On 14th March 2015 Barry wrote to Brent Council to share his concerns and echo those of Brent residents about plans to push ahead with a major expansion of Byron Court Primary School that might result in massive traffic problems in the area.
In an open letter which has been circulated to residents, Barry recognised the huge pressure on Brent Council to provide more school places but asked that the Council urgently consider the impact of the current plans on residents living near the school, especially as the proposed expansion would not be an effective solution to the school places issue.
You can read the full content of Barry’s letter to the Council below:
Dear Councillor Butt
RE: Proposal to Expand Byron Court Primary School
I write to ask that the Cabinet meeting of the council on Monday March 16th should reject the officers’ recommendation to expand Byron Court Primary School.
I have read the 19 page report which has been prepared for the meeting by your Strategic Director and I fully acknowledge the important objective that the Borough has to provide additional school places for future need. Notwithstanding this I believe the proposal will be detrimental to the local community and may actually undermine the quality of the excellent teaching and learning environment that the current staff and leadership of the school have created at Byron Court.
Your own report accepts that “The vast majority of the points made in the responses were negative” and that “negative points account for 97 per cent of all points raised to the expansion proposal”. What is striking is that the overwhelming number of these objections, 917 (38.3%) were made on educational rather than on any other grounds. The next closest, is the group of representations made on environmental grounds for which there are 492 (20.5%) -- just over half as many. This reflects the clear understanding of parents and the local community that this is a school that OFSTED has rated as outstanding and that the expansion from 630 places to 1050 is likely only to work to the educational detriment of the children.
Whilst I understand that this report is asking the Cabinet only to approve the expansion “in principle” and that the work would only proceed subject to planning approval, I find it almost inconceivable that Spencer Road could accommodate any further pressure from vehicles dropping an additional 420 children off in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon. Any traffic impact assessment could only conclude, in my view, that the impact on the surrounding homes would be unsustainable.
I was also concerned to note that the report states that “The designs are currently being developed”. This certainly implies that the progress of the scheme is not conditional and that the planning application is regarded as a formality. I do not consider that this is reasonable.
There is a widespread concern in the community that the council is imposing this enormous expansion and that the school would have preferred to see the longstanding issues relating to the dilapidated buildings at Byron Court addressed through the Council’s normal capital allocation. Instead it is believed that the school is effectively being forced to expand as the only way of achieving the necessary refurbishment of these buildings. Whether this is true or not, it is a clear perception that the council together with the board of governors needs to address.
The size of a 5FE school will lead to zoning and staggering of meal and play times in order to manage the flow of children around the site. This means that the normal interaction between older and younger children which is so beneficial for their development will be greatly reduced. Typically, younger children benefit from a smaller and more secure environment and can only just meet the challenge of moving to the scale of a thousand plus school population when they move on to secondary school. There is a real fear that younger children will find it very difficult to thrive in such a large environment.
Please understand that I am very sympathetic to the plight of parents who cannot find a school place and it is certainly the case that the council needs to build more primary school places. However, the expansion here and at Wembley High will require many more parents to travel long distances from other parts of the borough to bring their children to school. Our objective should surely be to build capacity as close to the community that each school is serving and not to require additional journeys and transport movements which are damaging to the environment and inconvenient and expensive for families.
I urge you to reject the recommendation and oppose the expansion of the school to 5FE.