MP Lynne congratulates local student on winning letter to Prime Minister

Lynne with Ione Goodwin and Rhodes Avenue Headteacher Chris WithamTo celebrate Rhodes Avenue student Ione Goodwin winning a national writing competition run by the Citizenship Foundation, Lynne Featherstone MP last week congratulated the ten year old at a special event in Parliament.

The Alexandra student won the ‘Dear Prime Minister’ writing competition, where primary school children from across the country got to write letters to the Prime Minister to-be as part of lessons about democracy in the run up to the general election.

Ione’s contribution, which focused on issues around education and locally sourced food, was selected for its ‘ingenuity in tackling big issues’.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I’m so delighted that Ione has won with this brilliant letter to the Prime Minister. She writes with impressive insight and ingenuity for someone so young, and shows a real awareness of current affairs and the important issues of the day!

“And hats off to the Citizenship Foundation for a great competition. What a creative and clever way to make kids up and down the country learn more about politics and democracy.”

Rhodes Avenue Primary School consultation

From the consultation on expanding Rhodes Avenue School, Haringey Council says:

“The first stage of consultation on a possible expansion of Rhodes Avenue Primary School in Alexandra ward to three forms of entry (90 reception places) ended on the 28 November 2008 …

“The Council has considered the views of the respondents, and balanced those views with the need to increase the supply of school places in the area.

“The Council has decided to go ahead with the publication of the statutory notices.

“The Statutory Notices will be published on Friday 24th April 2009. Statutory Notices will be published outside the school gates and in the local papers.

“This will start the formal consultation process and will last for four weeks. The process will end on Friday the 22nd May 2009. All interested parties are invited to write in and make their views know to the Acting Head of Place Planning, 48 Station Road, Wood Green N22 7TY by this date.”

So if you want to respond to the ‘statutory’ consultation – then go to http://www.haringey.gov.uk/rhodesconsultation for more information – and by all means post up your comments on this blog too.

Good news on school places

Hurrah – my Liberal Democrat council colleagues have at last managed to get Haringey Council to hold a consultation on whether to expand Rhodes Avenue Primary school.

In May 2007 Councillor Gail Engert (Muswell Hill ward) revealed a shocking primary school place ‘black hole’ – out of the 110 children across all of Haringey who did not receive any of their four school preferences for a reception place, 25 came from Alexandra ward alone. (It’s only one out of nineteen wards, but more than one of five of the children without one of the four choices came from there.)

The consultation on whether to expand is long overdue – but it’s good to see our long-term campaigning on this paying off.

Three-form entry at Rhodes Avenue school?

The news story from my main website is pretty self-explanatory:

Liberal Democrats councillors have expressed fears that the crisis over a shortage of reception places for schoolchildren in Alexandra ward is now widening out to adjacent areas.

Of the 136 children (nearly double the number in 2006) who did not receive any of their parents’ four preferences for a reception place in September, 25 came from Alexandra ward, 17 from neighbouring Muswell Hill and 14 from next-door Bounds Green ward. Together, they make up over 40% of the total, whilst the cut-off distances around popular local schools such as Rhodes Avenue and Bounds Green continue to shrink. Liberal Democrats say that action must be taken to deal with the worsening shortfall.

Cllr Gail Engert, spokesperson for children, schools and families, has been pressing Haringey Council since the summer to undertake a feasibility study on expanding Rhodes Avenue to three-form entry, which could provide an extra 30 places to allow local children a choice of a local school.

Cllr Engert comments: “This situation is going from bad to worse, while Haringey Council just turns a blind eye. Expansion may have taken place at Tetherdown, Coleridge and Coldfall primaries, but this is now history and these schools are full. The Labour Council needs to act now to make sure that increasing numbers of parents around Alexandra are not let down.”

Local MP Lynne Featherstone adds: “It is heartbreaking having to deal with local families who can’t get a place at a much loved local schools for their child. Haringey seems paralysed by inaction when it comes to dealing with the problem in this part of the Muswell Hill. It’s time Haringey Council took up the Liberal Democrat plan for three-form entry at Rhodes Avenue.”

The Spinney

Meet to discuss drugs policy. Clearly the Government’s prohibition strategy isn’t working – indeed it could be argued somewhat well that prohibition (much like drink in the most famous prohibition of them all) is making it worse in some ways. Addiction is flourishing in many places and the countries where the raw materials are grown have often seen drugs become industries that dominate and ruin large parts of those very countries. Much to be thought about.

In afternoon I visit The Spinney. The Spinney is just that – a little wooded spinney that adjoins on one side Rhodes Avenue Primary School and on the other Alexandra Recreation Ground. The school has got six months use of The Spinney. To date it has been a dumping ground and little used – but local volunteers have helped clear it up, the school has laid a nature trail and when I visited classes were busy studying nature for real. Absolutely fabulous. The Council have said in principle they are happy for the school to have some use of it in future – but that they will not be responsible for cleaning, health and safety or opening and locking the gates. And the local community also – understandably – wants to have access to the site too.

So – could I help? Well, after the meeting I spoke with my colleague Wayne Hoban (one of the Lib Dem councillors representing the area) about setting in motion a meeting of the key local interest groups – school, community, Friends of the Park and the Council to see where the land lies. You can perhaps see a solution where the children from the school have exclusive access during the school hours – but outside of school hours on a weekday, on weekends and during the holidays it is available for everyone. But would that be acceptable to all parties? And how would the practicalities of maintenance, care and safety be addressed? None of this insurmountable – and I have to say – it is a little magical space that would be wonderful for the Rhodes Avenue children and the local community to enjoy!