Friday, 30 November 2018

Academisation of Catholic schools - if it aint broke, why fix it?

A few weeks ago parents at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary school held a meeting to discuss the proposed academisation of their school by the Diocese of Brentwood.
The Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams has decided that the Catholic schools of the diocese are going into a multi-academy trust linked to the Church.
In the Our Lady of Lourdes case, the consultation process was done over three weeks, including half term week. Many parents were unaware what's going on. It was only following the parents meeting of 30 October that questions began to be asked.
A meeting between the parents and the Diocese was held on 15 November. This seemed to have resolved little.
The whole academisation process needs to be discussed in full. It takes the schools outside of local authority stewardship. The funding link is then direct with the government. 
Ownership of the school property passes into the trust, a contentious move for many Catholic parishes, where the parishioners often provided the funding for the building of the school in the first place.
Academies employ their own teaching staff so they can increase or reduce teachers pay accordingly. They control their own finances and curriculum. Term times can also be set independently.
On results, there are good and bad academies.
What is for sure is that the Diocese of Brentwood could have been a bit more open and consultative about the whole process. The parents at Our Lady of Lourdes school have forced the process into the light. 
Neighbouring St Augustines in Gants Hill knew nothing of the process at their own school until reading about what was going on at OLL in the local paper.
Not all Catholic schools are going into the trust, though the diocese is talking about two waves of academisations.
Redbridge Council opposes academisation." I am proud of our schools and the fantastic level of education they provide to our children. These high standards are the result of many years of co-operation and hard work between our schools and the council. Why put these achievements at risk?" said Elaine Norman, Cabinet member responsible for children and families. "There is no guarantee that a multi-academy trust will continue to maintain these standards and the council will have no oversight of these schools."
In reality academisation is about privatisation of education, handing over this most precious gift  to outside interests. 
But perhaps it is time the Church listened to its people, who seem to be saying if it aint broke don't fix it - the Catholic schools in this area have enviable academic records. People are clamouring to get their kids into the schools -why change things?

*published in Wanstead and Woodford Guardian - 29/11/2018
                        Independent Catholic News - 29/11/2018

Sunday, 25 November 2018

West Ham trounced by Manchester City but also rue missed chances

West Ham 0-4 Manchester City
Manchester City ran out easy winners of this uneven contest at the London stadium.
West Ham quickly went three down, as the visitors controlled the game, with their quick passing possession football.
The first goal came after 10 minutes, when David Silva met a Raheem Sterling cross to slot home.
Eight minutes later Sterling got in front of the hapless Arthur Masuaka to convert a crisp pass across goal from Leroy Sane.
West Ham had a brief rally, with Marko Arnautovic seeing his goal bound shot smothered by a combination of goalkeeper and defender. 
Michail Antonio then saw his shot saved by the keeper.
But City secured a third before half time, with Sane collecting a cross from Sterling and turning inside defender Fabian Balbuena to score.
The second half opened with a great double save by home keeper Lukasz Fabianki.
West Ham then had more of the game, and should have scored at least a couple of goals. Substitute Javier Hernandez put Antonio clean through but his shot hit the post.
Then Arnautovic headed over from an Antonio cross, with the goal at his mercy.
Finally, Balbuena saw his downward head go past the post from a corner.
In the final minute,  Sane was allowed to steer home his second, as defenders looked on.
West Ham manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was disappointed, particularly with the first two goals, where he felt things were made too easy for City.
The former City boss though thought West Ham showed great character to battle on, creating a number of chances that were not taken."I was happy with the personality of the team and that we kept attacking, "said Pellegrini.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola stressed that his team had to keep on trying to improve. "We push each other a lot..we have to be together," said Guardiola.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Council motion calls for general election or Peoples Vote to break Brexit deadlock

It is time to push for a general election, after the disasterous negotiation on Brexit by the Conservative government, with the option of a People's Vote on European Union membership on the table.
That is the nub of the motion being put before the council tonight by Jo Blackman and myself.
The Conservative government has proved itself utterly incompetent and irresponsible over Europe, since the day David Cameron called the referendum. 
There was no due dilligence done at that time as to whether it was possible to leave the EU without doing huge damage to the country. 
The arrogance of Cameron was such that he made no preperation for a leave vote. 
Cameron was replaced by May. The ministers negotiating have proved time and time again they are not up to the job. 
Ministers who don't know how trade works or the significance of ports like Calais. 
The Tories cannot negotiate a deal or command a majority in Parliament. Theresa May should stop wasting everybody's time and call a general election now.
And if there is still no way out of the present impasse, then there should be a People's Vote offering the option to remain. The people must have a say on the deal. There needs to be decisive action now.

Friday, 16 November 2018

A more equal society will also be a safer society

Rough sleeping and foodbanks on the increase in a country of 100 billionaires - what is going on?
Sodhi Singh, 50, became the 10th rough sleeper to die in Redbridge over the past year. There have been 449 deaths of homeless people across the UK over the past 12 months  – 109 in London.
Many of those suffering on the streets have been effectively cut off, unable to resort to public funds. They are dependent on charities to support them and help sort out complex situations – often relating to immigration matters.
Redbridge Council is doing what it can to address the issue.
It is an indictment on our society that there are people living rough and dying on our streets. Others are struggling by doing two or three low paid jobs just to survive. Add to this the millions who go to food banks due to an inability to feed themselves and the picture worsens.
This is all happening in a country with more than 100 billionaires in residence. There are many more millionaires. So how can such a grotesque polarisation of wealth be allowed to continue.
There have been the so called austerity measures of the last few years, which have effectively made the poorest members of society carry the burden for the 2008 financial crisis. Though government has used austerity as easy cover for an idealogically driven policy of privatising public services.
These policies have no doubt made the division between the small number of haves and the have nots grow ever wider but that division was there before austerity.
The gap between the very rich (1%) and everyone else (99%) has been growing for many years. The UK has become one of the most unequal societies in the world – a country where inequality thrives.
The gender gap on pay between men and women remains at 17.9%, some 40 years after the Fair Pay Act. The worst off in society are undoubtedly Black and Minority Ethnic women.
This way of running things is totally immoral and unjust. It is high time that we saw policies that will promote equality and reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Policies that will provide safe places to live and decent jobs for people. Policies that will see people no longer living on the streets and the foodbanks closing down.
If we do not move as a society to address the gross inequalities then a dangerous future beckons for everyone. It is not only morally right to have a fairer distribution of wealth but makes life more safe and secure for everyone in society as well. 
published - Wanstead and Woodford Guardian - 15/11/2018

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Pollution kills 9,500 Londoners a year

The dangers being caused by pollution to human health seem to grow on a daily basis.
The latest report from the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health found 50,000 dying in the UK each year due to pollution related diseases.
A Kings College study found 9,500 dying in London in 2015 due to pollution related diseases.
There has been the tragic case of nine year old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died from an asthma attack. Ella lived close to the South Circular Road and her death has been linked to illegal levels of polluted air. The list goes on.
So why do we put up with it? Diesel fuelled cars are major polluters, yet, people continue to drive their kids to school in them.
Vehicle emissions are a big problem, that can only be remedied by using polluting vehicles less.
There are ofcourse other causes like emissions from industrial processes and aircraft. All need addressing.
The Mayor of London has raised the profile of the pollution problem and has led iniatives to reduce this scourge.
In Wanstead, we too will be trying to do our bit on cutting pollution as part of the environmental charter. Any contributions to this process will be most welcome.
What is for sure is that we cannot go on poisoning the planet and each other in this way.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Felipe Anderson inspires great win for West Ham over Burnley

West Ham 4-2 Burnley

West Ham ran out rightful winners of this highly entertaining game, though they could easily have scored another four or five.

The home side totally dominated the first half, going one up on 10 minutes when Marko Arnautovic dispossessed James Tarkowski, moving on to drive the ball under Joe Hart.

Hart was to have a busy afternoon, pulling off a string of fine saves, including one at the feet of Felipe Anderson, after he had played a one two with Arnautovic.

Anderson hit another curling shot on the half hour, which was headed out from under the bar.

Referee Roger East had a strange game, failing to award two blatant penalties to West Ham or punish Ben Mee when he clattered into the back of Pedro Obiang in the opening minutes of the game.

Even Burnley manager Sean Dyche agreed that Grady Diangana was upended for a penaltyin the first half, which East failed to award.

Dyche suggested if the player had dived he may have got the penalty but because he didn’t he lost out.

Burnley stunned the home side a minute before half time, when West Ham failed to clear their lines. Ashley Westwood put in Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who finished with ease.

Two minutes into the second half Hart pushed aside a thunderbolt form Obiang.

West Ham were not to be denied, though, with the reborn Anderson finishing off a slick passing move, involving Arnautovic and Diangana,   

Burnley though struck back again, when substitute Chris Wood rose to head a corner into the home net.

Diangana, Arnautovic and Anderson then combined again but the latter saw his effort bounce off the post. A few minutes later, the same combination saw the ball fall to Anderson who this time finished easily.

Woods missed a replica header to his first, whilst Anderson caught a free kick from Robert Snodgrass full on the volley but unfortunately it went straight to Hart.

West Ham were not finished though, with Anderson striking a long ball across to Michail Antonio, who chested the ball on for Javier Hernandez, who scored his first goal of the campaign.

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini felt his team could have had four more goals.

He praised Anderson for his performance. “We know what Felipe can do, his commitment is 100%, he was not happy with his performances. This though was a massive performance,” said Pellegrini.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche picked up on the subject of players winning penalties and other rewards by diving, whilst the honest players get penalised. “What your not getting now is the actual fouls, all the rolling around,” said Dyche, who admitted Burnley had hit a sticky patch and there is work to do. “We’re not far off, we’ve got to keep working.”

published - Morning Star - 4/11/2018

Friday, 2 November 2018

Time to address the damaging behaviour of the most environmentally destructive creature on earth - the human being

There is one animal in the world that wantonly destroys its own life support system, casts its waste around and poisons its own young?

This animal also has the intelligence capacity to know what it is doing, yet continues in a state of self-denial to live in such a destructive way?

The animal in question is the human being. So much of the ongoing destruction of the planet is due to humankind, which has developed an arrogant attitude toward the natural world in which it dwells. No longer a partnership or stewardship but simply an approach of attritional destruction.

The present economic model, based on consumer based consumption is premised on burning up the natural resources all around us. Ideas like preservation, recycling and reusing are largely alien.

There has been much science warning about the devastation being caused by humans but so many retreat further behind their front doors, happier to remain in denial, continuing to drive, fly, eat meat and thereby destroy the planet on which we live.

The challenge that humankind faces today is getting people out of the physical and virtual silos, where so many choose reside and reconnecting with neighbours and the wider community. Only then is there a chance of saving the planet.

There are three areas where the human behaviour has brought particular destruction – climate, biodiversity and pollution.

The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that there are 12 years to effectively save the world.

The scientists called for climate warming to be kept to 1.5 degrees or less, the previous target set at the UN Paris agreement was 2 degrees.


Now the scientists claim that 50% less of the world population will be subject to water stress with the 1.5 degree warming, than the previous target.


If not halted climate change will bring droughts, floods more wars and mass migrations to name but a few consequences.


The revised targets from the IPCC aim to see carbon emissions cut by 45% by 2030, going down to zero by 2050. The previous target under the 2 degree warning was zero by 2075.


The recommendations of the IPCC is to move massively to renewable sources of energy, leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Transport systems also have to be hugely changed to zero emission technology.


The report is very much aimed at governments, stressing that political will is needed if this transformation is to be achieved. It can be but these measures need to be taken in the next 12 years.


The outlook ofcourse is not bright, with governments, like the British seemingly heading in the opposite direction, with support for fracking. Also, Norway is moving to explore for oil in the arctic, whilst Germany takes down forests to dig for coal.

However, it is up to the people to make sure that the politicians minds are changed.


A second major area of devastation being caused by human behavious is pollution.

A recent report from the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health found that 50,000 die each in the UK due to pollution. A previous study by Kings College, London, found that 9,500 die each year in the capital alone.

Some 8.39% of deaths in UK are pollution related.

The tragic case of 9 yr old Ella Kissi Debrah, who died in 2013 from an asthma attack, that has been linked to illegal levels of pollution, shows the human face of what is happening.

One of the most confounding elements about human behaviour is why when parents know what pollution is doing to their children, they continue to drive to schools.

Some 30 or 40 years ago the mass of kids walked to school, why did that change? Partly because we decided to ship kids all over the place, so that rather than go to schools in their own catchment areas, they went miles away – involving multiple journeys. This was all done in the name of choice.

However, there are also no doubt plenty of parents who live short distances from the schools, who still see a need to drive round to the schools. It is unbelievable.

Action need to be taken on pollution, with far more pedestrianisation. Diesel engines, which cause much pollution, should be being taken off the roads.

There needs to be a move toward walking, cycling and non-polluting public transport.


In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has set a target of 80% of journeys via these means by 2031.


More widely, there needs to be a legally binding clean air act passed


The third area of human related planetary devastation is biodiversity. Humanity is burning the library of life.


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list shows the existence of 25% of mammals, 41% of amphibians and 13% of birds under threat.


Just take the bird population, which have seen 80% of starlings, 60% of skylarks and 55% of yellowhammers disappear in the past 40 years.


What is often not understood is how crucial the biodiversity is to the life of the planet. If one thing disappears it has huge knock on effects in terms of the network of life. Indeed, it is this failure to recognise this co-existence and co-dependence that has led to the human being behaving in such an irrational destructive way.


Take bees, which pollinate plants. A mural on a wall in London summarises the relationship nicely. It has bees heading off into the background, declaring if we go, we’re taking you with us.


In some ways the loss of biodiversity is the most damaging contribution of human beings to planetary destruction.


Climate change is reversible, with the political will and requisite action. Once biodiversity has gone, it is not coming back.


Among the ways to contribute to halting the loss of biodiversity is to stop using things like palm oil, soy, meat, leather and timber, all of which require land clearance. We can also contribute by growing hedgerows, planting seeds, and creating eco-friendly habitats. Non-destructive farming methods also need to be encouraged - the pesticides used in farming over the past 50 years have contributed hugely to the destruction of biodiversity.


The situation is dire but not beyond saving.


The plastics revolution shows the way.

The public revolt resulting, when it became clear the damage being done across the world,  has seen people moving to stop using plastic altogether, not simply recycling it.


It marks a significant move away from the consumption model mentioned earlier, a move toward not creating the waste in the first place, rather than thinking all will be well if I just act a little bit more responsibly with the waste product, once used.


There obviously needs to be the political will to address this crisis. The moves to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels and the changes in transportation modes need to be politically driven, so pressure needs to be exerted by the citizens on their representatives.


Though, overall, there needs to be a return to a simpler way of living, a backward step in some respects. This would see less driving, less flying, use wholly of renewable energy, insulating homes and workplaces, not building homes that are not zero carbon emissions and eating less meat.


Key to this all happening has to be a tap into community spirit. There is such a thing as society, it has to be galvanised, getting people out of those front doors, acting in community together. A move away from our present individualistic, atomised world, toward a more communal, collective way of doing things.


In Wanstead, east London, where I live and have just been elected as a Labour councillor, we are endeavouring to address some of these challenges by creating an environmental charter.


This will focus on addressing climate change, bio-diversity and pollution.


We will be looking at cleaner journeys,  encouraging more vegetation, using less plastics and creating less waste and having greener homes.

The charter’s creators will look for support from Redbridge Council, schools, local businesses, civil society and individuals. All need to join in with the idea.


The idea is at a formative stage at the moment but the initial public meeting, saw great support expressed for taking the idea forward.


The council have indicated that they could look to roll out similar initiatives across the borough, if successful in Wanstead. And who knows beyond that.


The charter is one way to help create that simpler more environmentally friendly way of life. It should tap into that latent community spirit, bringing collective action. It is though only one way of doing things but it is a start.
* Taken from a talk at the Building a Greener Future event in Wanstead on 25/10/2018

published in Morning Star - 20/11/2018
Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 10/11/2018
Independent Catholic News


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Clinical Spurs finishing sees off West Ham for the second time in 10 days

West Ham 1-3 Tottenham

Tottenham secured victory over West Ham for the second time in 10 days in this keenly contested cup tie at the London Stadium.
Both teams shuffled their pack of players, Spurs playing their second game in 48 hours, following the earlier reverse against Manchester City.
The home side enjoyed much of the possession but lacked the cutting edge.
Spurs took the lead after the quarter hour, Angelo Ogbonna failing to clear his lines, then looking on as the ball fell for Son Heung Min to rifle home from a few yards.
West Ham's most impressive player on the night was Grady Diangana, who was a constant threat to the visitors. 
A free kick from Diangana put Chicarito in but he was too close to the Spurs goalkeeper to get his shot away.
Eight minutes into the second half Spurs struck again, Arthur Masuaka making a hash of gathering Deli Ali's through ball, letting Son in to score his second of the night.
West Ham got one back in the 71st minute, when Lucas Perez headed in a Robert Snodgrass corner at the back post.
The two goal gap though was quickly restored three minutes later when Fernando Llorenti turned in a corner.
West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini praised Diangana's confidence in the game, whilst stressing that the Premier League is more important than the Carabao Cup.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino was proud of his players.
There was particular praise for Son, who has not been in the side for weeks but continued to work hard and got his reward with two goals in this game.