We Need A School campaign to be scaled down as no suitable site available
The We Need A School team has been campaigning since 2009 for a new secondary free school to serve children in the Hertfordshire villages of Knebworth, Woolmer Green, Codicote, Oaklands and Datchworth. We submitted our Outline Business Case to support our proposal in April 2011. Unfortunately, the Department for Education has decided it cannot approve our application at this time, largely because of the difficulties involved in finding a suitable site to host the school.
The site issue has always been difficult. We’ve had no desire to destroy beautiful views or countryside and have always listened to people’s concerns. We’ve explored every option in the catchment area in an attempt to secure a brownfield site. Sadly, none has become available. We also looked at some greenbelt sites, which were mainly infill or other non-productive areas rather than agricultural land, but have been warned that the time, complexity and cost of a planning application for one of these could be excessive and make the project non-viable. Furthermore, despite earlier positive indications, the DfE has now made it clear it won’t support a greenbelt application. We assume the change of mind has something to do with government finances, although this was not stated.
Otherwise, our business case was compelling. Our vision of a village secondary school, run by and serving our rural community, and the imaginative teaching structure we had devised, were particularly commended. Sufficient demand for the school was overwhelmingly proved, with 83% of more than 350 parents contacted in an independent survey saying they would choose it for their children. This was on top of many hundreds of registrations of interest in sending children to the school and a petition supporting our ideas containing over 1000 names. We are in no doubt that we did the right thing by exploring our ideas as far as possible, for the simple reason that the current secondary school options for village children are unacceptable to the vast majority of parents and others in our community.
Obviously we are disappointed the business case hasn’t been approved and know that many local people will share our feelings. The We Need A School team will now scale down its campaign in the hope that a brownfield site does become available. We will also continue to lobby for better options and larger quotas for village children in the existing available schools. We note how substantially admissions have improved for village children since our campaign began, so we will keep pressuring the authorities so that our children continue to be treated fairly. Please do write to your local MP and county council to support our cause.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported our campaign and especially the many people who have rolled up their sleeves to help.
The We Need A School Team