Andrew Rosindell and the Free School Meals Debate, 21st October, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of Britain’s businesses and the jobs dependent on them. Thriving shopping malls, like Romford’s, are in meltdown, faced by a pandemic and on-line shopping. Tens of thousands of jobs are now unviable. The social and economic question is this: is this a new world or a temporary blip? In this cauldron, children are collateral damage. Andrew and the government’s problem is clear: should children go hungry because fighting the pandemic means work disappears? On 21st October the answer was ‘Yes’. Andrew didn’t speak in the debate but his definitive statement was his vote.

Andrew is said to be a loyal Conservative MP and always votes with his party and so ‘held his nose’ and voted as instructed. But Andrew doesn’t always vote with the party. In the Public Health debate, 13th October, 2020, Andrew voted against his party because he disapproved of the economic measures embedded in the government’s proposals. Andrew carefully chooses how he votes. Throughout the latter stages of the Brexit EU negotiations, he rebelled against Theresa May’s Conservative government. Andrew helped bring down a Conservative prime minister because he judged it was in the national interest. He’s a parliamentarian, not an unthinking ‘nodding donkey’.

His vote against the provision of Free School Meals for impoverished children over Christmas is calculated. Andrew believes it’s the right thing to do. The immediate implication of this is the abolition of Free School Meals altogether. The reasoning by many Conservative MPs justified children going hungry because the state has no responsibility for feeding hungry children.This repudiates the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act. This Act acknowledged that children were victims of circumstances and it was a grotesque injustice they be punished with hunger. Andrew’s vote on the 21st October is a reversion to Victorian attitudes towards children living in poverty.

Andrew’s prepared to rebel against Conservative whips when it suits him. His membership of the European Research Group helped destroy Theresa May’s government. He and 43 other Conservatives voted against Johnson’s proposals to fight Covid-19 because it was ‘uneconomic’: a lives against business argument. And now he’s voted against the proposals to provide minimal school meals from October, 2020 to Easter, 2021 because such claimants are scroungers. Andrew has a ‘safe’ seat and believes he’s immune to punishment in the ballot box. He may well be right but what happened to his moral compass?

Sources

For the Free School meal debate see https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-21/debates/79C0CA8D-CADF-4562-9317-5A51810BB5DE/FreeSchoolMeals

I have created a selection from the debate which I think accurately gives the tone of it. See https://oedeboyz.com/2020/10/23/selected-quotes-the-free-school-meals-debate-21st-october-2020/

For the Covid-19 Public Health debate see https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-13/debates/1081EDA2-9232-4C9E-9B01-4D5879390AAF/PublicHealthCoronavirusRegulations

For the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act see https://www.intriguing-history.com/school-meals-act/

Marshalls Park Academy: a Critique

Introduction

Marshalls Park is an average academy in Havering,* which is why it was chosen for this critique. This is intended to be constructive criticism, contributing towards a reorientation from the merely peripheral to substantive educational issues.

Discussion

On the academy’s website, the Headteacher in his 18th September, 2020 blog remarks that, “….it’s that schools are under constantly [sic] scrutiny by the whole community and that just magnifies the pressure.”** It isn’t “community….pressure” calling for transparency about GCSE results, it’s a perfectly normal expectation. The presentation of the 2019 GCSE results was opaque. Let’s take the top line:-

Subject ……………….9-4…………….9-5……………..9-7

English Language 68.26%……….52.10%……….7.19%

There’s no explanatory note explaining grade boundaries. Grade 9 is an outstanding result. Grade 4 is a bare ‘pass’ with a three grades beneath them: Grades 1-3. The results don’t show the 31.74% of the 2019 cohort sitting English Language who achieved grades 1-3. It’s as if a third of the school is invisible and unwelcome because they’ve failed the school. The students might say that they have been failed by the school of course.

The Headteacher sings from a different hymn sheet. His 2nd October, 2020 blog focuses on the new Barnes building. The site manager is warmly praised despite the building being delivered late. Astonishingly, the teaching staff’s unique role in 2020 is ignored, as is the implementation of a new system of teaching and learning. The staff’s stellar efforts maintaining progress through the lockdown is taken for granted.

A Headteacher’s blogs are an important mechanism for setting the tone of an academy. The priorities embedded within blogs guide the expectations of the reader. Both of this term’s blogs are unfortunate. They go a long way towards showing why there’s systemic weakness in Havering’s academies. Only sharply focused senior management teams, who aren’t in denial about their GCSE results, will break out of mediocrity. Parents and the wider community are entitled to know in detail the outcomes of GCSE results. They should not be concealed or underplayed on school websites.

Notes

* See https://havering.blog/2019/11/29/havering-and-redbridge-a-tale-of-two-boroughs/

** http://marshallspark.org.uk/2020/09/18/joy/

*** See my https://havering.blog/2020/07/04/haverings-2020-gcse-results-part-one/ The government changed their position on GCSE results when they fully appreciated that grades were being awarded on the historic outcomes of the school not the individual student. There were massive disparities between teacher assessments and the standardisation principles embedded in the original documents. See also https://havering.blog/2020/07/11/haverings-2020-gcse-results-part-two/

Source

The GCSE results for 2019 at Marshalls Park academy. As of 6th October 2020 these 2019 results were still being described as ‘provisional’ fourteen months after being announced.They missed the announced date of April 2020 by six months.http://marshallspark.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Subject-breakdown.pdf

For other key metrics 2017-8 see https://www.bing.com/search?q=marshalls+park+academy&form=ANNTH1&refig=db21274807a54e57bb9bfa2d7497fecf&sp=1&qs=HS&pq=ma&sk=PRES1&sc=8-2&cvid=db21274807a54e57bb9bfa2d7497fecf These statistics are the most recent published.

Havering’s Academies, their Students and GCSE

The majority of Havering’s academies publish their GCSE results in a severely edited fashion. Only three* of the eighteen publish results in full. This makes it difficult for parents to make informed decisions. This discussion is focused on the missed opportunity of using the results as a diagnostic tool. Reference will be made to the fifteen academies which don’t publish results informatively.

Abbs Cross Academy make this remark about the 2020 results:-

“Results in core subjects were particularly strong with over 73% of students attaining a grade 4 or above in English and maths.

Some of the individual student performances are staggering in terms of the number of optimum grades attained. 11% of our students gained grades 7-9 in all subjects – a phenomenal achievement. Whilst acknowledging the enormous achievements of the most able is very important, what gives us the greatest pleasure is the consistent progress that many of our students make irrespective of their ability, personal circumstances or starting point.”

This statement focuses on two subjects, English and Maths, with an undifferentiated summary leaving the reader to consider the 27% of students who achieved Grades 1-3. Abbs Cross does however acknowledge the existence of those achieving grades 1-3, unlike many other schools.

Bower Park Academy Astonishingly there’s no information about GCSE outcomes for 2020 or any other year. They do however have 27 policy statements. The OFSTED report added nothing to the narrative.

Brittons Academy The 2019 results have 51% of the cohort achieving Grades 1-3 in English and Maths. Grade 4 is normally thought of as a ‘pass’ grade. There are no results for 2020.

Campion School They publish a detailed summary of ‘A’ levels and BTECH. For GCSE there are bald truncated information boxes. The key metric is the GCSE 5+ passes of 77.9%. The 5+ result is useful and shows consistent performances across the curriculum. There are no results for 2020.

Drapers Academy There are three years of comparative statistics laid out in a useful way with the number of entrants stated and the percentage outcome. Explanatory notes guide the reader through what could be a quite confusing set of results. There are no results for 2020.

Emerson Park Academy The website is excellent in its clarity. Not only is there a full display of the GCSE results, which includes 2020, but there’s an interpretation of those statistics. The only thing missing is the number of students for each subject. Maybe it’s overkill but a grade by grade statement would have been useful.

Gaynes School The website remarks, “These results reflect the dedication of the staff and students…[and] The fabulous support of our students from parents, especially over the last few months of their schooling is very much appreciated. It is not an easy time to live with a teenager; the support that has been shown through attendance at revision events and ensuring their children have the right working environment at home has enabled our students to flourish and subsequently celebrate these wonderful results.” This is a wonderful comment on the trauma of the pandemic for all concerned with the progress of the students.

The results statement is truncated and uninformative.

Hall Mead School Astonishingly there’s no information about GCSE outcomes for 2020 or any other year. They do however have 27 policy statements. The most recent GCSE examination results available were for 2017.

Harris Academy, Rainham The website remarks that, “67% of students achieved Grade 4 or above in English and Maths. Another way of putting this is that 33% didn’t pass the two principal subjects. The academy follows an Olympic Gold Medal style of reporting with five high achieving students. Between them they got 49 Grade 9s or 53% of all the Grade 9s the school achieved. There are no results for 2020.

Hornchurch High School Astonishingly there’s no information about GCSE outcomes for 2020 or any other year. Their website directs the reader to the government site which offers very bald summary statements. These are effectively useless to the parent.

Marshalls Park Academy There is a comprehensive list of subjects with the relevant percentage grade for each level apart from Grades 1-3. There is no explanatory note about what the grades mean. There isn’t an indication of how many students would have been entered for each subject. There are no results for 2020.

Redden Court School Astonishingly there’s no information about GCSE outcomes for 2020 or any other year. Their website directs the reader to the government site which offers very bald summary statements. These are effectively useless to the parent.

Royal Liberty School There is a comprehensive list of subjects with the relevant percentage grade for each level apart from Grades 1-3. There isn’t an indication of how many students sat each examination, which matters for Russian for example. They follow the Olympic Gold Medal approach of other schools identifying ten students with stellar achievements. The principal subjects are solid at Grade 4-9.

Sanders School The website is interesting. It has a series of comparators which doesn’t include any specific subject. At the bottom of the page there’s a gated access point where the reader has to request access. Presumably this can be denied. One wonders why access is gated and why, potentially, it can be denied. The gated section lists ten students who gained stellar results, so why they’re gated is incomprehensible. There are no results for 2020.

St Edward’s Church of England Academy They’ve embraced the Olympic Gold Medal approach. Five students had a stellar performance with one featuring in a large jubilant photograph. Examination results are summarised in an incoherent way without any attempt to indicate, for example, how many candidates for Mandarin there were. Mandarin achieved 100% grade 5 -9 but how many candidates: two? Or, a 100? There are no results for 2020.

Discussion Point One

GCSE results can be a diagnostic tool. Praising success is important but these schools are non-selective and significant numbers of students aren’t succeeding. Why? By not publishing results there’s a suggestion that students have failed the school as opposed to being failed by the school.** Schools praise success and claim credit. Who’s responsible for failure? To assist this diagnostic strategy, results should be published in full, grade by grade. This would drive home the results narrative. Being in denial about significant numbers of students is unprofessional.

Discussion Point Two

In 2020, examinations were abandoned and schools awarded their students GCSE grades. There is therefore no reason why any school shouldn’t publish results by October, 2020 (the time of writing). That schools awarded their students the 2020 GCSE grades is also a way of discovering how well teachers think they are doing. Teacher assessment is a matter of self-awareness of their performance giving them a classic opportunity to review the effectiveness of their classroom achievement.

Notes

* The three are Coopers’ Coburn, Frances Bardsley and Sacred Heart

** During the 9th September, 2020 Council meeting, the Leader of the Council, Damian White, blamed his poor education on the failures of both Primary and Secondary schools he attended. Not everyone is as resilient as White and some are permanently damaged by school experiences. See the council webcast at 1 hour 50 mins for his speech https://aisapps.sonicfoundry.com/AuditelScheduler/Player/Index/?id=980fc1ad-8bc8-4ed9-a60c-548e1f6c560b&presID=52e9140a88324a8fa193e7954f87df451d

Sources

All information and data was taken from the current websites of the named schools.

Havering Councillor: Timothy Ryan (Brooklands)

Timothy isn’t a well known councillor but is Damian White’s crony. He may be talentless but he’s grateful for crumbs that come his way. So when an embarrassing job needed to be done, Timothy agreed immediately.

Damian’s policy is to use council allowances to cement his position as Leader. In Timothy’s case this means being vice chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. For this Timothy gets £150 a week. He probably appreciates this when we look at his Register of Members’ Interests statement.*

So what favour did Damian request? Earlier this year, 2020, Damian boasted about his control of the Chief Executive and the borough’s boundary submission on reconfigured wards. Damian thought he was amongst friends. He was mistaken. A recording was taken which went viral. This in turn led to an external adjudicator declaring Damian had a case to answer.

A committee was formed to hear evidence.** Timothy and Conservative councillor Matt Sutton sat alongside councillor Linda van den Hende. Timothy announced, at the beginning of the meeting, that he’d excuse himself as he’d been a participant when Damian was boasting. Obviously Damian planned this. They both knew Timothy was unable to serve on the committee. Although quorate, the chair, Matt Sutton, postponed the meeting. Exactly to plan.

Damian’s ploy wasted time and money but Timothy felt he’d done well. Like all Zoom meetings, it’s interesting to see participants’ composure when provoked. Timothy’s action pleased him, pleased Damian and hacked everyone else off. I hope Damian’s boasting isn’t subsequently white-washed.

Damian White’s cronies are undermining democracy in Havering.

* https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=1346&T=6

** https://aisapps.sonicfoundry.com/AuditelScheduler/Player/Index/?id=b1d0e822-0795-4c82-958c-0e9cc0af01ce&presID=77236848e6084cce976cdaadd45b8cf31d

The Bizarre World of Hornchurch and Upminster Politics

This constituency is a safe Conservative parliamentary seat. But it’s also a no-go area for them in local politics. Indeed Conservative candidates have to brand themselves as Resident Association (RAs)to have any chance of success in council elections. The RAs are splintered and don’t have critical mass when it comes to power and influence. As a consequence, the minority Conservative administration has an easy time of it.

Veteran RA councillor, John Mylod, ‘became’ a Conservative prior to the 2018 election after a spat with fellow councillors in St Andrews ward. This ward is an RA stronghold but he still won with a personal vote. Or, maybe, voters didn’t appreciate he’d jumped ship. Harold Wood’s three RA councillors created a working majority for the Conservatives. They were always crypto-Conservatives but being offered lucrative allowances helped them make the crucial decision.

Two wards return Labour councillors. In their heartlands they won five of six seats. The sixth seat went to an Independent novice. The only reliable Conservative ward is Emerson Park, which isn’t rock solid. They lost a seat in 2014 to a UKIP candidate. Then post-2018, Bob Perry found Romford’s councillors too arrogant and he’s now an Independent.

So Julia Lopez MP has a majority of 23,000 in a constituency with only three Conservative councillors. Her seat may not be as solid as it looks. Local politics shows there is dissatisfaction with the Conservatives. Local elections demonstrate that voters are quite prepared to abandon them.

Havering Council Meeting, 9th September 2020

Zoom Council meetings are unforgiving. The elderly Mayor, John Mylod, failed utterly from the very beginning.* After ten minutes or so he was still bumbling along, testing the patience of councillors. Several gripped their heads in disbelief, others openly laughed. This was the very public outcome of Damian White’s policy of using jobs to maintain his power, regardless of operational efficiency. It has brought the council into disrepute.

The meeting ended with a long** debate about Havering’s academy schools. Surprisingly, the Conservatives fielded four cabinet members including the Leader,*** deputy Leader and former Leader. The Conservative chair of the Children and Learning committee didn’t speak. This is shocking as her committee will scrutinise Havering academies’ under-achievement. Robert Benham, chair of education, read a script where each word seemed unexpected. Is it possible he didn’t write it? Councillor Ford didn’t develop her good debating points fully. Councillor Darvill opened and closed the debate with considerable authority. There was empty political point scoring by the Conservatives, which fell flat.

The Council meeting was ruined once again by poor chairmanship. This illustrates the negative impact of Damian’s croneyism, which extends to every Overview and Scrutiny committee, none of which are independent of the executive.

* First ten minutes https://aisapps.sonicfoundry.com/AuditelScheduler/Player/Index/?id=980fc1ad-8bc8-4ed9-a60c-548e1f6c560b&presID=52e9140a88324a8fa193e7954f87df451d All times refer to this webcast site

** See 1 hour 33 minutes to the conclusion. The councillors in speaking order, Councillors Darvill, Benham, Mugglestone, Ford, Durant, White D, Ramsey, Tucker, Persaud, Nunn and McGeary

*** Damian said he was uneducated because of Havering LEA. This is implausible. More likely causes are poor teaching and a lack of diligence.

Havering Council Tax: Is It Too Low?

Council tax is loosely based on the value of property. Because of political cowardice, the 1991 valuations haven’t been revised. Havering has seen significant increases in house prices since then. The financially ruinous, but politically adroit, freezing of council tax in Havering wasn’t sustainable. It must be revised upwards.

After a quick look at Rightmove,a house on Harrow Drive, Hornchurch seemed like a good starting place. It’s on sale for £1,400,000 (August 2020). In 2012, it sold for £655,000. The untaxed profit on this property is £745,000 or £94,375 per year.

The band H council tax for this house is £3,592. This means they’re paying 0.25% of the value of the house. In 2012, the council tax was £3022 or 0.46% of the value of the house at that time. Council tax has reduced by 0.21% over the last eight years. 0.21% doesn’t seem much does it? But on £1.4 million it’s an additional £2,940 per year.

Merely maintaining the value of the 2012 council tax means this house in Harrow Drive should pay £6,532 per year. That isn’t an increase,it simply maintains the property tax relationship of 2012. If this principle was used across the entire housing market in Havering the borough wouldn’t be flirting with bankruptcy.

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/council-tax

https://www.havering.gov.uk/info/20000/council_tax/168/council_tax_bands_and_bills

https://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-95369375.html

The Jack Cornwell Victoria Cross Houses, Hornchurch

Jack Cornwell was a boy-sailor who died, aged sixteen, from his injuries after the battle of Jutland. His exemplary courage was recognised with a Victoria Cross. Harsh unrelenting attitudes towards the poor meant he wasn’t given a hero’s funeral and was buried in a common grave.* Once this became known it provoked widespread public anger. Jack was re-interred with full military honours in Manor Park cemetery but his family continued to live in poverty.

Because Jack was sixteen and a VC, his death was used for propaganda purposes. Although Jack had no connexion with Hornchurch, land here was cheap and so money which was raised in his name was used to build the Jack Cornwell houses for injured servicemen.**

After the first world war many severely injured survivors were unemployable. The workhouse system was still in place but that was entirely inappropriate. Lloyd George’s slogan Homes fit for heroes haunted him as public pressure demanded meaningful action. Philanthropy kicked in with huge donations from all over the country to build specially designed housing for disabled servicemen. The Jack Cornwell houses are an example.

Note

* For the definition of a ‘common grave’ see https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections/collection/729#:~:text=A%20common%20grave%20was%20a,plot%20with%20private%20burial%20rights.

** In Station Lane

Sources

For a wonderful summary of Jack’s heroics at the battle of Jutland see https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/boy-1st-class-john-jack-travers-cornwell-vc

For a summary of the estate, including a description of the houses, see https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/48021

For a review of housing and support for severely injured soldiers see https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/disability-history/1914-1945/war/

Damian White: an unlucky general?

Napoleon famously preferred lucky generals. A lucky general ruthlessly exploits an advantage for victory. Or, if disadvantaged he retrieves the situation. Napoleon didn’t like generals who squandered advantages.

Damian was triumphant in 2018. Romford’s Conservative heartlands provided a core of councillors but not a majority. He was prepared for this eventuality. Three Harold Wood Resident Association (RA) councillors were squared off and came on board. A further coup enticed Michael Deon Burton (RA) into the Conservative fold. Sally Miller (RA) followed Michael.

Damian was lucky with his opponents who are a splintered opposition. He controlled the agenda without a majority. The political sun shone on Damian in 2018.

Unfortunately Damian caught a nasty dose of hubris.

Damian doesn’t do ‘arm round the shoulder’ TLC. He should. Stomping on people’s finer feelings is fun but usually rebounds. Bob Perry’s expert, unpleasant and notorious secret recording of Damian’s bragging about his political genius was a coup. Bob’s recording added to Damian’s own goals and may have given other Conservative councillors ideas. Will he ever speak freely again?

Damian’s personal decision to get the council to invest £14.7M for the Marks and Spencer site wasn’t a great idea. The Covid-19 pandemic has made it a disaster.* As an ardent Brexiteer,Damian loved Nigel Farage’s simplicities. Unfortunately Farage’s fantasy world included ‘fighting’ every Labour seat in 2019. Damian lost the Dagenham and Rainham seat because of him. Damian’s bad luck means his future comprises of soft soaping Conservative councillors in order to prevent mutiny.

Note

* The charges for this investment are about £500,000 p.a.

Book Review: Linda Rhodes and Kathryn Abnett ~ The Romford Outrages: the murder of Inspector Thomas Simmons, 1885 (2009)

The beauty of local history is it offers a terrific opportunity for fascinating minutiae which is lost in academic writing. The Romford Outrage has rigour as well as wonderful microscopic detail. For people in Havering there’s the joy of ‘knowing’ the locality. The book opens with an incident on South Street, Romford, where Simmons shows his heroic personality.

Another aspect of local history is the opportunity for lavish illustrations, which add to the story. The authors have 61 none of which are padding. Taken together this book is irresistible.

One of those convicted of murder wrote about the causes of crime in an amazingly modern way and his preference for the death penalty,

“….he wrote that of all the terrors awaiting the convict, including the ‘cat’* and hard labour, it was the long periods of silent, solitary confinement which had filled him with most dread and had contributed most to his alienation from honest society. He asserted that the three major causes of crime were heredity, locality and the police system.” p154

I thoroughly enjoyed this well written book, which is an excellent example of local history.

* Cat of nine tails. For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_o’_nine_tails#:~:text=The%20cat%20o%27%20nine%20tails%2C%20commonly%20shortened%20to,judicial%20punishment%20in%20Britain%20and%20some%20other%20countries.

Available on Kindle for £3.99 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Romford-Outrage-Murder-Inspector-Simmons-ebook/dp/B009EE27VS/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+romford+outrage&qid=1597680573&s=books&sr=1-1