Thursday 26 January 2012

Location, Location, Location.

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:


Anonymous said...

I agree with your stance on the councillor's comment. Shouldn't the adults who want to use the school sports facilites be at work during the school dat, or if unfortunate to be unemployed looking for a job?
The big underlying causes why communities get up in arms over schools and hospitals is that they like the status quo, when popoulations and demographics are constantly changing. Until a very recent minor spike (duue to the recession), birth rates have been dropping (and would be worse without the migrants producing lots of kids) and populations outside the major cities have also been dropping as people move to find work. Schools and hospitals need to be scaled to the populations they serve and one new larger school should have more efficiencies to offer a better environment than two small knackered ones. I just pray it isn't a PFI!

Unknown said...

It is part funded by the Council and also some BSF money from central governemnt, the biggest misconception is that it will be built on the exisiting fields. I understand the majority of the school would be built on land which is currently the existing sports centre, defunct council offices and associated car parks. To state that masses of green space will be lost is frankly a myth.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting blog

There are of course retired adults, the sick, the unemployed and pre-school children wishing to use the faciites. I am happy for the school to be built on Belle Vue. However I have concerns about the plan for shared sports facilites. Hopefully it won't be a problem, but if it resuts in less indoor facilities or restricted access then it could be. It could have a negative impact on participation in sport and a negative impact on measures to tackle health inequalities. County Durham has below average particpation levels in sport costing the local PCT three million more than the average PCT.See the Durham CC sports strategy for extact stats. The option of building the Academy with it's own sports facilities and a New Pool, but leaving the existing sport centre as is would be my choice. This would save the Counci over a million and mean public would still have access to sports facilites.

Unknown said...

The School is being designed with public use of sports facilties in mind. I think that new, high standard facilities with straightforward disabled access will encourage participation and the health benifits that go with it.

The Coalition government are cutting the amount of our tax revenue it gives back to councils in sucessive years, I'm not sure the budget will stretch to 2 pools and 2 sets of facilities within 100 yards of eachother. Having one set of high quality sports facilites should benefit both students and the community.

Christine Thomas said...

Hi Liam

I would just like to thank you for your support for the petition and for your sensible and reasoned responses to the queries of some of the people involved.

I started the petition because of my genuine alarm that these facilities are being jeopardised by some of the people who allegedly represent us. I am a mother of three and I want my children to be educated in the town where they live, in the state of the art school that they have been promised. I do not think this is an unreasonable request, and I do not think I am being unreasonable in fighting for this to go ahead.

The majority of people are unaware, and quite frankly do not care, about the small town political wrangling. They accept that Belle Vue is the chosen site, and now they want it built.

As far as I am concerned the issue is this, if they are not built at Belle Vue, we will get nothing, and that would be a disaster for the town! The wrangling has to stop and we need to get behind the development. We are never going to get what everyone considers a perfect development, consequently the key word for all people involved in this is COMPROMISE. Accept that it is rare in life to get exactly what you want. For the greater good, and the long term future of the town, people need to overcome their private issues and get behind the development and think of the children, not themselves.

We have been consulted over and over again for years, we just want it built.