Question (a) from Youth Councillor Jemelia Furtado to Councillor Webbe, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:
A Times investigation shows there are around 6,500 British schools, with 2.6m pupils, in areas where air pollution levels exceed World Health Organisation limits. The total includes 3,900 nursery and primaries. The numbers involve fine particles, known as PM2.5, which are the most dangerous form of air pollution. Every school in London is over the limit. What is Islington Council doing to improve air quality to minimise damage to young people’s health in the borough?
Thank you for your question. This is a very important issue. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to air pollution. Air quality in Islington is improving but we are determined to do more to tackle this silent killer as quickly as possible. Our Air Quality Strategy includes a detailed Action Plan which sets out what we will do to improve air quality in the borough.
In terms of air quality outside of schools, we have already installed air quality monitors as all schools across the borough. We are the first council to do this and are using the data collected to produce an audit report which will describe the specific pollution related to each school and what actions can be taken to reduce pollution and reduce exposure. Of course we also encourage our residents to walk and cycle.
It is important to remember that children are exposed to the highest levels of pollution not whilst they are in school but on the commute to and from school. In Islington we have 37 primary schools and 7 secondary schools which exceed the nationally set carbon level. As part of our efforts to clean up our air around our schools, earlier this month I opened our tenth School Street, just over six months after opening the first. We are moving at speed, we are ahead of other boroughs, and we want to do this for all schools. School Streets close roads near schools to all vehicles, except those with exemptions, at drop off and pick up times. This helps to reduce pollution, as well as encouraging road safety and encouraging people to walk, cycle and scoot to school.
I was delighted to mark Clean Air Day by launching our pioneering Moreland Street scheme, the road has been completely redesigned in favour of children and local people walking and cycling, with wider footways, traffic calming measures and new plants and seating. All of which was designed by the children of Moreland Primary School and Moreland Children’s Centre themselves. This makes our streets healthier and safer for local children walking to and from school, this is real action we have taken. We agree that tackling poor air quality is extremely important and we are committed to doing all that we can. Thank you again for raising this important question.
Question (b) from Youth Councillor Lydia Banjo to Councillor Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Children, Young People & Families:
A Government review led by former children’s minister Edward Timpson is to recommend that schools must be held accountable for the results of excluded children, with head teachers responsible for pupils even after they have been expelled. The review is also expected to say there is a correlation, but not causation between exclusions and gang violence.
What can Council Leaders do encourage Heads to reduce exclusions and provide more support to young people who may have issues leading to challenging behaviour?
Thank you for your question and for raising this important issue. Our mission is to make Islington a fairer place for all, especially young people. To achieve that we want Islington to be the best possible place to grow up.
Exclusions are ultimately an issue of fairness. We believe they should only be used as the very last resort. We’ve had a brilliant scrutiny review of exclusions which ran in parallel to the Timpson review and our own recommendations were very similar to the findings of the Timpson Review. As an example, both reports identified inconsistent practice, school ethos, fairness, inclusion and cost as key factors at play.
The Timpson review also made many of the same recommendations to reduce the number of exclusions, including the development of Behaviour and Attendance Partnerships involving all schools, and taking a whole school approach. Our Safeguarding Board has also been running trauma-informed practice training for all our schools which I hope will make a real impact.
We also agree with the recommendations that the Department of Education, should make schools responsible for the young people they exclude and accountable for their educational outcomes’ and hope that the Secretary of State for Education, Damien Hinds will deliver on his promise to consult with schools and councils on how to take this forward.
As a council we are now developing an action plan in response to the Timpson Review and our own review. The next time I meet the Youth Council I am happy to talk you through what we are doing on this issue.
As a Youth Council we have worked with Headteachers to tackle the issue of young people being excluded. As young people ourselves we know people who have been excluded for reasons we don’t agree with, one young person was excluded after being stabbed. We think a problem is that Headteachers aren’t working collectively together on these type of issues. We want to know how you will push these Headteachers to work collectively to bring about change for young people.
Thank you. I cannot comment on particular cases, but I absolutely empathise with the difficult position of schools in dealing with very worrying safeguarding issues, particularly when knife crime is involved. Exclusion has a long term impact on a person’s life and decisions cannot be taken lightly. I mentioned our trauma informed practice training, this looks to support teachers in understanding young people’s issues, particularly those involved in criminal activity and child exploitation. It’s really important. We also want to set up a board that reviews exclusions, involving all schools, so we can share best practice and concerns, and support schools more in identifying concerning behaviours early on.
Question (c) from Youth Councillor Abubakar Finiin to Councillor Webbe, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:
As you know young people have a real interest in climate change and many of us took part in the recent protests. Islington currently recycles just under 30% of household waste, whilst we are pleased that this is the 5th highest of the 13 inner London Boroughs. We are also pleased with the new recycling bins on the streets.
What more can be done to increase recycling and get businesses and residents to
reduce waste in the borough?
Firstly, can I thank you for your activism on the issue of climate change. It’s been fantastic to witness local young people at the heart of these campaigns.
I’d also like to echo your comments about the positive recycling rates in our borough. As a central London borough, especially with a large number of flats and estates, maintaining a high recycling rate can be challenging. Resident’s engagement with the service in delivering such high-levels of recycling is crucial and we are pleased they continue to do so. However, as you have highlighted in your question there is more that we can and must do to help manage the increasing environmental issues we all face.
We have produced a Waste Reduction and Recycling Strategy which includes details of how we will deliver key waste reduction and recycling targets for the years ahead. As a borough we are absolutely committed to providing an ambitious plan to contribute to London’s overall targets and to drive both waste reduction and improved recycling performance.
Key areas we are targeting for improvement include a programme for the improvement of communal recycling sites, and a recycling champions programme to encourage engaged residents to learn more and engage with other borough residents. It is not just about residents; it is about businesses too. We provide comprehensive services to recycle waste from businesses, however we are exploring extending our food waste service to commercial properties, as well as flats and apartments, which would mean the provision of food waste recycling to almost all properties in the borough.
It’s not just about recycling, it’s about re-use, it’s about dealing with the producers of waste in the borough. Businesses must do more to take action, they must recycle more, and we will support them by offering a comprehensive service. We will also tackle the producers of unnecessary waste and challenge them in private and in public as well.
Question (d) from Youth Councillor Jemelia Furtado to Councillor Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Children, Young People & Families:
We successfully collaborated with the Islington Safer Neighbourhood Board, Ben
Kinsella Trust and Targeted Youth Support to organise and deliver YouthFest. Over 200 young people attended the event at Lift Youth Hub. It gave us a chance to engage with our peers on a Friday night and share some of the positive opportunities available for young people in the borough.
What collaborations and partnerships is the Council actively forging to reduce knife crime and youth violence in the borough?
Thank you for your question on this important issue and your work on YouthFest, it was a brilliant event and I look forward to the next one. It was a wonderful way to show how the majority of young people are engaged in positive and meaningful activities and to really showcase all of the positive things we have on offer.
I completely agree that partnership working and taking a community response to the devastating effects of knife crime is the way to go, I’m proud to say that we’ve protected our Youth Hubs and our Children’s Centres and we’ve also invested a further £500,000 in targeted support for young people in acute need of additional help.
I also want to mention, as an example of great partnership working, our Integrated Gangs Team. This service brings together council staff, the police and other partner organisations and is having really positive outcomes in diverting young people away from criminal behaviour. We are also working closely with schools and parents, we’ve been doing a lot of training around trauma and knife crime prevention, and tomorrow Cllr Watts and I are meeting community partners and Jeremy Corbyn MP on what we can do together. I’m really looking forward to working with the Youth Council on this issue too. I know it’s one of your key priorities and I’d welcome any ideas you have in this area.