Hawkenbury Primary may be delayed
The HVA chair, Dean Kenward, held a meeting on Monday, 2 July 2018 with Cllr Rankin from KCC and Cllr Moore from TWBC, about the size and plans for the new school. The school is due to be built in Hawkenbury and scheduled to open in September 2019. It seems likely that this may be delayed until September 2020 as no planning applications have been made yet.
The HVA remains concerned about the proposed size of the new school. Our Chair restated the fact that the village had been promised a 2FE (form entry) school on the site as part of the Hawkenbury Farm development. This fact has been confirmed by the leader of the TWBC, Cllr David Jukes, and formed part of the original planning application. Cllrs Rankin and Moore have both met with Cllr Roger Gough, who is the decision maker for KCC, and it would appear that KCC are not willing to change their stance. They are insistent on building a 2FE core, but only providing classrooms for 1FE. Cllr Rankin has asked Cllr Gough to confirm that this decision has been finalised now.
KCC has stated that there are currently sufficient school places within the Borough of Tunbridge Wells. A full 2FE school would generate too many additional reception places. Currently there are 28 places available at the Temple Grove Academy. KCC are further concerned that parents may want to move their children out of the Temple Grove school. The school is listed as ‘Requires Improvement’ by Ofsted. KCC is concerned that Temple Grove will fail financially if parents move their children to the new school in Hawkenbury.
Our councillors are also concerned about creating too many school spaces in Hawkenbury. The councillors are of the opinion that a school with available places will make it more difficult to stop any further development on the fringes of Hawkenbury. Developers will not have to provide for schooling, as there would be sufficient places in the local area. It could also be that the reception places are filled, prior to the Hawkenbury Farm development being completed, and the siblings will then get preference.
The continued teaching of mixed groups at the school is also unacceptable to local residents. The school should open as a full 1FE school from day 1. There should not be a staged approach to growing the class numbers. Why should our children have to be taught in mixed groups when the space is available to separate them into their own classes? This decision is strictly down to the Board of Governors and is one based on budgetary constraints. Surely there are ways and means to find the funding for the additional resources needed to give our children the best education that they deserve. One has to ask who is going to benefit from the old St Peter’s school site. Is the church, as the land owner, willing to put the proceeds from the sale of the site into the school, so that they can fund the necessary teachers and provide other sources?
Berkeley Homes is due to hand over the site to KCC on 31 July 2018 and a planning application has not been made. Cllr Rankin has asked KCC to clarify when a planning application will be forthcoming. She has also asked for confirmation on when the school is likely to open.
The HVA is also raising questions about the old school site and the future connection between the school and the church. If the church is going to benefit financially from the school grounds and not contribute the proceeds to the school, should the relationship continue? Would the wider community prefer a new Hawkenbury Primary School to a Church of England primary?
As residents, we feel let down by this process and, ultimately, it is our children that will bear the brunt of this short-sighted decision.
Our Chair, and the HVA, will continue to work with our local, elected councillors, to ensure that Hawkenbury gets the benefit from the new primary school. The HVA will continue to engage with KCC to ensure that the admissions policy is updated and does not exclude local children. We will attempt to get a commitment from KCC on when the 2FE classrooms will be build.