Fairfield parents flag concerns over middle school places uncertainty
PUBLISHED: 12:01 22 November 2018
Fairfield, Arlesey and Stotfold parents are growing increasingly concerned due to uncertainty over middle schools places for September 2019.
A main issue highlighted by parents is overcrowding at Etonbury Academy and Henlow Middle School, leaving the incomplete new school Pix Brook Academy as their only option.
One Fairfield dad, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We are currently being told that there will be no middle school places for Fairfield Park children at Etonbury or Henlow, the only two middle schools in the area.
“Both of these schools are already suffering huge problems with overcrowding. We are not allowed to apply for schools in Letchworth – despite them being on our doorstep – due to them being in the Herts system, despite many of the houses actually being in Herts.
“We have received a letter saying that our children should still apply for Pix Brook, and that a portable classroom will be placed in the already overcrowded grounds of Etonbury and will run as a completely separate school.
“We also have been told that they have no funding in place for this temporary and already farcical solution. So what school are we supposed to apply for? A portable classroom that doesn’t even exist?”
However, a Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman said that Pix Brook Academy will “ensure there are sufficient school places in the area”, and that the Department for Education has assured the council that everything is currently on track for Pix Brook to open in 2020, with the build to take place on land off Arlesey Road in Stotfod.
He said: “Parents can still apply for a school place for Pix Brook. From the start of the 2019 academic year and until the new school building is complete, Pix Brook Academy pupils will be taught in a new purpose-built building that will be constructed on the grounds of Etonbury Academy, but kept separate. “This will not be a portable classroom. In fact, once Pix Brook pupils move into their newly built facility, this building will be transformed for use by Etonbury, thereby further enhancing facilities for the school and the community.“
Parents have also raised concerns about the planning permission status for both the Pix Brook school, and the facility set to be built on the Etonbury site.
The Fairfield parent said: “Considering they expect one to open in 2019 and the other in 2020, that’s pretty alarming!”
A petition has also been launched calling for Fairfield Park Lower School to be made into a primary school, which will enable Year 5 and 6 children to stay and hopefully “ease middle school pressures” as a result.
In response to this, a council spokesman said: “While the site for Pix Brook Academy had been previously agreed, a planning application had not been submitted because we were waiting for the funding to be confirmed by the Department for Education, which it now has.
“As a result of this confirmation, a planning application has now been submitted for the permanent building, which will temporarily accommodate Pix Brook pupils on the Etonbury site.
“The planning application for the Pix Brook school site is expected to be submitted in early 2019 and this is in line with the DfE, who have informed us that the plans are on track for this to be ready by 2020.
“We’d like to reassure parents that, because of these arrangements, there are no pressures on middle school places. However, we completely understand parents’ concerns about Fairfield Park Lower School.
“It is really important that age range changes in individual schools are co-ordinated and properly planned. We know that changing this in one school can affect the viability of other schools.
“We are working with all the schools in the area to understand their ambitions for change and develop a plan, however, this cannot be achieved in a short timescale.
“Until Pix Brook Academy is built, an additional building on the Etonbury site is the next best option as this maximises the investment. It will ensure that, from 2019 to 2020, Pix Brook pupils can be accommodated on a separate site from Etonbury and then, once their school is built, will provide new facilities for Etonbury.”
To support the online petition – which now has nearly 700 signatures – go to change.org and search Fairfield Park Lower.
The application deadline for middle school places is January 15.