'Expansion plans are forced on us' say schools

CONCERNS have been raised that schools are being given “no choice” but to agree to Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to create more school places.

Parents, teachers and governors have expressed their fears during the county’s consultation on plans to find an additional 500 pupil spaces in Oxford.

County cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley was challenged at a meeting after claiming schools earmarked for expansion could refuse to take part.

The meeting at New Marston Primary School was told people were “increasingly uneasy” about consultations over plans to expand 13 city schools.

Mrs Tilley sought to re-assure school representatives that they still had a say in the process, at the meeting organised by the Conservative Party last month.

New Marston faces a doubling of its original intake of 210 by the time the process is completed in 2015.

Head Zara D’Archambaud said: “At the time we did not feel we have any choice in it.

“I think it needs to be very clear that if parents and staff are against it, it will stop.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Tilley said: “I was shocked because I thought it had been a thorough consultation and I thought the senior leadership team and governors were on side with that.

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“Schools need to know that they have a choice. I don’t think we should be doing it to them, I think we should be doing it with them.

“I do accept there has been a breakdown in communication, and we’re talking about what we can do about that.”

The council started consulting on plans to find additional spaces in 2011.

Governors said they didn’t feel confident in the consultation process, and felt the expansion plans were already a “done deal”.

Stephanie Jones is a parent governor at Windmill Primary in Headington, where her children Marianne, seven, and Matthew, five, are pupils. Windmill is being asked to increase its numbers from 480 to 620, but Mrs Jones said parents were concerned their views would be ignored.

She told the Oxford Mail: “I think some people feel like they might be able to give their views, but the council will make a decision regardless of the objection.

“I don’t know if there’s any objection we could raise which would actually change the mind of the council.

“The expansion is being presented as the best option, and it’s almost like we don’t have any other option.”

She said a petition had been launched against the expansion of Windmill, with objectors hoping it might be taken more seriously than consultation responses.

At the meeting, Mrs Tilley said she did not know what would happen if schools refused to take on more children.

Comments (12)

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3:04pm Sat 6 Oct 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

What complete nonsense. State schools are merely a sub-division of a local authority.

Is the true concern that "the wrong sort of children" will attend if numbers grow?
What complete nonsense. State schools are merely a sub-division of a local authority. Is the true concern that "the wrong sort of children" will attend if numbers grow? Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 1

3:20pm Sat 6 Oct 12

Pragmatik says...

There's an easy alternative to expanding Oxford schools. Putting 4 year olds in taxis to other towns.
There's an easy alternative to expanding Oxford schools. Putting 4 year olds in taxis to other towns. Pragmatik
  • Score: 0

4:43pm Sat 6 Oct 12

Thinkingoutloud says...

If all of the schools object to taking more children where does cllr Tilley suggest the children in Oxford without a school place are sent?
If all of the schools object to taking more children where does cllr Tilley suggest the children in Oxford without a school place are sent? Thinkingoutloud
  • Score: 0

7:28pm Sat 6 Oct 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

There is a very careful phrase in the story:-

**"New Marston faces a doubling of its original intake of 210 by the time the process is completed in 2015"**

The original intake of 210 would have been back in 1948, at the origins of the school. I suspect that during the "baby boom" years this figure would have been significantly higher, and like many schools probably with portable classrooms in the 70s/80s.

I wonder how the historic peak figure compares with the proposed 420 places. It's probably less headline grabbing.
There is a very careful phrase in the story:- **"New Marston faces a doubling of its original intake of 210 by the time the process is completed in 2015"** The original intake of 210 would have been back in 1948, at the origins of the school. I suspect that during the "baby boom" years this figure would have been significantly higher, and like many schools probably with portable classrooms in the 70s/80s. I wonder how the historic peak figure compares with the proposed 420 places. It's probably less headline grabbing. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 1

7:34pm Sat 6 Oct 12

Thinkingoutloud says...

What I dont get is why parents think they should have any say in this. They are just users of a service, they do not own the school. What right do they have to tell others how to run the school and where exactly do they think all the extra children will go to school. I say just do it and tell the winging parentst to lump it or go elsewhere
What I dont get is why parents think they should have any say in this. They are just users of a service, they do not own the school. What right do they have to tell others how to run the school and where exactly do they think all the extra children will go to school. I say just do it and tell the winging parentst to lump it or go elsewhere Thinkingoutloud
  • Score: -2

6:41am Sun 7 Oct 12

Christine Hovis says...

The problem here is that the County have been doing nothing about the need to expand school places, and now suddenly need to expand some schools.

Without proper planning, that means those schools will see an increase in classrooms, but not in the rest of the infrastructure. So a school like Windmill will grow from 400 to 600 pupils without getting any increase in the rest of the space necessary to run a school. The County get to add effectively a whole extra school's worth of kids (especially if compared to those tiny rural schools we all subsidize) on marginal cost.

The education that the County organise for people in this city is not good enough - this wheeze will just make it worse. That's why, @Thinkingoutloud, parents are worried.

They also see that as the County have no other plan, the consultation is entirely hollow. What they're surprised by is the strength of feeling coming back at them. What if every parent at New Marston and Windmill say 'no'? Will Mrs Tilley do something else, or will she just plow on regardless.
The problem here is that the County have been doing nothing about the need to expand school places, and now suddenly need to expand some schools. Without proper planning, that means those schools will see an increase in classrooms, but not in the rest of the infrastructure. So a school like Windmill will grow from 400 to 600 pupils without getting any increase in the rest of the space necessary to run a school. The County get to add effectively a whole extra school's worth of kids (especially if compared to those tiny rural schools we all subsidize) on marginal cost. The education that the County organise for people in this city is not good enough - this wheeze will just make it worse. That's why, @Thinkingoutloud, parents are worried. They also see that as the County have no other plan, the consultation is entirely hollow. What they're surprised by is the strength of feeling coming back at them. What if every parent at New Marston and Windmill say 'no'? Will Mrs Tilley do something else, or will she just plow on regardless. Christine Hovis
  • Score: -1

10:26am Sun 7 Oct 12

Thinkingoutloud says...

Presumably the 'proper planning' is to make the exisitng schools bigger to take more children??? What else would you expect them to do?

As usual - a lot of moaning but no suggestion as to what the alternative is.
Presumably the 'proper planning' is to make the exisitng schools bigger to take more children??? What else would you expect them to do? As usual - a lot of moaning but no suggestion as to what the alternative is. Thinkingoutloud
  • Score: -1

10:47am Sun 7 Oct 12

willowsrich says...

The county council performance on schools, particularly in Oxford City, has been shockingly poor. They failed to predict the rise in student numbers and when they forced through the change from 3 tier to 2 tier education failed to leave sufficient spare capacity in the system. Along with this they have put in place an allocation system that has forced children to be sent to school by taxi's criss-crossing the city. They have failed parents and children. They have done no better in secondary schools where, with the exception of a couple, standards of achievement have been awful. However things now have to be put right. Where additional places are needed they must be provided, this is a strategic decision that schools and nimby parents cannot be allowed to obstruct. My only caveat is that these extra places must receive adequate resources and facilities otherwise schools and parents will have good cause to complain later. Oxfordshire County Council - now is the time to redeem yourselves - don't fail us again.
The county council performance on schools, particularly in Oxford City, has been shockingly poor. They failed to predict the rise in student numbers and when they forced through the change from 3 tier to 2 tier education failed to leave sufficient spare capacity in the system. Along with this they have put in place an allocation system that has forced children to be sent to school by taxi's criss-crossing the city. They have failed parents and children. They have done no better in secondary schools where, with the exception of a couple, standards of achievement have been awful. However things now have to be put right. Where additional places are needed they must be provided, this is a strategic decision that schools and nimby parents cannot be allowed to obstruct. My only caveat is that these extra places must receive adequate resources and facilities otherwise schools and parents will have good cause to complain later. Oxfordshire County Council - now is the time to redeem yourselves - don't fail us again. willowsrich
  • Score: 1

7:46pm Sun 7 Oct 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

Thinkingoutloud wrote:
Presumably the 'proper planning' is to make the exisitng schools bigger to take more children??? What else would you expect them to do?

As usual - a lot of moaning but no suggestion as to what the alternative is.
Perhaps double the planned size of "New Barton" Primary School and accommodate the unwanted 210 children from New Marston?

It would offer a good reason to have a safer bridge for pedestrians, cyclists and buses over the A40 from "New Barton" to Foxwell Drive rather than the planned flat crossing - so a definite positive.
[quote][p][bold]Thinkingoutloud[/bold] wrote: Presumably the 'proper planning' is to make the exisitng schools bigger to take more children??? What else would you expect them to do? As usual - a lot of moaning but no suggestion as to what the alternative is.[/p][/quote]Perhaps double the planned size of "New Barton" Primary School and accommodate the unwanted 210 children from New Marston? It would offer a good reason to have a safer bridge for pedestrians, cyclists and buses over the A40 from "New Barton" to Foxwell Drive rather than the planned flat crossing - so a definite positive. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

8:29pm Sun 7 Oct 12

bart-on simpson says...

New Barton is about homes, not large primary schools. No flat crossings planned across the A40, by the way, apart from the main junction into New Barton..
New Barton is about homes, not large primary schools. No flat crossings planned across the A40, by the way, apart from the main junction into New Barton.. bart-on simpson
  • Score: 1

11:05pm Sun 7 Oct 12

Andrew:Oxford says...

bart-on simpson wrote:
New Barton is about homes, not large primary schools. No flat crossings planned across the A40, by the way, apart from the main junction into New Barton..
The children of New Barton will have to be educated somewhere - and it makes sense at the planning stage to increase the size of the primary school facilities if New Marston primary school is going to turn their backs on the 210 local "undesirables".

A bridge at the foot of Foxwell drive will mean that the new school could be less than 300 metres away from the "exclusive" school and clearly closer to some children on the Northway Council Estate.

The site of the current school would also make an excellent park & ride site for the Headington Hospitals, it looks like there would be enough space to fit a road in through to Marsh Lane and would help relieve the traffic on the mini-rounabouts.
[quote][p][bold]bart-on simpson[/bold] wrote: New Barton is about homes, not large primary schools. No flat crossings planned across the A40, by the way, apart from the main junction into New Barton..[/p][/quote]The children of New Barton will have to be educated somewhere - and it makes sense at the planning stage to increase the size of the primary school facilities if New Marston primary school is going to turn their backs on the 210 local "undesirables". A bridge at the foot of Foxwell drive will mean that the new school could be less than 300 metres away from the "exclusive" school and clearly closer to some children on the Northway Council Estate. The site of the current school would also make an excellent park & ride site for the Headington Hospitals, it looks like there would be enough space to fit a road in through to Marsh Lane and would help relieve the traffic on the mini-rounabouts. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

8:30pm Thu 18 Oct 12

Christine Hovis says...

Mrs Tilley wowed everyone at the public meeting at Windmill this week. She managed to get everyone's backs up in no time at all.

It was an impressive performance: many might have been sitting on the fence before she started getting grumpy with people asking questions, now they know they have to oppose it as the county appear completely clueless.
Mrs Tilley wowed everyone at the public meeting at Windmill this week. She managed to get everyone's backs up in no time at all. It was an impressive performance: many might have been sitting on the fence before she started getting grumpy with people asking questions, now they know they have to oppose it as the county appear completely clueless. Christine Hovis
  • Score: 0

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