Balham primary school gets response from No.10 for viral petition

A Balham primary school has received an official response from both the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, after it created a viral petition to save water voles from extinction.

Rutherford House School’s Year 5 class started the petition in June and have received more than 50,000 signatures

The petition received national media attention, including coverage on ITV News in July and an appearance on Good Morning Britain.

Teacher Matilda Pickford, 27, explained she didn’t expect the petition to receive as much attention as it did, but that hasn’t put the school off helping their students get involved.

She said: “Our full-time jobs as teachers were put on hold as we tried to manage press releases and video calls.

“Our role of encouraging activism in the community is always on the forefront of our minds.

“That being said, we are aware that it is so much more powerful when it occurs organically.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan responded to the petition in a letter, which said: “It’s really inspiring to hear from young people like you who have a passion for wildlife and the environment.”

However, he told Rutherford House School that it was not possible for him to participate in the petition.

Head of Direct Communications at No.10 Mandy Goridge responded to the school’s petition on behalf of the Prime Minister. 

She told Rutherford House School that while she would be bringing the issue to Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Prime Minister wouldn’t be able to support the campaign.

The petition asked signatories to take a “Vole Vow”, which included supporting the reintroduction of new colonies of water vole and the planting of flora that support water voles.

The “Vole Vow” also asked local governments to work with landowners, and provide grants to return stretches of river banks to a wild state.

Rutherford House School’s petition cited heavy pollution and housing development as reasons for water voles’ declining numbers.

Wandsworth Council’s Director of Environment and Community Services, Paul Chadwick, told an Overview and Scrutiny Committee earlier this week that they wouldn’t be able to reintroduce water voles to Wandsworth yet. 

He did say that the Wandsworth Council was taking steps to improve habitats in the borough and protect rivers from pollution, citing its recently published biodiversity plan. 

Headteacher Maxine Mallett told South West Londoner she has many plans for Rutherford House School’s activist future, but did not wish to reveal them just yet. 

“I don’t want you to share them with everyone. All the other schools, they’ll copy us,” she joked.

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