Sunday 29 May 2011

Death of Liberty?

Last November we didn't get to plant out a Blueberry bush, Liberty, I got as present, from good friend Rachel. I think the frost's got it, but Nikki thinks leave another year and may come back.

I was going to hide it behind the runner beans, Nikki has put it with other pot plants near house to nurture.

I suppose it's good to keep hope, keep going, even when all hope seems lost. Nikki says 'put your phone down and get loading the dishwasher!'

Will update on liberty next year, if any change.

Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

Sunday 15 May 2011

Valuing our Parks

BOSF annual conference is fantastic, and even though our little patch behind Kings Heath Community Centre is only just able to be called an 'open space', and our group a tiny bunch of parents with children under 5, we've got a lot from the five years we have been members of BOSF.  I was particularly interested to hear how young people were using Parks in light of the new charges levied.

Friends of Parks have been around for a few years, and have been an extremely successful initiative in engaging local people to use and care for their local parks.  The concept of our parks, parks belonging to us, is being re-assessed locally and nationally.  What changes should we expect - is Wandsworth Council leading the way by charging for use of playgrounds?

This year, at least, Councillor Mullaney (responsible for Parks in Brum) made it to BOSF annual conference, but seemed to have prepared his speech for the wrong audience.  Vandalism, joy-riding, graffiti and prostitution do happen in our parks, but BOSF priorities (and rest of discussion on the day) are in the use of parks for all, not the abuse by a minority.

It is interesting (and I think worrying) Mullaney says our golf courses will be privatised as they are a cost burden.  He suggested this will mean more money for parks.  How easy would it be for our parks to similarly be considered a cost burden? Mullaney makes clear he is still willing to negotiate with any private business or voluntary body that may provide cost savings for park up-keep.

I don't think Parks are in danger of being sold off completely.  What is more in question is how much consideration is given to supporting all park users, or valuing the skills of what's left of our park service staff.

Robin Bryan, Customer Liaison & Constituency Manager, alienated his audience.  Same as last year, he presented results from the flawed survey BOSF had helped Park Services complete, presented as 'fact' to tell his audience what we think, and that we are actually blissfully happy with the ever improving Parks Service.  But even in this topsy-turvy world of 'consultancy' and 'listening' there were some interesting statistics.

30% cuts in staff costs, but he says no effect on service provision?

Huge drop in schools using parks since introducing charges for schools, but he says service provision same as before?

Are these efficiency savings, or a reduction in provision to some of the most in need?  We need to monitor, question and challenge changes in our parks provision.

More than ever our Parks needs its Friends, and we need BOSF.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday 8 May 2011

Woodchip Vigilante

Jago's Pirate treasure!

For the past year I've been harbouring a criminal - my son. It started as innocent playing around in the school playground. Then he'd have special items he'd bring home. Now it's daily pockets full of the stuff I'm pulling out to save our poor old washing machine.

It's nice stuff, too. Not the stuff you get free from the council on allotments, but washed, treated, splinter free -  you can pay £15 a bag for from garden centres.

A couple of weeks ago the reception play area was finally cordoned off with red and white tape. Initial thoughts were, what if all the children were taking woodchip? Did teaching staff uncover a tunnel? Was  my little Jago selling woodchip on black market?

Rumours among parents was fox poo in the play area, confirmed in school newsletter when it was announced woodchip was to be replaced by rubber.

As a parent, I can understand removal of poo is unpleasant, but how much of a risk is poo, which is afterall easily identified and removed in woodchip in the daily morning risk assessment schools carry out - (look for flies and signs of digging).

How effective is rubberising a playground in removing risks? Where there are foxes there will be rats, cats and they'll need to poo somewhere. Short of corking the wildlife, you will get poo in a playground.  Is rubberizing really safeguarding our children, or a token gesture? Do the children only play on a large plain of clean rubber, or will some find the holes in the hedge, the dark corners under a tree, or the small gap between the shed and the classroom?

We've got quite a collection of notes from school for injuries of ever kind. Undoubtedly the playground is by far the most dangerous place in the school, but bumps and grazes are as likely on rubber, woodchip, grass or (dare we think it!) any more natural surfaces.  I'm all for removal and management of risks but shouldn't we be looking to see what the children are doing on, or with, any surface before we remove it? Are we risking sanitising another area of school while all the children play elsewhere?

Long may our kids bring home their treasures of gravel, woodchip, twigs and funny bits of plastic, unwanted and sometimes a little grubby, and here's hoping they end up in our garden, and not the washing machine.

Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media