Children in East London defend their School Street

January 23, 2023
10-year-old Ivy from London was not going to stand by and watch her School Street be dismantled by council officers.
Kids in East London do handstands
In November 2022, the mayor of Tower Hamlets in East London bowed to pressure from some members of the community and tried to remove a School Street at Chisenhale primary. Although the School Street was eventually dismantled, no-one had bet on fierce resistance from a group of local children, including 10-year-old Ivy.

“I just got back from school and we were having dinner and all of a sudden we had to rush to the school in the rain. Mum had a WhatsApp message saying that people were trying to take down the school street. That night we stood in the wet and cold, with our umbrellas, holding signs saying ‘Save our street’ and ‘Kids not cars’.  This was the second time we’d protested. Last time they came on a Saturday afternoon, this time it was the evening.

We stood on the barriers so they couldn’t take them away. After several hours they called the police who listened to everyone and asked for the council manager to come and speak to us. After talking to us, the council manager asked the workmen to leave, having agreed not to remove the school street without having a meeting first.  We felt happy we had saved our space, but tired as it was after 10pm when we got home!

Ivy defends her School Street

The School Street was built during Covid to make it easier for us to queue up getting into school and have more space to social distance during playtime. We made it our own by crowdfunding planters and creating gardens. We made glass artwork saying Chisenhale Primary. What I liked about our school street was the fact that there wasn’t lots of traffic and pollution and we were able to use the space for events and talking to friends after school.

School Streets for everyone?

Some of the people living nearby had argued that it wasn’t a permanent measure and was only meant to be there during Covid. The neighbours we spoke to agreed that it would be nice to keep Chisenhale Road car-free, they just disagreed about what the street should look like and were unhappy that they couldn’t use the pavement when the school was shut, which made it a dead alleyway.  One lady was upset because she didn’t like the ivy (the plant – not me!) that we had grown up the barriers.  It was meant to make it look nicer than the metal railings underneath.

“One lady was upset because she didn’t like the ivy (the plant – not me!) that we had grown up the barriers”

This story doesn’t end well as we lost all our planters and artwork when the council workmen came back in the middle of the night and removed it all.  Sadly no-one was around to stop them. We were all asleep. The next day I was walking to school early for breakfast club and I saw all the fences near the school office entrance were pushed up against the pavement and our planters had gone.

This week the workmen took the fences too and have started building work. The bright side is they are making a wider pavement around the school. The neighbours will be happy that everyone can walk on it. But now there are lots of cars and lorries in the road every day and we don’t know if that will change.  We are signing a petition on this as we know that if we work together we can make a difference.

You can read more about the children of Chisenhale Primary’s fight to save their School Street here, and more about our campaign for school streets, Streets for Kids

CONTACT

Barbara Stoll (EN / HU)

Campaign Director, Clean Cities Campaign

barbara.stoll@cleancitiescampaign.org | +44 7985 637 173

 

Celeste Hicks (EN / FR)

Communications and Media Manager, Clean Cities Campaign

celeste.hicks@cleancitiescampaign.org | +44 7957 915 696

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