Temporary Huts Planned for Derwentwater Playground

Parents united in their opposition to "ill considered" plan

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Parents of children at Derwentwater School have been informed recently that Ealing Council are planning to place temporary huts in the playground of Derwentwater School, despite the overwhelming opposition of parents.

The Chairman of Governors at Derwentwater, Sophie Harrowes, told us that Governors at the school "have unanimously opposed the proposal from the word go."

A meeting is due to take place at Derwentwater school tomorrow afternoon at 3.30pm during which parents will get a chance to discuss the proposal with Council officers.

A consultation on school expansion last year showed there was no support for expansion at Derwentwater which was identified as having the smallest square metreage per child in the whole borough.

Ms Harrowes says: "We lodged our objections very clearly in November to the consultation. Cabinet recorded that we were "inappropriate" for expansion. However, inexplicably we have been chosen as the right school for temporary expansion."

A Scrutiny report presented to Cabinet only a few weeks ago, states: "Of the School responses, there was support for expansion from East Acton and West Twyford and Berrymede Junior. West Acton appears interested but with conditions. Berrymede Infant have requested further discussions but are currently opposed. Southfield is opposed to expansion, as is Derwentwater."

Charlie Mawer, posting on the ActonW3.com forum this morning said: "Derwentwater is a wonderful, caring school making great strides towards Ofsted improvements, but I cannot see how this can happen in circumstances where children are cooped up with less space per head then you would give the residents of an HMP (Her Majesty's Prison)."

Ms Harrowes said: "This expansion will place extraordinary stress on the school. There is already little or no space for art and music. Children have to eat their lunch in the canteen on a rotation system - this will only get worse."

We also spoke to Alex Watson, a parent of two children at the school who is campaigning against the expansion. She told us: "I am absolutely opposted to this plan. This expansion would, eventually, increase the size of the school by a third.

"The Head and the Senior Management Team are working hard to improve the school. One of the things which is currently being looked at is the design of the playground. Money has already been spent on re-designing it which would obviously all go to waste if a temporary classroom - or two - were erected on what is already precious space and would inevitably impact on the not very large outdoor play area.

"I am raising the matter with local councillors. I just don't understand how this can be proposed after such strong objections to the expansion were raised.

"In my opinion, this expansion is ill-considered, rushed through with little or no planning. It seems like a last-ditch attempt to find a solution to a problem which should have been apparent to Ealing Council years ago.

"I have concerns about this on many levels. Access to the school is already dangerous and expansion would just make it worse."

Ealing Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Ian Gibb, said: “Birth rates are rising across the borough and the council has to plan for this growth. We want to ensure that we not only have enough school places for local children, but also that these places are delivered with the needs of local families in mind. Above all we want to avoid primary school children having to commute across the borough because there are no places at their local schools.”

Ms Harrowes says: "Everyone is united in their opposition to this expansion. I want Ealing Council to listen to parents. This isn't about Nimbyism. Derwentwater is an incredibly warm and welcoming school but this expansion will place a huge strain on a school which is already overcrowded."

March 18, 2010