Beccles Free School: The Carlton Colville Plan
If you have been following the Beccles Free School saga on my blog you will know that if the school does open in September it will not be based in Beccles at all but in Carlton Colville. Mark Bee, local Beccles councillor and Leader of Suffolk CC has already said:
As you can see from the map Carlton Colville certainly isn't in Beccles. It is a 7 mile (14 minute) journey. Whilst Carlton Colville is coalesced with Lowestoft it is a distinct community in its own right with a definite semi-rural feel. There has been quite a few new housing developments of late in Carlton Colville which is also the home of the East Anglia Transport Museum. Recently the parish council became a Town council in recognition of the growth of Carlton Colville as a place.
So to confirm the plans:
Tomorrow the Town Council is holding a Public Meeting to consider the future of the Carlton Colville Primary School site. The Meeting will take place on Sunday 11 March 2012 at 2.00pm at Carlton Colville Community Centre, Hall Road.
Mr Bee added that he was surprised to see the initial bid given the go ahead and raised concerns about the plans to initially open in Carlton Colville, saying it was difficult to call it a ‘Beccles Free School’ if it is opened there.
|Click on map to enlarge|
See Google Map
So to confirm the plans:
|Beccles Middle School|
- Beccles Middle School closes in July 2012
- Sir John Leman High School starts to take children in Years 7 and 8 in September 2012 initially these children will be taught on the existing Beccles Middle School site
- Beccles Free School opens in September 2012 on the former site of Carlton Colville Primary School with Years 7, 8 and 9
- In September 2014 Years 7 and 8 for Sir John Leman transfer to the main school site (as numbers reduce due to Pakefield High)
- In September 2014 Beccles Free School moves to the former Beccles Middle School site
|Former Carlton Colville Primary School|
Carlton Colville primary school has already moved to the former Middle School site and so the old primary school buildings are empty. If the free school was a primary school it could fairly easily move in and there would not be a huge problem but it is not.
The free school is a secondary school and the building is going to need some significant alterations to accommodate the different needs of secondary school children - for example for science labs. This will cost probably quite a lot of money and then in two years time when the schools moves to the Middle School site these alterations will not only not be used but will have to be removed.
There is also the issue of the tiny sports field. I have a son who attends high school who is a huge sports fan and plays pretty much every sport. He would literally laugh at the size of the field. There is nothing wrong with it just that it is sized for small primary school children not high school children.
Local residents seem to have three main concerns. Firstly the Seckford Foundation appeared to try and appropriate the site without their knowledge or engagement with the local community, for example the Town Council. There were already moves afoot to use the site for community purposes. Secondly residents are concerned about traffic and thirdly about possible noise and disruption.
These all seem perfectly legitimate concerns. When it was a primary school lots of the children would have been able to walk to school. As a High School serving Beccles (and not really Carlton Colville) almost all the children will arrive by bus or car. Much of the road infrastructure in this part of the town is still poor and was designed when Carlton was a smaller village. The road the primary school is on is particularly narrow.
I also understand some older residents were concerned that high school students might be a bit rowdy and disruptive compare to the younger primary children.
And I wonder if there will be any impact on nearby and newly built Pakefield High School to having another secondary school so close to it albeit for only tow years.
And then there is the disruption to the education of the children when the school moves in two years time. Putting the issue of a free school completely to one side the proposals to open for two years in Carlton Colville.
So even if it is established that the Free School should be opened there are real issues over these plans. Why could the free school not just wait until 2014 to open and save the money and inconvenience? What is the big rush?
The expanded Carlton Colville does not have a great deal of community facilities and residents may feel that the former school could have a community use. And why should the local community put up with the inconvenience of the school operating when they receive no benefit from it. Seckford wouldn't even be paying to use the site.