Sunday, January 14, 2007

Meeting on New School Proposal

Attended the public consultation meeting at Lewisham Bridge Primary School last Wednesday about the new school proposals. The meeting was packed out and it's fair to say that the majority of people there had considerable concerns about the plans to build a secondary school at Lewisham Bridge. Lots of Lewisham Bridge Primary School pupils and staff, along with local residents, New School Campaigners and a number of councillors. No Mayor or Cabinet member for education there as it clashed with a Mayor & Cabinet meeting.

Some of the worries people raised were about space (is the site big enough), fear of primary children being bullied by older kids, lack of evidence of any benefit of a 3-16 through school over seperate primary and secondary schools, concern that there would be a shortage of primary school places in the area if Lewisham Bridge primary dropped to one form entry, concern that a four form entry secondary school isn't big enough and will be limited in the range of subjects it could provide, concern that the school would be hemmed in with no room to expand (could adjacent land earmarked for new housing be incorporated into the school site?), parking worries, reduction in playground space, opposition to the proposed PFI funding, opposition to the proposals for a hard federation with Crofton School and Prendergast School.

I think part of the problem is that it's very difficult to visualise how this school will work and what it will look like at this early stage, without any drawings. It'll be one school, but needs to have seperate entrances and play spaces for the different age groups. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but my gut feeling is that this is still a better plan than a secondary at Ladywell Leisure Centre.

I share residents' concerns over the PFI funding of the school, as I do over the PFI funding for all the decent homes work in the area, the new building at the hospital, even the proposed new street lighting for the borough is being financed by PFI. We are borrowing huge amounts of money that will be being repaid at extra cost through our council tax over the next 25 years or more. Green Party national policy is firmly against PFI. That said, we're not in government and if the choice we are given in this case is a PFI school or no school, I might have to cross my fingers and reluctantly accept the PFI school.

I also share residents concerns over the hard federation and will be expressing this in my response to the consultation (deadline for responses is tomorrow, 15th January). I can see the benefits of schools collaborating closely, but don't see the advantages of having a chief executive and only one governing body in charge of 3-4 schools . It seems less accountable to me and risks leaving parents, PTAs and staff feeling disenfranchised.

Anyway, whatever your views, make them known.

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