Lincolnshire County Council have suggested merging St Guthlacs School Crowland and George Farmer Technology College Holbeach resulting in a possible forty mile round trip for pupils. Patricia Bradwell from Lincolnshire County Council talks to the BBC’s Paul Stainton. Broadcast at 07:10 on Tuesday 18th May 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
STAINTON: Now as you heard in the news plans are afoot for St Guthlacs School in Crowland to merge with the George Farmer Technology College to form an academy. The plans state that the academy would be based in Holbeach from twenty fourteen, which would leave pupils in Crowland a staggering forty mile round trip to school. Patricia Bradwell is the Executive Councillor for Childrens Services at Lincolnshire County Council. She’s with us this morning. Morning Patricia.
STAINTON: This is going to be a big big worry for parents around Crowland, isn’t it? I mean this is a heck of a journey for kids from Crowland, isn’t it?
BRADWELL: It is and I do understand parents’ fears and wories at the moment, but I would say that these are proposals and we will have to go out to consultation to discuss with parents and the community you know the proposals to replace George Farmer and Crowland with one academy. So this is the start of the process. But I would like to say as well that any child who lives more than three miles away from a secondary school you know will get free transport. That is the statutory policy that the County Council works to.
STAINTON: What’s the thinking behind this though, because St Guthlacs has been there a long time.
BRADWELL: It has been there a long time. And it has for a number of years now been federated with Holbeach, George Farmer Technology College. So they have been working together for some time. But this proposal was put together and you know the Governors of the schools feel that you know they have approved this proposal to go forward and actually make the site at Holbeach much bigger. But I have to say that the Crowland site is not just, if this proposal went ahead the Crowland site would not just close. It would then go into the new academy. And you know the site could be open for a number of years to come.
STAINTON: What do you mean by that?
BRADWELL: Well the site .. when we move into an academy .. when .. if the proposal went forward and the decision was made then the there would be two sites running as it is now, and then in the future at some time it may it may close, it could you know it can take several years. Because obviously we’ve heard today well we heard yesterday and at the weekend that all proposals all government decisions about money is being you know they’re re-looking at the budget.
STAINTON: Can I clarify what you’re saying there? You’re saying that even though the two schools would merge children from Crowland wouldn’t necessarily have to go to Holbeach.
BRADWELL: There would be at least two to three years before the Crowland site was abs.. mm close .
STAINTON: So it will close.
BRADWELL: It will close in the future but it won’t close in September this year or January. It will close in sometime in the future. Those dates ..
STAINTON: So twenty fourteen probably.
BRADWELL: Those dates have not been fixed yet. As I said to you this is a proposal. We have to go out to consult. And then the decisions come back to the County Council. No decisions have been made. This proposal is being put forward. The Governors of George Farmer and of St Guthlacs, it’s a joint governing body, have approved these proposals, and now we’re going forward in moving those forward. But I would have to say that we now understand .. we don’t know whether the money is there for this .. emm … the new build. So we’re just waiting as well to hear from the government as to whether the funds will come forward.
STAINTON: The parents don’t necessarily want it either do they? I mean St Guthlacs School, we’ve spoken to quite a few parents yesterday and some are coming on after eight this morning. they’re very happy with the school’s performance. Why the need for an academy?
BRADWELL: As I say these proposals have been put forward by the Governors and the County Council. We will go and listen to what parents have to say. That’s part of consultation isn’t it? So we will be going out and consulting. No decision has been made as I said to do this. We’ve put a proposal forward. That proposal was accepted by the old Government and you know we’ve been able to discuss with the Governors about this proposal. It was the Governors and the County Council worked together on these proposals. But they are .. it is not a firm decision at this precise moment.
STAINTON: No I understand that. What I’m saying is who comes up with these proposals when the parents don’t want it, or the ones we’ve spoken to anyway?
BRADWELL: Right. OK. Well I’m sure there might be some parents there who do want to see Holbeach George Farmer have better buildings and be able to offer more curriculum to the students.
STAINTON: Probably parents in Holbeach perhaps yeah?
BRADWELL: Well I don’t know that. And .. but I would say at this moment in time no firm decision has been made and we also need to find out whether the money is still available to do this scheme. I think that’s first and foremost. We’re now waiting as we’ve been hearing in the media that the new Conservative and Liberal Government is looking at you know what schemes have been approved by the old Labour Government, and we need to make sure the funding does come to Lincolnshire. And I think that’s most important as well at this time. I mean I under .. as I said to you I understand parents’ concerns but they will be able to feed in to the consultation process. There will be consultation meetings where people can come and put their views forward, and at the end of the day if you know there was an overwhelming decision and the Governors said to us we don’t want to go ahead with this .. they change their minds .. then we’d have to reconsider.
STAINTON: Patricia, thank you for coming on and explaining that. Patricia Bradwell, Executive Councillor for Children’s Services at Lincolnshire County Council.