Friday, 13 September 2013

Education policy was clearly short-sighted

YEP Letters: September 12

Shock, horror! Leeds needs 4,000 new school places. To start off with, I think a few I-told-you-sos are in order.

Summer or winter, campaigners with local knowledge and educational expertise attended endless meetings after their days at work. And they opined that Educational Leeds’s car-crash of a school building policy was short-sighted.
I well remember the midwife at the West Leeds High School meeting who told the consultation meeting that the birth rate was going up, not down in Armley. And, on the other side of Leeds we noted that growing immigration trends was more likely to need Leopold expanded rather than closed down.
We argued the case time and time again against a smug and well-paid Education Leeds, whose representatives did not hail from Leeds, and who had no local knowledge; we pointed to Africa as we would now point to Eastern Europe. But they were on a mission to make a difference, and they closed down and/or merged approximately 40 Leeds primary schools.
Today we have to put things right, but there are mistakes we should avoid. We must:
1. Listen to the unions and other campaigners. They are not in it for the money or power – there being none for this type of work. They are in it for the children and their education.
2. Understand that first generation immigrants tend to have bigger families than any subsequent generation.
3. Large schools for little children are not a good idea.
4. Children should not have to go to school in building sites
So, as the remote Gove spirals out of control, and has decreed that all new schools should be academies, play the game. Restore Royal Park, for example (a building much in need of occupants), call it Royal Park, Brudenell Annexe.
Give Miles Hill its heart back. But remember stuff happens and things change, so build in flexibility and community use provision for when the refugees go back and the families get smaller again.

Victoria Jaquiss FRSA, Education campaigner

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