14 February 2010

A new secondarey school for North Kingston?

There has been a clamour for a secondary school for many years and it's a cause I can sympathise with as the nearest school the Kingston Council was able to offer me for my youngest son was two bus rides away in the south of the Borough. He didn't go there.

Now a project rise in pupil numbers means that the Council is looking to build 16 extra classrooms for children starting secondary school in September 2015 and it wants to provide half of these, 240 places, in a new school in North Kingston.

So far so good but the problem is that they have failed to find a suitable site but are going ahead with their proposal anyway. The formal consultation has started and I went to a public meeting held by the Council last week to gather residents' views.

Their preferred site was, ironically, a secondary school until it was closed by the Council around twenty years ago. It now houses the Adult Education Centre and is squeezed in between another secondary school (selective, girls only) and a primary school that is growing to three forms of entry.

And that's the problem; the site is simply too small and cannot cope with either the additional buildings or the additional students and staff movements.

The Council knows this but is hiding behind the story that these are planning matters, ignoring that it's the Council that does planning and they've had a year to discuss this with er, themselves, to see what is, or is not, possible.

To make matters worse they admit that there are significant planning issues yet they have no alternative plan for providing the 240 extra places should this site prove to be unsuitable (which it will). The best they can do is spill over to the nearby sports centre which is also very problematic as the centre is very busy and is built on Metropolitan Open Land.

They also have no plans for relocating the Adult Education Centre or for the new school buildings if/when student numbers fall again.

Planning school places is a key council function and one which has a major impact on every family yet time and again Kingston Council has proved to be utterly useless in this respect. It's a compelling argument for taking this power away from them.

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