Deputations - proposal to permanently expand Princess Frederica School
With the consent of the Executive, residents and parents of children attending Princess Frederica Primary School addressed the meeting expressing their views over proposals to permanently expand the school, following a statutory consultation, the outcome of which was reported in the report from the Acting Director of Children and Families and the Strategic Director of Regeneration and Growth. Parents and local residents who spoke against the proposals, whilst appreciating the shortage of school places in the borough, submitted that Princess Frederica School was not appropriate for the proposed expansion given its location within a confined site, the density of the surrounding areas and lack of parental support for the plans. Other schools in the area with a wider footprint were considered more suitable for expansion.
Ms Anna Pascoe (parent) referred to the impact on the school and existing pupils during the development phase and felt that the position of these which included duration, effect on playground space and dining arrangements should be clarified prior to any agreement. She felt the quality of education would suffer and the school would lose its existing community spirit. Mr Karl Abeyasekera (parent) questioned the accuracy of the report and the extent to which the democratic process had been followed. He suggested that contrary to indications in the report, the school governing body had not agreed to the expansion but were awaiting information. He felt that the consultation was flawed and referred to what he considered to be double counting of the outside space and, in addition, he considered the completion date of pre-2015 was over-optimistic.
Mr Rik Smith, speaking on behalf of Kensal Rise Residents Association and Ms Fiona Bell (local resident) expressed concern over the adverse impact on traffic in the area which was already congested. They argued that access was limited and surrounding roads were already narrow and congested, in particular College and Purves Roads. He questioned the extent to which the new travel policy would be effective given the narrowness of pavements and absence of cycle storage and existing road layout. Mr Smith contributed that he understood the logic of expanding a good school but pointed to the adverse impact on outside play areas. Mr Smith stated that the Association had worked well with the council in the past and hoped this would continue however he could not support the plans as they currently stood. Ms Bell put that a traffic plan could not be effective as it would not be policed and would be ignored when people were in a hurry to get to work. She also felt that plans to widen the pavement would increase the traffic problems. Ms Sylvia Maxfield expressed concern over the impact of the building works on the learning environment and pupil behaviour.
The Executive then heard from the Chair of Governors, Andrew Moss who drew attention to the benefits of expansion in enabling a redevelopment of the school to address existing shortcomings. Mr Moss spoke on behalf of the Governing Body which was the proposer of the expansion and he regretted that the proposals had proved to be so divisive. He understood residents’ concerns regarding traffic congestion and crowded pavements and stressed the need for safe access to be identified without compromise. Mr Moss thanked council officers who had worked well with the school during the challenging process. Mr Moss also thanked the Diocese for its support. Mr Moss argued that while 93% of 224 respondents were against expansion he questioned whether they spoke for the whole community.
Ms Bunmi Bajela (parent) spoke in favour of the expansion and while acknowledging the disruption during the expansion, reminded it would be short-lived and was a normal part of an expansion process. The waiting list was growing and she reminded the Executive of the need to consider the needs of future children some of whom lived near the school but could not get a place. She stressed the need for the community to come together and for the views of the majority to be heard as well as the minority who already had places in the school. Ms Bajela paid tribute to the creativity of staff who were well placed to manage the change and reminded of the exciting plans and opportunities that would not be available without the expansion. In her view, the status quo was not an option.
The Chair (Leader of the Council) thanked presenters for their contributions.