Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gordonbrock decant delay - a bit more info

I've been out and about in the ward over the past few days, spoken to a fair few residents and understandably the delay to Gordonbrock School's decant is the number one issue on many people's minds. Lots of concern over the impact this will have on pupils, some children in tears at the news (having spent a large part of this term preparing for the decant), parents left out of pocket having arranged childcare for the extended holidays that wouldn't now be needed and on the whole, great annoyance.

Even some of those who had not been keen on the rebuild plans or the prospect of their children being bussed to Greenville for 18 months said they had got used to the idea, prepared their children, and now the rug has been pulled from under them. Unsurprisingly, I didn't meet a single parent delighted at the prospect of their children being educated in those awful huts in the playground for another 6 months.

A little more info I gleaned from officers:

Parents Meeting: There will be a meeting for parents of Gordonbrock pupils at the school on Thursday 25th March at 7pm to discuss the situation.

One of the key concerns parents have raised is whether the funding will still be there in 6 months time, given the economic climate, the forthcoming general and local elections, and the prospect of a new government making big cuts. Officers said that a large part of the funding for the work is due to come from council prudential borrowing rather than central government funding which means that, assuming the incoming Mayor after 6th May supports the project, the chances of it going ahead are pretty high and not wholly at the mercy of a new national government.

A lot of people I spoke to were highly suspicious about the reasons given for the delay, given that funding was withdrawn in 2005, and thought it was some kind of council ruse to avoid rebuilding Gordonbrock. Nothing I've heard from officers so far makes me think this is the case and I believe the Mayor is still fully committed to the project (and will hopefully confirm this to reassure parents in the next few days). Never say never, however.

What happens next?
Things should become clearer to everyone by the end of this week, but it looks like the planning application will have to be resubmitted and the process gone through again. As I understand it, this is due to a mistake by the planning department and picked up on by Brockley Society lawyers, in not getting an Environmental Impact Assessment done, which apparently is required for sites over half a hectare.

Clearly there are lessons to be learnt by the planning department here, and potentially exceedingly expensive ones for the Council (going through the whole planning process again, securing the decant site and temporary classrooms for six months, legal costs etc won't come cheaply).

Council Officers, together with the head teacher and a governor, are meeting with representatives from Brockley Society this Friday, to discuss their legal letter and feasibility study and have promised to update ward councillors shortly after that.

In addition, Ute and I have a meeting with the Council officers leading on the project this Wednesday. If you have specific questions you would like us to put to them, do let us know, or of course you can ask them at the parents meeting on Thursday evening.


Fish On said...

i dont think your voting categories make sense. particluarly the distinction between the last two. its a false choice. its not about the saving existing buildings 'at all cost'. i am 'relieved' that the council is now being forced to take the necessary time and make the necessary effort to make sure that plans are safe, legal, environmentally sound and an improvement in terms of design and build. saving the existing buildings is part of this bigger picture. as green councillor i would have expected you to have much more of an understanding of the complex issues. i guess you are polling so you can work out which way to swing.

Anonymous said...
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St. Anthony said...

The council and the school is using the threat of losing the funding completely to get more parents on their side - and there has been some intimidation at the school gates. What price free speech?
The scheme to bus the children off to the Greenvale site has not been planned well. No one has given us any real answers about how this will work in practice. I have a young child in the school and I'm just supposed to trust that it'll be alright on the day? The arrogance displayed by some of the pro-decant lobby is astonishing.

George said...

Well for the record, I can vouch for one child in the "temporary" classrooms and she is delighted not to have her last term at school spent in a temporary classroom 3 miles away.

It is wonderful that the school has managed to prepare children so well for the decant and get them onside. Do you think their enthusiasm was going to last for over a year?

Feedback from Lewisham Bridge was that the children were very tired. They were not having half the journey.

I have seen pretty unpleasant and intimidating behaviour by some parents at the school gates and going round school grounds with petition. Not impressed.

Even less impressed by the letter sent out from the school and then from Lewisham Council. I hope they are going to apologise to Brockley Society tomorrow for misinforming parents and explain to the parents that ultimately the council were the ones at fault.
These letters have surely fueled the pretty unsavoury behaviour of some parents over recent days.

The threat of losing funding has been held over everyone's heads.

Where were all these parents when a mediocre scheme which short changed their children was passed?

ee said...

Hmmm. I don't think putting parents in the picture is intimidating. We haven't forced anyone to sign anything, we are simply letting parents and carers know of what 'may' happen. We've not said that the funding will definitely be lost, we've simply sad that it may be lost. And for the record, we have not been inside the school gates with our petition, unlike the Brockley Society who were and had to be removed by the school.
Please check that your information is correct before throwing accusations around.

lulu68 said...

As a parent I am extremely disappointed by the way The Brockley Society has 'stuck a spanner in the works' of my children's welfare and education. Both of my kids, reception and year 3, are extremely disappointed that this move is not happening now.
I have been standing outside the school gates every day with my petition, asking parents to sign, explaining how I feel and that this action could lead to us losing funds.
I have not been intimidating, arrogant or aggressive. I may have carried my petition into the school but I do have my children to collect. Whenever someone has approached me to sign I have asked them to see me outside the gates. Some of us have been intimidated and some of us have been sworn at. We want a balanced argument with both sides being represented.
For some of us the prospect of a new school outweighs the inconvenience of a move. I can be bothered to make the extra effort for the sake of my children.

Penny said...

Re: Lulu 68 "We want a balanced argument with both sides being represented. For some of us the prospect of a new school outweighs the inconvenience of a move. I can be bothered to make the extra effort for the sake of my children."
I totally agree, Lulu, and I am in the pro-Broc Soc camp! The Broc Soc challenge came about partly because of the frustration that our opinion was ignored. We were all for encouraging an open debate but sadly this was continually denied. The existing plans simply aren't up to scratch, a fact admitted by Sue Luxton herself at the planning committee meeting when they approved planning, where she said: "The plans do not sufficiently address sustainability measures" and "Not convinced that the design quality of the new buildings are sufficiently high." Personally, I
I don't want my children and future children shortchanged on shoddy plans that won't go the distance and that's why I support the Broc Soc proposal which meets future as well as existing needs (see the Broc Soc feasibility report for proof).

M said...

As a parent I feel that my children's welfare and education is not as high on the priority list as getting extra school places. If they were there is no way that this site would have been chosen for a three form entry school.

That said, if you are going to do it and we are going to be so inconvenienced, then can we do it for a good scheme?