Gazette letters: London Fields, exams, face coverings and social distancing

A lion rests at ZSL London Zoo, which reopened its doors to visitors this week. Picture: Aaron Chown

A lion rests at ZSL London Zoo, which reopened its doors to visitors this week. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA - Credit: PA

Behaviour in the park has been shocking and deeply concerning the past two weekends. There have been huge gatherings of people drinking at no more than an inch apart covering every cm of the park. Yesterday, Saturday, June 13, a DJ set up behind Pub On The Park and park goers took the law into their own hands and had a party - a veritable festival (in the middle of a global pandemic?!).

I live in All Nations House which directly overlooks the park and all residents were out on their balconies yesterday shouting at people who were urinating all around the building. On our bins, round the back near the arches, on our fences, and round the decking area where our children regularly play. This behaviour is not only shocking, it is dangerous - exposing us all to the virus.

What should be a peaceful place for all members of the community and families to relax, exercise and get a bit of fresh air has turned into a human cesspit - not to mention the mess that is left behind. There are people in this building who haven’t been out for two or three weeks because we have nowhere to go, nowhere that is safe for us to exercise or get some air.

No other Park in the area is like this. Victoria Park has been very well managed through the crisis, with wardens maintaining social distancing rules. I cannot fathom why the same hasn’t applied here. Yesterday, two police units arrived to deal with a bike accident then promptly drove off again. Why did they not intervene in what is clearly a breach of the governments’ own rules and regulations?

As residents, we pay to maintain the area - an area that we love and cherish. It is sad, disappointing, and upsetting that people should have so little regard for us and treat our area like a dumping ground and public toilet.

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It breaks my heart to say this - but I would urge you to close the park. It is no longer a safe space that anyone can enjoy and has become a burden to us all.

The cancellation of summer exams due to Covid-19 has placed teachers in the position of judge and jury, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.

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In other words, they are being expected to grade and rank their pupils, based upon their own assessment, using evidence such as coursework which is not available for all pupils.

Our teachers have been amazing in the support they’ve given to pupils remotely in recent months. However, this system of assessment carries issues.

For example, there is much research to suggest that human beings are prone to unconscious bias. As Professor Elliot Major of the University of Exeter recently told the Education Select Committee: “The worry is that unintentionally teachers will underestimate the academic potential of poorer pupils, potentially those from black backgrounds and potentially boys.”

In April, I wrote to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, to express my own misgivings about his department’s proposals for an “awarded grades” system. This letter has not yet been answered.

Evidence from government and academic studies suggests that an over-reliance on predicted grades and a school’s previous levels of attainment when calculating final outcomes, could disproportionately damage the prospects of disadvantaged pupils - particularly those from BAME and working-class backgrounds.

The Department for Education and Ofqual must now take urgent action to prevent the potentially unfair and unintended consequences of this new awarding system, if it is not robustly administered.

Face covering measures on public transport and hospitals are only the first step, writes Dr Gary Marlowe, chairman, British Medical Association, London.

As we move into a new phase where we must all learn to adapt to living with the virus, it is time to accept that simple, practical tools to limit the spread of the virus are of paramount importance.

The evidence shows that a face covering can reduce larger respiratory droplets emitted in coughing, sneezing, and talking, which we know is a key mode of transmission.

That is why the British Medical Association has been calling on the government to implement face covering policies since April and we have welcomed recent developments that residents in London will be required to wear a face mask on public transport or when going into hospital in any capacity.

Foremost, it is vital that the government extends this policy to cover GP surgeries and other health, community and social care settings across the region. By implementing a consistent rule, we can avoid any confusion amongst the general public and reduce the spread of the virus in high risk environments.

Only with clear public information will this be instrumental in controlling the virus. The government must be clear with the public on the type of coverings that are necessary and how to access them.

With the UK death toll now tragically over 40,000, it is absolutely crucial that the government gets this right as protecting the health of people in London is paramount.

Across England, non-essential shops were allowed to reopen on June 15, writes Keith Valentine, development director, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

It is expected that, as with shops that have remained open throughout lockdown, visual markers will be used to signify the correct distance from others, one-way systems and designated queuing areas.

With social distancing now part of everyday life it is important to highlight that not everyone can maintain the required distance as easily as others.

People who are blind and partially sighted can struggle to know when they are getting closer to someone, or if someone is approaching them. And guide dogs, of course, aren’t trained to help in this regard. In general, people are supportive, but there have been occasions when individuals with sight loss have been challenged or even shouted at for coming too close to others, when the reality is they weren’t aware of it.

In such uncertain times, tensions over distancing can rise. But we would ask that if you feel someone seems to be ignoring the restrictions, consider for a moment whether that person, rather than being careless, might not be able to fully see you.

Hundreds of thousands of people in England are living with a degree of sight loss. Please be aware that some people do need just a little extra thought.

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