Human rights and equality for all
I am committed to improving the lives of families and children in our borough. I believe that it’s time for a Green transformation, to turn Hackney into a nurturing place for every child and young person.
In the face of the cost of living crisis, I will champion the priorities of children, young people, parents, carers and teachers to develop a child-centred education sector, designed for and with diverse local communities.
As a councillor I have been lucky to meet so many children and families who love our borough and can imagine a bright future here. But scratch the surface and there are huge problems which need to be urgently addressed.
I am alarmed by how many children we are losing from our borough, due to a number of reasons including falling birth rate, Brexit, the increase in Free Schools and state-led gentrification (see Chapter 4 ‘Housing’). Although some school closures may be inevitable, the council has handled them poorly, not consulting with parents and communities at an early enough stage. I will ensure that difficult decisions take place transparently, to properly consider all options before even considering closures.
Hackney is the borough with the most academies in London, and not surprisingly, it also has one of the highest school exclusion rates in the country. We need dedicated posts in schools for mentors, counsellors and family support workers to ensure individual support and positive relationships with a named staff member.
We need collaboration between mainstream schools and pupil referral units, because staff in alternative provision have expertise and skills which can be offered to mainstream schools.
I will prioritise child-centred methods in Hackney education which understand that children and young people are traumatised by poverty, racism and other forms of discrimination and oppression. It is time to engage with challenging behaviours as a symptom of wider oppressions, in order to address the root causes and offer the possibility of healing.
Many children and parents in Hackney can already imagine a borough designed by them, for them – and as Mayor, I want to make their vision a reality.
Too frequently off-rolling is used by schools to hide exclusions. The system needs to be improved so the Council knows where every child and young person is within the education system, by mandating proper records so there is transparency around the date and reason for all managed moves. Transitions to home education need to be properly recorded on school information systems before pupils can be removed from the school roll. I will champion robust and transparent new systems.
Exclusions are intricately related to institutional racism. Nationally, Black Caribbean pupils are permanently excluded from school at three times the rate of White British pupils, and Gypsy Roma and Traveller children are permanently excluded at five times the rate of White British pupils (Department for Education Timpson Review, 2019).
Further, students with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) are five times more likely to be excluded from school than students without an EHC plan. Figures for students with undiagnosed special educational needs (SEND) are likely to be much higher but are not currently recorded. Following the Covid pandemic and the national emphasis on catch-up, SEND students are facing greater pressures with reduced support from specialist teaching assistants, learning support assistants and mental health professionals. The way a school or college operates its behaviour management policy can have a highly negative and exclusionary impact on SEND students. Autistic students are the largest group of SEND learners to be excluded.
Schools can make a difference and must create spaces with adequate and professional support opportunities to consider, and respond to, the impact of racism, poverty and mental health on their student population. Anti-racist policies are needed now, more than ever, as the legacy of Covid-19 casts a long shadow over our educational systems.
As Mayor, I will not hesitate to take academies to court for behaviour management policies where they appear to constitute a breach of the Equality Act.
Our children and young people with special needs and disabilities (SEND) deserve greater support. My mum was a SEND Coordinator at a large secondary school and from this I care passionately about SEND children being included and being given opportunities for them to live full lives.
When working in the NHS, I’ve been responsible for the health element of the EHCPs in a London borough as well as provision for children with life-limiting conditions (in receipt of Continuing Care funding). I worked closely with parent and carer groups – and from this understand how exhausting and stressful it is for parents and carers to have to relentlessly advocate for their children’s needs. I met with parents and carers regularly and together we increased their participation in decision-making, scrutiny of EHCP content and to hear their voices in improving health provision for their children. I also worked closely with SEND young people in designing the Local Offer.
I commit to reviewing the ways partent, carers and young people with SEND are included in decisions about their life and work hard to improve provision for SEND children.
Nearly 20% of local households are “income deprived”, meaning they are either out of work or on low earnings, while 8% of our 16 to 65 population have no qualifications.
Almost half (48%) of the borough’s children are living in poverty, with many more now at risk of falling into poverty due to sky-rocketing living costs. I am committed to working towards a Hackney free of child poverty.
Having recently met with “4in10”, London’s Child Poverty Network, I know that one of the main causes of poverty is a lack of affordable child care, preventing parents from taking up or continuing with secure work.
As a councillor, I have supported campaigns to save Fernbank and Hillside Children’s Centres, and as Mayor, I will have greater powers to protect subsidised child care.
I pledge to:
Human rights and equality for all
We are at crisis point. My plan to take action.
Everyone deserves a safe, secure and affordable home
Giving residents more power over their lives, homes and communities.
Every resident has the right to fair and just policing
A future for every child and young person
Cleaner air and safe, healthy streets for every resident
A mission to build community wealth.
Green spaces benefit people and our planet
Rethinking our use of resources