Wednesday 25 February 2015

Mega primary proposals for Byron Court sparks education debate

Proposals to expand Byron Court Primary School from 3 forms of entry to 5  (the current 90 children per year group  going up to 150  per year group, making a total of 1,050 children from 4-11 years old) with an additional nursery, have caused concern amongst parents.

341 parents have signed a petition against the proposal and 760 residents have submitted their own petition.  Signatures have been collected on a stall outside the school gates.  The TV documentary about Gascoigne Primary School,  'Britian's Biggest Primary School' , on Channel Five seems to have increased fears rather than allayed them.

Parents feel that an emphasis on crowd control, rotas for lunchtime and play times, children not being known personally by the headteacher, high pupil mobility associated with children from a long way outside the catchment taking up places and then eventually moving to a closer local school, are all issues that could impact on the quality of education offered by the school, and more importantly for some, children's happiness.

"I would rather my child was happy, felt he was safe and that he belonged, and known to all the staff than the school had all these glossy new facilities," was how one parent put it to me.

The parents have challenged Brent Council on whether there is actually an increased demand in the area of the school, and point to the fact that a satellite class at Ashley Gardens is not full. They also say that the new 4 form of entry (120 pupils per year group) primary school at Wembley High will provide any new places needed in the locality.

Parents acknowledge the need for a new school building but suggest that they are being bribed by the Council who say that a new building cannot be provided unless the school expands.

The Executive Headteacher of the school is said to be keen on the expansion and new build because it could include facilities for specialist subjects such as sport and drama, with its own theatre and a hall that could seat 1,200. A radio station is also mentioned as have rooftop playgrounds.

It would enhance a school which was deemed 'Outstanding' by Ofsted some time ago and which is part of the Teaching School Alliance.

Residents in turn suggest that a 'jumbo sized' school in a quiet area with narrow roads will simply be out of place. They see problems with access for builders and particular the cranes required for the installation of the modular buildings that are proposed. There is also a longer term issue over increased parent car parking  due to the higher pupil numbers. It is already a major problem which no intervention has succeeded in tackling.

The proposal has two  prongs: the decision for expansion in principle following consultation goes to Cabinet on March 16th and if approved the planning application will go to the Planning Committee in April.


Anonymous said...

What on earth are Brent Council, the Headteacher and School Governors thinking of? A 5 form entry Primary School of 1050+ pupils is extremely worrying for parents and also the wider community. The Educational implications are of grave concern. The individual needs of the young child can, and will be, easily overlooked and lost within the management of such a large school. A Primary School should surely be of a size in which children can become familiar with their surroundings, peers and all staff and also in which they can move around with confidence. A 5 form entry Primary School will be an overwhelming environment for the young child. How can this proposed expansion be allowed to proceed?

Anonymous said...

This is complete madness.

Even a Secondary at over 1000 is big enough, but a primary with over 1000 young people ?

Since Christine Gilbert was head of Ofsted and she has now been in post since 2012 I do not hold a great deal of faith in her ability to manage Brent school expansion.

Yes she might say her hands are tide as Brent Council now can't open new schools, but this is a weak excuse. If you look at Ealing next door they have done a much better job in managing school expansion and budget cuts.

Surely if Christine Gilbert had any ability to manage school expansion she would immediately drop this proposal in the waste bin !

Anonymous said...

This is the council trying to save money and nothing to do with education of our kids. It's disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Its a great idea - good school - lots of space to build well done Brent Council

Anonymous said...

The previous "anonymous"reply has little, if any, understanding of the needs, education and welfare of young children.

Anonymous said...

Was a good school in the top 10 but now placed 33rd out of 50 in the Brent league table. This can only get worse if the school expands. like the Ofsted result in 2011/12; what would the current rating be now, even before expansion? The ruin of a once good appropriately sized community school. Even the majority of current parents consider this to be a disastrous move, so not "well done Brent Council".

Anonymous said...

I think this is a terrible idea and sadly another case of putting economics and politics over the true needs of education. I understand the majority of the parents at the school and residents around the school are against this expansion, so it will be sad indictment of Brent council and the supposed democratic process if this expansion is allowed to take place.

Anonymous said...

There cannot be any educationally justifiable excuse for the expansion of a primary school, ie 4 – 11 year olds, to in excess of 1050 pupils. Indeed, there are studies which show that schools of this size are detrimental to the well-being of the children.

In this instance, it would appear that available space is the criterion dictating the choice of location, however, there is very restricted surrounding residential access and access into the school itself is only a pathway between two houses, in either Spencer Road or Nathans Road, realities that cannot be ignored.

Due consideration should, also, be given the fact that the major A & E unit for the whole of the surrounding districts is now based at Northwick Park Hospital and that all roads leading there are inadequate for the additional traffic generated, particularly at peak times or when any unforeseen incident occurs.

Anonymous said...

I believe this proposal is completely wrong. Traffic is a major problem and at times there is no access to emergency vehicles. The school and council has been trying to solve this for over 30 years and it only gets worse. Parents park in your drives, across them and on the double yellow lines.
There is nothing democratic about this proposal, the parents do not want it, the residents do not want it, and it seems that the staff are in fear for their jobs if they were to speak out against it. The council has also failed to answer most of the issue raised against the proposal.
The council has not even considered any alternative sites, where less disruption would occur.
Its been said that the school only support it so that they can have the canteen replaced as the council refuse to spend money updating the current facilities.

Anonymous said...

I strongly oppose to the expansion plan of byron court school, for all the reasons stated abobe and more..
It's an accident waiting to hapen , we are all hearing about lorries or car accident happening around primary schools, or maybe a virus spreading among pupils, what is the plan to contain it if they double the number of children.
Byron court school was built NOT to be expanded. It's a COMMUNITY school.
Brent council should think of building in another place like next to the nearby golf course with access to the main road....

Anonymous said...

Surely it would be better to build or expand where the need for school places is greatest....Alperton, Stonebridge, Kilburn. To do this would prevent the need for children travelling such distances to Byron Court. If this expansion goes ahead the total number of pupils coming onto this estate will be 3000. This number will be made up of Wembley High Secondary plus their new 4 form entry primary school plus Byron Court. How will this small estate and surrounding roads cope with the huge increase in traffic? In addition, the environmental impact will be massive.
Brent Council refuse to listen to concerns of parents, residents and the wider community. How can this expansion be considered when there is so much opposition?

Anonymous said...

There are no educational advantages in expanding Byron Court School. There is no need for more primary places in this location, a new primary school is in process of being built just half a mile away. The plan is being proposed because the school just happens to have a playing field. This most desirable asset for young children, a space to run and play and have gardens and fresh air, is threatened to be covered in buildings. Why?
To accommodate pupils from far and wide, who would need to be brought by car on already overcrowded main roads, one of which serves a major hospital, into an estate where traffic cannot move at present at times of the school run.

Schools of Five form entry are unsuitable for primary aged children. Staggered mealtimes and playtimes, constant noise affecting classroom activities, children feeling lost in such a large community when they need individual care. Where are the benefits?

Anonymous said...

I totally oppose the expansion of Byron Court primary school. Byron Court is a local community school in a highly residential area. It was not built to accommodate such a large number of children. There are limits to how far a primary can grow and still retain the ethos that makes it special and welcoming to young children. There are 4 other schools within walking distance of Byron Court as well as Wembley High and yet Brent Council have not given any good reasons for justifying the need for expansion. The traffic situation has bought misery to residents in the area - which has already been mentioned above.
A substantial number of parents are against this expansion - a substantial number of residents are against this expansion. Surely Brent Council should listen to these concerns. Surely the governors of the school should doing something about this situation when so many are against? I have tried contacting Cllr Butt but he has not replied to my emails and did not attend his surgery. I have also tried contacting our local MP who has not replied...should we be voting for these people when they are not replying to our concerns?

Anonymous said...

My comment above stating "little, if any , understanding of the needs...." etc was in response to the statement "It's a great idea......" posted by Anonymous 26th February@18.40.

How can anyone honestly believe that building an extensive 5FE Primary school in direct opposition to parents and residents on a small residential estate is deemed "a great idea"?
The only benefit will be to the Headteacher whose aim is to lead the biggest primary school in Brent and who, when asked at a parent/resident meeting "who wants this?" replied "I want it."

Enough said!!!

Anonymous said...

As a ex Parent Governor of the school I totally understand that the school needs a new Canteen and a bigger hall to hold assembly's Christmas fairs and School productions etc when I was a parent Governor I was very proactive by writing to Brent council, arranging a meeting with our local MP and the lead member of the council in charge of education to get this investment into the school but to increase the number to a 5 form is extremely concerning and totally the wrong way forward. The School was in the top 10 league tables but now 33rd a expansion will also lead to the standards of teaching. Reading the above comments we all know that the current parents of the school as well as the local residents do not feel happy about this expansion but how do the current staff of the school feel ?, what surveys and demand research has the school as well as Brent council done ?? Also what consultation has been done with regards to the need for a nursery. The nursery was never part of the expansion plans what another surprise ???

Anonymous said...

As a resident within the area of Byron Court School and Wembley Academy's New Primary School; Brent Council are unable to justify where these extra 420 + 840 pupils are coming from! Has the birth rate just blown-up out of all proportion? The narrow roads in Sudbury Court Estate are choked up now, further parents driving in their Chelsea tractors are without doubt likely to cause more and more accidents on our once beautiful estate. New trees (provide in part by finance from SCRA) have been wiped-out by poor driving and the mounting of pavements. These have been badly damaged & cracked, new bollards tilted over. Grass verges damaged, drives blocked and in some cases the residents have been unable to leave their homes without altercations! Now Brent Council intend to charge residents additionally for their green bins? Is this to help pay for expanding our 'excellent' (Ofsted's own description) schools? This too is a disgrace! I would wish to see all areas that need more or larger schools in Brent relocating them far closer to their homes.

anonymous said...

As a staff member, none of us fear for our jobs if we speak out against the plans. Also the school is a tremendous place to work and learn. Staff and children are very happy and the staff are excited at being given the opportunity to prove that the expansion will prove a success.

Anonymous said...

The school at present may be a 'tremendous place to work and learn', but when the number of students more than doubles the quality of the school will obviously alter.