Gazette letters: Coronavirus - Brexit, schools, food poverty and parks

People queueing outside supermarkets at a social distance in closed Chapel Market, in Islington. Pct

People queueing outside supermarkets at a social distance in closed Chapel Market, in Islington. Pcture: Andr� Langlois - Credit: Archant

I absolutely support the government’s mantra that we will do “whatever It takes”, which is why I’m supporting Best for Britain’s campaign to extend the Brexit transition period, writes Davina Thackara, Corinne Road, Tufnell Park.

It’s not reasonable to expect the government to secure a new free trade deal with the EU while dealing with a deadly situation on our shores. Extending gives us time to focus on the pandemic now and work out a deal with Europe later.

We are facing a crisis that transcends traditional politics. Nearly half of Conservative voters agree that transition must be extended in the face of this pandemic according to recent polling by Best for Britain.

NHS England confirmed resources they put aside for “no-deal” have already been released to tackle the virus. If we cannot get a comprehensive deal in time, how will we weather the double whammy of no-deal and a global pandemic?

We cannot control the timing of the virus outbreak. But we do have control of our transition timetable. And we can be sure we did everything in our power to save lives.

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Clearly, these are extraordinary times and our most important consideration is the wellbeing of our school community: parents, staff and pupils alike, writes Brendan Pavey, head teacher, North Bridge House Senior Schools, Hampstead and Canonbury.

This is quite a challenge for everyone but it is often the case that, through the biggest challenges, we see people’s greatest strengths. Indeed, the resilience and energy of our staff and children, their creativity and inventiveness, and the incredible support networks offered by parents, friends and family have been nothing less than amazing.

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While our campus buildings throughout Hampstead, Camden and Islington remain open for key workers, all students have successfully transitioned to online learning (using Seesaw, Firefly and Microsoft Teams) and are continuing with daily lessons – everything from tutor time to Music and PE.

Working with Marcos Gold, the Hampstead Village Business Improvement District manager, we are also keeping our senior school car park open for critical care staff at the local Royal Free Hospital.

I very much look forward to when we are all physically able to return to school. The children are the heartbeat of the school and in these uncertain times it is this spirit that they bring to the lives of our teachers and everyone at NBH that is sorely missed. Stay home, keep safe, and we look forward in eager anticipation to the time when we are allowed to return to our school buildings.

We find ourselves writing this in uncertain times, write Nadiya Hussain and Rosemary Shrager, c/o Plate Up.

The past two weeks have seen all of us have to change our lifestyles dramatically, and come together as one. Every area of our lives has been turned upside down, and for the first time in living memory many families have had to consider what life would be like if they didn’t have enough food to eat.

Thankfully, the brilliant people working hard to keep producing and delivering the food we need have come to the fore, and there is more than enough food for us all, as long as we are careful with our buying choices.

However, for 4.1 million UK children living in poverty, this is not the case, and their reality is that they go hungry every day they’re not at school. This malnourishment risks long-term physical and mental health difficulties, including poor growth, diabetes, mood swings, and lowered immune systems. Not to mention reduced learning capabilities simply because of being hungry. 15 per cent of UK kids are considered most vulnerable to food poverty, and in your area schools work hard to ensure they get at least one good meal a day during term time with the free school meals programme. However, during traditional school holidays this holiday hunger becomes a massive issue, when children can go weeks without a good meal. The ongoing crisis we find ourselves in now means that these kids are facing the prospect of being off school for a very long time. Where is their next meal coming from?

Children will be going hungry in your area today, and local schools are doing what they can, but we can all do more to help. Around the country Oasis UK’s Plate Up campaign helps the most vulnerable children get nourishing healthy meals when schools are closed, and learn valuable cooking skills to support their families in future.

These children need us all more than ever, and there is a way to help.

As supporters of Plate Up, we are urging your readers to stand with us and donate £5 to help feed two hungry children during these difficult times, by texting PLATEUP to 70085.

This is such an unprecedented time, but, if your readers are fortunate enough to be able to help, their donation will make a big difference to children who desperately need it.

There is no place for hunger. Please join us in fighting to end food poverty. You can find out more by visiting

We wish you and all your readers the best of health.

Mark Camley, executive director, Parks and Venues, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; Shaun Dawson, chief executive, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority; Colin Buttery, director, Open Spaces Department, City of London and Andrew Scattergood, chief executive, The Royal Parks, write:

As those responsible for some of London’s key public open spaces, warmer weather with glorious sunshine would normally have been just the news we were looking for.

Nothing sums our great city up more than parks and riversides packed with people socialising, exercising, sunbathing, boating, eating, drinking and simply enjoying the freedom and space to do what they want with their families and loved ones.

Of course these are very different times. Never could we have imagined that, following government’s guidance, we would be asking people to think about how they are using these spaces. There is no doubt that our physical and mental health benefits from daily exercise and access to nature, at this difficult time. We are quickly finding that you can’t just take that for granted.

Many people in London are not lucky enough to have a garden, many families are living in very cramped conditions. Our public spaces are becoming more and more important as the restrictions go on. As some parks have had to take the difficult decision to close down it is essential, that we all work together in making sure we can keep as much open as possible.

Please don’t ignore the very clear instructions – go out once a day, stay as local as possible, don’t gather in groups, keep your two metre distance, take litter home, and keep dogs under control and on a lead in areas where you are told to do so.

It’s clearly not okay to have picnics, sunbathe, cycle where it is not allowed or confront those putting themselves at risk to keep these spaces open. By working together and being sensible we can make sure that our great parks and riversides play their vital role in keeping Londoners as fit and healthy as possible during these challenging times.

We are proud to look after the world’s greatest open spaces, please do everything you can to keep them open for everyone who needs them more now than ever.

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