Recorder letters: Anderson School, South Woodford mosque, garden waste and schools

PUBLISHED: 12:30 07 June 2020

The Anderson School in Chigwell is closing. Picture: Steve Hickey/NAS

The Anderson School in Chigwell is closing. Picture: Steve Hickey/NAS


Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Why we can’t keep school open

Caroline Stevens, chief executive, National Autistic Society, writes:

I would like to thank Morgan Bowyer for his thoughtful letter to our director of education about our school in Chigwell, in last week’s edition.

I was moved to read about how happy and safe he feels at the school, and that it’s helped him to feel positive about being autistic. I know that some other students feel the same and how disappointed they are about our decision to close the school at the end of the summer term.

Morgan is absolutely right there are some great staff at the school and that some students have benefited from being there.

But the problem is that this is not true for all students. The school has faced serious difficulties from the start.

Staff have worked incredibly hard to turn things around but, as the recent Ofsted report found, it is unfortunately still not meeting the expected standards in education, safety and wellbeing for all students.

We took the difficult decision to close the school because, as Morgan says in his letter, we believe it will take years to get up to the right standards.

It can take established schools three years or more to overcome serious problems.

Our school in Chigwell has significant, deep-rooted challenges so it could take even longer. It would not be right or fair for students to continue at a school that is simply not good enough and won’t be for years.

Everyone involved in the school had incredibly high ambitions when it opened in 2017. And I am so sorry that we haven’t lived up to these ambitions and aren’t able to keep the school open.

This is a worrying time for our students, their families and carers as they’re preparing to find and move to a new school.

And I want to reassure them that the school staff will keep doing all they can to help them through this and make sure they’re as prepared as possible for the next stage of their education.

Thanks again to Morgan for writing to us and for sharing his views. I hope this reply goes some way to explaining why we’re taking this very difficult decision.

Committee must be suspended

Andy Walker, Blythswood Road, Seven Kings, writes:

The revelations in the Emmett report require the immediate suspension of the Redbridge planning committee pending an investigation commissioned by the government.

This is because Cllr Jones’ comments imply that Redbridge Labour may have been involved in a conspiracy to fix votes for political advantage at planning committee rather than follow planning legislation guidance.

The inability of Redbridge Labour to say when or why the Labour whip became involved with planning are questions which won’t go away.

Any enquiry must commence from the day the Labour whip became involved with planning through to the present day. Every single planning decision at committee during this period requires investigation.

Anything else is bound to risk undermining public confidence in Redbridge planning.

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Independent investigation

Gwyneth Deakins, former Lib Dem councillor, Roding ward, writes:

I was very angry, but not surprised, to read about the allegations made in the Recorder about political interference by the Labour party in planning decisions.

When I was a councillor in the old Roding ward there was at least one planning application in the ward where I had reason to be suspicious that there had been political interference in the decision that was made.

The decision on the South Woodford mosque, which you refer to, was another one that was made against cogent planning arguments and the rulings of planning inspectors on several previous occasions.

The training provided by Redbridge Council on planning law and how councillors should conduct themselves on planning committees is very clear and there is no excuse whatsoever for councillors not to stick to the rules.

It is very worrying that the “independent” officers who have enquired into this matter seem to have bent over backwards to exonerate the councillors involved.

It would be a good thing if the whole matter could be investigated properly by a genuinely independent person.

In the meantime congratulations to Cllr Bert Jones for standing up against the Labour leadership. It’s a pity more of the Labour councillors haven’t got the guts to do so.

Still no garden waste collection

Julia Savage, Ilford, full address supplied, writes:

Garden waste collections were supposed to recommence from the week ending May 18.

Can someone please explain to me why people living in Wanstead have this week received their second collection since that date whilst people living in my part of Barkingside are still awaiting their first collection?

Children must go back to class ASAP

Keith Prince, London Assembly member, Havering and Redbridge and Cllr Linda Huggett, leader, Redbridge Conservatives, write:

It is vital that children in Redbridge are able to return to school as soon as possible.

Whilst it was sensible and necessary to close schools during lockdown and it is entirely understandable that parents and teachers have very real concerns about schools re-opening, we should acknowledge the very real drawbacks of our children missing week after week of school.

In Redbridge, many children have English as their second language and time away from school makes it harder for them to close the gap that this implies.

We also know that the longer children have to stay at home, the more inequality is entrenched.

Apart from anything else, some parents are in a far stronger position than others to juggle working from home with educating their children.

Appallingly, we also know that incidents of domestic abuse have significantly increased during lockdown.

We should, of course, do everything we can to stop this. We should also remember that for children living in these homes, school offers an invaluable respite.

Of course, at the end of the day, children returning to school must be a decision for parents.

We hope, therefore, that the government’s scientific advisers are in a position to reassure parents later this week.

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