News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Monday, July 17, 2006

Morehall - Harcourt Merger update

The first consultation period on plans to merge Morehall and Harcourt primary schools has now closed. The Kent Education Board will consider the findings on 18th September, and will pass a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Education.

Like many parents and residents of Chart Road and Surrenden Road, I am deeply concerned about the possible impact of the merger, both on the children and the locality of the schools. My letter of objection is copied below:

Dear Mr Adams,

The proposed amalgamation of Morehall Primary School with Harcourt Primary School raised a number of concerns, and I would urge reconsideration, given the potential for such actions to backfire. My concerns are outlined below:

1. Figures produced by the Area Education Office in July 2005 suggested that at no point over the next 4 years would all the pupils are Morehall and Harcourt fit into the Morehall School (see attached). In fact, around 480 pupils would be squeezed into a site designed for a maximum of 420.

2. In order that no class exceeds 30 pupils, as at present, 3 classes per year would be required for most years at time of merger. That would require roughly 18-20 classes, depending whether amalgamation takes place in 2007 or 2008. The Morehall site has 14 classes at present.

3. The roads around Morehall Primary are currently extremely congested and dangerous at the beginning and end of each day. Adding an extra 150 children to the school, many from further afield, will clearly lead to an increase in car journeys, worsening the situation for pupils, parents and residents alike. The school would house 60 more children than have ever been planned for the site, placing the already inadequate infrastructure under unsustainable pressure.

4. The two schools serve distinct communities. The consultation report demonstrates that clearly, showing the comparative levels of free meals in the two school, signifying considerable social differences. Merging such disparate communities could prove difficult and would be detrimental to the childrens’ education.

5. Part of the accommodation stock at Morehall Primary consists of temporary classrooms which are 30 years old. Surely eradication of such inappropriate buildings should be a key aim of the LEA, and the forecast reduction in pupil numbers presents a rare opportunity to achieve this. The amalgamation of these schools would do the opposite, prolonging the life of already out-dated “temporary” buildings for the foreseeable future.

6. The need for additional temporary accommodation at Morehall Primary was accepted by officers at the public consultation meetings. How long will these classrooms be

required? Given that the last temporary classrooms have lasted 30 years, I am particularly concerned that they may not turn out to be that temporary, and I don’t believe that anyone could definitively say that they won’t remain in situ for some considerable time. I draw on my own experience as a pupil and now Governor at Sandgate Primary School, which was amalgamated with the Sir John Moore School in 1988. A mobile classroom was required at the time, and mobiles have been on site ever since.

7. Harcourt Primary is a purpose built school. It seems inappropriate to replace such a building with temporary classrooms.

8. The forecasts of school rolls are, as stated at the public meeting, not reliable for individual schools. That is evident from the wild fluctuations between forecast rolls in the July 2005 statistics compared to the June 2006 statistics in this consultation. It is, therefore, unrealistic and bad management to base a schools strategy one just one set of figures. There is not statistical consensus to justify the proposed amalgamation and its associated reduction in school places in the Cheriton area.

9. The public consultation document contained no reference to the possible influx of Gurkhas, following the recent relaxation of rules regarding accompanying families. This is despite the original document to committee which pointed out that it may be necessary to abandon the amalgamation, as up to 400 places could be required locally. Given that the number of places required for the Nepalese children is still an unknown quantity, no reduction in places should be agreed until it is certain whether there are, in fact, surplus places to be removed.

I would ask that the committee rejects proposals to close Harcourt Primary. The school is needed and there is no consensus of school role forecasts to suggest that it will not be needed in the foreseeable future. The Morehall site is not suitable for expansion, and it is fundamentally wrong to close a purpose built school when the alternative is mobile classrooms.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Dan Hassett

Folkestone Town Council Conservatives

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