Unpleasant surprise on school move front  Map 

Letter from the BSCF to the Herts and Essex Observer about Essex County Council's withdrawal of its objection to proposed schools' move

The Editor
Herts and Essex Observer
12 North Street
Bishop's Stortford
6 November 2008

With reference to Essex County Council (ECC) withdrawing its objection to the Bishop's Stortford schools relocation proposal (Observer, Oct 30), the reason given – that the expansion at this stage is not 'significant' in statutory terms and is not therefore subject to the relevant consultation process – is surprising.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has produced a guide for expanding state-maintained mainstream schools which includes statutory guidance which must be followed. The criteria for expansion covered by the guide include enlarging the physical capacity of a school by more than 30 pupils and by 25 per cent or 200 pupils (whichever is the lesser): or by increasing the number of pupils in the school's admission number by 27 or more. As ECC's original objection letter noted, each school would be covered by the second of the criteria if not the first.

The guide sets out the formal consultation requirements, including consultation with a neighbouring affected LEA which, in spite of withdrawal of the objection letter, has not happened. However, the guide explains that before the governing body commences consultation it should ensure that if it requires capital funding to make the expansion, this has been secured before it publishes its proposals.

I can only assume that Essex concluded this was not a 'significant' expansion proposal because the capital funding has not been secured. Given the state of the housing market, this would not be surprising, except for the fact that Herts County Council keeps insisting that this is the only way of paying for extra school places in the town.

So I think we should be told: how much money has been guaranteed and when would it be used to fund school development if planning permission were given? The Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation continues to believe that the timing and number of extra school places to be provided should not depend on property price speculation.

Richard Hannah,
Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation