Secondary School Provision
The Leader reported that Kent County Council (KCC) and Swale Borough Council (SBC) were working together to support the academies with the support of the local MP. The Leader set out the Administration’s view of the situation of secondary school provision in Sittingbourne and the Isle of Sheppey. SBC were not an education authority but they, along with many parents and pupils, were concerned about secondary school places and the large number of Sittingbourne pupils that had been allocated schools on the Isle of Sheppey. There was also a skills gap in Swale. It was important to get the right kind of secondary education that would benefit the pupils and the local economy.
The Area Education Officer went through her presentation, explaining the figures and the pressures on secondary schools. She also went through the options KCC had considered for new secondary school provision and the issues that had been encountered, making progress difficult. The North West Sittingbourne allocated school site could not move forward until the site was purchased by the developer, which at present looked unlikely to happen for some time. Discussions with the Oasis Academy indicated it was unlikely to release the West site at this time, meaning any new provision on the Isle of Sheppey would be subject to the identification of a new site. The favoured option was for the Department for Education (DfE) to work with the Oasis Academy to release the West site, but site searches continued. If one were found it would take several years to implement and whilst KCC did not have the funds to purchase a site, if that was the only option, they would have to re-prioritise to pay for it.
The expansion of the intake at existing Sittingbourne schools could only provide temporary respite, due to highways and other local issues constraining the possibility of significant expansion. Other issues added to the pressures, such as parents not understanding the process of choosing school preferences, which resulted in unpopular outcomes.
A discussion ensued and below is a summary of comments:
· The old Halfway Houses site could be an option for a new school;
· the Oasis Academy had been in special measures for some years; Marisa White responded that the local authority have no power over academies, it was for the Department for Education (DfE) to deal with performance but KCC and SBC could provide support. There was a project ongoing that would look at what could be done to help;
· the huge developments of housing did not help, there needed to be more people on the Isle of Sheppey with skills;
· pupils on the Isle of Sheppey could achieve good results, there needed to be a commitment to involve parents as they had excellent input on how schools could progress;
· early education was being missed, children’s centres had not opened. Marisa White responded that the project would look at early years through to post-16 and it was a good opportunity to engage with parents; and
· something needed to be done to bring the schools we had up to standard and to teach children in a way that industry needed.
The Chairman thanked the Area Education Officer and the Council Leader for attending the meeting.