Nigel Cannings, a local resident with children at Orleans and St Stephen’s, has arranged a meeting for all parents to discuss the proposed conversion of Orleans and St Stephen’s into two form entry primary schools.
His hope is that a community-wide consensus can be reached on what parents want to see happen with their local schools, and that acting in concert, the views of residents might be heard.
The Turk’s Head has kindly allowed the use of Winchester Hall, just by St Stephen’s, next Wednesday, 22nd July at 7.30pm, and all parents and other concerned residents are invited to attend.
Nigel can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The danger as I pointed out to such a meeting without any Council Officers present to advise what can and what can't be done is that it may raise expectations where they can't be delivered.
The Tories held a meeting just before the last elections about CPZ in St Margarets and in the end nothing could be delivered because no money had been allocated and this meeting was seen by residents as a sham and an electioneering stunt. I am not saying that is the case this time but merely pointing out potential issues.
All three Ward Councillors are otherwise engaged on the day and it would be difficult to alter previously made arrangements.
It is of course Nigel's right to do what he wants but I do feel he is pushing at an open door and bent on having this meeting in spite of the potential pitfalls which I have pointed out to him. One of the Council's most senior relevant officers has offered on more than one occasion to meet with him and go through the complexities and to further consider his proposal and it is unfortunate he has not chosen to do so.
Even the lure of a free pint from me to try and make this a more productive meeting didn't lure him into meeting with me prior to Wednesday but as he says he is a busy man and so am I but I would like to extend the invitation of a free pint to any concerned resident who would like to investigate any VIABLE ways forward and try and make the Wednesday meeting as productive as possible.
My email address is Cllr.email@example.com my phone number is 0208 408 0586 and I am at the moment available to meet Fri 17th before 12.00 Sat 18th between 10.00 and 12.00, most of Monday 20th most of Tuesday 21st after 12.00. I may not have the answers and solutions to hand but I could try and arrange for any relevant information to be available for Wednesday.
Cllr Ben KhosaBen Khosa on 2009-07-16 17:38:51 +0000
This meeting has been arranged, no doubt inadvertently, without reference to the councillors residents elected to represent them, on an evening when they cannot attend because it clashes with the Environment and Sustainability Overview & Scrutiny Committee www.richmond.gov.uk/calendar_of_meetings whose agenda is at: www.richmond.gov.uk/calendar_of_meetings?mgl=ieListDocuments.asp&CId=168&MId=2295 The main item is the Call-In Of The St Margarets South Cpz Extension Review Cabinet Member Decision
I will attend on their behalf to listen, take notes and take copies of whatever documents anyone may choose to offer but not to comment on the merits of what is proposed. NC may wish, on consideration, to rearrange his meeting in consultation with them to a date when they can attend.Chris Squire on 2009-07-17 01:46:40 +0000
Since Nigel has had the schools email parents about the meeting, I am sure it would be impossible to change the date, as today is the last day of school.
PeterPeter @ stmgrts.org.uk on 2009-07-17 08:05:22 +0000
It may be helpful to parents to see these extracts from Matthew Paul's paper on the St Stephen's website:
' * Why did the Council not foresee the growth in pupil numbers? We did foresee it, and were in discussions with the governors of Orleans Infant and St Stephen's as far back as the autumn of 2005 regarding the need for extra places. However, our plans to provide further places on a permanent basis could not be realised at that point without significant Government funding, and, despite lobbying by officers, councillors and the local MPs, there were no opportunities to bid for funding until 2008.
. . * What is the decision-making process for the proposed conversion and how will parents be consulted? Once the designs are available, all parties will be able to view them. If the school's Governors and parents were satisfied with those designs and were convinced of the merits of the proposal, it is anticipated that the Governors would make a decision later in the autumn to approve the proposal. The Authority would then, in accordance with statutory requirements, publish a proposal to extend the school's age range and amend its admission number to 60.
Parents and other local people would have six weeks to respond to the proposal, and responses would then be collated as an appendix to a report to be considered by the Council's Cabinet, which, in its role as 'local decision-maker', would either approve or reject the proposal.'
From: www.st-stephens.richmond.sch.uk/expansionNews.htmlChris Squire on 2009-07-17 15:43:27 +0000
The meeting was arranged entirely with the view that we should exclude the Council at this stage.
As a community, we need to decide:
The Council can do what it likes with Orleans. At St Stephen's the governors can reject the proposals, but then you have an orphan Junior school, adrift in the community. Like it or not, there is huge pressure on St Stephen's to toe the party line, even if it goes against the best interests of pupils and the community.
It is too late to wait until the final designs are published. We have to act now.
Once there is a clear community consensus, then we engage the Council. I don't want another heated, but ultimately circular, meeting like the St Stephen's meeting.
Ben, I really resent your remarks, and invite you to withdraw them.
I'm busy, yes, because until Tuesday night I am awash with relatives from abroad who care little for our little local difficulties.
I am well versed in the issues, having made an extensive study. I have also had a number of meetings that have clarified a large number of issues.
I am aware that the St Stephen's hall is owned by the diocese, and not the school. I also know that local architects who have looked at the £1.2 million budget for St Stephen's (with all that VAT taken out), have said it can't be done for the money.
My reasons for not meeting Matthew Paul are as I explained to you by e-mail, and I will express them here.
The Council is hell-bent on this proposal, even if there is not enough money to sort out St Stephen's properly, even if there is space. There has been no proper review undertaken of VIABLE alternatives.
I have offered, several times, to use the resources of my company to computer model the true effect of the Council's proposals, and of my own, but these have been rejected.
I am now engaged in a Freedom of Information Act battle with the Council to release relevant admissions data for last year and this year to see if the 2 school proposal actually covers North St Margarets in any meaningful way. What is the point of pursuing this if this solution if it doesn't fix the problem it purports to sort out.
Meeting with the Council without all of the data is like being blindfolded and handcuffed.
So, that is why it has to be this way. Get the data released, Ben, then we'll sit down and examine evidence. I realise this whole thing is 98% politics, but there is room in the 2% for informed debate, not polemic.Nigel Cannings on 2009-07-17 17:04:46 +0000
I agree that NC's first task is to prove, to the satisfaction of the Governors of both schools, that his scheme is feasible and worth taking seriously as an alternative to the Council's well developed and well advanced proposal, which will undoubtedly go ahead next year unless a very serious campaign is mounted to stop it.
Will any of the Governors be at the meeting? Are they also not invited? I think we should be told where they stand on this matter, which is for them to decide.Chris Squire on 2009-07-19 02:01:56 +0000
Actually the very worst thing that could happen here is that School Governors ignore their duty, which is to consider the options impartially and not to indulge in pointless speculation. They will not be presented with an option the council does not support for the simple reason that the council is putting up the money having secured it from central government.
They will therefore be faced with options based on schemes that the council's education department, which has responsibility for providing high quality school places for our children, considers appropriate.
"Where they stand" should be their decision based on the advice they receive and not on an incomplete picture.
One of the drivers for this should be the need to retain local children in the state system at secondary level. Too many children are being diverted to fee paying schools which are no better in terms of value added than our own excellent secondaries, and for children it is pretty divisive to see their friends shoved in buses or 4×4s destined for Hampton or Hammersmith every morning rather than sharing in a community education.
Losing local children to non-local schools at reception, which is a consequence of a lack of school places, does not assist.Laurence Mann on 2009-07-19 17:54:56 +0000
Nigel Cannings is not alone in his concern for the proposed changes to Orleans Infants/St Stephens. Councillor Ben Khosa needs to revisit his opinion (12/07) that a meeting such as Nigel has organised is a danger because 'it may raise expectations where they can't be delivered.' Don't the parents' views count?
Furthermore, Laurence Mann's view (18/07)that 'Even if the people who turn up at your meeting manage without the benefit of anything other than gut feelings to back the idea you have come up with, where will that leave you? With two plans. One costed and supported by the Council, and the other uncosted and not supported by the Council' smacks of bullying and rail-roading.
And what is wrong with gut feeling? It is a proven indicator of good judgement.
And when Laurence Mann says 'the people who attend...will not represent anyone except themselves...', why is that a bad thing? The meeting will represent the same people the Council do except it will be done openly and with consultation, not some forced, farcical 6 week consultation period in October when decisions have already been made.
His comment that '...Governors...will be advised not by...a subset of parents'...is demeaning to the parents. We are NOT a subset. We are the very people whose children are affected. The Governors' hands are tied as the Council well knows. If the conscientious Governors object, they can only resign en masse and leave another unsuspecting bunch to be bull-dozed by the Council.
By the way, could you please explain why, if the proposals for the two schools combined ie Orleans Infants/St Stephens, go ahead in their current form, we have only been allocated £5 million out of a total of £31.5 million when no other school has been allocated less than £6 million?
The parents of St Margarets are intelligent and community minded and understand the need to create additional reception school places in the Borough. Some of us are at a loss to understand why the Council is spending £31.5 million creating 6 new forms of entry at 5 schools across the Borough plus bulge classes in another 3 schools minimum, knowing that, to quote Council's own report, 'It is highly likely that the Authority will require a second phase of further permanent expansions in due course'. Why aren't you planning a new school instead of creating all this disruption? Doesn't the Council do joined-up thinking?
And, if you persist with the current proposal, why are you under-funding St Stephens? We do not want to be the poor relation in the Borough so prove to us that we will not be. There is additional funding on its way from Central Government. Is any of it coming to St Stephens to make the Council's proposals viable?
Helen HendersonHelen Henderson on 2009-07-20 23:19:41 +0000
Obviously it is not my proposal. But I stand by what I have said. Gut feelings are not an indicator of good judgement at all. They are just gut feelings. They should cause people to challenge and demand facts, not overrule them. Gut feelings and a disdain for evidence led us into a senseless and dubiously legal war in Iraq. They are a driver of prejudice and a catalyst for mob rule.
No, I don't like them.
I did not say it was a bad thing that people should be interpreted as representing themselves.
One of my children is at St Stephen's and will also be affected by these proposals. She will be in a school subject to building works for two years. Would I rather she wasn't? Of course. But do I have the right to object to the provision of places for other children on the grounds of temporary inconvenience to my own? It's not setting a very good example to her, is it?
It is not demeaning to parents to describe those who hold a particular opinion as a subset of them. It is a simple matter of fact.
I have no idea why this proposal has "only" been allocated £5.2m, which represents considerably more money than has been spent at Orleans Park on capital projects during the whole of the 15 years I have been a Governor there.
The bottom line is that if the funding offered is in fact insufficient, the proposal will fall down before it even gets to Governors. If it is enough, then why spend more than enough?
The borough's paper on this matter does not hold the prospect of more money from the Government although the Government has been challenged across London to provide more.
Why don't we build a new school? The money wouldn't be enough, but why don't we do it? Let's not bother too much about where we could put it either as there are two virtually empty roundabouts on the A316. Or Moormead perhaps? Or a floating school on the Thames. That would be very nice. Admissions could be limited by the need to swim to reception classes. And if it had a bad OfSTED, the school and its pupils could be cast adrift to run aground downstream in Bermondsey or even Belgium. Problem sorted.Laurence Mann on 2009-07-21 00:54:48 +0000
This may help residents understand what is going on:
' . . The Government announced last year it would be giving Richmond Council £8.3m for planned rebuilding and refurbishment projects between 2009 and 2011, and additional funding of £8.9m to build new schools. The Government will also make £200m available for primary school expansion across the country - which authorities will have to bid for in the next two weeks - but Cllr Eady [Richmond Council's cabinet member for education and children's services] said this "falls far short of what is required". He explained this money would be divided between dozens of councils and he expected Richmond to pick up a small share, which would do little to help the situation . . [he] said he believed there had been a further rise in the birth rate to 12.4 /1000 in the past three years. And that, coupled with an 8 % drop in children going to private schools, means the borough could need 14 extra reception classes.
"The problem we have is what we do in the future: we do not have another £32m lying around. We could borrow it but we would have to put council tax up to pay for it and the Government would cap it or we would have to find it by cutting front line services. We know the Government will cut local authority spending in the next two to three years, we are already looking for savings and to have to make £32m more is not on. We have to be cleverer, we have to find ways of providing these places without re-building whole schools."
Richmond & Twickenham Times, Jul 21: tinyurl.com/krauhhChris Squire on 2009-07-21 01:22:33 +0000
Actually, we're not dealing with gut feeling here, or at least trying not to.
The only part of my argument based on "feeling" is that I don't want to see the community split. My children have dozens of friends across the whole of St Margarets who attend or attended the two schools. The number from St Mary's? One each, from the same family, who happen to be friends of ours.
I have made repeated enquiries of the Council to either a) plot the effect of their 2 school proposal on a map using this year's and last year's data to show how it helps the community, or b) release the raw postcode data so that I can do it.
So far the arguments run from "It's too complex to do it", to "you're too stupid to understand how complex it is" to "we can't give it to you because of Data Protection". This leaves me in a battle with the Council's DPA lawyer, which could take months to resolve.
My real worry is that the 2 school solution doesn't actually do what it is designed to do. Take an A-Z, and draw two small circles around Orleans and St Stephen's. You being to see how North St Margarets is still just a small part of a potential 60 chid catchment area.
If someone can prove it does cover the hardy souls up in Talbot Road, then maybe there is less merit to my solution.
But once you've got through that, there is a simple money issue. St Stephen's pays VAT as a church school, which leaves only £1.2 million for the build. Initial indications from architects who have looked at the scheme say it's just not enough, and that the total budget needs to be £3million.
I'v asked the Buildings department for the initail designs, the tender response from the successful architects, and any subsequent correpondence, but have had nothing yet. Thank God we have a Freedom of Information Act. It's just a shame that it takes a month to get any data.
And, yes, I have made extensive enquiries as to how the schools would react to either set of proposals, and on that basis have decided to continue with my proposal.Nigel Cannings on 2009-07-21 11:21:11 +0000
As I suggest, the VAT will apply to your scheme of as well, but because the extension and refurbishment cost at the OIS site for St Stephens will be much larger than £2m, the amount of VAT lost will be corresponding greater.
Have your architects costed the necessary works at OIS? and St Stephen's to implement your scheme?
The Governors at both schools will need to secure copper-bottomed assurances from the borough that if there is an overspend it will be met by the borough.
I agree with you that people in Talbot Road will still have problems, but the effect of a separate catchment for St Stephens will be to push things a great deal further north. There is of course no guarantee that even a 4FE catchment at the St Stephen's site would go as far north as Talbot Road.
It's worth making the point that St Mary's really isn't in St Margarets at all.
Will the community be divided? Will we lock our neighbours at their cats in barns and set them alight because their children have the wrong uniform on? There are some wild people out there. We need to be vigilant.
Another factor, which has been conveniently ignored, would be that catchments at the existing St Stephen's site and a the St Mary's one would mean a different gap appearing, south and east of Claremont Road. These people currently can get into Orleans Infants but wouldn't get into the new school. They would thereby be deprived of the link to Orleans Park - it is conceivable that under your scheme that a child living opposite Marble Hill Park would not be able to get into a feeder school for Orleans Park.
As I suggest in a previous post, the main threat to community cohesion relating to the education system is the people who defect to the private sector. They have seriously impacted on pupil numbers at St Stephens and also undermine the local nature of our secondary schools.Laurence Mann on 2009-07-21 14:15:48 +0000
I don't understand why Nigel cannot have this meeting and attempt to see if there is something logical to go back to the schools and Council with? If it's all too late to do anything, why didn't the Council just say that? If there is time to make adjustments and possibly find a better solution, why not allow it?
You comments appear to be telling everyone that the you and others don't want people to be involved in their community and try and find solutions? And that even if they did, the would not possibly be entertained by the Council who has hired the top experts on the issue.
AngelaAndrea on 2009-07-21 15:41:08 +0000
I don't mean to annoy you or anyone else. Nor am I asking anyone not to have a meeting. Nor have I any authority to prevent it! But the meeting will not have anyone to put the case for the solution which is on the table and so how unfair is it to raise issues which touch upon it and which will come to the attention of people there?Laurence Mann on 2009-07-21 16:20:58 +0000
"The relevant Lead Cabinet members [Cllrs Knight and Eady] have granted approval to waive contract standing orders for the award of a building contract to refurbish the existing ICT suite into a classroom and toilets to accommodate a bulge class arriving at the school in September 2009. There is also a requirement to provide an accessible toilet and some level access to accommodate a disabled pupil who will also be arriving at the school in September 2009.
This decision is urgent because the conversion of the ICT suite into a classroom to accommodate a bulge class arriving at the school in September needs to be completed over the summer holiday period. There is a six week period in order to complete these works so the contractor undertaking the building works needs to receive formal instructions immediately. If there is any delay in beginning construction, the building works will not be complete in time for the start of the new academic year, resulting in no suitable teaching space to accommodate the bulge class."
Posted on the council website today. tinyurl.com/nkwt5cChris Squire on 2009-07-21 18:01:55 +0000
I share LM's concern for the residents of East Twickenham, where I live; it is unclear to me whether they are regarded as part of the St Margarets 'community' nowadays but there is no doubt that, until very recently [the 2002 borough election], East Twickenham and St Margarets functioned as a single community focused on its 2 'magnet' schools and its railway station and politically a single council ward ['East ward'], whose western boundary [Stafford Rd] marked the transition to Twickenham proper.
St Stephen's is nearly 0.5 km north of Orleans Infants, so making it the locus for measuring distance to school will have a substantial effect on the choice of who gets a place and who is excluded. So please do not let concern for the families in Talbot Road [1.4 km from Orleans Infants], who have a choice of several close Hounslow schools open to them, crowd out concern for the residents of Marble Hill, Cambridge Park [i.e. from St Stephen's church right round to Richmond Bridge] and Twickenham Park [north of Richmond/St Margarets Road and south of the railway line], who do not have the luxury of choice unless, [as some of those near the bridge already do], they compete for a place across the bridge at The Vineyard School, one of the most oversubscribed in the borough.Chris Squire on 2009-07-21 19:43:31 +0000
Re Helen Henderson's post at 20 July 2009 11:19 PM
"Councillor Ben Khosa needs to revisit his opinion (12/07) that a meeting such as Nigel has organised is a danger because 'it may raise expectations where they can't be delivered.' Don't the parents' views count?"
I was not suggesting parents views should not count, but merely that holding a meeting and putting on the table plans which have no input let alone support or approval from Officers, Councillors or relevant Cabinet members is open to dangers I refer to.
I am not saying we should not challenge officers when necessary, in fact I would be the first one to put on the spot, or even consider taking formal action (as I have done in the recent past) where it is called for but so far I fail to see much practicality in what Nigel has had to say.
Good luck to all for the meeting, we do of course all want the best we can get for our children with the emphasis being on "the best we can get" which may be different from the best we would like and the Council has the responsiblity of considering the best for the greatest number.
Cllr Ben KhosaBen Khosa on 2009-07-22 18:05:52 +0000
My Report: A quiet & orderly meeting: 25 people; no handouts or posters; no agenda. A group discussion or focus meeting which raised points but didn't deal with them as no-one knew the answers. I stayed for an hour and left them to it. NC gave a personal account of the story so far and his dealings with the Council; nothing rude or even unkind was said but of course the strong impression given was of his reasonableness and the Council's unreasonableness. He proposed a new scheme: that the age split between Infants & Junior should be changed so that Orleans Infants should keep the children for an extra year.
1: will the expansion be enough to include every child up to the borough boundary? I think the honest answer is 'no' or 'probably not'. 2: the loss of community spirit as families on the 2 sides of the railway will no longer mingle. Sad but inevitable. 3: the budget for the St Stephen's works is not enough ['it needs £3 mn not £2 mn'] and so the work will be skimped, incomplete etc. A clear statement that the Council won't let this happen is needed. 4: a feeling that the governors of St Stephen's are being pressed by the Council to agree quickly to the scheme to ensure that the grant is not lost. No doubt this is true. 5: fears that St Stephen's will become the 'poor relation' vis-à-vis Orleans,which will be seen as the better school. A feeling that it has been treated unfairly in the allocation of budgets for the expansion.
I left before anything was decided about the next moves.Chris Squire on 2009-07-23 13:42:45 +0000
Lawrence Mann wrote:
"Another factor, which has been conveniently ignored, would be that catchments at the existing St Stephen's site and a the St Mary's one would mean a different gap appearing, south and east of Claremont Road. These people currently can get into Orleans Infants but wouldn't get into the new school. They would thereby be deprived of the link to Orleans Park - it is conceivable that under your scheme that a child living opposite Marble Hill Park would not be able to get into a feeder school for Orleans Park."
This is, I'm afraid, totally wrong - (probably because you don't have the information due to data protection?). I can confidently report that there are a number of pupils already at St.Mary's from at least as far south and East as Richmond Road, Cambridge Park, and Cresswell Roads. This change would not affect that in any way. It's also worth pointing out, well known to the residents of those areas, that there's is also a special bulge in the catchment area for Waldegrave Girl's school which favours these residents. Your assertion that perhaps these pupils would be deprived of entrance to a feeder school for Orleans Park is no more than speculation in itself, frankly utter FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt)!Ed on 2009-07-25 07:58:09 +0000