Expansion plans

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We recently wrote to parents and carers to offer them the opportunity to view the updated plans for the new building which we will need in order to expand to two forms of entry. We provided parents with the link to search for the plans at that time as they were not yet online. They are now online and we thought it would be useful for parents and carers to have the direct link. Here it is: Planning documents link

The consultation period runs from January 3rd to January 25th but Lewisham are happy for people to look at the plans and comment prior to this.

There is a separate procedure for the school to gain usage of some of the area in front of the school wall, opposite Lewisham College. This would allow us to install an entrance with a wheelchair ramp here and would mean we do not need to give up playground space for a ramp.(This entrance will be additional to our existing one – parents will always have the option of continuing to use this entrance if they wish.) Historically, this area was first created when the school was originally built back in the early 1970s and it initially belonged to the school. The school gifted it back to Lewisham in the 1980s and the expansion plans call for some of this area to return to being used by the school. The notice for this change of use went out recently and details are here: Land usage change link

Anyone who wishes to object to this would need to do this by 3rd January but the local authority have indicated to me that they would be flexible in hearing concerns past this date if necessary – they are keen for the process to be transparent and open.

I have spoken to our contact at Lewisham, Russell Edwards(Russell.Edwards@lewisham.gov.uk), who is happy to discuss the plans with anyone who wishes to.

The planning consultation process is a formal one and comments, both positive and otherwise, do need to be addressed to Lewisham rather than the school. However, I thought it might be useful to remind parents of the reasons why the school opted to agree to be expanded and to give some background on how we have ended up with the proposed plan.

I will summarise here some of the key reasons we agreed to expand but a fuller version of our rationale is contained in our letter to parents back in October 2016:

https://ashmeadprimary.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/consultation-documents/

As a community school, we feel we have a duty to help cope with the demand on places so that children can go to a local school. We also think that expanding is directly in the best interests of children at Ashmead. The key reasons for this are:

  • Being able to maintain and improve the high quality of teaching and learning will be more straightforward when we have two forms of entry, e.g. through the impact on standards of having two teachers per year group to share skills and to stretch children still further through comparison of work across the two classes.
  • Expansion gives us a considerable financial advantage during a very challenging time for school budgets. Looking at our financial plan for the next three years the positive financial impact of the proposed expansion is very substantial.
  • As the expansion is gradual, i.e. one extra class of children per year, there is plenty of time to make necessary adjustments as we go in order to make the transition to two forms of entry as smooth as possible.
  • Because of the gradual expansion (we will not be a fully two form entry school until September 2023) we also have the opportunity to use the ‘spare’ classes in the new building for curriculum enrichment (e.g. being able to have a classroom-sized space for drama lessons, etc.) and for other experiments such as offering after-school care so that, alongside our current breakfast club provision, the school could potentially offer wrap-around care for parents.
  • Site security – we have a playground that is unusually easy to access and in the past this has unfortunately led to problems, e.g. playground equipment being vandalized. This also means that the impact of the rigorous security measures we have taken recently is more limited than it should be. As part of the expansion the site will be made completely secure.

Of course, there are challenges that come with the expansion, such as ensuring that we maintain our ethos and managing the addition of extra children with the minimum of disruption. We have already started planning how to do this smoothly and will work with parents and carers on these plans as we go forward.

There will obviously be differing views of these proposed plans – this is completely understandable. The school has worked very hard in collaboration with the architects and Lewisham local authority to produce a plan that we feel is both a good fit with the historical usage of buildings along Lewisham Way and also fits the brief given to the school by governors, children, parents and staff – i.e. to minimize the impact of the new building on our lovely playground.

We are very happy that the final design meets this brief. We keep all of the trees in our playground and the building takes up the least amount of floor space of all the possible design approaches. Even the proposed use of some of the space opposite Lewisham College fits this brief as the alternative – putting the ramped paths inside the school premises – would lead to us losing substantial playground space (equivalent to the size of our new football cage).

There are a large number of documents relating to the plan on Lewisham’s website but if any parents would prefer to see the large-scale illustrations we shared a couple of weeks back please feel free to contact me for an appointment in the New Year.

I hope all families are having a lovely holiday and I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year. Don’t forget we are back on Wednesday 3rd January.

Kind regards,

Sean

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