Friday, 22 October 2010
Brent Council forced to widen Preston Manor consultation
There was a further consultation at Wembley Area Consultative Forum on Wednesday which succeeded in producing more confusion rather than clarification. Half a dozen men from Brent Council, Preston Manor High School and Watts the project managers stood at the front of the hall next to the screen as a power point presentation was made. ("How many men does it take to do a presentation?" came the whispered comment behind me.)
The presentation included the claim that there were 72 reception aged children out of school 'in the area of Preston Manor'. This was slightly different wording than the 'immediate area of Preston Manor' claimed at the previous meeting, but I pointed out that we had already been told that this meant the whole of HA9 and HAO, which clearly includes children a long way from Preston Manor. One of the presenters said that there had been confusion about whether it was an 'all-through' school or not (without mentioning that this was a confusion stemming from different descriptions in their own two consultation documents) and claimed it was not an 'all through' because the primary building was some distance from the secondary school and separated by playing fields. In fact 'all through' is a matter of whether the primary and secondary departments have one overall management structure and one governing body - not their proximity.
A question asking what the catchment area of the new new primary school would be ('catchment' is a geographical concept which allocates particular streets to particular schools - you can find your street on Brent's website and see which school is allocated to your children) was answered by reference to the over-subscription criteria and the priority in which places would be given - not on whether the new department./school would have its own catchment area. All Brent community primary schools, with the exception of Sudbury, have their own catchment areas. If Preston Manor were to have its own catchment then those of neighbouring primary schools would have to be redrawn. However if the new primary school has Foundation status then community school catchments would not apply and the school may devise its own admisisons criteria.
In fact we were told that Preston Manor was conducting the consultation because it was a Foundation School and therefore managed its own affairs, although it was made clear that Brent Council strongly backed the proposal. Confusion was increased when Watts seemed to be addressing educational rather than building issues and speaking for the council.
Only three questions were allowed by the chair of the meeting because of the crowded agenda so 'consultation' was more about residents being 'told' rather than asked. However residents did manage to speak about their concerns about increased traffic and in a soapbox earlier, Rose Ashton, head of nearby Chalkhill Primary School, was able to express her concerns about the impact of the expansion on her own school which has vacancies in both its nursery and reception places. This phase of the consultation ends on Monday so there is still time to get a response in. Consultation document HERE
If Preston Manor governors decide to go ahead there will be a further six week statutory consultation ending in December.