Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New School Consultation - my response

1. Do you agree that the new school should be moved from the Ladywell Leisure Centre Site to the Lewisham Bridge Primary School site?
Yes. I don't think the Lewisham Bridge Site is ideal, but it is far better than the leisure centre - not right on the junction of a very busy road, no loss of swimming facilities for 3 years, site is slightly bigger than the leisure centre site and marginally closer to the north of the borough. However, I have my reservations about whether there is space for both primary and secondary provision on the site.
2.Do you agree that the new secondary school should incorporate one form of entry from Lewisham Bridge Primary School?
Possibly. I believe the case for a 3-16 form school has yet to me made. I am not entirely against it, but neither have I been convinced that the decision is based on educational, rather than economic grounds. We have not been given sufficient information to make an informed decision on this.
3. Do you have any comments on the proposed federation outlined in this paper?
Yes, I am not convinced that a hard federation is the best option. I think the idea of a federation with Crofton School and Prendergast is a good one, but I would prefer a soft federation, which while retaining close links between the schools doesn't have one shared governing body, which I fear would result in a less accountable and more pressured governing body, with looser ties with teaching staff, PTAs and pupils.
Other comments
I would like to make sure the Mayor and cabinet are fully aware of the considerable concerns of parents of pupils at Lewisham Bridge, many of whom are residents in my ward (Ladywell). They require considerably more information and consultation and every effort needs to be made to recognise and preserve the thriving community their school is. Lewisham Bridge Primary School should not simply be swallowed up into one school, but should be allowed to retain its identity in some form.
What is the evidence which assures officers that reducing Lewisham Bridge Primary School down to one-form entry will not lead to a shortage of primary places in the area, given the considerable number of new homes being built. How will this impact on other schools near-by, such as Gordonbrock Primary School, which currently has an awkward-sized two and a half form entry and would like to drop to two-form entry?
It is difficult to visualise how the planned 3-16 school will fit on the site, with separate entrances for the 2 schools and still have sufficient outside play space. We really need to be consulted further if/when more detailed plans are available. Lewisham Bridge has invested heavily in ensuring its pupils have a good quality outdoor play area, with a variety of play equipment and a wildlife garden. It is important to try and incorporate as many of these elements as possible into the new school.
I am concerned that this school will be hemmed in on every side by railway, road or housing, with no potential to expand at a later date. I would like the council to give serious consideration to allocating the land which is currently Porsons Court to the school. This could potentially give space either for 2 separate schools, or for a larger than 4-form secondary school.
I am not convinced that a 4-form entry school will be sufficient to meet the need for secondary school places in this part of the borough, or be big enough to allow a broad range of subjects, eg a range of modern languages and science subjects. Further information on this required please.
Parents and residents need further reassurance about how the wide age ranges will peacefully co-exist on one site. In particular, they are concerned about the risk of bullying of younger children by older pupils.
Please provide further information about the planned sports provision for this school, and how this will tie-in with the proposals for the new leisure centre near by. Will there be a sports hall with facilities open to the local community out of school hours?
It is crucial that this school, if built, is a beacon of sustainability, with significant on-site renewable energy generation, water-recyling, the highest standards of insulation, brown/green roofs where possible, on-site composting of food waste etc. It is also essential that good provision is incorporated for pupils cycling to school (covered, secure bike racks, safe routes to school by foot/on bike clearly established). Residents living in the area have considerable concerns about the extra traffic that may be generated by the school, in addition to the extensive regeneration projects planned nearby. These concerns need to be addressed.
Finally, I would like to note my objection in principle to PFI as a means to fund public services. Private companies should not be making money out of our schools and we are building up a huge debt that local council taxpayers will be repaying for many years to come.

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