Post letters: Clean air, exam grading, volunteer and vulnerable children

PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 June 2018

Unmesh Desai wants Clean Air Strategy to go further. Picture: PA IMAGES

Unmesh Desai wants Clean Air Strategy to go further. Picture: PA IMAGES

PA Wire/PA Images

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

Scrap most polluting vehicles

Unmesh Desai AM, City and East London, writes:

After dither and delay, and being taken to court numerous times, I was pleased to finally see the government publish its Clean Air Strategy this week.

It is absolutely unacceptable that local people in Barking and Dagenham continue to be exposed to toxic levels of air. According to the latest data, air pollution causes over 9,000 premature deaths every year, so it is clear that a government intervention has been long overdue.

However, the government’s plans to clean up our air still do not go far enough, failing to address the main source of illegal emissions in London: cars and lorries. The Mayor of London has led the way on this issue, introducing robust measures to tackle vehicle pollution such as the T-Charge, cleaner buses on the worst polluted routes and from 2019 a bigger and more ambitious Ultra Low Emission Zone.

It’s good the government are finally following the mayor’s lead, but they must take more urgent and comprehensive action before more lives are unnecessarily cut short. They should start by taking stringent measures to get the most polluting vehicles off our roads – and allow London access to the Clean Air Fund. After all. Londoners pay for it so why can’t they have some of it?

Will exam grading change improve students results?

Dr Leonard Restall, formerly from Barking, writes:

The changes within the GCSE exams for 2018 published in last week’s Post have the potential to raise standards of education.

This can be done by relying mainly upon examination results and only using other means of assessment, such as internal assessment, when needed to confirm a students skill at some particular practical subject.

The familiar letter grading used since 1950 will change to a numbering system, which may be more easily interpreted by students and parents, for it is easier to interpret a difference between 4 and 5, ordinal numbers, than between two letters such as B and C, or between a passmark or a merit pass.

A previous A* will be 9, a top score, and 1 the bottom, F/G. A standard pass will be 4, and a good pass 5. A benchmark for schools to aim for is 5. The borough has performed well in the GCSE examinations and is above average for English and maths for the London boroughs. It now needs the local schools to aim for good passes at the remaining examination subjects, which could be very challenging, but not impossible.

There will be 20 different subjects for year 11 students including sciences, geography, history, as well as languages such as French, German and Spanish. It appears that each subject will be examined on it own to determine the grading, and not necessarily be needed to combine with other subjects for a combined pass. Therefore, a student may get a good pass for science but there may well be other stipulations required to go on to further education.

Need your help more than ever

Simon Lewis, head of Crisis Response, British Red Cross, writes:

The British Red Cross responds to an emergency every four hours in the UK - from fires, extreme weather and flooding, to national emergencies including acts of terror.

However, it’s not just emergency services and the government that can help in these response efforts.

According to a new report published by the British Red Cross and Aviva, the large majority of people (88 per cent) in London say that if an emergency happened in their community they would want to get involved, yet more than half (52pc) of people would not know what to do if a disaster struck. In partnership with Aviva, we are calling on people across London to sign up to a new scheme called community reserve volunteers, to help create a national network of 10,000 people ready to help in a local emergency.

Last year we faced an unprecedented number of major emergencies including in London and Manchester. These incidents brought tragedy to so many people, but we also saw remarkable acts of kindness, as people and businesses rallied to help in any way they could. We saw that people want to help those in crisis.

Everyone has a role to play when disaster strikes, even the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference.

It’s quick and easy to sign up online, you don’t need specialist skills and we need your help now more than ever.

So please sign up today, it takes just ten minutes

Vulnerable kids need our support

Lynn Gradwell, director, Barnardo’s London, writes:

Too little is being done, too late to tackle the mental health crisis facing 125,000 vulnerable children and young people in London.

It’s estimated one in 10 school children – roughly 45,000 of those aged 5 to 16 in inner London and another 79,000 in outer London - has a diagnosable mental health condition. Many do not receive timely, appropriate support.

Theresa May said a new approach was needed from government, but actions speak louder than words. We need an honest debate about how society can tackle this growing problem by giving the right support early on to those who need it.

On May 9 in Whitehall, Barnardo’s kick-started the debate with our inaugural annual lecture.

Barnardo’s wants experts to consider the growing evidence that adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs – which include physical, emotional or sexual abuse, being from a household where there is substance abuse, being exposed to domestic violence or having a parent in prison – are a key risk factor in poor mental health and wellbeing.

Being exposed to four or more ACEs, or trauma, is regarded as a tipping point for significant impact on a child’s mental health.

The children and young people we work with every day, from victims of child trafficking and children in care to those who have a parent in prison, are among the most vulnerable. Barnardo’s does everything it can to help them recover and build their resilience, because we believe that adverse childhood experiences do not make poor outcomes inevitable.

We are calling on the government to ensure the evidence around ACEs is a key part of its long-term mental health and wellbeing strategy.

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