Grove Park Primary Headteacher Responds
Addresses concerns of parents opposed to school expansion
We are living in unprecedented times when it comes to education and many local authorities are seeing the emergence of academies and free schools which, for good or for bad, are having a profound impact on the quality of education provided by state run schools, particularly how they are funded.
I think it is important at this stage to stress that we are still going through the process of an informal consultation and no decision has been made as to whether the school can or will expand.
Please see below my response to some of your questions, I hope they help clarify the schools position and thoughts on the expansion and the possibilities it may offer.
The rainbow room, which is currently our music room, was initially given to the school to accommodate a bulge class many years ago. Although it will be reverting back to a full time classroom for next year, this does not mean that the provision for music will change. We are extremely fortunate here at Grove Park to have a dedicated music teacher 3 days a week. This is considerably more than most maintained schools offer and we are committed to ensuring that our recent drive for music excellence will not be affected by the bulge class or possible changes in the future.
Expansion can bring many benefits, particularly from a teaching and learning point of view.
By increasing in size, it means that the school is able to support the teachers in a far greater way. One of the issues from a leadership and management angle is that in a 1 form entry school, teachers have no choice, but to plan solely for their year group. Within a 2 form entry school, they are able to ‘share the load’ and support one another, both in practice and planning. This often has huge benefits for the ‘key stages’ and, it goes without saying, the children themselves.
In a small school, professional development is much harder to support, particularly for those who are looking for promotion. At Grove Park we have a large number of outstanding practitioners who have voiced an interest in moving up the ladder and taking more responsibility. The financial constraints of a 1 form entry school dictate that we are often unable to offer either financial incentives or senior roles to those who are looking to move upwards and so, through no fault of our own, have to reluctantly consider losing excellent teachers because of the school’s current status.
A new build will always bring with it new opportunities. It goes without saying that, because of the increase in budget, we will be able to buy in more experienced teachers and develop the curriculum in ways that are unfeasible at this moment in time.
I completely understand the concerns from parents regarding the expansion and how it may affect the site and would not want to see any future build compromise the wonderful environment that has been lovingly developed over the last 60 years.
During my initial discussions with the local authority, I was made aware that the site at Grove Park is larger than some of the other school sites in Chiswick. Unfortunately I am unable to discuss or comment on the viability of the other sites, as my knowledge does not extend to the geographical details regarding those schools.
All children currently on roll for Reception 2012 are from the Chiswick area and I am not aware of any children based outside the Chiswick PAA. We also currently have a waiting list for places in our Reception class.
Last Wednesday we held an informal Q and A meeting at school (which was not part of the official consultation process) and heard from Mark Hartley and Sue Jepson from Barnes Primary School, who have been through an expansion. They shared their experiences with us and articulated how a school can, not only grow to 2 forms, but also improve standards. They are a prime example of how, through expansion, a school can be outstanding and give children the very best provision on offer.
We are more than aware that a decision has not been made regarding Grove Park’s next steps or future developments and so will wait to see the outcome of the official consultation.
Mr Alex Cornelius