Mel Collins Peterborough City Council’s Assistant Director for Learning and Skills tells the BBC’s Paul Stainton how they intend to cope with a rise in the school intake resulting from housebuilding when Government has cut funding for at least two planned expansion and refurbishment projects in the pipeline for Peterborough schools in the South of the city. Broadcast at 08:12 on Wednesday 7th July 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
STAINTON: Now there are fears over the future of education in Peterborough. This after we revealed yesterday that about eighty million pounds has been cut from the budget to fund buildings and expansion plans in Peterborough. The plans and the cutbacks affect Orton Longueville and Stanground College of course. It could be about a hundred million pounds cutbacks as well if Ormiston Bushfield Academy don’t get to rebuild their school. Stanground College was set for a forty million pound expansion but that’s been scrapped. Headteacher Malcolm Ellison gave Suzi Roberts a guided tour around the classrooms at Stanground to show her the state of the current buildings. (TAPE) (OB)
ROBERTS: So this is one of the classrooms here. Are you able to show me just now what we mean.
ELLISON: This is the Small Hall. You can see the condition of it. It’s tired. It’s not inspiring in any way. It’s a venue that we have to use sometimes for lunch overspill, for examinations, for drama classes, for dance classes etcetera. So we have to squeeze every minute of use out of spaces like this.
ROBERTS: Looking up you’ve got those lovely polystyrene-type ceiling tiles, there’s a huge damp patch over there, there’s daylight coming through that hole in that tile up there, this is the sort of thing you’re having to contend with?
ELLISON: Absolutely. The building is really past its sell-by date. Just a couple of weeks ago I was showing the architects round. It was during a torrential rain spell, and we had water coming through one of the corridors and dripping through a fire alarm. (STUDIO) (LIVE)
STAINTON: Headteacher Malcolm Ellison from Stanground Community College. We heard him with some of the kids who’d put plans in and worked with the architects in the first hour. They’re absolutely gutted and they told us about what it’s like to learn in a school with poor conditions to learn in. And the cancellation of that expansion plan, will it mean there won’t be enough secondary school places in the city? Well let’s speak to Mel Collins who’s Assistant Director for Learning and Skills at Peterborough City Council. Morning Mel.
COLLINS: Good morning.
STAINTON: Are there going to be enough secondary school places in the city without these expansion plans?
COLLINS: We’ve got to remember that the Government is currently setting up a review to look at programmes like Orton Longueville and Stanground. We’re very optimistic that Ormiston Bushfield Academy will go ahead with its building programme. It’s already a designated academy. There are places in the city still currently. Clearly under the BSF Programme schools like Stanground were expected to grow by three hundred pupils, Ormiston expecting to grow by two hundred and fifty. We still have capacity at Orton Longueville because it’s such a big site. So we’re not extremely worried at this moment about school places. We’ve also got growth ..
STAINTON: You’re not extremely .. you’re not worried?
COLLINS: We’re not worried currently about school places because at the moment we don’t know what the Government will decide regarding Stanground and Orton Longueville.
STAINTON: Yes but listen. We all hope ..
COLLINS: We’re led to believe ..
STAINTON: i don’t mean to be rude Mel but we all hope that all three schools get their money. We all hope that all these plans go ahead. But you must be worried. You must have plans in place for the nightmare scenario that they get no money.
COLLINS: Well we have got plans in place, and in fact the local authority itself, because of its commitment to the Building Schools for the Future programme has invested thirty million. We’ve also invested resources in Orton Longueville, and there will be a lot of refurbishment going on in that school, particularly around learning spaces, over the Summer. We’ve always got to keep an eye on our places. We’ve got a city that is growing, we’ve got new arrivals coming into the city, regularly and consistently, and we’ve done our projections for the future. Yes we’re disappointed that the buildings are not going ahead and the building programme isn’t going ahead. We don’t know that yet, because actually in many ways these are the last pieces of the jigsaw for Peterborough. We’ve got nine out of our eleven schools if OBA goes ahead, already refurbished and new.
STAINTON: We’ve got a North South divide though in the city, haven’t we Mel? If these building works don’t go ahead the schools in the South of the city, people are not going to want to send their children there. They’ll send them to the academies which are new and sparkling and have got all the resources. And we’ve heard about Stanground College this morning. It’s not really fit for purpose.
COLLINS; Schools are much more than buildings, and both Stanground and Orton Longueville are working exceedingly hard to get the best quality teachers, excellent and relevant curricula, appropriate leisure and sporting spaces for their young people.
STAINTON: But did you hear what the kids said this morning on the show at seven o’clock? Did you hear what the children said at Stanground?
COLLINS: Yes I did, and obviously we’re very understanding of that, we’re very supportive of the schools, and we work very closely with the Headteachers and the teachers, we work very closely listening to the voices of pupils. And it’s not just about pupils at the school either, because schools are hubs for the entire local community. So the local authority will look at every single opportunity to ensure that the pupils in Stanground get the best quality building. We’re going to obviously work closely with regional and national government. We’re very interested in the review that the Government is setting up, drawing in people from Jaguar, from Tesco, from universities. And actually, as I said earlier, we’ve got two schools to complete the Peterborough jigsaw. They’re not expensive projects if you look at a national context, and they could be easier for the Government to fund. And they could make a significant difference.
STAINTON: Two points. John Holdich the Cabinet Member on Peterborough City Council is quoted in various places as saying the population is expected to grow beyond current capacity by 2016 if the trend continues so we do need to build these. We’re reopening Hereward Community College to cater for all of this. There’s the new Cardea development coming on line in Stanground. They’re going to have fiifteen hundred homes there. Stanground College is not going to be able to cope is it, unless it’s rebuilt?
COLLINS: We have got to, day by day and month by month, work with a whole range of stakeholders to look at the school place planning issue and how we might meet those issues. We’re doing that currently and constantly.
STAINTON: You can talk all you like though but if you’ve got fifteen hundred new homes, and the student roll goes up to eighteen hundred and beyond at Stanground College, we’ve already heard the building’s not fit for purpose as it is now. What’s your plan? Before the Cardea development comes on line, before twenty sixteen, what’s your plan? You were in meetings all day yesterday. What is the plan?
COLLINS: At the moment obviously we have to put all the work around Orton Longueville and Stanground on hold. I’ve already said that the local authority’s invested a huge sum of money into the BSF programme. We will continue to look how we can support the buildings the refurbishment and all the other activity that we’ve planned. We don’t know what the Government are going to do. We’re optimistic about OBA, Ormiston Bushfield Academy, very optimistic. No guarantees I know, but that will go ahead. That will create two hundred and fifty three hundred surplus places. We’ve got four hundred places currently in Orton Longueville School. We’re working very closely with Stanground. We’re looking at the investment we have. We’re talking with the Government. We’re talking regionally. We’re very hopeful that because we’ve only got two schools to refurbish out of eleven that the Government will focus on Peterborough and invest. We don’t know that. We are in a much better position than other local authorities whose entire programme has been scrapped. We also must remember that one of the disappointments is around the ICT programme and the investment into our special schools. The disappointment there is that just won’t affect two schools that will affect the ICT transformation in every secondary school except for Thomas Deacon Academy. And so therefore that’s another challenge for the local authority, to look at how we can not only transform buildings but also we can transform learning through ICT development.
STAINTON: It costs a lot of money to bid for all this money, doesn’t it? How much does it cost Peterborough City Council to bid for all this money and if we’re unsuccessful who foots the bill?
COLLINS: You’re absolutely right. I can’t give you a figure in pounds but certainly a huge investment from the schools’ perspective, a huge investment from the local authority, and clearly we’ve drawn in a whole range of stakeholders ..
STAINTON: Can you give us a rough figure? A rough figure of how much it’s cost us?
COLLINS: I can’t. I can’t give you a rough figure.
STAINTON: A million?
COLLINS: To be fair, we are currently working that out.
STAINTON: Two million? One million? Half a million? Roughly.
COLLINS: I can’t give you a figure.
COLLINS: I can’t give you a figure.
STAINTON: So we don’t know how much it’s cost us.
COLLINS: We’re currently working the detail of that out.
STAINTON: Mel, thank you for coming on this morning. Mel Collins the Assistant Director for Learning and Skills at Peterborough City Council.