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Headteacher opposes plan to expand school
AN underfunded expansion of Windmill Primary School could pave the way for problems at other schools, headteacher Lynn Knapp has warned.
Oxfordshire County Council wants to increase the number of pupils at Windmill Primary School from 480 to 630 over the next five school years.
But now Mrs Knapp and chairman of governors Mayte Siswick have formally objected to the proposals as the consultation draws to a close today.
In a letter to the council, they complained no feasibility study or detailed plans had been published.
They also raised concerns that only £1.9m had been allocated for the expansion, when New Marston Primary School received £2.7m to expand by the same amount.
Mrs Knapp said she feared it was unlikely the council would reconsider its position, despite their protestations.
She said: “I care about Windmill too much to just sit down and let them do it, but I don’t think for one minute that our objection is going to make them rethink their plans.
“I am not against the principle of expansion. What I oppose is not investing in that expansion.”
Mrs Knapp said she feared an expansion done the wrong way at Windmill would pave the way for underfunded proposals at other schools.
She said: “We’re also doing this on behalf of other schools. It’s important that schools get the best deal.”
She said the figure pledged by the council would not go far enough.
Mum-of-three Alvira Khan- Gordon, who has one child at the school, said she was worried about how the primary would cater for its additional pupils.
She said: “It’s not going to be an easy task expanding this school to meet the requirement of 630 kids.
“The fact is all we have is, at best, an estimated budget which falls considerably below the budget given to New Marston.
“This is a major concern for me and a lot of other parents.”
She said that unlike the headteacher and governors, she didn’t support the principle of expansion, but said parents wanted to get the best deal for their children if the proposals were forced through.
She said: “I know on a pragmatic level and in terms of what the council is doing, this is likely to be put through no matter what we say.
“If the proposal was met with serious, adequate, funding it would make people feel a lot better about what is inevitably going to be a pretty raw deal for their children.”
County council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley has previously said the school would only be forced to expand in the worst case scenario.
But last night Mrs Tilley said she did not know what difference the letter of objection would make.
She said: “I don’t know what drawing board we could ever go back to. We have a meeting tomorrow because of this letter and then it’s got to go to cabinet. I don’t know what decision they will make.”
Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “All responses, positive and negative, will be taken into account before a democratic decision regarding the proposals is made by the county council's cabinet on March 19.
“If a decision to expand is taken, then the council would work closely with the school endeavouring to meet their aspirations for what additional building work might be required.”
He said it wasn’t appropriate to compare the £1.9m provisional figure with amounts spent on other schools because each school has a “unique set of circumstances”.
Expansions are also going ahead at other schools, including Botley and New Marston, after a shortfall of about 500 spaces was identified for the 2013/14 academic year.
DEMANDS AND OBJECTIONS
- Five additional classrooms
- A hall big enough to hold a full school assembly
- A kitchen able to cater for 630 children
- Expansion of the after-school club
- The appropriate number of rooms for small group work
- A playing field of suitable size
- Retaining the school’s frontage
Summary of objections
- Budget of just £1.9m set aside, compared to £2.7m for New Marston
- No information on which of their demands will be met
- No feasibility study or architectural plans released in time for the consultation
- A full traffic survey has not yet been carried out.