Friday, 4 May 2012

Bonner Primary School comes to Mile End


Professional Development Centre, English Street - to become a school again
- an extension of Bonner Primary School
Yesterday you may have voted at the Polling Station in the Professional Development Centre in English Street - however did you know that very soon children of primary school age will again be using the Centre as a school?

That's NEW PRIMARY SCHOOL places for Mile End!

This post is about:
  • what the Centre used to be
  • what the Centre is now
  • the shortage of primary school places in Tower Hamlets - and what MERA has been doing
  • how the Centre will change back into a primary school and become an extension of Bonner Primary School.
What it used to be

Once upon a time the PDC Centre was a primary school.

As many of you will probably recognise, this building was built quite some time ago as a primary school.  In this respect, it's very similar to a number of others in the area.  However it's not been used as a school for many years - despite the shortage of primary places in Tower Hamlets.

What it is now

The building, which belongs to Tower Hamlets Council, is currently used as a Professional Development Centre (PDC).  It has been managed by the Children Schools & Families directorate as a venue for Continued Professional Development training and as a location for conferences, meetings and other training.
The Professional Development Centre (PDC) which provides a base for school-focused activities and training where teachers and managers can meet regarding education-related matters both formally and informally.
Council website
Shortage of primary school places

However as many parents will appreciate, Tower Hamlets has a shortage of primary school places in Tower Hamlets - and an acute shortage in certain parts of the borough (South Poplar, Isle of Dogs and Bow).
The provision of primary school places within Tower Hamlets is no longer uniform and adequately matched to the demand within particular areas of the borough.Tower Hamlets Community Primary Schools Admissions Policy for 2013/14 – Factsheet
Some estimate that it's short of around 500 places for primary school children.
  • Primary school places: It's estimated that an additional 16 form entries are needed in Tower Hamlets primary schools right NOW to cope with the projected increase in population in the borough
  • Home to school transport:  Between 2009 and 2011, the number of children requiring home to school transport trebled.  The 300 children now needing transport is expect to increase to at least 500 children in the next three years. 
We certainly know that when we set up MERA in 2009, we became acutely aware of the predicament of many of the parents living in this area.  Parents told of us all about the acute problems they had relating to:
  • difficulties in getting a primary school place locally and 
  • how long it took to take their children to school elsewhere in the borough.
Those children who had a place locally were either sitting in temporary classrooms in their playgrounds - erected due to the overcrowding - or had every chance of doing so in the near future.

The planning rule on temporary classrooms is that they are not allowed to continue indefinitely.  An Education Authority has to make arrangements to build new classrooms (or new schools) in an approved way.  An extension of the use of temporary classrooms is only allowed if building works are in the pipeline or underway.  Thus the situation on pupil numbers and primary school places has been getting critical all over the borough - and would have to be addressed.

At the same time as parents were travelling all over the borough to take their children to school and children were sitting in temporary classrooms, a former primary school was sat in our midst and yet was unavailable for primary school education.  Instead it was being used by teachers!

All primary school age children living in the MERA area should be able to walk safely to school.  This they could not do - because of where a number of them have been schooled.

To us it seemed absolutely obvious that the PDC needed to be converted back into operating as a primary school PDQ!

MERA asked questions.  For example we asked questions of Councillors at the Hustings MERA organised in May 2010.

MERA lobbied.  We pointed out the nonsense of using a primary school for the PDC when children in the area where having to be bussed elsewhere in the borough to go to school

This is an extract from the representation MERA made in respect of the Inspection of the proposed Core Strategy in 2010.
  • SP02 fails to make any explicit links between levels of growth in specific areas and the associated schools and education provision required to create sustainable communities.
    • Young children in families living in existing housing developments are already being sent to primary schools all over the borough because of the lack of capacity in local primary schools. 
    • We also understand some 60 children are without any place at all. 
    • This current deficit is nowhere acknowledged by the Council in any of its documents so far as we can ascertain 
    • Sending children to schools away from their home areas typically creates a sense of alienation in children which can lead to troubled behaviour and certainly does not contribute to One Tower Hamets. It certainly does not promote sustainable communities and healthy and happy neighbourhoods. 
  • There is no site plan for BOTH housing developments and the associated infrastructure provision which is required
At the time of our lobbying in 2010, we largely met with "stonewall" responses.  There wasn't any money.  There weren't any plans.

However, now it seems things have changed.  Maybe the lobbying that MERA did, the comments MERA made and the questions MERA posed did make a difference after all!

From PDC to Primary School

Our understanding is that the PDC Centre in English Street is to become a primary school again - which MERA is very pleased about.  At last a decision which makes common sense!

We understand the plan of action to be as follows:
  • The school in English Street will become an extension of the Bonner Primary School (in Bethnal Green) rather than a new school.  (see below for more about Bonner School)
  • In September, a nursery will open. 
  • The PDC will move out - to be completed by the end of 2012 - and move to premises elsewhere in the borough.
  • In January, more classes will open and at long last we will have more primary school places in this area.
However, to date, we note that there has been no planning application lodged for the change of use back to a primary school or any changes required to the building to make it suitable for use by children.   Or at least there is none registered on the Planning Applications Database for all properties with a postal address in English Street.  The building is a listed building within a Conservation Area.

About Bonner Primary School

Why create an extension to an existing school rather than create a new school?

In order to improve school achievement at the same time as keeping costs under control, there seems to be a general trend towards creating larger primary schools managed by headteachers who get excellent results.

Here are some facts about Bonner Primary School
It makes sense to us to bring some of the success that Bonner Primary School has achieved to Mile End!

Previous News about Schools:

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