Ashmole Primary School and the Campaign for a New School

I visited Ashmole Primary School today for a meeting on the permanent school building and it bought home to me the enormity of what has been achieved by dedicated members of the Ashmole team, my campaigner group and me!
Ground breaking with children1
Ashmole Primary School’s permanent building is a building site but by the end of this year it will be ready for children to move in. When I started this campaign I never believed that I would be part of the team that founded a brand new school! The road I traveled to get to this point has been full of challenges, of highs and lows but perseverance, determination and a stubborn resolution to have a new school made me carry on. There is one real reward that I have from this campaign and that was the hug from a crying mum on the opening day of the school. Her tears were of happiness, telling me that I had changed her, and her family’s life! I will never forget that moment and as I write this I am moved again.
The campaign started in 2012 from my front room. A group of community minded parents and grandparents who lived in an area that didn’t fall into any primary school catchment area decided to campaign for increased primary school provision. We each paid £10 to produce 2000 leaflets to distribute in the area letting residents know of the problem with school places and to gain support.
That was the beginning of SWEAT, the South West Enfield Action Team. We worked hard using our website https://wewantlocalschools.wordpress.com/… to get our message out there. We lobbied the Council, we went to the local press, we met our MP, we spoke to Councillors, we tried everything to raise awareness. I hated the way that Labour Councillors treated our problem as part of their political game, they didn’t care about us, we were a community group that could be exploited. The Labour Cabinet Member for Education called me naive for thinking I could do anything about school places, in a public meeting after I had spoken so that I was unable to respond. Political point scoring! But I did it! Despite what the Labour Cabinet Member for Education thought.
I used my influence and position as a school governor at Ashmole Academy to pursue a dream that has resulted in the building site pictured. One of the biggest disappointments for the Ashmole team was when our first free school bid failed! I felt that I had let down all those parents who had become wrapped in my enthusiasm and we can do it attitude … we had failed! I was bitterly disappointed…. it wasn’t a failure, it was a setback! Once we got over the disappointment, the Ashmole team took on board the feedback from the Department for Education and we submitted another, much improved free school bid and we were successful! I was so happy, not for me as my children would not get into the school but for all those parents who could send their children to an outstanding local school.
I am delighted that some of my fellow campaigners have gone on to become school governors and trustees.
My message is that if you see an injustice and if you feel strongly enough about it, others will feel the same and follow you. You can do anything if you put your mind to it! Ignore the nay sayers!
To find out more about Ashmole, SWEAT and myself visit:

More Primary School Places

I was interviewed by Ruth McKee of the Enfield Advertiser about the new primary school that is to be opened in Southgate for September 2014.

Many parents of children starting school this year will not be aware of this development unless they have been following the We Want Local Schools campaign that I set up with a group of concerned parents; also known as SWEAT (South West Enfield Action Team). Here is part of the article and the full article can be read here.

 


Pay for state education?

We do pay for state education through our taxes! There is a suggestion in the papers today that wealthy parents should pay for their children to go to the most popular state schools.

There is a problem in my area where parents will cheat and play the school admission system to get their children into the best state run schools. Parents will rent a property for 6 months to a year on the doorstep of a school with an outstanding Ofsted report and good reputation and once their children have gained admission they move away. Instead of paying for 7 years of private education for all of their children they pay 6 months rent and save thousands and thousands of pounds.These parents are cheating local residents’ children of school places and worse still the admission cheat parents do not think they are doing anything wrong and go on to brag about how clever they have been to other parents.

Something needs to be done to stop parents cheating the system and depriving local children of their school place. By encouraging strong local community links we may make parents think twice about stealing other children’s school places if they know that they are acting against the local community. Unfortunately we can’t rely on that and new policies are needed to stop the cheats and I don’t think that paying for state education is the answer. I pay for state education through my taxes!

What is the alternative? I have been campaigning for increased primary school provision in my area and one of the things we have been asking of the local authority is to make the admissions criteria tighter to deter admission cheats. The parents who rent accommodation to buy a good education for their child should be paying for independent schooling. If parents have to pay for state education then a good education will not be available to all and non fee paying schools will become the schools that nobody wants to send their children to.

The school argument proves that parents recognise that education is the key to a good life and a good society. We should be improving state schools to a higher standard so that parents aren’t chasing places at a few good schools but that more good schools are available. For example we all know that smaller class sizes make for a better education and employing the best teachers will get the best results.


Happy New Year

I had a marvellous 2013! The year really finished on a high for my SWEAT (South West Enfield Action Team) primary school campaign and for me personally. There were many ups and downs along the way, but I am a cup 1/2 full type of girl so I enjoy the roller coaster ride of life.

The SWEAT success came after just 9 months of campaigning for increased primary school places in the form of a proposal by Ashmole Academy for a primary school which is scheduled for September 2015. The proposed school is some way off, however the parent support that is needed for it to go ahead has been given by the local community. Members of the SWEAT group and I were busy distributing the Ashmole proposal to toddler groups, nurseries and libraries in December and our efforts have produced the desired result.

The campaign for primary school provision is not over and the 60 school places that Ashmole will provide yearly from 2015 will go someway to ease an increasing problem. Well done Ashmole. The school place requirement will not be satisfied by this proposal and SWEAT will continue to raise awareness in our aim to achieve more school places in the area.

On a personal note I am delighted to have passed Parliamentary Assessment Board and have been added onto the Conservative Party’s list of Approved Candidates. I am looking forward to a busy 2014 in politics.


Friends of Grovelands Park

I am a member of the Friends of Grovelands Park and I attended a general meeting this week. This year was Grovelands Park centenary and hundreds of people attended the celebrations in the park to make it a marvellous success.

I am surprised that there aren’t more members of this group to support and maintain this historic park. If you want to become more involved with the park and the Friends of Grovelands Park, they are actively seeking more members. Annual membership is £5 and their website is here http://www.n21.net/friends-of-grovelands-park-winchmore-hill-n21-london.html. The next meeting is Thursday 21st November 2013, 8pm at St Paul’s Church Hall.

At the FoG meeting we heard about Travellers being evicted from Edmonton and actively looking for a new place to set up in the Enfield area. I had a traveller knock at my door and ask if I wanted anything sharpened the day before the meeting. Does anyone get anything sharpened on their doorstep by gypsies anymore? Or is it a tactic to check whether anyone is at home? I didn’t feel safe.

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I had to speak out at the FoG meeting about SWEAT (South West Enfield Action Team) and our campaign. I clarified what we are trying to achieve and also what Enfield’s current proposals on the land adjacent to Grovelands are. The majority of FoG members have an open mind about the Grovelands proposals, I think that is because we are all waiting to see whether English Heritage says the concept is viable.

Some members, like me, have strong views, some in favour of a school and some against a school. If you support the school proposal please register your support on the SWEAT website  http://wewantlocalschools.wordpress.com/

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Grovelands Park Improvements Meeting

I attended a meeting held by Enfield Council proposing a new primary school in the land adjacent to Grovelands Park. I was invited as a key stakeholder because of my interest in Education and my campaign for increased Primary School Provision.

Members of the SWEAT (South West Enfield Action Team) group, created specifically to campaign for local children to go to local schools, and members of FLDRA (Fox Lane District Residents’ Association) also attended in support of the proposals.

Gary Barnes, Assistant Director, Regeneration, presented the concept proposed, a new 2 form entry primary school built in a style to compliment the neighbouring Priory building. The building would be set down in the land and with a green roof so that the vista from the park would not be disturbed. An excellent proposal that is much needed for the local community.

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Sweating for our children

The first meeting of the South West Enfield Action Team (or SWEAT) took place on Tuesday 25th June at my home. I met the other members of our newly formed group who are prepared to give up their free time and campaign for an issue that is so important to every parent, the education of our children.

In the Fox Lane area there are insufficient local school places and many of the parents are forced to transport their children to schools across the borough or have to resort to private education.

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Planning permission and effect

Planning permission has been granted to build 3 new family homes in Bourne Hill, see http://foxlane.net/ planning message in FLDRA messages 31st January.

The plot was previously a car park opposite the entrance to Grovelands Park and  would have been used mainly by people going to the park. Is the sale of this plot of land for housing the best outcome for community property? The sale has brought the Council revenue for the short term but what will the long term effect be?
In this area and the nearby Lakes Estate Conservation Area there is a lack of school places both for primary education and secondary education. There is already a crises area in the centre of five or six community schools where children will not be admitted into a school near their home.
Enfield Council have a Primary School Expansion Programme to address this problem in areas all over Enfield however this is a reactive approach that will not resolve an ever growing problem, particularly as some of the proposed schools have objected and been withdrawn from the programme.

The Council receive a five year forecast from the GLA informing them of the number of Education admissions they will require year on year so there is no excuse for the LEA’s lack of forward planning.

There are two publicly owned buildings in Palmers Green that could be ideal for new schools, namely Southgate Town Hall  and Broomfield House. I am not so naive that I don’t understand why Council officers prefer housing opportunities in this old Civic building and this historic building as opposed to Education, and the answer is money.

Housing will bring in revenue and Education will bring expenditure.

Housing will demand increased services and Education will provide a service.

Housing will pollute and Education will be green, local children walking to their local school.

More long term planning please!

 


Change to A & AS Level

Michael Gove has confirmed that there will be changes to A levels in 2015 and that AS levels will no longer be part of the A level but will become a stand alone examination. This will make A levels like the linear examinations that have already been introduced at GCSE level.

The linear examinations are like the old “O” level where you studied a subject for two years and then sit an examination. This is in contrast to the modular examinations that have been retired where you studied a small section of the subject and then tested on that section before moving onto the next section;  all of these results would go on to the final result. If students had disappointing results in a module then they had the opportunity to re-take. In effect students should never of failed a modular examination. Making examinations linear should produce examination results that are real. When you compare the result of one student to another you will know that they have had the same conditions and therefore it is a truer comparison.

The age for leaving education is also changing and this year the leaving age is 17 years old; a change from 16 years old and it will change again in 2015 again to 18 years old. Students will have to stay at their school or another further education establishment such as college.

I think that a stand alone AS level may be a necessity as students have more years to study than students last year. However if students have to stay in education until they are 18 years old why would you select to take AS level over A level?


Enfield Primary School Expansion

The London Borough of Enfield has been consulting on how to provide more primary school places in the borough. The Council proposes to expand 10 existing schools to increase the number of children that can be taken into Reception classes and in some cases into Year 1.

In my area of Southgate and Palmers Green there are expansion proposals for Walker School and Broomfield School but there are no proposals for a new school. A new primary school could be situated in the old Southgate Town Hall which is empty.

I support the proposal for the expansion of Walker School which is rated a 1 by Ofsted and offers outstanding education. I attended the consultation meeting at Walker which was the forum to have my say. I live ½ mile from Walker School but will be unable to get my twins admitted due to over subscription. There are other issues with admissions to Walker where parents rent properties next to the school for a short period and then once their children are admitted move further away thus taking places that should rightfully belong to people who really reside in the immediate area, but that’s another story!

I do not support the proposal to expand Broomfield School. Broomfield School is rated a 4 by Ofsted and therefore has issues regarding the quality of education provided. It would mean changing the age of admission from 11-18 to 4-18. I would not want to send my child to a failing school so I cannot understand the thinking behind expanding this school. The effect of an expansion would be to force poor education onto more children in the community. Surely a new school in the area would be a better proposition. There is a separate consultation for Broomfield School.

The consultation period is over but if you wanted to comment or get involved then I think the Programme Director of the Primary School Expansion Programme, Bridget Evans could be a good starting point.