Gazette letters: Brazen fox, school cuts and Syria

The fox in Mildmay Grove. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

The fox in Mildmay Grove. Picture: WILL McCALLUM - Credit: Archant

It’s my last week of training for the Hackney Half Marathon (I’m running with the Gazette team and we are fundraising for Hackney Winter Night Shelter), writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

and I thought I’d make sure my final long run before race day took in a few of the local nature hotspots.

Turning the corner into King Henry’s Walk, a small flock of starlings were munching on the grass, sunlight catching the silver freckles on their wings. They are the local gluttons, gorging at speed on whatever lies in their path – thankfully they have not yet discovered the feeders in my garden.

I headed down to the canal, spying a couple of coots’ nests beneath the overgrown buddleias, carefully constructed piles of twigs and plastic. In just a couple of weeks we will see the first chicks slowly emerge. High above the towpath, pots of lavender on balconies were beginning to flower, attracting the first bees, slowly floating from bud to bud. Passing beneath Cambridge Heath Road I must have surprised a flock of sparrows, who flew angrily chattering ahead of me into the bushes and out of sight. Into Victoria Park I averted my eyes from the almost artificial glare of the primrose beds and began the slow trot back north.

Arriving, legs aching and slightly dreading this weekend’s race, I stopped to stretch on the corner of Mildmay Grove. Sure enough, beneath the bushes in his favourite resting spot (above) lay my neighbourhood nemesis: the silver-haired fox who insists on digging up the roses in our front garden every night, looking just as exhausted as I was.

London’s schools have been a remarkable success story and we are proud that over the past decade, substantial educational improvements have been achieved, write Philip Glanville, mayor of Hackney; John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets; Cllr Claire Kober, leader of Haringey Council; Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham; Cllr Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council; Cllr Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council; Cllr Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council; Sir Steve Bullock, mayor of Lewisham; and Cllr Peter John OBE, leader of Southwark Council.

This is testament to the hard work of our teachers, pupils and parents. However, the government’s new funding formula is set to punish our schools by slashing their budgets and is in danger of putting the educational outcomes of the most disadvantaged pupils at risk.

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There have been a huge number of reports, studies and comments from across the sector from academics, charities, think tanks, as well as from teachers on the ground, about the detrimental impact this policy is likely to have on our poorest children.

We feel compelled as leaders of the local authorities whose schools stand to lose the most (according to the most recent Education Policy Institute report) to express our concerns.

The prime minister has spoken of her desire to enhance social mobility and to create a meritocracy, in which every child has the opportunity to succeed; yet the new funding formula is set to reverse the significant progress that has been made.

The government’s own Indices of Multiple Deprivation show that the net effect of the formula is to snatch funding from our poorest communities.

Under these proposals at least £30million will be taken from the 30 most deprived local authorities in England.

Rather than redistribute money away from some of the poorest pupils in our country, the government should look to replicate London’s success by levelling up funding elsewhere.

If the government is to have any credibility on the issue of social mobility, it must protect our pupils, level up funding for other local authorities and ensure that no school in the poorest local authority areas will be made worse off as a result of its reforms.

The prime minister must intervene urgently in order to ensure that this formula and her “Plan for Britain” do not inhibit any child’s chance to succeed.

Christopher Sills believes the best way to bring peace is to bomb writes Alan Gibson, Richmond Road, Hackney.

It’s a policy – often called humanitarian intervention – championed by Tony Blair when he lined up behind US President George Bush to invade Iraq in 2003. 14 years later and we are left continuing to clear up the bloody mess they both caused: dreadful destruction of what had been a multi-ethnic society able to accommodate a multiplicity of religious beliefs, the creation of Isis and a virtual licence for Syrian President Assad to carry out ethnic cleansing. Plus, of course, the countless thousands of lives lost at a cost of billions.

And then there’s Libya – another country we were told would be better off being bombed in order to bring stability. Again, we are left continuing to clear up the bloody mess, with two “governments” now vying for power and a host of militias acting with impunity.

The idea that it is “sometimes necessary to be brutal to be kind” always ends up in tears, both for the innocent victims and for the perpetuators.