Gazette letters: Hackney Law Centre, school SATs and school traffic pollution

Nathaniel Mathews and Ian Rathbone from Hackney Law Centre. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Nathaniel Mathews and Ian Rathbone from Hackney Law Centre. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council is the main funder for Hackney Law Centre, writes Edgard Philippe Kowouvi, Shacklewell Lane, Stoke Newington.

We were informed that their grant will be cut by 45 per cent (as reported in the Gazette).

This means that help given to Hackney residents will be hugely restricted.

In the worst scenario they might even be obliged to close the support services they offer which are much appreciated by many people and residents like me.

The news made my family sad, because in December last year, just before Christmas we received eviction notice and were threatened and faced with homelessness.

Thanks to the hard work of lawyers like Nathaniel Mathews of Hackney Law Centre, my housing crisis was resolved positively for my family and me and I can now provide a secure home for my children.

Please re-evaluate the necessity of the Law Centre and the good job they do in and for our community here in Hackney.

As a teacher, a member of the National Education Union and a Labour Party member, I am delighted that the end is nigh for high stakes testing in primary schools, writes Amanda Bentham, Amhurst Road, Stoke Newington.

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Last week I attended my union conference in Liverpool and voted for a ballot of all primary school teachers to boycott SATs and other damaging testing of pupils in Year 2 and Year 6. I was delighted after the vote to hear Jeremy Corbyn announce to a standing ovation on the conference floor that a Labour government will scrap these and the baseline tests for four-year-olds.

Jeremy Corbyn said that a new assessment system will be based on clear principles: “First to understand the learning needs of each child because every child is unique. And second to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education.”

I’ve been in the classroom for 27 years, first as a teacher of English and for the last 17 years of pupils with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities). I have seen first hand the damaging effects of these tests on children, teachers and our education system. SATs tests were introduced to schools in England and Wales between 1991 and 95 in Key Stages 1,2 and 3. Today they are carried out only at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2, yet they suck the joy out of primary education, which should be a time of creativity, play and exploration.

Instead, there are years of preparation and time spent on booster classes, with pupils being coached to pass tests in their weekends, holidays and after school time, when they should be playing and building relationships. Many (especially those with SEND and for whom English is not their home language) will not make the grade and learn at an early stage in life what it feels like to be labelled a failure, as the government keeps ramping up the “pass” mark. In 2017 schools in England and Wales had to write to 48 per cent of parents of Y6 children to tell them their child hadn’t achieved the required grade in the three Key Stage 2 SATs tests, and was not considered ready for secondary school.

The curriculum has been narrowed at the same time as funding cuts resulting in fewer support staff, school counsellors and mental health workers. Because they tailor education to the test and not the child, some schools are becoming an unwelcoming place for children with SEND: this hostile environment has resulted in a rocketing number of children being excluded or off-rolled. The NEU will hold a consultative ballot of its primary school members this term. We must win a “yes” vote and begin to reclaim education for learning not labelling. In the last 10 years of my career I have seen more mental health issues than I did in the previous 17. Now is the time to end this systematic abuse of children in our schools.

Just as the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is launching to improve air quality for school children in central London, Hackney Council is voting for road closures on April 29 that, should it go ahead, will increase traffic on the very narrow Matthias Road, which not only passes Newington Green Primary but also The Factory Children’s Centre and Minik Kardes Community Nursery, writes Sarah Proulx Calfee, parent and PTA member of Newington Green Primary school.

Hackney’s traffic modelling report predicts a 44 per cent westbound increase on Matthias Road – up from 2,912 vehicles per day to 4,202 – and a 36pc increase eastbound – up from 3,816 vehicles per day to 5,194. The PTA of Newington Green Primary are deeply concerned about this increase in traffic on Matthias road, already extreme during the morning school run, which will worsen the air quality and create higher health risks for our young children – this includes life-limiting illnesses like asthma and the stunting of lung development.