Pressure on Romsey Town Primary Schools- Let's do something!

(88 Posts)
philosikos Fri 03-Jul-15 09:39:54

Hello. This year my child was amongst several who did not get a place at St Phillip's tho' it is our catchment school. If any parent is in a similar situation with St Philip's or Ridgefield or Abbey please get in touch. If this happened to you last year or you are worried about next year, please get in touch too -on this thread. If enough parents get together we could exert some pressure on the county council to do something, and the local city councillors will have more credibility if they speak on our behalf.
My child has been allocated to Abbey Meadows. She is very excited and I am very impressed with its teachers and facilities I have no doubt she will be well educated there. But it is a difficult to get to from Romsey Town and it is located in another distinctive community- Abbey. I would like to have the choice to send my child to her local catchment school and it seems in years to come this will be less and less likely for Romsey Town parents, especially if you live on the outer 1/2 of catchment areas for St P's & Ridgefield & St Matthew's!
If there is sufficient interest I will get a group together. Have a good day!

LocalEditorCambridge Fri 03-Jul-15 10:34:28

Thank you for posting - I will link this thread on FB & twitter.

This happened to me last year (Newnham Croft) - which had a number of appeals.

niminypiminy Fri 03-Jul-15 12:53:20

Just putting in a good word for Abbey Meadows. Both my children have been there from day one, and when we moved to the Milton Road area we kept them there even though it's a real trek. Both my children have been in classes with children living in the Romsey area, so there are quite a lot of children from outside the catchment.

I think it's a fab school and they have really gone the extra mile for both children.

If you're cycling then it is not that far across Coldham's Common.

philosikos Fri 03-Jul-15 20:50:02

Thanks niminypiminy. When I first heard my daughter had been allocated to Abbey Meadows I exclaimed "over my dead body. I'll home school her!" though I knew nothing about the school except hearsay. I see with my own eyes that Abbey is a good school. But I will be passing my catchment school 2x per day to get to Abbey Meadows, and while the journey is OK for me on a bike, it is not an easy one for a primary school child to walk or cycle. And I very much wished for my child to be able to nip over to friends in the adjoining streets and play with them in Romsey Rec etc etc. I suspect there are other parents out there who feel the same and I am hoping they will get in touch.

caroldecker Fri 03-Jul-15 21:16:03

Start your own free school

philosikos Sat 04-Jul-15 06:27:59

Thank you Carol Decker. That is one possibility. Have you any experience of free schools or of starting one up? I would have no idea where to begin.

romseyroo Sat 04-Jul-15 14:27:13

I realise it won't help you for this year, but wonder if it's possible to find out more information about the rumbling rumours of a catchment review by the council - I've heard lots of hearsay but nothing concrete. Romsey seemed the only catchment in Cambridge which had a real problem this year, as the uni primary school has taken pressure off north cambridge, and queen emma on south cambridge. I don't understand why they still have catchments at all to be honest - if any children from romsey ought to be allocated Abbey Meadows, it is those right nearest the common, as they are really pretty close to it. As it is, those kids get to go to st Ps, while people living right on the other side of the catchment, in great eastern street, have to trek 1.3 miles to get to abbey meadows. Seems perverse. Without catchments, it seems the 'black hole' problem would even out a bit.

My interest is that we are right on the edge of two catchments. However, we are lucky in that our eldest child is already at st matthews, though we live in romsey - getting in to there or st Ps was not an issue until two years ago. This year even out of catchment st M siblings did not get in at first, though I think all have places now via the waiting list. I also wonder what the demographics are for the next few years - is the birth rate still increasing? Were there unusual numbers of siblings this year? These questions factor in to whether this is a long term issue here, or whether it is just an unlucky blip.

niminypiminy Sat 04-Jul-15 14:53:42

School places are planned based on the birth rate - - eg number of babies born at Addenbrookes, no of babies registered with local GPs by 6 months. Five years ago the number of school places in Cambridge was expanded because of a rising birth rate and several local schools had to create extra classes to absorb the numbers. Abbey Meadows was one of those and St Matthews was another - they both went up to three form entry. But St Philip's couldn't take extra because there is no room on the site. To be honest it is difficult to think where you'd put a new school in Romsey - there aren't any big enough plots left.

niminypiminy Sat 04-Jul-15 15:05:51

According to Cambridgeshire CC there are places only in schools in the north of Cambridge (Kings Hedges, Mayfield, Grove, Shirley, St Laurence's) and in the south (Fawcett, Trumpington Meadows).

romseyroo Sat 04-Jul-15 19:25:51

Niminy one option would be on the council depot site next to the railway, currently earmarked for redevelopment. What is clear is that with that plus the ridgeons and the ?jewsons site all earmarked for new housing, the council is going to have to find some solution, or the situation will reach total crisis point 5 years down the line. It isn't just birth rate, it is development and inward migration, for want of a better word.

niminypiminy Sat 04-Jul-15 19:46:30

The Jewsons site is on Mercer's Row isn't it?

Actually a more pressing problem is secondary school places. Currently there are enough primary school places because of the expansion five years ago; and because nearly all primary schools are still community schools the LEA can actually make them expand.

All the secondary schools in Cambridge are now academies and that means the LEA has no powers to compel them. So, for instance, the Parkside Federation announced a couple of years ago that it expected a shortfall of places and that children from the further parts of its catchment areas (ie Abbey, Barnwell) might be left without a school place - although they were planning a temporary expansion at Coleridge for this coming autumn.

But there is a serious deficit of secondary places within the city, and although the Local Plan mandates a new secondary on the east side of the city there is currently no site that is big enough to house a large secondary school.

Compared to that problem, the question of primary places in Romsey seems - to me, at least - much less pressing.

romseyroo Sat 04-Jul-15 20:23:21

Sorry, I meant the one off Devonshire Rd, Travis Perkins. I think there will be a serious primary place issue once all the sites in the local plan have been developed. This may not be for a while, but it will come eventually. In the meantime they need to redraw catchments.

romseyroo Sat 04-Jul-15 20:29:49

Niminy I know of someone affected by this who does not drive or cycle. For them, 1.3 miles four times a day with a 4 and a 2 yo, esp in the dark in the dead of winter, really is a long way. My youngest may end up at AM at least for a while and I'll have to also do the St Matthews run for my two other children at exactly the same time. It really is quite a big deal for some of those affected.

niminypiminy Sat 04-Jul-15 22:01:20

I didn't mean that it wouldn't be really hard for some people to have to travel a mile and a half. Clearly it would be a pain. But it's a different sort of problem from there being no secondary school place within the city of Cambridge.

There are new primary schools - Trumpington Meadows, the new University one, one in Chesterton, Queen Emma, and another U can't remember the name of. That's five in the last five years. But there hasn't been a similar expansion in secondary places, and as all those children work their way through primary school it will become an increasingly urgent problem.

Perhaps it seems less of a priority if your children are still in early years or KS1. I guess it's a matter of perspective.

romseyroo Sat 04-Jul-15 23:26:26

We agree really - I think they are both urgentsmile I have a child in reception, one about to enter ks2 and one yet to start school. It doesn't seem too much to ask that they all get to go to school within a reasonable distance from their house (and preferably the same one!), but government policy says different!

philosikos Sun 05-Jul-15 22:04:03

Romseyroo-In a written reply from Cambridge County Council (CCC) last week I was told a review of citywide primary school provision is "underway" but it was too soon to give me any info. about a catchment review. A parent wrote last year and was told then a catchment review was "underway". So either not much action or they're keeping the plans, if there are any under wraps ...shouldn't they be more transparent?
I read in the local paper that the publication of a local Plan for City & South Cambs has been delayed and this is the blueprint use to predict and plan future services. I don't know if this refers to the proposals for Ridgeons, Jewsons & Mill Road depot sites.
I have been inspired by two recent stories where the council have responded to effective campaigns. One is the back down over the lease of Central Library's third floor to Kora. The other is the "axed Cambridgeshire school bus service saved by parent power" (between Milton & Impington).
Niminypiminy- I am not looking forward to repeating the schools admission battle in 7 years time!
I'm hoping to get enough parents together to form a campaign group. So please if you are interested, plse. private message me- even just adding your name to an electronic petition is a gesture that counts.

niminypiminy Mon 06-Jul-15 08:39:47

Philosikos -- I fear that the secondary places problem will affect parents of children now in primary school probably far more than you, since in 7 years CCC may well have addressed the problem. The cohort born in 2003 was significantly larger than those before it (these will be going to secondary this year) and there is already a problem about places. But the birth rate rose even more in the years following that, and the problem will only get worse.

romseyroo Mon 06-Jul-15 13:18:00

Interesting. My 'inside' info, for what it is worth, is that there is indeed a review underway, but I don't know at what stage it is - we're talking third hand knowledge, which is really only one up from random local gossip! The local plan does refer to new building on the depot and (I think) travis perkins site - I don't know about Ridgeons, I suspect that may be further advanced, since they are already putting through consultations. I haven't done more than skim read the local plan, but I'd be surprised if there was anything built on the sites in the next 5 years. Given how long the sites opposite Marmora/Madras/Hobart road have been in the pipeline, these things seem to be many many years in the planning. I don't really see any new school round here opening any time soon enough for kids already born now, but who knows. I imagine that it'll more be a case of last-minute panics and bulge classes. Also, I think the birth rate has been especially huge for those starting school the last couple of years - I don't know if it is quite as high now. Nationally it was down last year I believe.

cambridgedavid Mon 06-Jul-15 21:20:41

I think it is admirable to campaign for this but I fear there is no political will to make a difference. Primary school places are a concern to a small number of people for a limited period, and busy parents aren't even particularly likely to vote for local councillors, especially if they are end up moving away to live closer to their child's allocated school. There is far more mileage in campaigning for green issues or protecting historical buildings. As an example, the crisis could easily be solved by using land at Vinery Road allotments, which is immediately next door to St Philips, but allotments have broader appeal than school places, and no politician would dare suggest something so controversial.

In 2009, just a few years after knocking down and selling off Romsey Juniors and Sedley Infants, the County Council woke up to the impending crisis, and a review was underway(!) They decided to expand St Matthews and Abbey Meadows to 90 intake and to build the new Queen Emma school at Netherhall. Morley and St Philips were ruled out because they are on small sites, although I suspect there's more to the St Philips decision than that, as the school's footprint is a similar to size to St Matthews, which takes double the number of children each year. Ridgefield was too difficult/expensive because it's in the flight path of the airport so couldn't be built too high or using cranes.

So it was six years ago that a tacit decision was taken to have mega-sized primary schools instead of community schools that local children could walk to. This is clear from Queen Emma's giant catchment area, which encompasses the whole of the Queen Edith, Morley and Ridgefield catchments. Had they expanded the Abbey Meadows catchment southwards at the same time then Romsey families might have got used to the idea of sending their children there; it's a similar distance to Queen Emma. In fact, Romsey streets north of Fairfax Road are about to be kicked out of the Romsey electoral ward and put into Abbey anyway, so perhaps that's where things are heading.

The admission arrangements for 2016 have already been 'determined' in a consultation which ended in February this year. The only wild card is a spare classroom at Ridgefield. In 2009 there were two reception classes, and these children have been gradually working their way up the school. They are about to move up to Year 6, and then in September 2016 there will be a unused room for which no plans have yet been made. The Directory of Schools will say there are 30 places, but in that situation they would have to lose staff and suffer a cut to their budget. Alternatively, if things get really bad, an extra class could be put on at the last minute and the County Council and some local politicians could turn the crisis into a heroic good news story!

niminypiminy Mon 06-Jul-15 22:20:53

I think this is right. It's more likely that CCC will look at where there are excess places and spare capacity at the moment and put any growth in pupil numbers there before they build any new schools -- bearing in mind, too, that under current government legislation all new schools must be academies, and so not under LEA control. What incentive is there for a council to build a new school if it isn't even going to be running that school?

And in that last point lies the whole problem. The LEA carries the legal responsibility of ensuring that all children have a place at school, but increasingly it doesn't actually run the schools. Bearing in mind that academies are their own admissions authority (although they must follow the admissions code), the LEA can't tell an academy to expand to increase the number of places. The theory is that successful schools will want to expand; but the problem is that there are some children that 'successful schools' are more keen to take, and, conversely, some children who are left out in the cold. The shockingly high rate of permanent exclusions from academies is one aspect of that. And, of course, making education into what is effectively a market means that planning, of the kind that we have been talking about on this thread, is regarded as a function of bureaucracy, and made almost impossible. Hence the current inaction over secondary school places.

mynameisnt Tue 07-Jul-15 14:16:22

Morley is expanding. My youngest will have left there by then but plans are underway.

cambridgedavid Tue 07-Jul-15 14:47:52

Morley is not expanding. They are building new classrooms on the already very small playground area to house the reception classes which are currently on another site across the road. The intake will remain at 60 pupils per year.

mynameisnt Tue 07-Jul-15 18:29:13

Apologies. Did you mean to sound so rude?

cambridgedavid Tue 07-Jul-15 19:03:33

No, I wrote that in a rush at work and just wanted to correct the misinformation. Sorry to have been rude.

philosikos Wed 08-Jul-15 12:21:38

Cambridge David, I wish the council had been more explicit about the decision to develop mega-primarys rather than community schools children can walk to. It might make parents expectations more realistic?
I don't envy council's trying to plan for the future. I appreciate the difficulties in planning too butThe Education Dept in the council seem to think population growth is a blip- at least in Romsey Town- how can they think that??
Niminy- I thought only new 2y schools had to be academies. Is it the case with 1ys too?

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