I have decided to blog about a very local issue; the building of a new school in Consett. The school building has not started yet but when finished it will serve the Consett area, replacing two smaller schools, both of which are need of significant investment. An agreement has been reached that the new school will be built. Many parents were initially cautious, wanting to keep their respective schools, but public opinion is now more supportive.
There is a very real need for a school with state of the art facilities to serve the young people of the Consett area. Good facilities have a tangible positive effect on the learning and behaviour of the children in a school. Good design can change kids' attitudes as they step from their Outside world into what will be a safe and exciting learning environment. Effective Science teaching is definitely easier in a modern teaching Lab. I am not saying that it is impossible to teach Science well in room with no facilities, it is. But trying to convince kids that Science is relevant, current and new in a room with old wooden benches is more of a challenge than in a modern lab.
Consett's sports facilities are good but could do with some improvement and the school is being planned so that members of the public have the opportunity to make use of the sports facilities. There will clearly be some restrictions, at certain times when students will be using the pool or sports facilities. For me at least this is a price worth paying. The argument, which I heard at a meeting last night from an Independent local Councillor that we can't have a school and a leisure centre on the same site because adults will not be able to go swimming when ever they want, is both selfish and ridiculous. The young people of the area must take priority as they do anyway when the existing pool is closed for lessons and training.
I was, like many people, was disappointed that the school is not being built on the old steelworks site. The steelworks site is within walking distance of one of the original schools. The chosen site, which incorporates the now disused old council offices, increases the distance between one of the existing schools and the new school. Young people who are used to walking to school having to be bussed in has the potential to increase the likelihood of truancy. I'm sure that the staff at the new school will be aware of this issue and address it.
The argument about location should be over. The decision has been made to put the school on the Belle Vue site. Some local people object to the location so vehemently that they have set up a group opposing the building of Consett's new school, yes you have read that correctly, a group not to save a school but to prevent a brand new school being built on what they believe to be the wrong piece of land. The group and a local Lib Dem councillor have instigated a judicial review. This has the potential to further delay the new school meaning that an entire cohort of current year 7s (11 year olds)2 could miss out on the opportunity of taking their GCSEs in surroundings more conducive for success. Just because a few people don’t want a new school and leisure facility near to their houses. The location argument has already cost the children dearly1. There can be no further delay; Improving the education and life chances of the next generation must be our priority.
Some parents in Consett have set up a petition which calls for a prompt start to building work, please take a minute to add your support: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/building-a-future-for-consett/
- Pat Glass MP writes about the cost of delay in the Chronicle: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/get-involved/your-letters/2012/01/26/chronicle-letters-make-school-a-success-72703-30203574/