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!
 
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/

Continue reading “Friends of Grovelands Park”

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.

Continue reading “Grovelands Park Improvements Meeting”

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.

Continue reading “Sweating for our children”

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.

Primary School Admissions 2012

Congratulations to the London Borough of Enfield Education Authority on fulfilling its statutory duty in providing the necessary number of Primary School places for the borough.

I made a Freedom of Information request to the borough (The details of the questions and answers are below) which proves that they have made adequate Primary School provision. Does this mean that all Primary School parents whose children will start school in this coming school year are happy? The answer is a definite No.

There are 148 children who have not been offered a place. There are no new schools in my area and new schools in the east of the borough will not help our problems. There is a possibility of a bulge class at Walker but that sounds reactive and unreliable for the long term.

I think a change in law is required so that those resident within a certain radius of a school must be admitted which in turn would mean that class sizes could not be maintained at their legal maximum of 30 children. Smaller class sizes make for a better education.

FOI request and answers
Your FOI Request

1. How many primary school applications were received at Enfield for reception aged children on or before January 15th 2012?

2. How many late applications were received at Enfield after January 15th 2012 for reception aged children?

3. How many Enfield resident reception aged children have not been offered any school place for 2012, irrespective of when the application was received?

4. Will all Enfield Primary School reception classes be at their capacity and to the maximum number of children legally permitted ie. 30? If not identify which schools and the reasoning behind the class size.

5. How many places are available to reception aged children in Enfield schools for 2012? I have added up the places in the Primary School admissions booklet and have calculated a total of 4363 reception aged places. Please can you confirm whether that is correct and if not please provide the correct figure?

6. What was the GLA projection for reception aged pupils on roll for the academic year 2012/13 in Enfield? I understand that this figure would change on a yearly basis so if you could provide the figures for the previous 5 years I would be grateful? If resources do not permit this then the projection prior to October 2011 when this years admission process started.

Your FOI Request

1. 4498 applications were received from Enfield residents by 15th January 2012.

2. 108 late applications were received after the closing date of 15th January 2012 and allocation date of 18th April 2012. The total number of applications received after the closing date of 15th January to date (8th June12) is 340.

3. As at today, 148 children have not received an offer of a school place, irrespective of when the application was made.

4. Currently, all schools in Enfield with the exception of Eldon Infant school will be operating reception class sizes that meet the requirements of the infant class size legislation of 30 children. Eldon Infant School will be admitting 140 to their reception year group in September because of the physical size of their classrooms. In addition to Eldon, Enfield Heights Academy, a new free school opening in the east of the Borough, have published an admission number of 25 and have advised that they will be admitting this number in September.

5. 4,749 Reception places are being made available for 2012/13. This figure includes places at new free schools due to open in September and academies and in those one-off additional classes being provided to meet demand for the coming year. The level of demand for September 2012 is monitored very regularly and additional places will be opened if needed to ensure that there is a place for every child.

6. The latest GLA projection for 2012/13 made this year, i.e. 2011/12 is 4,563. For the previous 5 years, the projections were as follows

2010/11 – 4,467
2009/10 – 4,595
2008/09 – 4,247
2007/08 – 4,077
2006/07 – 4,105

Primary School Admissions 2012

Every year the local paper reports on distress that is experienced by parents living in Enfield when they cannot get their child into their school of preference. A petition has been started to try and address the problem in Southgate. The petition highlights a problem that happens every year in Enfield and I’m sure all over London. As parents we are led to believe that we have a preference of school but that is not in fact the case. I live 1/2 mile from Walker School but that distance will be too great for my twins Harry and Poppy to gain admission in 2015.

The petition will raise awareness and I am hopeful that changes will be made to address the shortfall in school places for Primary School children in Enfield. Some parents that I know have not been offered a place at any school for their child! I am in contact with a mother who has moved back into the area after being away for some months and neither of her children, who are Reception and Year 2 aged for 2012, have been offered a place.

The Education Authority receives projection figures from the Greater London Authority which provides them with the knowledge to plan for upto 10 years in advance. So why do we still have this shortfall in Primary School places?

It is obvious that the Education Authority’s long term strategy is not effective else they would be able to provide every Enfield child with a Primary School place. The problem may lay with maintaining classroom sizes at their legal limit of 30 students per 1 teacher. If the classroom sizes were smaller there would be more room for managing children moving into different school areas and we know that smaller class sizes provide children with a better education.

There needs to be a method to make the Education Authority’s duty achievable by ensuring they have a strategy which provides children with the school places we as parents demand. This will require financial support and therefore either Government or legal support to make it happen.

Primary School Places

I am currently supporting a parent trying to get her son a school place in the London Borough of Enfield. Mrs M has 2 children, J who has a place in Year 4 at a Primary School in LB Enfield and K who has not been offered a place at any school and has been out of education sice October 2009.

Mrs M is distraught that her son is not being educated and that there is no iminent prospect of K being offered any school place.

I have been speaking with LB Enfield and their legal obligation is to offer a place at a school in LB Enfield, not necessarily at the school that K’s brother is attending or even at a school close to where they live. It is Mrs M’s legal responsibility to ensure that K attends school.

Whilst trying to help in this problem I realise that it may not be in the family’s best interest to force LB Enfield into offering a place at any school due to the logistics of taking one child to a local school and then taking another child to the other side of the borough to another school which is clearly not sustainable.

Last week I spoke with the Council and found there are 2 primary schools which had a place and a very short waiting list in close proximity to Mrs M’s home. Mrs M has now put K on the waiting list of both schools. I will continue to contact the Council regularly to ascertain if more Year 1 places become available.

My thoughts – The Council are trying to fulfill their obligations to the best of their ability and in this case there would be no benefit to the family to force the Council to provide a place at any school for K. I do think that more can be done to maintain communication for example the Council phoning parents who don’t have a school place regularly (I would like to see it done daily).

The problem that Mrs M is facing is clearly affecting the moral of the whole family and there is a feeling of helplessness and desperation that they have endured for 7 months. I’m hoping that between us K gets into a school within the next few weeks and I will be phoning the Council daily to try and achieve this.

17 May 2010

As some of you may know if you have been following my blog, I have been trying to help Mrs M get her son K into a primary school. Today Mrs M was offered a school place for K at a primary school. Good news however the school is too far away from the school where her other child is going. If she takes one child to school then the other will be one hour late everyday and won’t be picked up on time. Mrs M is going to turn the place down with much regret. I have phoned the school where son J is, and K is either 1st or 2nd on the waiting list. I’ll be phoning again tomorrow.

6th July 2010

I am delighted that Mrs M’s son started his first day at school today in Year 1 after being out of school since October last year. Clearly there are not enough primary school places that there is no flexibility to allow 1 child into a class. Ideal class sizes are approximately 18 children however the schools in Enfield have 30 pupils per class and over subscribed. On a personal note I am so happy for Mrs M and her family.