Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Silent Petchy academy speaks... to someone else

In the week leading to June 3 Blood and Property asked the Petchey Academy if it was true that as many as 30 teachers were leaving the school this year.

Press officers from the Learning Trust and the Jack Petchey foundation both replied saying that the school would deal with the inquiry. However the school has yet acknowledge the questions, let alone respond to the emails or telephone messages.

But the school does speak to some journalists. Yesterday an article called Education: Inside and Academy was published by Children and Young People Now and painted a positive picture although it may also have provided some clues as to why teachers might be unhappy.

Soon-to-depart headteacher, David Daniels said: "Here, children attend 29 hours a week and not 25, so every child does extra-curricular activities on Wednesday afternoon. There are about 30 activities including tae kwon do, flamenco dancing, the green team, web design, street dancing and sports." The academy also offers a wide range of after-school clubs, access to support services and community activities.

Could the extra hours be taking their toll on staff? One watcher of academies in Hackney fears that they are becoming slave ships for teachers. Apparently one of the symptoms of this problem is that there are very few teachers with families in these schools - I don't know if there's any evidence to back this claim. However, if Academies won't answer questions then speculation is going to happen.

Learning Trust replies to NUT allegations about Haggerston

Learning Trust response to questions about Haggerston School's Ofsted report: NUT: Learning Trust ignored warnings about Haggerston

Blood and Property: Hackney NUT has said that the Learning Trust's support of the former head of Haggerston school was a major cause of its problems - do you agree?

Learning Trust: Rather than entering a debate about the past, we’d rather focus on the future. As the Ofsted report concludes, Haggerston is an improving and forward-thinking school with a new leadership team that has made a significant and positive impact in a short period of time. We are confident, like Ofsted, that the school is well placed for further sustained and rapid improvement.

Blood and Property: An NUT press release says "At the time the NUT criticised the restructuring as being unworkable and having a major impact on student’s progress. Now OFSTED has agreed, identified this area as a weakness." - do you agree ofsted has confirmed NUT concerns?

Learning Trust: The Ofsted report makes it clear that there has been a clear improvement since the last inspection in 2006. The report rated the school as ‘good’ in over half the categories it was judged and concluded that the headteacher and senior leaders have established a culture of high expectations. Staff morale is good following the best GCSE results in the school’s history last year and we’re hopeful of even better results this summer

Blood and Property: NUT added: "This dispute could have been avoided last summer if the Learning Trust had refused to back the restructuring. Instead they helped push it through. Now they are very silent over the OFSTED report." - do you agree with this... and are you very silent?

Learning Trust: If you’re talking about local press coverage, we have provided Hackney Gazette with a detailed statement on the Ofsted report, stressing how pleased we are with the improvements identified by the inspectors.

Blood and Property: Before his re-election in May, Mayor Jules Pipe said that the Learning Trust was disgusting. Has that relationship improved?

Learning Trust: Think you’re misreporting his comments there slightly. The Learning Trust and the London Borough of Hackney share an excellent working relationship and partnership.

NUT: Learning Trust ignored warnings about Haggerston?

Hackney NUT said today that the Learning Trust's support of the former head of Haggerston school was a major cause of its problems.

The Hackney Gazette followed the story last year:
Hackney Gazette - Strike hits school in 24-hour teachers' walkout
Hackney Gazette - Haggerston headteacher in resignation shock
Hackney Gazette - Crisis at Haggerston School deepens

In September the 2009, the Times Education Supplement (TES) also described Haggerston as "a comprehensive hit by strikes, sudden resignations, staff cuts and money worries".

The NUT says its concerns about what was happening at the school were ignored.

"At the time the NUT criticised the restructuring as being unworkable and having a major impact on student’s progress. Now OFSTED has agreed, identified this area as a weakness."

The NUT added: "This dispute could have been avoided last summer if the Learning Trust had refused to back the restructuring. Instead they helped push it through. Now they are very silent over the OFSTED report."

Before his re-election in May, Mayor Jules Pipe said that the Learning Trust was disgusting.

Blood and Property asked the Learning Trust for a comment on these issues this afernoon, and will publish a response if one appears.

Here is the NUT statement in full:

Press Release Monday 28 June 2010

Haggerston Girls School OFSTED Report

The OFSTED report on the recent inspection of Haggerston School has now been published.

It grades the schools as a “3 - satisfactory” which are the second lowest rating a school can be given.

Haggerston School was previously awarded the status of a ‘Beacon School’, meaning that it was one of the most successful schools in England. The current OFSTED Report reflects the decline in the school during the past few years.

The OFSTED report was very supportive of the quality of teaching, student progress and improved behaviour. Parents and students were very supportive of the school.

The areas identified for improvement by OFSTED arise from the previous headteacher’s reorganisation of the staffing structure.

The OFSTED Reported noted: “The school has been through a period of turbulence and instability since its last inspection, but the new leadership team has made a significant impact in a short period of time on raising expectations”

The period of turbulence refers to the strike action members of the NUT took last year over compulsory redundancies.

This improvement in leadership follows the departure of the previous head, chair of Governors, chair of Finance Committee and removal of delegated powers from the Governing body and new link with Mossbourne.

“Despite a growing number of positive features, however, the school is not yet good because its systems for identifying and supporting students with different needs are not yet sufficiently well established across all year groups to ensure that all groups of students achieve consistently well”

“As a result, the most-able students are not always fully challenged, and students with special educational needs and/or disabilities are not always given the support they need to do consistently well”.

Maggie Kalnins the previous headteacher deleted all the posts for Special Needs teachers and restructured the staffing structure so that there was no Heads of Years whose role it is to provide support and identify children who are under achieving.

NUT spokes-person said:
Last summer we had the spectacle of redundancy notes being given to teachers on sports day.

At the time the NUT criticised the restructuring as being unworkable and having a major impact on student’s progress. Now OFSTED has agreed, identified this area as a weakness.

The loss of 5 experienced teachers has had an impact on the school.
NUT took strike action last summer to oppose compulsory redundancies and this action was only called off following the resignation of the headteacher and the Union reaching agreement with the Trust.

This dispute could have been avoided last summer if the Learning Trust had refused to back the restructuring. Instead they helped push it through. Now they are very silent over the OFSTED report.

Students had their education disrupted last summer in what was an unnecessary dispute.

The school, which is an accredited language college, also made its outstanding head of foreign languages redundant last year. So no one is in charge of modern languages at the school.

Not surprisingly following such a disastrous restructuring the school has gone backwards. The blame for this rests on the shoulders of Maggie Kalnins and the Trust”

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

White British girls cause Ofsted concern at Haggerston

The latest Ofsted report for Haggerston School (girls) gave the school an overall grade 3 or "satisfactory" rating: here's the report

(Hackney Community College seems happy with its latest Ofsted report - at least that's the case according to this governor's blog)

For Haggerston, though, the main problem highlighted by the report was the level of exclusion and absence amongst white British girls. The problem was mentioned several times:

1. "Attendance levels have improved and the number of students who are persistently absent from school has declined significantly, although the rate of attendance of White British girls remains low and exclusion rates, particularly in Key Stage 4, are still high."

2 "Overall, students make good progress from their different starting points in Year 7, although White British and Caribbean students and students from Any Other Mixed backgrounds make less progress than other students. The school is beginning to reduce this gap through its improved mentoring provision, so that individual needs are better catered for."

3. "The school has successfully started to address the low levels of attendance and high levels of persistent absence that existed in the previous academic year. Attendance overall is now average and the number of students persistently absent from school has significantly declined. However, the level of attendance for White British girls remains too low."

4. "Though the school has improved overall levels of attendance, there remain groups of students, such as White British students, whose attendance is low. Better systems to support and improve students' behaviour are beginning to have an impact. However, although the levels of exclusion are showing a slightly declining trend, they remain too high."

Blood and Property reported that the school's head Barry Hersom will be leaving at the end of the summer term. Haggerston is where where murdered 16-year-old Agnes Sina-Inakoju was a pupil - she was shot dead in April.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Why is a famous economist living in 'grimmest' Hackney?

Tim Harford, the FT's Undercover Economist (author of The Undercover Economist and Logic of Life and probably other things too) explains how chicken shops, massage parlours, crack dens and murders on your doorstep affect the price of your property.

In a blog post called "Fried chicken versus fresh air" he writes: "I asked the estate agent Anne Currell to tell me what would really bring down the value of my house. She sounded like she was reading from my neighbourhood yellow pages: pubs with late licences; takeaway food; garages; tyre shops; massage parlours; and betting shops. She didn’t mention crack dens, but I think they’re not good for property values either."

Meanwhile a recent post by Paul Stott at I intend to escape... notes how Hackney Homes is turning to religion.

He asks: "Should Hackney Homes be working with an organisation that seeks the 'advancement of Islam'? It is certainly ironic that the Turkish state was predicated on the belief that progress and advancement could only come from reducing the role of religion in government, yet here in the UK the opposite process now seems to be actively encouraged!"

Considering the many varied views of Hackney's politicians on the issue of the supernatural - I wonder how decisions are made about which religions are chosen to work with?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Hackney statistics - don't try this at home

Last week Blood and Property published this story: Hackney's 1600 'ghost' workers and 28 'ghost' claimants

The Office of National Statistics and Hackney Council both supplied explanations for why these figures were not useful.

The statement from the ONS says that the reasons for the discrepancies are 'horribly teccy' so I may have misunderstood them. But from what I did understand, the discrepancy of 28 'ghost' claimants was explained, but I'm still not clear on the 2% leap in the size of the Hackney North working population.

So, what did Hackney Council say?

In response to the claim that there were 28 'ghost' Job Seekers Allowance claimants in Hackney following boundary changes, Hackney Council sent these clipped comments:

Sentence 1: "Data showing total number of claimants for Hackney borough boundaries based on 1991 ward boundaries, however parliamentary constituency data based on recent 2010 revisions."

Sentence 2: "Hence difference in claimant numbers for Hackney vs Hackney constituencies."

Sentence 3: "Hoped that ONS will update JSA claimant numbers (for Hackney) from 1991 boundaries soon."

What I think this means: The ONS separates its data into different categories:

JSA claimants per parliamentary constituency
JSA claimants per local authority

And when the ONS calculates the number of JSA claimants for the whole of Hackney it does so by looking at the borough's 1991 ward boundaries.

However, when the ONS calculates the number of JSA claimants for Hackney's two parliamentary constituencies, Hackney North and Hackney South, it calculates the number of claimants using the latest 2010 revisions.

Before the 2010 constituency changes, figures for Hackney North and Hackney South added up to equal the borough total. But they didn't in March this year. There were 28 fewer claimants across the borough when adding Hackney North and Hackney South than there were from the ONS borough-wide figure.

The latest figures show a discrepancy of 20 claimants between the combined total of Hackney North and South and the ONS local authority total. So it is not a one-off glitch. The new constituency figures show a rosier view - fewer JSA claimants.

So the explanation for the discrepancy is this difference between using 1991 and 2010 areas - this is explained in greater detail by the ONS below.

Then Hackney Council took a look at the claim that 1600 ghost workers appeared in Hackney North after the boundary changes:

Sentence 1 (I think this is just the Council describing what I did): "Based on extrapolated working age population combined with averaging monthly data."

Sentence 2 (What the council thought of extrapolation): "Caution against this: constituency rates use mid-2007 population estimates as denominators, whereas borough rates use mid-2008 population estimates as denominators - data on population size and economic activity based on surveys and estimates, always have certain error term."

Sentence 3: "ONS population estimates in Hackney likely underestimating population compared to administrative data (eg via GP surgeries) and GLA population estimates."

I think this is saying that my attempt to compare the population sizes pre and post constituency boundary change, is dodgy. Which is probably true but I don't think that this bit of the council response explains why. Here the council 'caution' against comparing borough data with constituency data. But I didn't use borough-wide data to come up with the 1630 ghost worker figure, just constituency data.

I used the number of JSA claimants in Hackney North - which in January 2010 was 4,402 supplied by ONS. The ONS also say what percentage of the working population this is. In this case, Jan 2010, it was 6.3%. So, using these figures, the Hackney North working population was 69,873 - (4,402/0.063=69,873).
and, in..
February 2010 - 4,450 (6.4%) - (4,450/0.064=69,531)
March 2010 - 4,336 (6.2%) - (4,336/0.062=69,935)
April 2010 - 4,727 (6.3%) - (4,727/0.063=75,031)
May 2010 - 4,637 (6.2%) - (4,637/0.062=74,790)

For Hackney South:
January - 5503 (7.6%) - (5503/0.076)=72,407)
February - 5,594 (7.7%) - (5,594/0.077=72,649)
March - 5,510 (7.6%) - (5,510/0.076=72,500)
April - 4,908 (7.1%) - (4908/0.071=69,126)
May - 4,959 (7.2%) - (4,959/0.072=68,875)

The discrepancy appeared between February and March 2010 when the working population in Hackney North increased by about 5000 people. Meanwhile the Hackney South working population shrunk by about 3300. It seemed fair to assume that, because these changes were caused by constituency boundary changes, that any increase in the north should have been mirrored by a decrease in the south.

But the figures show that while Hackney North's working population increased by 5000, about 7%, 1600 of these did not come from Hackney South. An unexplained 2%. I'm not sure the council has answered this question (but I'm not sure!).

Then there's the ONS answer. This seems to confirm the Council's explanation about the 28 'ghost' JSA claimants. But I couldn't quite identify the explanation for the 1600 mystery increase in Hackney North's working population - but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. I suspect it is in the bold sentence at the end. But the bold sentence at the end is only for bold people.

ONS: "I am afraid there are some horrible teccy reasons, regarding the way in which figures for geographic areas are created, how systems change over time, when published population estimates get incorporated into statistical sources etc that are behind these discrepancies - but I will try to explain some of it.

"Firstly, the JSA figures. The older system used for aggregating JSA data to higher levels did so by aggregating to a layer of ward geography that was frozen at a point in time - and then aggregating from these wards to higher geography levels. This is the way in which the local authority JSA counts are created and the way in which the old parliamentary constituencies are created. So for JSA, LA and old PC were consistent.

"However, this method is not considered to be 'best practice' for currently produced aggregation - this is because ward boundaries change, so the frozen wards are out of date and no longer align with a real geography and a few other technical issues. The current best practice is to aggregate to a static statistical building block, known as output areas, which were designed using data relating to the last census. There are around 34,000 of the Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOA) - they don't necessarily exactly align with existing geography boundaries - but they are static, of similar size and provide a 'consistent' building block for statistical purposes. They also don't change, get re-used, get used on a temporary basis etc like a geography such as postcodes does. The idea is that if all statistics for all geographies are built from these building blocks, then they may not be precisely accurate with all those geography boundaries - but if everyone does it in the same way, they will be inaccurate in consistent ways and give comparable statistics. The problem is that people are only moving to this best practice as and when new system and requirements are built, simply because of the inefficiency of rewriting all the numerous existing systems in place.

"So - for JSA, LA and old PC are both created from aggregating frozen ward based information. For the 2010 Parliamentary Constituencies they are built on the new basis from LSOAs. So the LA and PC2010 are built on a slightly different geographic building block basis.

"The other figures that you quote will have similar although slightly different issues involved............including population estimate calculation being optimised to calculate LA level figures, which are later modelled to LSOAs, which are then used to construct PCs; employment estimates being based on a combination of direct postcode to LA lookups and PCs constructed from LSOAs; and an added complicaton that survey estimates only reweight to population estimates once a year, so the latest survey estimates are currently based on last year's published population estimates rather than the most recently published."

A character building sentence!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Black female Hackney vicar at centre of political/religious controversy

The Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Telegraph report that Rose Hudson-Wilkin, vicar of Haggerston and Dalston since 1998, has been selected as the next Chaplain to the House of Commons. But has she also become a pawn in a battle between church and state?

Her appointment was not out of the blue, she was on a shortlist and had been the Queen's Chaplain.

But her new job had previously combined the roles of commons chaplain and Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey. However a rift between the Speaker of the House, who chooses the commons chaplain, and the Dean of Westminster Abbey, who chooses the sub-dean, means the two roles are split.

According to the Mail, the problem was caused by the Speaker of the House of Commons refusing to accept the choice of the Dean of Westminster Abbey: "Commons Speaker John Bercow has refused to give the job to the candidate picked by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, who answers to the Queen.

But, according to the Telegraph, it was the other way around. The problem was caused by the Dean of Westminster refusing to accept the choice of Mr Bercow: "Mr Bercow's historic appointment was threatened by the Very Rev John Hall, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, who was strongly opposed to such a move."

Either way, it looks like another prominent Hackney figure will be distracted from the borough as it faces what could be its toughest period in decades. (Meg Hillier will be seeking a place in the shadow cabinet while Diane Abbott seeks to lead the Labour Party)

According to the Mail, Hudson-Wilkin "intends to retain her parish in Hackney" but one of her tasks will be "to read the prayers at the start of each day’s sitting" in Westminster.

A bit of background on Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin:

The Mail describes her as: "Outspoken Mrs Hudson-Wilkin, 49 – who is married with three children – has already been tipped to be the first woman bishop. A controversial figure, she led calls for the Church of England to apologise for its role in slavery and has lambasted racism in the clergy. A friend said her views were ‘radical, Left of centre’."

Here's an interesting interview with the Times from 2008: “Some members struggled with me. They had been told that no priest worth anything would want to come to Haggerston. On top of that I’m a woman and black.... What you really want is a white male priest. But I will not be ignored in my own church.”

and On whether it is right to beat children (film reviewed by Operation Black Vote): "Hackney vicar Rev’d Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who says that parents beat their children “out of love...

“I don’t believe that children have any rights not to be smacked, carte blanche. I’ve always said to my children that the only rights that they have is to go to school, to get an education, to be respectful in the home, and respectful to their teachers. That’s the only rights I’m interested in. Everything else? Non negotiable.

“What I see in Britain is people not having a line that says child/adult. So right now we’re telling our 16 year old that they are adults, and they’re not. We’re leaving our kids to grow themselves, and that doesn’t happen in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, we grow them.”

Friday, 25 June 2010

Andrew Neil: Isn't that a racist remark? Diane Abbott: I've got nothing more to say.

In her return to the This Week sofa Diane Abbott faced some justifiably harsh questions from Andrew Neil. On Taxi bills she was relaxed, on Trident she was relieved, on her comments about West Indian mums she was extremely uncomfortable. She said "I've got nothing more to say" several times.

She made the decision about sending her son to a fee paying school back in 2003. Back then she told This Week that her constituents would understand her decision - "particularly black mothers who know the position I'm in" - does that mean that she's always had this view about West Indian mothers?

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Diane's taxi bills questioned by Evening Standard

The Evening Standard's deputy political editor, Paul Waugh, was pursuing Diane Abbott yesterday. He wanted to know why "According to her claims for "Member Travel (AOE)", the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP claimed £1,152 for taxi fares last year. Individual bills for £192.60, £120.40 and £153.10 were claimed on September 8, 2009."

He did catch up with her and she did explain it.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Hackney legal team trips again AND Will budget spark Hackney exodus?

Blood and Property missed this story in the Telegraph: Apparently Hackney Council was forcing volunteer groups to pay £1000 for liability insurance before allowing them to work in Hackney parks.

The Telegraph's Public Policy Editor recently updated the story: "I am delighted to be able to report that Hackney’s officials appear to be having a change of heart on this matter. At a meeting on Friday, officials reported that Jules Pipe, the Mayor of Hackney, had been “in touch” with the legal department and the council’s lawyers had found a way round the problem"

Does Hackney Council have a policy on inhibiting green fingered residents?

It is certainly a reminder that all is not well in the borough's understaffed legal team which seemed to spend most of last month pursuing The Hackney Citizen into a PR disaster for the council.

Now at least Bambos Charalambous, in-house lawyer for Hackney Council is no longer responsible for running Enfield council as well. Following the elections in May he was made acting leader until Enfield's Labour Party could "find someone with a less demanding day job" (from The Lawyer)

That changeover seems to have happened and Bambos Charalambous is now Enfield's Cabinet Member for Young People, Culture, Leisure, Sports...

Budget: Hackney singled out by Channel 4 FactCheck blog:

In relation to this part of the budget: “We will for the first time introduce maximum limits on housing benefit – from £280 a week for a one-bedroom property to £400 a week for a four-bedroom or larger.”
George Osborne, Budget 2010 speech

"Labour MPs warn of a housing crisis in London and the South East, where rents are higher. For example, in parts of Hackney, the maximum housing benefit is £1,000 a week for a four bedroom house. Losing £600 a week would mean families currently claiming housing benefit would have to move to cheaper parts of London."

For a more in depth look at Hackney and the budget here's the Hackney Citizen's analysis

Monday, 21 June 2010

Hackney's 1600 'ghost' workers and 28 'ghost' claimants

When constituency boundary changes came into effect in April 2010 - before the General Election - the number of Job Seekers Allowance claimants rose by 391 in Hackney North. In Hackney South the number of JSA claimants fell by 602.

Together this meant that the number of people claiming Job Seeker's Allowance should have fallen by 211 across the borough as a whole.

+ 391
- 602
= - 211

But according to the Office of National Statistics figures, the net fall in JSA claimants in Hackney, over that period, was 183. (Figures from documents listed on this ONS web page)

This 183 figure matches the ONS's breakdown of male/female JSA claimant figures in the borough but not its Hackney North/Hackney South total. I don't know if this kind of discrepancy is normal - it didn't happen in the month prior to the boundary changes.

The change in constituency boundaries also seemed to generate an estimated 1630 new working-age people in Hackney North. This wouldn't have been surprising if they had previously existed in Hackney South. But the figures suggest that they didn't.

The boundary changes saw the Hackney South working population fall from 72,500 (average of three figures) to 69,000 (average of the two figures). So, across Hackney South, there appears to have been a decrease in working population of about 3500 (72,500-69,000=3500)

Meanwhile, the Hackney North population rose from 69,780 (average of three figures) to 74,910 (average of two figures) - meaning that the Hackney North population increased by 5130 (74910-69,780=5130)

So, the boundary change seems to have resulted in about 1630 previously non-existent workers appearing in the borough (5130-3500=1630) all of them in Hackney North.

The Boundary Commission changes (details below) were made because the number of voters in Hackney constituencies were considered too low to justify having two MPs.

Latest Hackney JSA claimant count:

2010: working population extrapolated from figures in red.
May: 9,616 (6.7%) (9,616/.067=143,522)- next is Tower Hamlets with 6.6%
April: 9,663 (6.7%) (9,663/.067=144,223) - next is Tower Hamlets with 6.5%
March: 9,846 (6.8%) (9,846/0.68=144,794) - next is Tower Hamlets with 6.6%
February: 10,044 (7%) - next highest is Tower Hamlets with 6.7%
January: 9,905 (6.9%) - next highest is Tower Hamlets at 6.6%
December: 9743 (6.7%) - next highest was Tower Hamlets at 6.5%
November: 9,795 (6.8%) - next highest was Tower Hamlets at 6.7%
October: 9,827 (6.8%) - equal highest with Tower Hamlets.
September: 9,884 (7%)
August 9,826 (6.9%)
July: 9550 (6.7%)

Divided into constituencies: - Diane Abbott (North) and Meg Hillier (South) -

Hackney North
May - 4,081
June - 4,118
July - 4206
August - 4,331
September - 4,338
October - 4365
November - 4386 (6.3%)
December - 4331 (6.2%)
January - 4,402 (6.3%) - (4,402/0.063=69,873)
February - 4,450 (6.4%) - (4,450/0.064=69,531)
March - 4,336 (6.2%) - (4,336/0.062=69,935)
April - 4,727 (6.3%) - (4,727/0.063=75,031)
May - 4,637 (6.2%) - (4,637/0.062=74,790)

Hackney South
May - 5,296
June - 5,190
July - 5,344
August - 5,495
September - 5,546 (7.8%)
October - 5,462
November - 5,409 (7.5%)
December - 5,412 (7.5%)
January - 5503 (7.6%) - (5503/0.076)=72,407)
February - 5,594 (7.7%) - (5,594/0.077=72,649)
March - 5,510 (7.6%) - (5,510/0.076=72,500)
April - 4,908 (7.1%) - (4908/0.071=69,126)
May - 4,959 (7.2%) - (4,959/0.072=68,875)

Background from Boundary Commission Report: "3.12 The constituency with the lowest 2000 electorate in London will be Hackney South and Shoreditch BC with 57,204 electors: this will be the second lowest electorate in England after that of Wirral West BC. This constituency electorate is 12,731 below the electorate quota, but only 2,991 below the Hackney borough average of 60,195. Although the borough average is within 260 electors of the 10,000 threshold, we nevertheless considered pairing Hackney with a neighbouring borough. However, we concluded that there was no suitable partner that was not already paired with another borough or one that met our criteria for pairing.

25. In relation to the second counter-proposal as it affected Hackney, the Assistant
Commissioner reported that, from the evidence gained at the inquiry and as a result of his own observations on site visits, the Dalston ward was more closely associated with Stoke Newington and the northern constituency in terms of local community and transport links, and that the King’s Park ward was more closely associated with Hackney South and Shoreditch BC. He stated that, were it simply the question of the King’s Park ward, he would have been less persuaded to recommend a departure from the provisional recommendations.However, the close association of Dalston with Stoke Newington appeared to him to be compelling. For these reasons, he recommended that the changes put forward in the second counter-proposal in relation to Hackney should be adopted and that there should be no change to our provisionally recommended constituencies in Islington.

29. We agreed with the Assistant Commissioner that there was no need to group Hackney,
Islington, and Tower Hamlets. We also agreed with his recommendation that the Hackney
Borough ward of Dalston should be included in Hackney North and Stoke Newington BC, the Hackney Borough ward of King’s Park ward should be included in Hackney South and
Shoreditch BC and the Newham Borough ward of Canning Town South should be included in
West Ham BC.


32. We therefore recommend the adoption of the following eight constituencies in Hackney, Islington, Newham, and Tower Hamlets containing the wards listed in Appendix C:-

2000 electorate

Hackney North and Stoke Newington BC 63,185
Hackney South and Shoreditch BC 57,204

World War Two 'incendiary device' in De Beauvoir garden

Police statement:

On Thursday June 17 at approx. 13:45, a PCSO on patrol in Ufton Grove, N1, was approached by a member of the public who stated that he had found an old World War II incendiary device in his front garden. The PCSO called for assistance from the De Beauvoir Safer Neighbourhoods team and Expo (bomb disposal) officers were also called out. On attendance, officers found a World War II grenade about 4 inches in length, which was safely removed from the location by Expo officers. De Beauvoir Safer Neighbourhoods team carried out patrols in the area to inform and reassure residents of the incident.

Sergeant Shaju Bhaskaran of Hackney's De Beauvoir Safer Neighbourhoods Team, said: "Your Safer Neighbourhoods team is here to help, whatever crime or safety concern you may have. This was an unusual incident for our ward, to say the least, but local residents have been reassured that the device has been safely removed."

Controversial crime detection device was tested in Hackney

According to Scottish newspaper The Herald, a crime detection system called Sigard could be banned from use in Scotland because it may breach civil liberties.

The Herald reports: "In Hackney in London, the system detected up to six crimes a night, including fights and guns being fired."

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Diane Abbott plays dodgy race card - would she let her son carry a knife?

In an interview with the Mirror, Diane Abbott suggested that West Indian mothers fight harder for their children than mothers from other cultures - and that this was why she sent her son to private school.

Her interviewer, Brian Reade commented in the piece: "I struggle with her defence that it’s a West Indian mum thing. As though non-Caribbean mothers don’t face the same problems in inner-city schools and wouldn’t fight to the death for their sons."

Reade had asked her why politicians from the left were so upset by her decision to send her son to a private school.

Diane Abbott: "Yes, but they didn’t understand me. I’m a West Indian mum and West Indian mums will go to the wall for their children.

It’s that kind of atavistic streak that we have. I can see them in the market on a Saturday morning. A kind of ‘touch my children and we’ll turn quite difficult’.

Interestingly, until now, it’s the one thing that’s got me the most positive response from black women locally. They would come up to me and shake my hand. Because ultimately in their eyes it’s about doing the right thing for their children. But obviously people from other cultures didn’t see it that way at all."

So would Diane revise this comment from a speech she made earlier this year: "I was very shocked by one parent whom I saw at an advice surgery. A young boy came in and said to me that he was in trouble for carrying a knife at school. He told me that he had carried it to defend himself and his mother said, "Yes, he did carry it to defend himself and I allowed him to carry it to school to defend himself".

She went on to say: "Parents should know that there can be no circumstances in which they should collude with their child's taking a knife to school and I said that to that mother."

But do Diane's recent comments mean that she really would understand if it was her son defending himself? Or that she would understand if the mother was West Indian?

Meanwhile her past comments about giving parents any power in the state school system have been unsympathetic - as if the instincts of every parent should be distrusted as selfish and destructive to other children.

In a 2006 NASUWT-sponsored paper (Academy schools: case unproven) Diane said: "... We know what parent power means in London. In practice, it means giving power to small groups of white middle-class parents, or if not to capture by one ethnic group as opposed to another, the best organised. Actually, if you want to empower the breadth of the parent body in inner-city areas you have to look to the local education authority."

Below is a longer excerpt from the 2006 report to provide some context. It also seems to suggest that leaders of London's black communities may not have provided black parents with reasonable solutions to schooling problems:

Page 38: Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, (whose lack of confidence in her local comprehensive schools was expressed in her decision to send her own son to the private City of London School) has led a movement to improve secondary education for Black children. With the support of the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, she has organised a series of ‘London Schools and the Black Child’ conferences which have produced a range of proposals to tackle the problem of underachievement by Black boys in particular. Among the sessions at the 2003 conference was one focusing on ‘Alternative Community Schools for African-Caribbean children’. Yet, despite attracting 200 participants to the session (there are in total 3,000 names on the database maintained by the conference organisers), the conference report reveals that the number of parents interested in taking it further was small: ‘over 40 participants signed up for follow-up action towards setting up and running their own schools’ (Mayor of London, 2003). The fact that the large majority even of those who attended the session did not show interest in such follow-up suggests that, while the problems of underachievement addressed by the conference are beyond dispute, the idea of tackling it by setting up independent schools for Black children attracts much less support.

Moreover, when it is proposed, the idea attracts robust opposition from within the Black community. When the London Mayor’s advisor, Lee Jasper, suggested that Black parents should group together to win state finance to set up separate schools, others, such as Tony Sewell, strongly opposed the idea. Moreover, former OFSTED chief David Bell warned that nation building and citizenship in Britain could be undermined by the approach taken by some existing independent faith schools. There is much more support for supplementary schools, run independently on Saturdays and after the normal school day, but precisely as supplements rather than replacements to existing provision. The ‘London Schools and the Black Child’ conferences have also revealed much stronger support for improving existing schools in various ways, to tackle what is seen as their institutional racism, than for replacing them. Diane Abbott herself insists there is no single solution to the problem, and highlights the point by both urging that there should be more Black leadership of schools and pointing to the successes of Sir Michael Kilshaw (should be Wilshaw), who is not Black, in raising the attainment of Black boys. Sir Michael is now principal of Hackney’s first academy, Mossbourne, but was previously headteacher of a Catholic comprehensive school in another East London borough, Newham. ‘After an article I wrote in The Observersome years ago, Michael Kilshaw (Wilshaw) wrote to me and said you ought to come to my school and see what I do about it,’ Abbott recalls. She took up the offer, and found a school with an ‘extraordinary atmosphere’ of calm and order. ‘It wasn’t a Black school as such but it was in Newham and it was 95 per cent Black and it got such good results that the Government used it as an example of what to do about Black boys,’ Abbott says. Key measures in the successful approach had been individual student targets, a system of after-school homework clubs and well-organised academic mentoring.

Page 39: Sir Michael has taken such techniques to Mossbourne, and yet Diane Abbott comments: ‘The trouble with the academies is that, popular as they are and supportive as I am of Mossbourne, there is a danger that they take us back to that past. All the research shows that if you introduce an element of selection, working-class children will lose out. If you have a borough like Hackney and have four academies and four wonderful heads there will still be a residue of children and I know what those children will look like.’ She adds: ‘We know what parent power means in London. In practice, it means giving power to small groups of white middle-class parents, or if not to capture by one ethnic group as opposed to another, the best organised. Actually, if you want to empower the breadth of the parent body in inner-city areas you have to look to the local education authority.’ In a number of cases, parents groups struggling with insufficient local school places have had to take different routes in efforts to exercise power in the system, as the case studies below illustrate...

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The politics of gardening in Hackney

This blog - Glamorous Gardener - appeared on a Google blog search yesterday (Saturday) and its latest post - called Hackney Council - is a polite but ruthlessly illustrated critique of Hackney Council's green fingers. Hopefully this is not an omen of some kind.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Is Diane Abbott lazy?

Diane Abbott chose to give the Daily Telegraph her first interview since being nominated for the Labour Party leadership contest.

The tone is friendly despite the fourth paragraph reading: "Her critics, some of them women, view her as an arrogant or idle upstart manipulated by opponents who stand to benefit by having a plump, black, 57-year-old single mother to enliven what promised to be a homogenised field."

Diane is quoted saying: "Some people say 'Oh, Diane’s so lazy.’ They don’t realise the demands of a busy constituency and bringing up a child alone...”

Michael White, political editor at the Guardian also discussed this lazy allegation in a blog post last week. He said it wasn't uncommon for Labour colleagues to describe her as "Arrogant, unpopular, lazy, disloyal, the kind of foolishly leftwing MP who had done Labour so much harm since the 1980s..."

White also said that Abbott appears to have upset Hackney North Labour Party: "My apparatchik friend claims that Abbott's constituency party was cross with her for not supporting fellow Campaign Group MP John McDonnell, the would-be candidate who stood down yesterday in favour of helping a black female contender make the cut."

However White said he was a fan of Abbott's leadership bid.

On the eve of the elections in May, Dave Hill wrote in his Clapton Pond Blog: "More seriously, there has to be a danger that when incumbent politicians are as firmly installed as most of ours they get complacent and lazy and dull. Abbott, after all, has recently been accused of getting a bit grand and we don't want that sort of thing round here."

In the Telegraph piece she said that she wants to get married again and that public school was the making of her son. Hackney was mentioned in the piece once.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Police seize guns and "substantial quantity" of shotgun ammo

The police issued the statement below this afternoon. It refers to three guns being seized and "a substantial quantity of shotgun cartridges" in a raid in Homerton this morning. No doubt significant but shotguns do not seem to be used regularly in Hackney shootings. Some experts believe that if bullets for handguns were readily available then the numbers of shootings would escalate. Blood and Property piece on this issue: £2 bullets and conspiracy theories

Police statement: At 7:00am on Wednesday, June 16, officers from Hackney Borough Police's Operation Bantam proactive firearms unit, in co-operation with Hackney's drugs squad, executed a warrant on an address in Ryder Mews, Homerton Road, E9. A search of the premises was undertaken and the following items were seized:
- 1 shotgun
- 1 revolver
- 1 self-loading pistol
- a substantial quantity of shotgun cartridges
- a small amount of cannabis

A 16-year-old youth and a 34-year-old man were arrested at the scene, both on suspicion of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of cannabis. They were taken to an east London police station for further questioning.

DCI Gary Bruce, in charge of proactive operations on Hackney Borough, said: "These seizures are the result of intensive and ongoing intelligence-led police work under Operation Hassium, Hackney's response to gang crime. They demonstrate our intention to remove firearms from the streets of Hackney and officers will continue to identify, target and recover firearms to make the borough a safer place. Today's result will undoubtedly have a real impact on tackling gang and gun-enabled crime in Hackney."

Operation Bantam is a proactive firearms unit created to target gun crime within Hackney borough.

Monday, 14 June 2010

"Shocking" Hackney highlighted in employment report

Last year Diane Abbott responded to criticism that Hackney North had 92 job seekers per job available. The issue has been raised again, this time by the TUC in Dole claimants outnumber vacancies by five to one.

In the research the TUC said: "London is the worst hit area with nearly eight JSA claimants for every job vacancy. Seven of the top ten unemployment blackspots are in the Capital, including Hackney where claimants outnumber vacancies by a shocking 24 to 1."

This looks tame compared to the 92 jobs per claimant figure from October 2009, referred to here by Darren Caplan (Conservative candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in May) - details should be in here Regional Monthly Data - October 2009 somewhere.

At the time Caplan criticised Diane Abbott for not mentioning unemployment problems: "Hackney North & Stoke Newngton has by far the worst situation for job seekers than any other area in the country, nine times the national average. Yet we haven’t heard Diane Abott’s views on this, despite her regularly being all over the airwaves talking about national and international issues."

A few days later Diane wrote a piece in the Hackney Gazette saying: "Recently figures were published which revealed that Hackney North and Stoke Newington had a very high ratio of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance compared to the number of jobs available at the local Job Centre Plus. This is a misleading figure. It does not relate to the overall rate of unemployment in Hackney."

She said: "This is because many Hackney North and Stoke Newington residents find work outside of the constituency: on the Olympic Park or in the City for example. And the figure is based on jobs available at the local Job Centre. But many employers do not advertise at the Job Centre. So the actual number of jobs available to people in Hackney is much higher than those advertised at the Job Centre."

She then made the claim that: "This year Hackney North and Stoke Newington has seen one of the lowest rises in unemployment in the entire country."

Blood and Property asked her where she found this happy news - it wasn't obvious from the ONS figures. Discussed here: Meg Hillier Vs Diane Abbott on unemployment

Last month Abbott's constituency saw an increase in the number of unemployed people due to a boundary change which appears to have shifted the bulk of the borough's unemployment problem into her constituency.

Meanwhile she has warned that public sector spending cuts could have dire consequences for Hackney (like a pit village after the mine has closed)

Friday, 11 June 2010

Shotgun and taser used in Hackney burglary

Police are looking for two men, photofits below, after a taser was used on a Hackney resident during a burglary in which a shotgun was also carried by one of the burglars. The motive for the incident is unclear.

Police Statement: "Officers in Hackney have released e-fit images of two men they would like to speak to in connection with an aggravated burglary.

Police are appealing for witnesses and information following an aggravated burglary in Fieldwick House, Retreat Place, Hackney, E9.

On Saturday 22nd May 2010 at approx 10:45hrs, two men attended the address purporting to be delivering a television in a large television box.

The female victim answered the door, the suspects then forced their way in, and at this point suspect 1 pushed an electric taser into the victim's stomach. Suspect 2 carried a shotgun in his hand.

The suspects demanded cash, leaving a few minutes later- empty handed.

Both men are described at white, 5'8" to 5'10", aged between 25 and 35. Both suspects were wearing dark clothing.

There have been no arrests and officers retain an open mind re any motive at this stage.

Anyone with information is asked to call PC Martin Collier on 020 7275 3232. To remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Hackney brothel closure - and leadership update

A story posted in the Jewish Chronicle yesterday reported the closure of a brothel in Stamford Hill using a new law for the first time in Hackney.

Apparently complaints about the place had been made for "more than five years".

Both Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland from the Metropolitan Police and Hackney Labour Councillor, Sophie Linden, called the place a brothel.

Hyland said: "Residents were subject to anti-social behaviour and crime due to the presence of this brothel."

Linden said: "I hope that this successful use of new laws will give residents, who were complaining about noise and abuse from brothel visitors, a greater sense of security and peace of mind."

Good news for residents but taking five years to shut down a noisy brothel next to a children's centre doesn't sound reassuring.

Will this new law be put to use in other Hackney establishments? And could it be related to fears over a burgeoning sex industry in Olympic boroughs to cater for construction workers: Is prostitution in Hackney soaring?


An alleged conversation between Diane Abbott and another Labour MP - Wayne David - in the run up to the Party's leadership nominations. Conservative blogger Iain Dale, claims to be confident that the conversation took place in a lift in Portcullis House. Dale said: "And she wondered why she had difficulty in getting 33 nominations..."

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

McDonnell quits but Diane odds have widened

John McDonnell has left the Labour leadership contest to give Diane Abbott a chance of gaining 22 more votes by this afternoon.

With a number of MPs yet to decide, Diane's chances look better for getting through this first round, but bookies odds on her overall leadership bid seem to have widened today to 50 to 1 from 33 to 1 yesterday (updated now without McDonnell).

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Tense day for Abbott: surge expected before deadline

Yesterday (8 June) Diane Abbott had 11 votes from Labour MPs - a third of what she needs to be a candidate in the party's leadership elections. She will need to have won another 22 by the end of today.

Acting Labour Leader Harriet Harman cast her vote for Diane yesterday and some commentators forecast a late surge - she currently has the least votes of all contenders: (check Labour Party website for updates, next at 12.30pm then 5.30pm).

According to Left Futures, there were 47 MPs yet to vote - 15 of these are women (one of them Meg Hillier of neighbouring Hackney South).

Abbott's chances would increase greatly if John McDonnell stood down (Abbott supporters urge McDonnell to pull out) and pressure is mounting for one or other to sacrifice themselves. According to Left Futures: "It is inconceivable that they can both qualify and one of them should withdraw as soon as possible in order to give the other time to qualify.... The decision should therefore be about who is most likely to reach 33, and about nothing else. John and Diane must resolve this themselves. The greater credit may well go to the one who withdraws."

Bookmakers Paddy Power gives Diane odds around 33 to one while McDonnell is at 100 to one.

Looks like this might be a nail-biting day.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Hackney fox attacks babies

This story from the Telegraph says a fox attacked nine-month old twins in their own home: "Police were called to the three-storey Victorian terraced house in Hackney, on Saturday night after the toddlers' parents, Nick and Pauline Koupparis, raised the alarm at 10pm."

The Sun reports: "Last night Isabella remained in intensive care while Lola was being treated on a separate ward... Cops went round telling residents to keep their doors and ground-floor windows closed. Neighbour Fatma Pekcam, 22, said: "There have always been foxes around here but now they're so tame they're not afraid of anything."

A couple of weeks ago my flatmate was confronted by the family of foxes living in a hole next to the bins in our communal garden. They didn't bother running away - just stared at him in a slightly unnerving fashion.

As an aside, the fox attack appears to have happened in MP Meg Hillier's constituency. Meg's predecessor, Brian Sedgemore, once had a spat with Clive Aslet, then editor of Country Life over fox-hunting.

Bloggers provide latest on Hackney gang violence:

Loving Dalston provides news of cover-up over knife fights on Kingsland Road

Hackney Hive reports another London Fields shooting with a man in hospital

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Hackney academy silent over teacher exodus claims

Before half-term the Petchey Academy was asked how many teachers would leave the school this year and whether its maths department was moving to the new Skinners Academy.

The questions were sent directly to the school but also to the press office of the Learning Trust and the PR agency of the Jack Petchey Foundation. Spokespersons for the foundation and the trust spoke to Blood and Property.

But, despite emails and telephone calls, the academy has not acknowledged receiving the questions (whether it is correct that as many as 30 teachers may leave the school). The lack of a response may have been due preparations for half term but there are already concerns about how academies communicate with the community. Academies - your secret is safe

When Blood and Property asked Jules Pipe, elected Mayor of Hackney, if the Freedom of Information Act should apply to academies: (Jules Pipe answers Blood and Property questions) he said: "The Freedom of Information of Act should indeed apply to Academies. They are not currently subject to the FoI Act, however, under section 5 the Secretary of State has the power to designate as a public authority a body that appears to exercise functions of a public nature, or that provide public authority services under contract. A consultation last year considered to which bodies this should apply. Academies are now being proposed for inclusion, along with the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman Service, and UCAS. The Ministry of Justice has consulted with these organisations about their potential inclusion and is considering their responses."

Last year Diane Abbott told Blood and Property: "I am concerned about the lack of transparency both in relation to academies and in relation to The Learning Trust itself. But there is no question that academies are hugely popular with Hackney parents and they are all massively oversubscribed."

A couple of days ago Meg Hillier provided MPs (June 2 debate via with a mission statement for Hackney academies: "There is still more to do, of course. Bridge, Petchey and City academies in Hackney, which are yet to have GCSE years, are all working to emulate the Mossbourne example. It would also be interesting to discuss with Ministers the establishment of a 14-to-18 academy in Hackney community college."

Might it be a good idea to find out what is really going on in Hackney academies before asking for more of them?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Learning Trust still disgusting? £2m playgrounds useless?

In the run-up to his election victory in May, Mayor Jules Pipe said that the behaviour of the Learning Trust was disgusting. His anger at the trust - in charge of educating 27,000 Hackney kids - was over its failure to communicate with parents and politicians.

Pipe said that the trust had failed to correct what appeared to be false fears over funding cuts and that it had also failed to explain how the cash had been re-allocated toward poorer parents. (I'm not sure if this issue was the same one raised by Times columnist and Hackney mother Rachel Sylvester back in 2008 and revisted in March 2010: Hackney class war declared by Times and Mail - if it was then the Mayor's intervention was quite late in the day)

In the mean time, should the people of Hackney wait for the Mayor's interpretation of any further Learning Trust communications on cuts and re-allocations? Here's the latest:

Nick Jackson, play development manager for The Learning Trust, told Children and Young People Now that cash to staff Hackney's four new adventure playgrounds may no longer be available due to a £5m cut to the national play strategy.

"It would seem a bit short-sighted having spent millions on playgrounds to not back that up with some funding for revenue," he says. "These playgrounds are about providing a proper childhood experience. Increasingly, children growing up in an urban environment have so many pressures and a lack of opportunities to play and be themselves."

According to the article Hackney was one of 30 authorities given £2m to refurbish or build new play areas. These areas were also give £500,000 to run the new playgrounds. Adventure playgrounds in Hackney Hackney Marsh adventure playground (Adventure playground playworker employment details: £18-£19,000 per year)

Nasty looking smash on Amhurst Rd/Dalston Lane

You can't see it in the picture but it looked like they were still cutting someone out of a car which had crossed the pavement on Amhurst road and smashed through the front of a shop.

I didn't hang around to ask what had happened and, despite being as rubber-necked as the next person, felt a bit uncomfortable taking this picture (which you can enlarge by clicking on it) - it was at about 8.45pm.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Two Hackney women caught in Gaza drama

Press reports say that two women from Hackney were caught up in the storming of the Gaza aid ships and are now in prison in Israel: Alexandra Lort-Phillips and Sarah Colbourne. Alexandra Lort-Phillips was interviewed by the Guardian in January after aid workers clashed with police in Egypt: "Gaza aid Brits beaten by police"

Head to leave troubled Agnes school

Barry Hersom interim head of Haggerston School - where murdered Agnes Sina-Inakoju was a pupil - is leaving to take over a new Colchester Academy.

Hersom was appointed as interim head at Haggerston in late summer 2009 after its previous head resigned. The school had been at the centre of industrial dispute and concerns about money (a £1.3m budget surplus disappeared in a year TES Story on Hersom appointment ).

Hersom ran the school with part time help from Hackney's 'super head' of Mossbourne Academy, Sir Michael Wilshaw (who is registered as the school's official head)

In May the school was advertising for a new Deputy Head