by simongalton on 28 November, 2014
At the last meeting of the Cabinet there was a report on the new School Place Planning strategy which should have been uncontroversial. Unfortunately the recommendations also included a late addition of a new key priority aimed at removing primary schools which take pupils aged 4 – 10 years old. This would have significant consequences for education in Thurnby.
As a local member with three 10+ primary schools in my Division I was obviously concerned to see these proposals. I recognise that these schools are now out of step with the rest of the County but the Oadby family of schools to which the schools in Thurnby and Houghton on the Hill belong are very successful high performing schools and are greatly valued by parents and the local community.
Contrary to suggestions in the report, I dispute that the present system, which has been in place for over 30 years, is a source of confusion for parents in my area primarily because of the strong and embedded transition links between the feeder primary schools and the high schools.
The pupil forecast figures for Thurnby Fernvale and Thurnby St Lukes C of E primary show that both schools will exceed their net capacity in 2015/16 and recently approved housing growth in Thurnby and Bushby will add to this situation. Both sites are constrained and like many schools in the County have serious parking and congestion problems in the around the schools during the morning and afternoon start and finish times. Accommodating year 6 pupils will in my view require significant capital investment to provide the additional places required and this will need to be weighed against other competing priorities for the Basic Need capital funding being made available by the Government.
The report included information on the results of the consultation. If I’ve understood the stakeholder breakdown correctly only 25 primary schools and 21 parents responded to the consultation from across the whole County. It is not clear how many of the schools that replied were 10+ primary schools but given the low response rate especially from parents, I believe it would be unwise to draw any firm conclusions from such a small number of replies in respect of this issue.
The recommendation to add an additional key priority to address the removal of the 10+ system is subject to there being strong local demand expressed through further consultation. At the moment I believe that the vast majority of parents are completely unaware of this proposal and therefore the benefits and the consequences for the high schools will need to be explained to parents very clearly before they are asked to support such a change.
In Thurnby’s case it would lead to a huge shake-up of the local schools. It is likely that Gartree High School would likely be forced to become an 11-16 school, requiring it to compete with, rather than work and collaborate with, Manor High School and Beauchamp College.
In addition, such a change would require a change to the school’s catchment areas and would end the current transport arrangements, instead only allowing the Council to provide home to school transport to the nearest school. Thurnby parents would no longer be provided with free home to school transport to Beauchamp or Gartree. This would be unacceptable to many parents, as the huge parent-led campaign against changes to the school transport policy earlier in the year showed.
I hope to be arranging meeting with each of the primary schools affected to hear their views and how they intend to respond to the proposals in the Council’s plan.Leave a comment