Temporary Classroom For Derwentwater Primary School

Planning committee approves application for portable amid angry reaction from parents

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Ealing Council's planning committee last night voted in favour of installing a temporary classroom at Derwentwater School, clearing the way for a possible expansion to cope with an excess demand for school places in Acton Central. The application for a temporary classroom to house an extra class of children from this September was passed by 6-5 in favour, with one abstention.

Furious parents who had mounted an online campaignto oppose any expansion of the school, be it temporary or permanent, shouted 'Shame on You' as the vote was passed.

East Acton Ward Councillor Kate Crawford (Lab), who voted in favour of the portacabin plans told ActonW3.com that she understands parents' concerns about school expansion but there is a crucial need for school places in the area. The committee were given notes for planning committee but when asked if there was any objection from the school administration or the school governors, a search was conducted but no objection could be found.

Sophie Harrowes, the Chair of Governors of Derwentwater Primary School, said "I’ve asked the Council Officers to seek full clarification as to why the governing body and senior management’s objections to temporary expansion were not stated at the planning meeting last night."  However, Ms. Harrowes, on behalf of the governors, later told ActonW3.com that the planning meeting was not about expansion, but simply to decide on approval of a temporary classroom.

In a statement to ActonW3 and local parents, the governors and school administration said "the decision on Wednesday night was a planning decision regarding the siting of modular accommodation in the staff car park area.  It was not about the school or the Council’s views in relation to additional classes on either a temporary or permanent basis. 

The Governors and Head have a clear position of opposition to temporary expansion. This has been made clear in formal letters and documented at meetings with the Council at a number of key junctures."

The statement continues: "However, we did not formally oppose the planning application as if we are forced to accept a bulge class at the school, then we need to ensure that we have input into the process.  Whilst the school and Governors are able to object to expansion, it can be forced upon us by the Council, with the risk of it being placed in the playground or even having to give up internal hall space for an extra class."

But Conservative Councillor for Greenford, Jason Stacey, who was on the committee at last night's meeting says he voted against the temporary classroom at Derwentwater because the plans for expansion 'weren't thought through'.  He added that he raised the question of whether the school objected to the expansion and was surprised by the response. The meeting was halted while the planning officer searched through the notes and discovered that a letter had been sent to the school on May 16, 2011 outlining the planning application. The committee were told that 'no response was received' by the school.

Councillor Crawford said, "I have a good history of voting with my conscience and with integrity.  I can assure you that was a good democratic process that was had last night.  We have to be true to ourselves and we have to go by the debate and information that you have at that meeting and the plans before you. I will stand by my decision.  There was an excellent debate. I do not understand the argument that the democratic process was flawed."

It is understood that a temporary classroom could be erected in the school's car park, ready to take a bulge class of 30 children in September. Four other schools in the Acton area - Southfield, Berrymede, St. Vincent's and West Acton will be taking an extra class of children in September in order to meet the growing need of school places in the W3 area. A final decision on whether an extra class of children will start at Derwentwater will be made in the early July.

Are you a parent in Acton concerned about school places? Email editor@actonw3.com with your views.

16 June 2011

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