controversial issues are not directly consulted about. We had no consultation about whether the people of Brent were in favour of City Academies as a form of semi-private provision (publicly funded but private controlled), little about where it should be – but were asked about its name and catchment area. We weren’t asked if we wanted a Civic Centre and the subsequent loss of the Town Hall, but were asked (rather glossily and expensively) about graffiti. A new contract has been awarded for play-services but the clubs and clients were not consulted during the bidding process. The new provider, ‘Kids’ has an odd trio of patrons (David Cameron, Cherie Blair and Elton John) and its inadequacies have been exposed by Private Eye – Kensington and Chelsea have already thrown it out.
2. How do we consult? It is not just a question of Area Forums, questionnaires in Brent Magazine, meetings with the Youth Parliament, on line forms, focus groups etc but what information is made available, how and when. There are major questions of accessibility. Having to down-load tens of multi-paged documents is not an option for all, working out from cryptic list of documents on the planning site which are relevant is a full-time job, trying to get hold of documents at libraries and one stop shops can be a marathon under-taking. Timing is crucial major increases in care charges were consulted about over the Christmas holidays when day centres and voluntary organisations were closed. The most telling recent case has been the Wembley Masterplan when local residents and businesses (small and large) were forced to form the Wembley Community Association because they were so enraged by the Council’s failure to reach the people most affected. They managed to force an extension of the consultation process so that they could put their case against the opening up of North End Road and for a more realistic project to be completed sooner. An approach reinforced by Quintian’s comment that the Masterplan was ‘unrealistic, undeliverable and unaffordable and the Govt Office for London demanding more convincing evidence of ‘realism and deliverability’.
3. How good is the quality of information we use for consultation? This includes the quality of questionnaires and whether they enable credible, useful information to be gained (e.g. school places question on school size gave no opportunity to state a preferred size – only to agree/disagree with Council policy); the quality of the often expensive reports carried out by consultants; whether reports actually do the job they are supposed to (the traffic survey for Wembley Academy assume Wembley Primary and Preston Manor pattern of trips to school when children will be travelling from South Brent, flood report says no evidence of local watercourses from street names when Brook Avenue and Kenbrook are nearby - duh!)
4. How fair are our consultation procedures? This relates to accessibility of information as above but also who is consulted and to what lengths we go to reach everyone. The Climate Change Strategy, Wembley Masterplan consultation, and the Care Charges consultation have all had to be extended to give people more time to respond – and it is to Brent Council’s credit that it has bowed to public clamour and done that. But there have also been complaints about the geographical limits of consultation and the need to write to more people and involve the ‘hard to reach’. A colleague has also raised the question of payment for attendance at Focus Group meetings, whether such payments are just known to those ‘in the know’, and how such payments stand ethically. How do you get on a focus group and how are they constructed to give a fair representation?
Perhaps more important is the question:
Does consultation raise unrealistic expectations about changing or reversing decisions? If consultation is really only about small, often cosmetic changes, perhaps it is best to say that at the outset rather than mislead people into thinking they can make any substantial impact on a decision and alienate them by seeming to ignore their well-thought out arguments. After all the ultimate consultation is at election time but if people are fed up with consultations, and thus also with politicians by then, they probably won’t vote.
What we (the people) should be demanding:
Don’t be humbly grateful to be granted a small say – instead:
Demand Council learn from recent problems:
· Widen consultation
· Ensure accessible and high quality documentation
· Ensure procedures are fair with adequate time lines
To strengthen democracy and accountability
Sunday, 1 February 2009
Brent Green Party's submission to the Planning Committee due to discuss the application for the Wembley City Academy on January 14th calls on them to reject the application because of missing documentation and misleading information.
The Green Party argue that residents and other interested parties have not had access to full and accurate information for the following reasons:
*No Environmental Assessment has been made for a development that builds on playing fields, includes a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation, and will increase traffic flows in the area
*The council Screening Checklist that was used to decide an Environmental Assessment was not available on the planning website for public perusal
*Several items on the Screening Checklist were based on out of date information used for the temporary primary planning application, a key item on congestion was not completed, and the council say there are no nearby water courses when the Wealdstone Brook flows a few hundred yards from the site
*The Transport Assessment was not available on the website and only one copy of a very large document was available for study on site at Brent House
*The Traffic Assessment was based on the mistaken premise that pupil travel methods would be similar to Preston Manor High School and Wembley Primary, where 56% of pupils walk to school, when the Academy will be serving pupils from the south of the borough who will have to travel by car or public transport
*The Habitat Survey and Protected Species Assessment was carried out in mid winter when identification is most difficult
A wide range of well thought out and detailed objections have been sent to Brent Planning Department and many have also been copied to the London Mayor. It is not surprising that the Mayor’s officers are concerned about this ill thought out proposal. They question whether this is the right site for such a project, something that WPAG and Brent teachers have been saying for years.
There is also the question as to whether the academy is really necessary. Brent’s own figures on school places showed in November (report attached) that there were 205 spare reception places in the borough, 8 at the temporary ARK academy which was supposedly over subscribed! That number is now down to 100 empty places. A Brent spokeswoman claimed that “the vacancies are so scattered it disproves the idea that places are not needed.” She obviously didn’t look at her figures properly as there were, for example, 19 and 20 spare reception places in schools close to the temporary ARK school. These figures show clearly that it has undermined the local authority primary schools already and was not needed. It was a costly and cynical attempt to bolster the claim that the permanent application had to receive approval.
If the permanent academy goes ahead, then it is clear that it will also undermine the local secondaries. There are sites elsewhere including in the South of the borough. There is still time to look at these and build a secondary school at one of these places.
The academy programme itself has yet again shown itself to be making little or no difference to children’s achievement. Nearly a quarter of ‘failing’ secondary schools in London are academies! It is the first years of any new project when you would expect the best results but, despite the millions poured into them, academies have not achieved what the Government promised. The most recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report concluded that there is “insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgment about the Academies as a model for school improvement”.
It is the state comprehensives that are doing best in the value added stakes. In Brent the ordinary state comprehensives’ A* to C’s results increased by approximately twice the average of those in the Capital City Academy (See Brent’s results for last year and this year). The teachers in the Academy are adding value, but are hamstrung by the ridiculous and counterproductive system of private control.
We are faced with the unbelievable situation when the Government are nationalising the banks while privatising the education system. Campaigners against the Wembley Academy will keep up their pressure and stop this ill thought out scheme.
WEMBLEY PARK ACTION GROUP