Havering’s Raphael Park and Lake Rise, Romford

Havering’s Raphael park is in an urban setting. Lying on a busy road, there are good links with central Romford with ample car parking immediately opposite. Its principal feature is a lake. The paths have a good surface with many benches, mostly in good condition. Tree cover means there’s plenty of shade. Also in the park is a Turkish restaurant with al fresco dining. A pleasant experience without being outstanding.

Sitting on a lakeside bench gives a view of houses whose gardens sweep towards the lake. I wondered what impact the public’s investment in Raphael Park had on Lake Rise’s house prices. The surveillance society meant finding out was easy.

Two houses, virtually opposite each other, were sold in the recent past. 21 and 22 Lake Rise vividly illustrate the private benefit flowing from public investment. Number 21 was sold in August, 2018 for £780,000, whilst 22 went for £850,000 in June, 2019. There are 18 photos illustrating number 22. Three show the lawn sweeping down to the lake. Raphael Park is being monetised for lake view houses. Number 22 has a 9% premium over 21 because of the view.

Maintaining parks is costly and is therefore a political decision for the Council. George Osborne’s Age of Austerity attacked Havering’s revenue base,` meaning there were many hard decisions about spending priorities. The untaxed profit made from buying and selling houses like those in Lake Rise is an anomaly which needs to be addressed.

Havering’s Thames Chase Country Park, Upminster

Havering is blessed with wonderful country parks, offering a variety of experiences. This one is in the east adjacent to the M25 ‘frontier’*. Thames Chase park was created by hard volunteer work and planning vision. The collaboration between volunteers and planners has created a masterpiece.

Although the park is multi-purpose, I only use two of them. The Forest Centre building neatly separates a wooded hillside walk of about a mile. It’s got an accessible all-weather surface, which is essential for older and less able people. 10/10 for the walking surface. There are enough benches in good condition to have a rest and enjoy the ambience.

The second of the two main walks is flatter with lush vegetation, Again there’s a good walking surface, with sufficient benches. It’s a decent walk of less than a mile. Both walks have wide paths making social distancing rules very easy to abide by.

The Forest Centre is excellent. A very good cafe with plenty of seating inside and outside with good views opposite a large field. There are 2nd hand books available and a small gift shop. The adjacent barn hosts many activities throughout the year. There’s a large cheap car park with an all-weather surface.

Warmly recommended

Note

* The M25 provides a ‘musical’ accompaniment to the Thames Chase experience

Sources

For the Forest Centre see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/visitor-centres/the-forest-centre

For photographs see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/galleries

For the volunteering group see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/get-involved/conservation-volunteers

For a series of walks see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/discover/walking

Havering Strategic Planning Committee 9th July, 2020

Selling Hall Lane Miniature Golf course was a cause celebre in 2019. Outraged residents*, in million pound houses, suddenly enthused for Miniature Golf. Too late. Romford’s Tories sold. This committee spelt out the horrors residents are facing.

The Hall Lane area surrounding the site is recognised for its special townscape and landscape character, with Policy DC69 requiring developments to maintain the special character of the Hall Lane Policy Area which is typified by large detached and semi-detached dwellings set in large gardens with considerable tree and shrub planting. Para 6:15 p27 (see source below)

Havering worries about people living in million pound houses.** Even people on quite decent wages – head teachers, doctors and so on – are deliberately priced out by policy DC69.

But credit where it’s due. Havering achieved 50% of Affordable housing. Affordable housing is sometimes mistaken for what used to be called council housing but is actually a mid-point for those with good incomes who’ve been priced out by inflation.

The Affordable housing, which will be built in Romford away from the Hall Lane site,*** comprises of:

…. 1 x 3 bed unit and 26 x 4 bed units (27 units in total), equivalent to 134 habitable rooms. As a comparison, 50% affordable housing, if it were to be provided on the application site, would equate to 18 units or approximately 72 habitable rooms. Para 6:23 pp28-9

Councillors might have had mixed motives for selling Hall Lane Miniature Golf course but Havering’s dire house building programme has made some progress. All we need now is social housing to complete the success.

Notes

* An astonishing 884 objections against 37 very expensive houses

** 11 The Fairway recently sold for £1.25 million

*** There has to be good planning reasons to not build on-site and on this occasion there are good reasons.

Sources

For a blog on the original decision see https://havering.blog/2019/04/28/the-sale-of-hall-lane-pitch-and-putt-conservative-revenge/

For the agenda of this meeting see https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/g6652/Public%20reports%20pack%2009th-Jul-2020%2019.00%20Strategic%20Planning%20Committee.pdf?T=10

For GP wages see https://www.bma.org.uk/pay-and-contracts/pay/other-doctors-pay-scales/salaried-gps-pay-ranges

For affordable housing see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordable_housing#:~:text=Affordable%20housing%20is%20housing%20which%20is%20deemed%20affordable,local%20government%20by%20a%20recognized%20housing%20affordability%20index.

For social housing see https://england.shelter.org.uk/support_us/campaigns/what_is_social_housing

Havering’s Council Meeting 8th July, 2020*

The show began as satire. The first five minutes were spent discovering that the priest who’d led prayers was on mute. A great opening scene for, ‘Bumbling Councillors Meet Zoom.’ The mute gag was terrific and occurred repeatedly. Each time it was used everyone seemed genuinely surprised, which added to the joy of it. ‘Are we on mute?’ a truly great catch phrase.

Casting is all important for a show. This show needed a cartoon villain, a well-meaning elderly gent, a pompous young big-head, a council officer who wanted to be somewhere else and a strong group of walk-on parts. Casting did a magnificent job.

The mute gag degenerated into farce. Spending 25 minutes discussing, ‘How to vote!’ tested the patience of the audience. Severe editing was needed. Satire transformed into farce. Those who remained in the audience and loved farce, sensed magic in the air and hung on. They were richly rewarded.

A well choreographed conflict between, ‘Cartoon Villain’ and ‘Pompous Young Big-head’ didn’t disappoint. There’s nothing like teasing abuse to provoke a Cartoon Villain. Damian White did it with flair and a well practised smirk. Now and then he stoked the flames when it looked as if the gag was flagging.

And the winner was… Damian White! Once again he evaded any accountability.

* For the webcast see https://www.bing.com/search?q=havering+council+meeting+webcast&form=ANSPH1&refig=0343091694f646b287e301508ec75146&sp=1&qs=HS&pq=ha&sk=PRES1&sc=8-2&cvid=0343091694f646b287e301508ec75146

1) The first five minutes are the opening gag, which is sort of fun. Then there is 20 minutes of ‘How do we vote?’ which is fun for those who like train-crash humour.

2) If you fast forward to 1 hour 6 minutes the next 20 minutes reveal why Havering is more-or-less dead politically speaking.

Havering’s 2020 GCSE Results: Part Two

Havering’s schools will be judged this August as never before. GCSE results are dependent on previous performance, regardless of current individual achievement. But do students know what the previous performance is? Three schools opt for a ‘warts and all’ approach. Two schools have a decent half-way house. The other thirteen schools’ results are presented in an opaque manner, or not at all in three cases. Examination Boards will adjust schools’ assessment if they appear too severe or too generous. Adjustments will bring results into line with previous outcomes.

Coopers’ Company and Coburn, Frances Bardsley and Sacred Heart of Mary schools publish GCSE results in full. The 2020 results won’t be a straight ‘read through’ from 2019 but will be used in decision making. Coopers’ 2019 cohort achieved 26 grade 9s in Religious Studies. At Sacred Heart English Language, Mathematics and History all achieved six grade 9s. The same three subjects, in that order, at Frances Bardsley led to 6 grade 9s, five grade 9s and 10 grade 9s. All three schools have less successful subjects, which aren’t hidden.

Gaynes School said, “22% of our students gained Grades 7-9 (equivalent to a Grades A** – A) in five or more subjects.” The statement continued, “a phenomenal personal achievement for our students and incredibly rewarding for us as a non-selective local community school.”* This rather begs the question as to what the other 78% achieved. It shields weaker subjects from scrutiny. But in the Havering context this counts as a transparent statement.

Marshalls Park school says, 2019 saw Marshalls Park Academy students achieving amazing results, some of the best the school has ever had.”*** Their headline statement is, “Grade 5 and above in English and Maths: 46% (2018 = 33%)”. They’ve published a list of subjects with outcomes, which again is welcome whilst not hitting the gold standard of the virtuous three. Redden Court offers a different tactic as they make selected comparisons with national outcomes. Opaque but interesting.

Concealing examination results is reprehensible but that’s Hornchurch High school’s tactic. The head teacher’s introductory video presentation says she wants grammar school status. Looking at the government’s performance comparison site, this is delusional. They aren’t alone. Emerson Park and Sanders school join Hornchurch High in not publishing GCSE results at all, not even in the truncated way Brittons school adopts, “9-4 English and Maths… 49%”.

GCSE results should be published so stakeholders can readily understand the information offered. Transparency is important as a tool for critical analysis. Publishing GCSE results in full is the least that can be reasonably expected in a publicly funded education system.

Addendum: Raphael Independent School

Raphael’s don’t publish meaningful GCSE examination results either. They remark, “In 2019 70% of students obtained 8+ GCSE’s with a 92% pass rate in both English and Maths.” Quite what “a 92% pass ratemeans depends on what’s meant by ‘pass’. GCSE grades run from 1-9. Most schools regard 1-3 as a fail even though it isn’t. GCSE’s measure achievement. Raphael’s don’t define ‘pass’ but the working assumption is ‘pass’ means grades 4-9.

Notes

* https://www.gaynesschool.net/gcse-results/

** https://www.cooperscoborn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/GCSE-results-PUBLICATION2.pdf

*** http://marshallspark.org.uk/exam-results/#:~:text=2019%20saw%20Marshalls%20Park%20Academy,66%25%20(2018%20%3D%2059%25)

Sources

For Coopers’ Coburn 2019 results see https://www.cooperscoborn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/GCSE-results-PUBLICATION2.pdf

For Frances Bardsley’s 2019 results see https://fbaok.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Parents-Exam-booklet-2019.pdf

For Sacred Heart’s 2019 GCSE results see https://sacredheartofmary.net/wp-content/uploads/Exresult2019-1.pdf

For Gaynes 2019 GCSE results see http://www.gaynesschool.net/gcse-results/

For Redden Court’s 2019 GCSE results see https://www.reddencourtcloud.co.uk/information-for-parents/examination-results

For Marshalls Park 2019 GCSE results see http://marshallspark.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Subject-breakdown.pdf

For Hornchurch High’s 2019 GCSE results see https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/school/143946/hornchurch-high-school/secondary

For Emerson Park 2019 GCSE results see http://www.emersonparkacademy.org/page/?title=Results&pid=29

For Sanders school see https://www.sandersschool.org.uk/information-for-parents/examination-information

For Brittons 2019 GCSE results see https://www.brittons.havering.sch.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Examination-Results-2019.pdf

Havering’s 2020 GCSE Results: Part One

The government’s Covid-19 education policy depends on Year Eleven teachers grading and ranking students to replace GCSE examinations. This task was completed on 12th June, 2020.

1) Teachers must produce an order of merit for their students

2) Teachers must ‘award’ GCSE grades based on that order of merit within each grade. Therefore every grade 9 student is ranked, likewise grade 8 students and so on.

Heads of Centre must sign a declaration confirming the centre assessment grades and rank order are a true representation of their students’ performance, before checking the data for accuracy, and submitting it to the exam board. p5*

The government is aware that teachers who support their students might subjectively slide into grade inflation, so grades are subject to statistical analysis.

So that the final grades awarded are as fair as possible, exam boards will standardise the judgements for each subject across different centres once they have been submitted, using a statistical methodology developed in conjunction with Ofqual. p4**

The government’s statisticians understand bias and its dangers. This is discussed on pages p10-11*. The ranking order won’t be altered but grades might be,

However, if grading judgements in a subject in some schools and colleges appear to be more severe or generous than others, exam boards will adjust the grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly. This means that the centre assessment grades submitted by schools and colleges and the final grade that students receive could be different. It also means that adjustments to centre assessment grades might be different in different subjects. P9*

Using the 2019 GCSE results of Sacred Heart of Mary for example, a prediction that 19 students of Religious Studies should be awarded grade 9, will probably be agreed. Alternatively predicting 19 grade 9 successes in Mathematics would probably be downgraded. This is due to a significant differential between the subject outcomes in previous years.

The government’s advice is this,

If, when compared to the evidence… your judgements in a subject are more generous than would be expected, then the final grades for some or all of your students will be adjusted down. P11**

Teachers, parents and students at Sacred Heart are at a significant advantage to 15 Havering schools, as they publish results subject by subject. It’s the school that’s being graded. Individual students aren’t graded at Examination Board level.

Ofqual…. shows that for the vast majority of schools and colleges any year-on year variation in results for a given subject is quite small. In 2015 and 2016, 90% of centres were classed as having stable outcomes and 8.5% of centres were classed as having ‘unstable results’. Only 0.8% of centres had results that increased by more than the national average change in both 2015 and 2016 and only 0.5% of centres had results that decreased more than the national average change in both 2015 and 2016. p10*

Covid-19 has turned traditional examinations upside down. The historic performance of schools is now all important.*** Teachers have had a heavy burden placed on their shoulders as they adjudicate the GCSE grades of their students during this emergency.

Notes

Sacred Heart’s 2019 GCSE results in detail https://sacredheartofmary.net/wp-content/uploads/Exresult2019-1.pdf

* https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/890811/Summer_2020_grades_for_GCSE_AS_A_level_guidance_for_teachers_students_parents_09062020.pdf When there is quotation from this document there will be page reference and *

** https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/887018/Summer_2020_Awarding_GCSEs_A_levels_-_Info_for_Heads_of_Centre_22MAY2020.pdf When there is quotation from this there will be page reference and **

*** In a fast moving situation this has been modified https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/coronavirus/gcse-and-a-level-pupils-can-sit-exams-if-they-don-t-like-coursework-grade/ar-BB169yfX?ocid=msedgntp accessed 30th June 2020

Sources

For the worst performing school in England see https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/breaking-englands-worst-schools-revealed-13899939 The list is, …. based on how teenagers at each of the country’s secondary schools performed in their GCSE exams in 2018, taking into account progress not attainment.Drapers & Brittons feature from Havering.

For the general advice the government is offering see https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/890811/Summer_2020_grades_for_GCSE_AS_A_level_guidance_for_teachers_students_parents_09062020.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/awarding-qualifications-in-summer-2020

For the government’s specific advice to schools see https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/887018/Summer_2020_Awarding_GCSEs_A_levels_-_Info_for_Heads_of_Centre_22MAY2020.pdf

Havering’s Rainham Riverside Walk

The medieval marshes of Rainham, Wennington and Aveley are one of the very few ancient landscapes remaining in London.”*

Rainham Riverside is an idiosyncratic gem. If you’re hoping for chocolate box beauty you’ll be disappointed. Approaching the car park you pass through an industrial area. Once beyond that there’s a narrow road with lush vegetation on either side. The last half mile or so prepares you for the small car park and the Thames in front of you. You’ve entered a different world.

Once on the riverside footpath, which is a good, sound surface, you can choose to go east or west. We took the eastwards route towards the RSPB site. Immediately you notice the sweep of the river. It isn’t glorious, it’s a working river. There are hulks from WW2 left in the mud. Their glory days supporting the Allied invasion on D-Day long gone. Numerous hand painted signs and information boards are scattered on fencing adjacent to the path.

One reason we didn’t get to the RSPB was that it was shut. The other reason was it was too far. Younger people could easily walk it. We needed more benches. Not very ambitious is it? A walk based on the distance between benches, but there you are. We did about a mile each way and found it to be most satisfactory.

It’s very popular with cyclists, many of whom have bells, unlike the ones who populate Hornchurch pavements. Small groups of walkers and families enjoyed the day as well. Recommended especially for the wonderful fresh air.

Note

* https://www.walkingclub.org.uk/walk/rainham-to-purfleet-via-rspb-rainham-marshes/ This is the website of the Saturday Walkers Club who do this walk four times a year

Source

For a blog on a walk from the RSPB, Rainham to Grays see https://exploring-urban-wastelands.co.uk/rainham-to-grays/

Havering Park: an Avenue of Redwood Trees

Havering Park still has the second largest plantation of Wellingtonia in England, totalling 100 trees

*

Havering Park is quite small and undistinguished. It doesn’t have a cafe or a deer park and it definitely doesn’t have stunning views across London. What it does have is a unique avenue of trees: Wellingtonia Avenue.

The Giant Redwood lines Wellingtonia Avenue but because of rapid local changes they go from nowhere to nowhere. They were planted about 140 years ago by the McIntosh family who owned the local mansion. Nowadays they’d be regarded as a foreign invader species but the attraction in the 19th century was that,

Redwoods grow faster than almost any other tree in the world, obtaining 3 to 10 feet of growth per year. Most of this growth occurs in the first century of a redwood’s life.** (my emphasis)

The great 18th century gardens took decades to put together before reaching maturity. The McIntosh family didn’t want to wait. They selected the Giant Redwood. The Giant Redwood lives for 3000 years becoming a monster, which means, barring climate change, they could live until about 5020! Havering Park is blessed with a landscape dominated by wonderful trees.

A short walk on a decent surface means that Havering Park provides a unique experience and is worth a visit.

Notes

* https://www.havering.gov.uk/info/20037/parks/723/havering_country_park

** https://www.gardenguides.com/12378880-how-fast-do-redwoods-grow.html

Sources

For a wonderful set of photographs see http://www.redwoodworld.co.uk/picturepages/havering.htm

For a detailed list of Havering’s principal parks see https://www.havering.gov.uk/info/20037/parks

For an overview of the giant redwood see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoiadendron_giganteum

For an 18th century Capability Brown garden see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stowe/profiles/capability-found-at-stowe

The Battle for Tylers Common: Major Geoffrey Bing MP, KC*

Introduction

During the 18th century, wealthy farmers enclosed common land. Poor people had had a traditional right to graze animals and get informal food supplies but they didn’t have documentary evidence of that right. Parliamentary ‘Enclosure’ Acts favoured the wealthy, who used a legal sleight of hand to dispossess them. By about 1850, enclosure was completed with just a few commons remaining. One of these was Tylers Common. The rights of the commoners were defended by the ‘lord of the manor’, the Branfil family.

The Battle for Tylers Common

During the Second World War all available land was utilised. Tylers Common was used for food production by Essex Council from 1943. Unlike the 18th century, 20th century commoners had documentary evidence supporting historic rights. No-one anticipated a land grab by Essex Council.

Geoffrey Bing was the local MP and a very senior lawyer. When commoners approached him about the enclosure of Tylers Common he was outraged. He was a formidable opponent of Essex Council and his forensic probing discovered,

..Essex County Council have…… illegally enclosed this common and let it to one of their members.** (my emphasis)

In the subsequent court case, Essex Council’s refusal to reinstate pre-war common status led to a damning judgment. Councillors were surcharged for wilful behaviour and had to pay costs. Bing, as a lawyer and parliamentarian, trounced Essex Council and Tylers Common remains common land enjoyed by the people of Havering to this day.

Notes

* KC: this is the most senior rank for barristers – nowadays QC

** https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1951/aug/02/tylers-common-upminster

Sources

For Bing’s parliamentary questioning see https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/1951-06-28/debates/6364ef34-abb3-4d77-8d58-238964525ea6/TylersCommonUpminster

and

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/1951-07-05/debates/cc7314e7-5a6b-4a26-8ad7-cea4a2e0e84a/TylerSCommonUpminster

and

For a Romford Recorder article see https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/heritage/nostalgia-tylers-common-havering-s-largest-open-space-1-2015231

For a more detailed on-line history of Upminster see https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol7/pp143-153

For the surcharging of councillors see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surcharge_(sanction)

For historic maps see https://www.francisfrith.com/tylers-common/maps

For a brief history of common land see https://www.acraew.org.uk/history-common-land-and-village-greens

Sponsored Squadrons at RAF Hornchurch in World War 2

An unusual aspect of the Battle of Britain was the sponsored squadron. RAF Hornchurch had its share of these. A sponsor didn’t pay for specific Spitfires. They contributed an amount, which was the equivalent of the cost. The RAF then designated a squadron’s number with the name in brackets. Sponsored squadrons reflected the patriotic feelings of British cities and countries in the Empire. India, which was in the throes of Gandhi’s Quit India movement, contributed a great deal towards the defence of Britain.

Eleven squadrons served in Hornchurch during the war. ‘The Few’ flew from Hornchurch and suffered many casualties whilst defeating the Luftwaffe. Less well known was the international financial support Britain received in this crucial battle. Of Hornchurch’s eleven squadrons, seven were sponsored from across the Empire and Britain (see Addendum).

Financial resources were provided in a great world-wide rush of good feeling towards Britain and were very important to our ultimate victory. This is an unglamorous but important aspect of the Battle of Britain. Nazi Germany’s repulsive government provoked fear, not respect, and these sponsored squadrons demonstrate this truth vividly.

Addendum: sponsored squadrons

Squadron 74 (Trinidad)

Squadron 122 (Bombay)

Squadron 222 (Natal)

Squadron 264 (Madras Presidency)

Squadron 266 (Rhodesia)

Squadron 600 (City of London)

Squadron 603 (City of Edinburgh)

Sources

For Hornchurch’s Battle of Britain squadrons and casualties see http://www.rafhornchurch.thehumanjourney.net/squadrons.htm

For a list of RAF Hornchurch squadrons see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Hornchurch

For a critical analysis of ‘The Few’ in the battle of Britain see https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-few-who-saved-britain-were-even-fewer-than-everyone-thought-5369212.html

For Squadron 74’s WW2 service history see http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/74_wwII.html