Consultation was a sham

I am writing to express how angry I am that after all the reasons we were given as to why Heathcote could not remain open Lindsey Martin sees fit to ride roughshod over the consultation process in an effort to save face. We are now being told that these r

I am writing to express how angry I am that after all the reasons we were given as to why Heathcote could not remain open Lindsey Martin sees fit to ride roughshod over the consultation process in an effort to save face.

We are now being told that these reasons are invalid because the land needed to build the new Thomas Alleyne School cannot be bought. Therefore, demographics will stay the same and we are only refurbishing existing schools. Also, why is it possible now to enlarge two adjacent schools in the old town when it was not valid to increase Barnwell and Heathcote for exactly the same reason?

Pauline Davies told us on June 27 that if they were unable to purchase the land in the north of the town then Thomas Alleyne would have to close. Lindsey Martin stated on June 7 that if the site for Thomas Alleyne was not a possibility we would have to reconsult because we would have to work out some new proposals 'that's the honest answer'.

Unfortunately I do not think he knows what an honest answer is because even though the wonderful plans for the schools of Stevenage have fallen through he does not have the integrity to go back to the people of Stevenage with new proposals as he promised.

Heathcote is one of the best schools in Stevenage as this year's league tables show once again. Would it not have been better to establish whether the land could be purchased before ever putting forward the proposals and therefore causing unnecessary damage to a perfectly good school?

The council's remit is to provide our children with the best education possible. This ill-conceived plan is crumbling around them and we should not accept piecemeal rethinks when it is clear that they should go back to the drawing board.

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CHRISTINE SHORTLAND, Milestone Road, Stevenage

* Building Schools for the Future in Stevenage. Miscalculations, in terms of time for regulatory planning and a £20m oversight, by the county's education planning team has led to Hertfordshire County Council agreeing to keep the Thomas Alleyne School on its current site, so reneging on the proposals in its original consultation document. The County Council has also made it clear that it has no intention of retaining Heathcote School.

In January of last year I, along with many other stakeholders, attended a number of meetings heralding the arrival of the Building Schools for the Future programme. The programme, we were told, would bring exciting educational development to a town considered so educationally deprived that the Hertfordshire County Council thought it expedient to devote the whole of the first tranche of BSF money available to the Authority to the development of an innovative programme for Stevenage in the 21st century.

The key questions were: 'What will education look like in 2020?' and 'Where, best, can schools be placed to meet the needs of an expanding population?'

Stakeholders were genuinely excited by the prospects of bringing extended, and life long, learning to local communities; making sport for all a reality; developing a first class IT network to properly aid learning; using schools as the centre of each community to house local services such as libraries, doctors surgeries, dentists and orthodontists, bringing the various services to the pupils rather than their having to miss large amounts of valuable lesson time by travelling for treatment. The prospect of building on Stevenage's innovative 14-19 programme, using links with North Hertfordshire College, the University of Hertfordshire and local employers and bringing much needed heightened aspirations for Stevenage students was greatly applauded.

I attended almost every consultative meeting in the various Stevenage schools between January and July and I am clear that three particular messages were given at every meeting: a) we have to get it right and, b) if the authority cannot acquire the land for Thomas Alleyne School then it will close and, c) if the authority cannot acquire the land for Marriotts School then it will close. The Local Authority Education Cabinet decided to keep Thomas Alleyne School on its current site and, by so doing, has moved against its original proposal and has left the developing north area of the town without a secondary school.

I am certainly not in the business of proposing that schools should close, my business is, in fact, quite the opposite but, it is clear that the local authority has not got it right and that, if Thomas Alleyne School is to stay on its present site then, morally and correctly, Heathcote School has to stay open for the arguments used to propose its closure no longer apply. Closing a school for no good reason cannot be countenanced.

Building Schools for the Future needs to be implemented in order to bring inspirational opportunities to the people of Stevenage but the plan needs to be right.

Clearly there needs to be a school in the north of the town in the Great Ashby area and, equally clearly two further education schools on the current Old Town campus will not accommodate the intended needs as expressed in the Heads Perspective.

If ways are not found to accommodate the results of the consultative exercise then the Local Authority should stop the process and re-plan. Future generations of Stevenage people should not be the subject of any further 'second best' arrangements in order to meet the Government's March deadline.

PETER WARREN, Branch Secretary, NASUWT, Stevenage

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