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The folly of school competition

December 10, 2004 6:00 PM
Moorlands school under review again

Moorlands school under review again

The past couple of weeks have seen a series of meetings to discuss the future of schools in Harefield, Bitterne Park and Townhill areas of Southampton. David Goodall, the Parliamentary spokesman for Southampton Itchen, attended all the public to hear to concerns of the parents.

David is very interested in these matters because he is also the local councillor for West End parents whose children attend at Moorlands Infants, Townhill Infants and Townhill Junior School, as well as, a Local Education Authority governor at Townhill Infants and a parent at Townhill Juniors.

The concerns of the parents where as follows :-

  • Beechwood/Glenfield - the main concern was that a merging of the schools on to one site would result in a school that would not meet the needs of the community.
  • Moorlands - the obvious concern of the parents at Moorlands was that after they thought the question of changing the infants to a primary had been sorted out they felt they were back at square one.
  • Harefield - the main concern was that the school would close and that the excellent facilities at the Infant school like the special sensory trail would be lost.
  • Townhill Juniors - the main concern was that the drop of 12 school places per year would mean that unique way of working at Townhill with four teachers between the three classes of each year group would be lost because of the reduced funds that dropping 12 places would mean.

In all the schools parents were concerned that they might not be able to send their children to the local school. All the parents wanted the local school to be maintained and for a good standard of teaching. In fact the longest discussions were over the reduction of 12 places at Townhill Juniors because the teacher pupil ratio would increase from one teacher per 25½ pupils to one teacher per 30 pupils and this could affect the quality of the education.

This really highlights the folly of school competition; parents want a good quality local school they can walk to with their infant and junior school children. They do not want to have a choice between their local school and even good one a mile further away.

David Goodall said :-

"The key thing at the end of that review process is that all school sites are retained. In the future the birth rate will probably rise and increased development will also increase the pressure on infrastructure resources, like schools. The long term structure plan to 2026 for the South East of England shows large amount of development in south Hampshire i.e. Southampton and Portsmouth, therefore it is essential that all school sites are retained as schools so that future demand can be met."

And finally the meeting did produce a couple of strange statistics :-

  • the government school capacity calculation is based on the ratio of classroom space to pupils, so even if the every class at Moorlands had its maximum of 30 children per class, the school would still be 25% empty, because Moorlands is blessed with larger than average classrooms.
  • the government also say that Townhill Juniors is overcrowded, because a very large joint teaching area complete with chairs and table for about 30 children at each end of the room does NOT count as a classroom, but is counted as a corridor.

These facts would be funny except this is basis that the government use to determine whether school should be reduced in size or even closed !!

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