Brockley Station - more delays

A while back, we reported that Council officers were expecting a short delay in the reopening of the bridge across Brockley Station, which allows people to access it from the west side.

The bridge and much of Coulgate Street has been fenced-off for months now, while building work takes place to remodel the station and provide greater access to Brockley Common. It's a great project, which has been years in development. Unfortunately, it feels like years in construction too. The closures have added many minutes to the daily routines of commuters, make access problematic for pushchairs and wheelchairs, make east and west Brockley even more detached from one another and do businesses operating on either side of the tracks no favours. If you happen to live in Coulgate Street, it can't be much fun.

The project's problems were reportedly caused by the discovery of asbestos but the additional earthworks required were completed ages ago and work on site suggests no great sense of urgency to get the project back on track.

Cllr Dean Walton has been trying to get to the bottom of the delay and has written about it on his blog. We don't want to be accused of selectively quoting one of our local councillor's blog posts, so please go and read the whole thing for yourself here.

The upshot of his investigations is that there is no clear timetable for the project's completion or even for the reopening of the footbridge. The last response he got came yesterday from the Highways department, which simply read:

"Dear Cllr Walton We are urgently discussing progress on this scheme with the contractor. We are concerned to get the steps opened as quickly as possible. I will advise you as soon as I have firmer information."

129 comments:

Anonymous said...

F***ing shambles...

Brockley Bruno said...

Please could you give some selective quotes from the blog of Walton so I haven't got to trawl through the whole bloody lot of it?

;)

Hugh said...

Good old public services funded by the taxpayer.

And people wonder why some of us feel the only way to lead a bearable life is to earn good dosh.

4x4 said...

It wouldn't happen in the private sector Hugh. As soon as anything becomes Goverment funded the price immediately goes up-ditto the cost of civil servants wages and benefits.

Hugh said...

We need a good clearing out in the public sector. No one I know at work who deals with public bodies (e.g. FSA, HMRC, the Treasury, the Pensions Regulator) for work purposes has had anything other than disastrous experiences. The responses to requests for help are generally late, lazy, vague and often wrong.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that goes down in the public sector is the average intelligence level. See any government office/school/university reception desk for front-of-house proof of this.

Ever tried to make use of a Job Centre? No wonder we've so many unemployed, with the staff doing little more than licking the windows.

Anonymous said...

I am intrigued as to why I have never once seen anyone working on that site, nor indeed at the front of Lewisham Station. Why is this? Have I jsut been unlucky and missed all the frenzied activity hitting milestones and earning bonuses for early delivery. Somehow I fear not.

Anonymous said...

I emailed Lewisham Council to complain about one of their tenants who lives near me and who insists on dumping cr@p on the street. The response from Lewisham Council follows and just sums up public sector inefficiency:

"Thank you for your email of complaint dated 13th July 2009 concerning the dumped rubbish and the anti-social behaviour

We take your complaint very seriously and thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. XXXX will be investigating your complaint and will send a written response from this office by 27th June 2009.

If we cannot respond within the specified timescale, we will let you know."

Basically they wrote to me to tell me that they would reply to me at a later date, and that if they couldnt reply to me by that date, they would write to me to let me know. They even managed to get the date wrong. HELLLOOOOO!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, that kind of thing is all too common. When you have to explain to someone in the public sector how to do their own job, it's little wonder many people don't bother interfacing with them if they can at all help it.

Brockley Nick said...

You can't dismiss 40% of the economy as stupid or ineffectual. There are lots of good people and organisations in the public sector and plenty of incompetents in the private sector.

For every unsatisfactory exchange with the Council, there's one from BT, British Gas or the rail companies.

Construction work is (not) being delivered by a private contractor.

And you wouldn't find a public sector organisation deciding to operate a van-hire company from offices on a busy roundabout with no parking spaces.

Hugh said...

Differnce being, Nick, is that incompetence in the private sector tends to have consequences, including a loss of custom or employment. The public sector is the welfare state writ large.

750,000 more public sector staff since Labour got in, isn't it? Show me what that has brought us.

Brockley Nick said...

Well, better education and healthcare for one thing. More frontline services in all key areas. Better museums and public facilities, etc

I don't disagree that there are structural problems with the public sector and I share many of the frustrations that people have voiced - but that is not the same thing as rudely dismissing anyone or anything in the public sector while turning a blind eye to the private sector's own inadequacies.

And consequences for failure in the private sector? Sometimes...

Hugh said...

Better education and healthcare? Quote a link, geezah.

'Frontline' services in 'key' areas? You mean Iraq?

Brockley Nick said...

Police, for example.

Anonymous said...

"For every unsatisfactory exchange with the Council, there's one from BT, British Gas or the rail companies."

Any chance you could have named three without an enormous history of public sector involvement?

The Cat Man said...

My experiences of the council contractors and local council for pavements has been completely shambolic. This is an extract of a letter I sent to the TH councillors in July 2008 (for which I have not yet received a response):

"... Recently, the contractor dug up paving on Revelon Road (outside number X I believe) and replaced this with Tarmac. I had some concern at the time as there as no signs of heave affecting the adjacent wall, and 5 metres of Tarmac seemed abit excessive so I logged a call. The contractor justified this on the grounds that the nearby tree was displaying the paving slabs which, on the face of it, sounded reasonable so I did not pursue the issue as I did not see the path before the work stated.
More recently, a paving stone was marked with a white 'x' by the council outside my house (number X). This time, I took a photo before the work was started to verify the condition of the path prior to the contractor working on site. Notably, the paving slab was 1) complete, unbroken and 2), had a slight tilt to it on one side creating a gap of <1cm along the whole of one side. I guess this is the reason why it was marked for health and safety reasons...
…Fortunately, I was working at home that day and witnessed the visit. One man appeared in his truck, with an attached 'Tarmac' bin on the back of it. He had no other spare supplies and instead of checking the slab and seeing if it simply needed re-adjusting he took it out and replaced it with Tarmac. Bare in mind this was the only paving slab now replaced with Tarmac in the whole of that side of the road so there was quite a decrease in the desirability of the streetscape.
I didn't understand why it needed to be replaced with Tarmac so I logged a call. When the contractor rang me back, the man said the contractor had the right to replace paving slabs with Tarmac if the tilt/gap was circa 2/3rds of an inch. He did not know how many cm to an inch so I told him this was circa 2cm but the contractor insisted on the Tarmac remaining. When I mentioned I took photos of the slab before it was replaced, The contractor then agreed to replace it back with a paving slab which they have now done but only on the condition I did not escalate the issue. With the new paving slab there is now no tilt and the streetscape has been maintained.
If I wasn't diligent and had no photos to prove the condition of the path prior to work commencing It would of still been Tarmac. The reason why it is a concern is that the contractor did not require to see the photos I took. This suggests that they know very well that they were being untruthful if replacing the paving slab with Tarmac.

The Cat Man said...

There are a number of commercial incentives for the contractor to do this:

1) It is cheaper to purchase the raw materials. Tarmac is cheaper than paving slabs.
2), The labour costs involved in laying down Tarmac is much cheaper than paving slabs and requires less skill or time.
3), the contractor are entitled to 'sell' on paving slabs for profit. Any paving slabs taken up from the paths can be sold for crazy paving despite originally being a council owned asset. In this example, the paving slab was not even broken but it was still taken up and presumably broken up by the contractor to sell.
4) There is no audit trail. The contractor are not required to take photos, for instance, of the underneath of the path to justify why it should be Tarmac.
5) In addition, the Council do not keep detailed records of why such action taken by the contractor was necessitated.
On a wider note, there is a significant issue here that affects the whole of Lewisham. When I walk around Brockley and Telegraph Hill it is disgraceful how much are public paths have deteriorated. From a professional perspective, I work as an Auditor for XXX. If I was auditing Lewisham council this is exactly the type of concern I would have. The evidence to date, although limited, suggests that whatever agreements you have with the contractor are not strict enough and/or poorly managed b y the council...."

The Cat Man said...

The relevance of my post to this article is that it is the same contractor in question.

Anonymous said...

good for you cat man

The Cat Man said...

I know its a long comment, but the idea of a private contractor selling a public asset, as well as receiving a maintaince fee really gets me going!

They win twice = the public loses twice. The council do not even keep a record of the value of council owned assets such as paving slabs.

Headhunter said...

I'd probably beg to differ on the "better education" since Labour came to power as well, Nick. Higher grades in education are blatantly due to dumbing down. As for access to higher and further education, yes perhaps there are more places, but only if you saddle yourself with 5 figures worth of debt!

But back to Brockley station, I only use the station about once every 2 weeks and I have to say that when I used the station last weekend, very little if anything had changed since 2 weeks prior. Certainly it's all happening in slooooow mo...

Brockley Nick said...

By pretty much any objective measure, schools have improved. Building Schools for the Future has improved the environment in which our children learn. As someone who spent his secondary school years in a crumbling hell-hole, which discouraged learning, sport and play and encouraged people to disappear to the chip shop, I believe the school environment we create is very important.

The provision of places has been expanded at both nursery and FE level.

The question of how University places are paid for is entirely a separate matter from whether or not Universities have improved and expanded.

None of this is to say that everything's rosy - it isn't. Lack of public transport investment is my biggest bugbear.

But given that public services and infrastructure were allowed to crumble during the previous government, things have been improved - and they needed to be. Though of course, Labour stuck to the tories' levels of public spending in their first term and improving the public sector is like turning around the an oil tanker.

Anyway, my original point wasn't to argue that increased public spending has improved public services (though of course it has - and only someone afraid of honest argument about private / public balance would try to suggest otherwise). Rather, I simply made the point that you can't dismiss everyone in the public sector as a clown, which is what some of the earlier posters (billiant, talented, efficient workers, each and every one of them) tried to do.

Anonymous said...

The installation of double glazing on the many many Council properties in SE4 seems to be firing ahead all guns blazing, no delays there....the Council has made sure that this is done quickly. However improvements to the station for those who actually work to pay for all this maintenance is done at snails pace....I think it should be the other way around. The government should improve the commuting experience first so as to encourage people back to work, and improve their already free homes second so as not to encourage them to comfortably stay on their a$$es at home all day...

The Cat Man said...

I think clearly increased public spending has improved public goods but the money has been spent in the wrong way - a short term outlook rather than a long term strategy.

I.e. Spending on private contractors & PFI whereby the gov't is saddled with interest every year for decades all comes at a expense.

Yes, we have a hospital but the actual cost is many many times the original asset. Just take a look at the cost of your mortgage over its lifetime compared to your house value - private financing is a joke. For a public good is should be honest public spending with public employees and no private contractors involved siphening off 30-40% of the public money for profit.

Hugh said...

The question, Nick, is whether money spent on public services has been well spent. It's too easy to say things have improved without having regard to the cost of improving them.

I can't remember the last time I read anything indicating that the main public services were being funded efficiently. On the contrary, the amount of waste and poor management in the NHS, for instance, is the stuff of legend, and, on education, I have heard nothing to suggest that teaching standards have risen. You can wave your hands about 'learning environments' all you like.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I don't think a lot of people are out of work because they don't fancy being without a seat on the first train into the City in the mornings...!

Anonymous said...

The ,main aim of the next Govt, or even the current one if it weren't too busy with its "scorching earth policy" should be to increase efficiency in the public service. Regardless of level of money actually spent, which is a political debate, the waste needs to be dealt with.

Why should the bus driver pay for another non job to be carried out or for someone else's final salary pension?

Nick, you seriously think public services are better than in 97? my god. I am fascinated actually as you are clearly an intelligent guy, and, from your writing, someone I would like as a person. You are tolerant and reasonable. I am therefore amazed that our opinions could differ so wildly on this point.

is it possible the poor fabric of your school building being improved, ie something in your direct experience of life, has had a disproportionate effect on you?

I am seriously searching for reasons as I genuinely value your opinion.

Headhunter said...

As I've said before, I think that the course Labour has taken has simply opened up university level education to those who can afford it not those who merit it through reaching the top grades at A level.

Just about anyone can get to uni these days if they or their parents can drop 5 figures on it. It's all about "show me the money" whereas before an impoverished but brilliant student could get a grant and fees paid.

Standards have certainly dropped at GCSE and A level. Even when I did GCSEs in 1989 (the second year to do them) teachers commented that they were not to the same standard as O Level. My A Level had to teach us a lot of basic stuff that he said O Level students would already have learned, and that was back in 1989!

My dad was a Maths teacher til 1998 and he was forever commenting that Maths standards were dropping and dropping before he retired.

I'm sorry but Labour most certainly hasn't helped education except perhaps in constructing new buildings under highly dubious and expensive PPP schemes through which the public purse is forced to lease buildings it pays for anyway from private developers at huge cost spread over decades.

However, having said all that, I'm not sure the Tories would have done any better.

Anonymous said...

re everyone in public service being a clown or not, you have to ask yourelf why they choose to work for monolithic employers and how they can bear to put up with the slowness and lack of progress or any feeling of getting things done. Most people I know simply couldn't stand it.

THese people's characers apparently allow them to thrive in such an environment. They are spongers - not dynamic people you want around you.

Headhunter said...

...As for the railways well that has generally been one long national balls up since 1997...

Anonymous said...

HH, no Govts deal with education as it's along term goal and they have 5 year (max) horizons.

Having said this, the Labour party has done more to keep poor children back than any Conservative Govt, save the one that abolished grammars and indirectly UK grammar.

I would scrub floors before my children went near a state school.

Anonymous said...

I'd send my kids to a state school, but just not one in London. But then I don't think London is a place for children.

Brockley Nick said...

Prendergast and Haberdashers are great schools.

Growing up in London can be fantastic - the world on your doorstep, great parks, not having to wait for daddy to commute home to Oxfordshire every day from his job in London, etc.

But yes, far too many London secondary schools are poor and far too many local Councils seem happy to keep it that way, on the basis that the parents who stay in the area pay for their kids to go private and everyone else sods off to commuterville.

The Cat Man said...

Labour does not represent the working class anymore, it represents a left of centre tory party which embraces the free market and all the crap that comes with it.

If you are a 'worker' than you lot in life has deteroiated quite signifcantly over the last 30 years.

The BBC ran a good article not so long ago. People in their 30's now will be poorer than there parents over their lifetime, and people in their teens now will be poorer than people who are in their 30's now.

We need poor people with higher salaries above what the free market gives us so this means socialism. Yes, that will give us inflation but quite frankly we also need that to erode away are massives of public and private debt.

Hugh said...

Haberdashers for one is enormously oversubscribed. Bit rich to cite this as evidence that all is well in the state school sector when the proportion of prospective entrants getting a place is slow small.

As for pinning the blame for crap local schools on parents wealthy enough to avoid sending their kids to them, come again? Taxes are raised for the education budget in any event. Parents shouldn't have to agitate to get a service they're already paying for (even if it's so sh*t they'd rather not ruin their children by using it).

Headhunter said...

I'm definitely not poorer than my parents, they had 2 kids to feed and only 1 teacher's salary to do it on.

Anon - I realise that many projects like rail and education fall outside the usual 5 year political timeline, doesn't mean I can't have a bitch about it!

Brockley Nick said...

@Hugh - you're quite right - hopelessly oversubscribed in both cases. I was addressing the person who said that they would never send their kids to state school in London. There are good state schools in London. Just too few.

Some of the Academies I have seen in places like Hackney are dramatic improvements over the previous options and have become extremely popular as a result. But of course, Academies are the devil to many...

Anonymous said...

"not having to wait for daddy to commute home to Oxfordshire every day from his job in London, etc."

Bit of a LDN-centric view there, Nick! My childhood wasn't characterised by anyone having to commute in/from London, and I'd imagine that's the case for rather a lot of people...!

Brockley Nick said...

@Hugh - nor was I pinning the blame for bad schools on parents sending their kids private. I don't know what gave you that idea. I am saying that Councils seem happy to offer inadequate secondary school options because they know that the most vocal middle class parents will in many cases take their children elsewhere - either by going private or moving out.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 15.59 (please choose a name, makes it a lot easier).

True, for most people this is not the case.

But it's no more one-sided a view than to say that London is not a place for kids.

I had a happy child in SE London. So did most of my friends. I know plenty who grew up in the country bored to tears and surrounded by people who thought you were a snob if you wanted to go to University or leave the village.

Life's what you make it and it is perfectly possible to have a wonderful childhood in the greatest city in the world.

Anonymous said...

BR Nick, you have a sweet view of the world.

Councils and indeed all politicians want power and control. The last thing they want is for a deprived inner city area to become educated, socially mobile and demanding.

By the way, not all private schools are any good; you have to choose the right one there too, especially for girls where, depressingly, it seems people still have the view that they are educating the girls for a life of ordering menus from cook, supervising the nany and running their husband's social calendar.

If you want your daughter to do well on her own and have a fulfilling career, don't touch most boarding schools and be careful with any academically non selective day school or one that seems overly concerned with social things or namedropping.


HH, I suspect your parents (and mine) managed as house prices were relatively MUCH lower so less proportionately of your father's pay went on that?

Brockley Nick said...

Anon 15:10 - my old school has not been improved and in fact is caught up in re-development hell. So that's not the reason!

I base my views on the statistics I read and the anecdotes I hear. It is very difficult to get a coherent picture of such broad issues but even the most vehement opponent of public spending would admit that they have improved - the question is whether they have improved enough, given the extra money invested. I'm not about to argue that one!

Brockley Bruno said...

your parents owned a house?

wow

mine didn't

musing said...

I tihnk the internet, not school is the main source of education these days. maybe for all of us. how many peopel would advise a child to become a GP these days? I wldn't. everyone I know tells the Gp what's wrong with them and asks for the relevant scriptm, having read up on it from the internet.

This is where Labour have got it right - bring in free/subsidised in and open up a new world for deprived areas.

incidentally, at the risk of opening up a massive debate the other area they got right is civil partnerships.

but, you know, 2 policies over 12 years isn't exactly great.

Ladywell IC1 said...

Nick, wait a while until your children are old enough to go to secondary school, then tell us what it's like.

Choosing a school, if you have or can make the choice, is one of the most difficult things a parent has to do (or not, of course).

Sure, get your child into Haberdashers, it may be OK, don't get that, the choice becomes much, much harder.

And then tell me how you feel about people driving their children in their 4x4's to haberdashers from neighboring boroughs.

Brockley Nick said...

@Ladywell IC1 - we're saying exactly the same thing. I agree that state secondary provision in London / Lewisham is poor. But I am pointing out there are good schools out there - which you also agree with.

I worry I won't be able to get my kids in to a decent secondary school. Then what? Pay to go private, move out of Brockley or work with what I'm offered, perhaps by paying for additional private tuition. Not a great choice. Was the sitation better pre-97? No.

Anonymous said...

If they had not tried to recreate the zigurrats of Ur with the steps ( which have an irritating missing corner for which they obviously don't have the right flag stones to finish) and what looks like London's longest skate board and bike ramp- whole thing could have been finished in jiffy even with the asbestos. Also do seem to have quite limited working hours. No-one there when I catch the 6 22 in morning or when I get back at 2 15.

Hugh said...

Anyone here tried dealing with the courts service?

Another great public institution staffed by workshy morons whose pensions we pay.

Ladywell IC1 said...

Understood, but I'm not sure there are good schools out there, certainly they are sparse in Lewisham.

Good schools are only good if your child fits in.

My son went to a fee payer after he was refused entry into Habs i spite being told he was top in whatever they call that entrance exam, and in spite of us at that time being 5 minutes away from the school - but he had (and still has) a mind of his own and he never held back from expressing that (still doesn't). So although he had a good time at school he was constantly coming up against ridiculous authoritarian teachers who really shouldn't be allowed to have influence over children. Not all of them, but many of them.

Teaching is such a hard job and many people who teach shouldn't be allowed to do it because they are incomplete people.

Anonymous said...

ladywell, do not fear. he will be a slam dunk for an Oxbridge college!

The Cat Man said...

Sounds like parent and child both have a kentucky fried chip on their shoulders.

If I had it my way, I'd give teachers much more authority and remove some of the burden put on parents, some of which who clearly arn't able to know whats good for their kids

(cue link to BBC article about obesity link between mothers/daughters and fathers/sons).

puzzled said...

Nick, this is a genuine query.

why, if you can afford it which you imply you can, would you not automatically send your children as soon as you could to a good academic independent school? eg JAGS or Alleyns for the sake of argument, or another school that no one could accuse of producing lazy underachievers?

Ladywell IC1 said...

"slam dunk for an Oxbridge college!"


I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but, no, no Oxbridge for him.

In the meantime I'll tap 'Oxbridge' into google maps and see if I can find it...

Ladywell IC1 said...

oh, one more thing:

"JAGS or Alleyns for the sake of argument, or another school that no one could accuse of producing lazy underachievers?"


They are both perfectly capable of (and do) producing underachievers. And when I went to visit Alleyns I found it genuinely repellent. And I know someone who's daughter went to JAGS and she's repellent (the daughter).

Brockley Nick said...

Well

a) I don't know if I necessarily could afford it - the issue is some way in the distance. Even if I could, there are plenty of other things I might rather spend my money on.

b) I'm not really very comfortable with private education - I didn't have it or need it, the academic pay-off is not guaranteed, I think it's beneficial for children to be exposed to other types of people from other backgrounds (private schools tend to be rather mono-cultural)

c) What you're really paying for, when you go private, is for your kids to be around other bright children with ambitious parents. It's not really about the standard of teaching. If more "aspirational" parents kept their children in the state system, the standard of state education would rise.

---

It seems to me that whenever there is a discussion about childhood and education, everyone is very keen on replicating their own childhood for their children. So if you went private, you couldn't imagine sending the little darlings state. If you grew up in the country, you couldn't countenance what life must be like for urban children.

My boss is from Belfast and says - completely without a sense of irony - that she couldn't imagine how awful it must have been growing up in London.

The reality is that there is no right model and children are very adaptable. Wherever you grow up and whatever type of education your child has pros and cons.

I think the best thing you can do is give your children lots of attention, talk to them, read to the them and expose them to lots of new ideas and experiences.

Brockley Nick said...

@LC1 - exactly! I grew up with plenty of people who went to both schools, none of them has achieved greatness and at least one of them still lives with his parents...

musing said...

Thanks Nick. very interesting. It's just priorities. I can't think of anything I would rather spend my money on, for example.

yes the teaching is not nec better and yes you pay to be in a classroom of children with high expectations.

completely agree re the importance of lots of new experiences of whatever type - mostly travel and languages for us so far.

hilarious re your Belfast colleague, from our perspective of course.


ladywell, you are a very interesting person.

Tressilliana said...

I have a foot in both camps here as I used to work in the private sector and now work in the public sector. Also, my children went to Chelwood Nursery School and Gordonbrock Primary School (both Lewisham community schools), and my daughter went on to Prendergast. My son didn't get into Aske's or any of the other state schools we thought were good, so he goes to an independent school.

From that perspective, I think there's a lot of blinkered thinking in this discussion. I agree with Ladywell IC1 that there are plenty of children in independent schools, even the highly selective ones, who are not exceptionally bright. Mostly they do all right in the end because they have parents and teachers pushing them, and because they are in small classes, and don't have the same kind of disruptive behaviour going on you see in some of our local state schools. But even then some of them switch off, do very little work, eventually drop out. It is a national scandal that bright children from poorer families don't get access to this highly academic education when they would get so much out it, and so would society as a whole.

It is also a myth that there are no decent state schools in London, completely unfounded by evidence. I would agree that there has been a lot of dumbing down when it comes to exams at GCSE, A level and even university level. That's not the teachers' fault, it's come from central government and started under the Tories, eagerly continued by New Labour.

However, it's a lot harder to get into teacher training nowadays (a long overdue change) and Ofsted and the National Curriculum have gone some way to ensure that all children get a reasonably broad, balanced education.

The state schools my children attended were great. It costs anything up to £12k a year out of taxed income to send each child to an independent school - OK, if your child is exceptionally bright or if your household income is on the low side you might get some help from scholarships and bursaries. But it's still an enormous amount to find. Why spend that if you have a decent local state school instead? And most of our local primaries are decent schools. The secondaries are a mixed bag - but what would make a huge difference to them is getting a lot more bright, hard-working, well-behaved children coming in at 11 with parents who support the school and have high expectations for their children. While we have the current laissez-faire approach to admissions with parental preference paramount, we won't get that in London. The middle classes know how to play the system and will usually get a decent result for their children. The poor won't and so we don't break the cycle of poor education > lousy jobs/unemployment >producing children who get a poor education ...

Hugh said...

It's also a great help to your children if you and the other parent are already very intelligent. It tends to be passed on.

Others think it, I say it.

Oli said...

By the sound of it, I expect Hugh would endorse this frightening leader in the Times yesterday with the following horrific quote:

"the event of a successful Conservative government ... means schools getting round restrictive planning regulations. It would also make sense to allow companies to turn a profit in schools."


Fair chills the blood, don't it?

Anonymous said...

Actually that's a very interesting point - is intelligence passed on?

and also how does one measure intelligence? For example, is an English graduate with a 1st who cannot add up, intelligent? I'd say not. I'd say proficiency across the board is necessary to be intelligent.

oh and why in the UK is it acceptable somehow to say with a laugh "haha, I've never been any good at Maths" (sic, he/she means arithmetic.) it wouldn't be acceptable at a dinner party to say "i can't write an essay or express myself".

what do others think?

Oli said...

Sorry - here's the link:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article6702863.ece

Oli said...

Sigh...

link

Hugh said...

We've just spent an entire thread noting how little is offered by schools not run for profit.

And people tend to wise up and learn more quickly when they're doing so in a profit-driven environment (e.g. when they begin work).

So let's have the case for saying profit-related ventures are lethal to a good education.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon - I totally agree, maths proficiency is hugely underrated. I wish I was better at maths.

Ladywell IC1 said...

"everyone is very keen on replicating their own childhood for their children"

nope, not me. I went to a crap school in Bristol - school of hard knocks was where the jessies went - that kind of school.

Anonymous said...

Nick, that's fascinating. No one would dispute that you have a particular skill in expressing yourself and an extraordinary ability to weigh up both sides of a discussion and conclude logically. those are actually mathematical skills, if not school arithmetic!

Tressilliana said...

I couldn't agree more about the maths, Anon17.25.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon - I can think of several people who might disagree with that statement, but cheers!

Tressilliana said...

I think people whose experiences in school were good are keen on replicating them but when they weren't they very definitely aren't, if they have the means to do something different.

Ladywell IC1 said...

"No one would dispute that you have a particular skill in expressing yourself and an extraordinary ability to weigh up both sides of a discussion and conclude logically"


hmmm, well

musing said...

I think it is an ancient throw back to when Latin, languages etc were the mark of the educated.


Sciences and numbers became the mark of the producers, perish the thogh (!!)

Once you had "produced" and had made some money accordingly, you became an "educated" person via languages etc.

but it still doesn't answer why other civilisations - Greek, Egyptian, Indian etc - did value maths and science.

Different peoples origianlly had different brains and strengths? if so, why? the hotter the country the better at sciences? crazy thought isn't it?

Norn Irish Brockleyite said...

Having grown up and gone to school near/in Belfast until becoming part of the increasing brain drain to the ‘mainland’, I can understand where your boss is coming from Nick. Yep the ‘province’ sure has problems (and increasingly so re. racism and homophobia, let alone recurrent sectarian violence), but outside of the sectarian hotspots it was pretty laid back. Regarding education, the continuance of the 11+ system has its obvious problems, but there aren’t (or certainly weren’t) the issues around private/ state education which parents here have to contemplate… not that I’ll be moving back there anytime soon though…

Anonymous said...

NIB, do you call yourself "Northern Irish" or "Irish"?

Have friends hwo do both, or rather, either, IYSWIM

Headhunter said...

Anon 16:09
"Councils and indeed all politicians want power and control. The last thing they want is for a deprived inner city area to become educated, socially mobile and demanding."

Interesting you say that politicians don't want people to be educated, a friend of mine who is verging on Communist thinks that current policy in education is a way to keep the masses down.

If you teach the huddled youthful masses to aspire to a university education, despite the fact that many of them are completely unsuited to years of study, they're then "occupied" and not on the streets where they're a burden to the state in welfare payments and able to brood over their situation and potentially able to cause political instability.

Eventually these young people emerge from university with their worthless degrees in Media Studies and Social Sciences with 5 figures worth of debt to tie them to the grindstone and once more they are unlikely to cause trouble as their minds will be on getting rid of the debt they have run up and keeping their jobs (if they've found one).

Hugh said...

I also agree that people who can't do maths can't claim to be brainy. Crap at maths = crap at logic = crap at reasoning = dubiously if at all rational.

A grade - A level Maths 1992 said...

Maths is not magic. The people that say they are not good at it are just advertising their disinterest and or laziness for the subject.

Oli said...

Hugh,

Labelling everyone who works in public institutions as 'workshy morons' is just rude.

albert einstein said...

You know, you people know shit about mathematics

Anonymous said...

I'm shit at maths so I obviously can't claim to be brainy. I am hung like a moose however so I feel comfortable with my low IQ status...

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can claim to be successful if you live in Brockley.

Monkeyboy said...

Another worthless anecdote from me. I've worked in two world leading Telecom companies R&D departments - one of those pissed away loads of money through some very bad decisions. Used to work for Metronet, the private company that was supposed to fix the tube faster and cheaper than the public sector could manage - billions overbudget. Now work for LU.

My conclusion? waste and inefficiency, competence and good project management are pretty evenly distributed.

Actually looking at the list above, perhaps it's me? Now if you don't mind I need a lie down. Did a full eight hours today so feeling a little faint.

quick brown fox said...

The schools would have to be an awful lot worse than they are now before I'd think it was preferable to have GCSEs handed out by Tesco.

Anonymous said...

Anyone on this thread still interested in Brockley station delays!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I second the above! Who do we complain to about the station mess?!

Anonymous said...

"it wouldn't be acceptable at a dinner party to say "i can't write an essay or express myself"."

I dunno, I'm pretty sure that would be OK...

Crofton Parker said...

Just wanted to defend public sector a bit - especially about the letter Lewisham Council sent Anonymous@13.00, saying they had received his complaint and would respond in a letter at a later date. I have recently had two of these exact same letters - one from Lloyds TSB and one from Virgin. So they are not just a public sector thing.

Also I have just had occasion to be very thankful to the Council's legal team - in one week they had sorted out a tricky legal matter about property division, which two sets of solicitors had been looking at to no avail for months. I was really impressed.

And no I do not work for the council, and am in the private sector myself.

Hugh said...

"A grade - A level Maths 1992 said...
Maths is not magic. The people that say they are not good at it are just advertising their disinterest and or laziness for the subject."

'Disinterest' means impartiality, not lack of interest.

Hugh said...

Crofton Parker, as a rule we don't fund Virgin or Lloyds (OK, the second is no longer true), so if they provide rubbish service the customer can walk. Not so your local council, which you have to fund whether you like it or not.

Crofton Parker said...

Fair point Hugh, sorry - had got irritated by the inference in many of these posts that private sector would do things better, is all.

Headhunter said...

TBH any response from Lewisham BC is a good thing. Their website used to say (haven't checked recently) that they promise to respond to any email in 24 hours and have an answer to any question in 48 or something but I emailed them a few times a couple of years ago and never heard hide nor hair from them... Ever.

Hugh said...

That's the thing about the public sector. In spite of all the layers of management, it appears that no one is supervised to check that he or she is doing his job properly.

Headhunter said...

Islington BC were always pretty good actually. They answered the phone within 2 or 3 rings, used to respond to emails quickly with actual answers that meant something. They had a noise abaitment service which was quite effective against noisy b*stards keeping me up at night and the MP, Emily Thornberry (at that time) used to send me a signed Christmas card every year!

patrick1971 said...

I received a very aggressive letter from Lewisham Council last week threatening to remove my single person's council tax discount because I hadn't told them I was still single! I emailed the relevant person and got a grovelling reply the same day, so some people at the council do respond to emails.

It was to a person, though, rather than "counciltax@lewisham.gov.uk". I always hate those impersonal addresses; I'm sure no one ever reads what's sent to them.

Danja said...

'Disinterest' means impartiality, not lack of interest.

It has both meanings. The latter is deprecated by some pedants as being loose, but is actually the older usage.

Anonymous said...

A few comments:

1. Actually on the point of this -
This looks like poor contract drafting/management if nothing can be done about the delays/additional costs. If it was the private sector then it may have gone as badly wrong (and the contractor may have charged just as much) but no doubt both sides would now have lawyers involved and litigation would be contemplated.

2. Hugh - I'm a solicitor so deal with the court service regularly - although there are a few individuals who do try and do a good job and are helpful overall it is completely chaotic, slow and a lot of mistakes are made. The Central London County Court is particularly notorious so avoid if you can!

3. Education - Nick - I cannot agree that there has been any improvement since 1997. While the fabric of the buildings etc may, in some instances have improved, that is absolutely nothing compared with the decline in standards, the explosion of "modules" and short answer/multiple choice which reduces considerably independent thought and understanding. While most state schools will do ok by the average child both the unacademic and the brightest suffer considerably by the "one size fits all" mentality. What the govt cannot and will not seem to admit is that not everyone is equal, 50% of people are not capable of doing a university degree (a proper one that is) and however hard teachers try it is extremely difficult with a large class of varying abilities and they usually end up teaching to the lowest common denominator which means the brightest suffer. I've been to both comprehensive and private secondary schools (at age of 14 on one of the last assisted places for bright poor children - another good thing which Labour abolished) and the comprehensive was a nightmare.

4. Hugh - I agree with you that generally speaking children of intelligent parents are more likely to be intelligent themselves - it is commonsense - both as a result of genetics and as intelligent parents are more likely to spend time teaching the child/helping the child develop and encouraging them in academic work.

toni said...

I was the one who asked cllr Dean about the update on the Brockley station delay, and it's good to see that he put the answer straight on his blog after i asked him to do it. However, he didn't know any details about the possible penalties in the contract - a practice common in private sector.

If there were penalties, i'm sure there would be far more activity on the station, and we would get it done sooner.

The question is then: why is local gov not signing contract with penalties?
And can we get at least our local councilors to use the example of our station delays as a reason to do what any reasonable party needing such work would do - get penalties for late delivery in every significant contract.

Finally, in private sector, at where i worked for ten years (networking, software), we always had software for web based task tracking (Request Tracker, or a wiki based solution).

why wouldn't we, local citizens, run a web based task tracker for all the local tasks of wider significance - including questions to councilors. I'm looking into this, so get in touch in anyone is interested. I have friends in Hackney who want to do the same with their local tasks: manage all variety of contractors in one place, online, run by (free online tools) local citizens - since council runs a total chaos which is abused by contractors who love lack of controls.

Headhunter said...

Anon - I'd agree with your comments about education, the Labour government has been intent on everyone getting A grades at GCSE and A Level and everyone going to university. The result is that A grades and university degrees are now not worth diddly squat. One size fits all has indeed been Labour education policy.

Oli said...

People have been wringing their hands about the state of education since the ancient Greeks...

At least we attempt to do more than have a private tutor or governess for the privileged and the workhouse or work for everyone else!

Ha, that sounds complacent. I'm not really, but I'm sure having Tesco and Asda produce a 'value-range' of education isn't the way to go. (What made of cheap offcuts and sold at a profit - great way to become a fully rounded human being)

just blaming Labour seems a bit silly in light of what it would take to produce a real revolution in education...

patrick1971 said...

@Oli: "At least we attempt to do more than have a private tutor or governess for the privileged and the workhouse or work for everyone else!"

It's hardly a choice between the workhouse and the current deeply regressive system!

We actually used to have an excellent system which got a higher proportion of students from poorer backgrounds going to university than any other; it was called the grammar school system.

patrick1971 said...

I meant, in my previous post, that of students going to university, the proportion of students from poorer backgrounds was the highest ever.

ugg said...

a) the grammar school system was good for the 10% who made it - shame about the other 90%.

b) grammar schools were good at getting the children of the skilled and ambitious working classes in to university. Today, those families are considered middle class. The modern working class is the rump of what's left after all the bright and ambitious people moved up.

Headhunter said...

Ugg - Yes, but putting class war aside for 1 moment, the grammar school system attempted to address the reality of inequality.

Further and higher education simply isn't the best option for some kids. The grammar school system hived off people who were intended for university and pushed them harder whereas those who were better for something more practical perhaps could leave education at 16.

Pushing every youngster through dumbed down GCSEs and A Levels for which the all get grade As and into watered down degree subjects which get them nowhere is not the answer. What's more they end up in 5 figures of debt unless they have wealthy parents!

Intelligent students end up bored and unchallenged and those who should not be pushed through education most likely end up switching degree subjects a couple of times, getting hammered in the Student's Union for a couple of terms before dropping out anyway.

Hugh said...

"Danja said...
'Disinterest' means impartiality, not lack of interest.

It has both meanings. The latter is deprecated by some pedants as being loose, but is actually the older usage."

Older = defunct = wrong. Just accept defeat.

As if people who use the word that way these days are aware of such purported older usage.

Tut.

1-0 Hughpert.

Danja said...

It's listed as meaning 1 in OED.

The haughtiness about its use apparently started in the States, so stop spreading horrible yankeeisms.

Anonymous said...

Hugh, your 'clever clever' comments make you look a tool.

Tamsin said...

Totally agree with Headhunter and reiterate what I've said on other threads about the mistake made way back in the sixties in calling them "Secondary Moderns" instead of the much more attractive sounding "Modern Secondaries".

Interesting also your Communist friend's concept of the reasoning behind it all that you mentioned yesterday. Don't think it is actually delilberate - just woolly headed liberalism doing the damage - but pushing kids who are no suited to it into tertiary education and burdening them with debt in the process is really messing with people's lives to a criminal degree.

Anonymous said...

Education, either private or provided by state institutions, is primarily the concern of the socially ambitious who see it as the path to well paid professional/technical jobs for their children.

There are a great many people who do not have socially ambitious parents rooting for them, moving house, paying fees and private tutors....in short doing anything to get their little ones ahead in the rat race.

This is the great cultural divide.

Much of the comment I have read in this thread seems to lament the old certainties of a time gone by. Forgetting quite how unfair it all was.

If the education system does not provide everyone with a opportunity to learn and develop useful skills then we will have a growing underclass that is marginalised and frustrated.

It ain't difficult to imagine the consequences.

Maybe it is best to start saving for place in gated community.

The education system should be completely state managed and provide a good standard for all distributed according to their ability. It seems quite absurd to have our best educational resources reserved for the established elite (and the newly minted) to develop social networks for their offspring no matter how mediocre they may be.

Every child should have an equal chance. It should not depend on their parents. That would be step towards liberating the untapped talent of the nation instead of having the country run by buffoons.

Tombat said...

I don't understand what is being done at Brockley Station - lots of concrete - a vast ramp that will add almost 100 yards to the journey from street to ticket hall - big ugly steps ... and after all this hoo-hah and inconvenience (going on for much more than the three extra weeks ... how long *has* it been) + almost £200K (scandal), no greater access, it appears, to the London-bound platform - it seems not just the most god-awful bit of project management, but also mindless and meaningless design. So there is better access to buy a ticket ... then what? ... err ... or maybe I have just got it all wrong.

Anonymous said...

Tombat, I agree I thought it was supposed to be in similar materials to the previous ramps etc. If the station building was more than a asbetos portacabin the grandeur of the steps which are like a Busby Berkley musical set would be understandable but I don't get it at all.

Anonymous said...

Plus, the removal of all the sorrounding trees makes it even more of an eyesore.

Anonymous said...

Headhunter - totally agree with your comments re grammar school and university system. Nicely put.

Tombat said...

In the cold light of day ... ranting less. My key question is: why was improving access to London-bound platform not addressed by any of these changes. If you have mobility issues, or you have children in a pram, it is really hard just getting on to the up-line platform. That was always what struck me as the key design issue at Brockley station. Does anyone know if this is going to be addressed in any subsequent station upgrading?

Brockley Nick said...

Tombat, yes there are plans to sort that bigger challenge out eventually. The current works were actually designed to improve access to the Common and create a better public space, rather than to be a proper upgrade of the station. If you click on the Brockley Station keyword, you can read articles about the wider redevelopment of the station, which should include improved access on the west side and disabled / pushchair access to the north-bound platform.

Headhunter said...

Anon 20:54 - I agree that equal access to education is ideal but the current system does not provide this, it simply provides access for those who are willing to pay.

Under the previous system, university places were limited to the top 5% (or whatever the number is) and under a State funded system anyone from any background, rich or poor could win a grant and have their fees paid as long as they attained a certain standard in A Levels.

Under the current system, grade As are as common as muck and every other 20 year old is in university and the degree is no longer a respected educational achievment but has almost become a necessity to get even the most banal job, which in turn means that youngsters are forced into tertiary education (at great cost) simply to get a basic job. What's the point?

Some people are simply not interested in studying Economics to the nth degree and why should they have to? Far better to get them out working or into apprenticeships etc. This is what the govt should be focusing on rather than trying to send every 19 year old into university which is utterly pointless.

I'm not saying this because I support the class system, gated communities etc, I just think we have to address people's differences. You can't push everyone through a "one size fits all" training ground. Bring back a split Grammar and Modern Secondary/Secondary Modern and then split Unis from Technical Colleges and Polytechnics again.

Some people are not interested in education and there's absolutely nothing wrong with this, it certainly isn't a sign of failure. Some of the wealthiest, most successful business people out there didn't and wouldn't have wanted to go to uni and that's absoluetly fine.

Anonymous said...

Again, a round of appalause to HH for speaking sense.

Hugh said...

Anyone with the beginnings of a grasp of the social history of this country will be aware that the English working class have always had a deep-rooted antipathy towards self-improvement. I expect this will annoy certain readers but it is the academic consensus.

Anonymous said...

Anyone with the beginnings of a grasp of the sporting history of the Tour de France would not describe Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond as:

"Better at being old, slow and bald, for sure"

Hugh said...

Ah, the fat boy is here. Nobbly tyres and a Halfords shopper?

Anonymous said...

That as good as you can do Hugh?

Headhunter said...

Reminds me of one of those sketches when blokes take it in turns to take the p*ss out of each others mothers - "Yo momma so fat, she.... blah, blah"

Tressillian James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tressillian James said...

Back up your 'academic concensus' Hugh re 'Anyone with the beginnings of a grasp of the social history of this country will be aware that the English working class have always had a deep-rooted antipathy towards self-improvement'

I can show you family histories where the working class improved themselves when given the opportunity. That opportunity often came via the grammar school system that finally gave them access to an equal standard of education that the middle classes were enjoying

Anonymous said...

Opportunities are not restricted to benefiting from a grammar school education, or, indeed, education.

Tressilliana said...

The last time we had this discussion I think I pointed out that one of the reasons the 11+ was abolished in most parts of England and throughout Scotland (don't know about Wales and it's still clinging on for dear life in NI) was that some members of the middle classes were absolutely aghast that their children were not guaranteed places at grammar school. Some of them were ending up in secondary moderns! And rather than getting stuck in and supporting those schools, many of those who could afford it put their children into non-selective fee-paying schools and lobbied the government to move to a comprehensive system.

Until the class system has less of a stranglehold on English society I don't give much for the chances of achieving an education system that gives every child a good start in life.

Anonymous said...

I don't necessarily want a "good" start (brace of a grades) for my kids an ok start (ability to read, write, do sums) will do. But what some schools appear to do is give them a bad start, by allowing ill discipline, violence and bullying to go on and that's kids towards the teachers.

Headhunter said...

I think the class system already does have less of a stranglehold on UK society than it did a few decades ago when grammar schools were around, but even now, without the grammar school system, middle class parents will send their kids to fee paying scools if they can afford it, so I doubt bringing back some kind of selection to the education system would lead to further division along class lines necessarily.

For me, the only disdvantage is that it forces selection on kids at a very young age, being honest with myself, I may not have made it into grammar school. At the age of 10 or 11 my school reports usually read something along the lines of "has intelligence but doesn't use it". At that age I hadn't fully developed and couldn't really be bothered to put much effort into school.

Tressillian James said...

In my family's case the grammar schools were the 'leg up' that was needed. Pre WW2 my family were finding it hard in inner city London to do anything but labouring. Once the grammar schools came, all the siblings won places and became (from one generation): accountant, air traffic controller, manager of a telephony, and what would now be termed as personal assistant.

The jump has everything to do with education and chances. And yes something to do with working opportuinites in the early 1950s Britain when they came out of grammar. Hugh's blase comments re the working classes are 20th Century middle class nonsense.

Building Materials Supplies said...

Brockley Station - more delays

Thanks for sharing

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