Schools 4 communities: Brighton & Hove Schools Action Group

A letter to Pat Hawkes, chair of the CFS,

from the joint chair of Schools 4 Communities

Saturday 3 February 2007

Dear Pat

The Labour party has finally shown its true colours and the SAR process has been shown for the sham that it always was. The goal was never a fairer admissions system but much to do with saving Labour marginals in Hanover and Queens Park under pressure from the Green Party.

The actions of Councillor Burgess yesterday, no doubt promoted by you, has shown this administration to be morally bankrupt, hell bent on forcing through poor policy at any cost, in a desperate bid to keep power. This administration has lost the authority to govern.

As Chair of CFS you have a responsibility to the children of this city and you have failed them. By sacking Councillor McCaffery the Labour Party has openly and in grand fashion, demonstrated that it has lost the argument. Contrary to your claim in the Argus today, Councillor McCaffery actually understood the damage these proposals will cause across the city. Her moral integrity for doing what she knew to be right, (and despite bullying and intimidation from senior Labour officials),was in sharp contrast to the display of self-interest on show yesterday. The intellectual redundancy demonstrated by Labour and Green councillors was truly shocking.

What is more disturbing is that you as Chair will retain control over the education of so many children in this city, despite overseeing this calamity. I believe your position to be untenable and you should now resign, in the interests of the city as a whole.

The same can be said for Councillor Mallender. After Councillor Randall advised us all which way Richard was going to vote, the Greens have demonstrated a closed mind, open again, only to self interest in Hanover and Queens Park marginals.

Councillor Hazelgrove (who showed a complete disregard for social justice in his own ward), can accuse the Conservatives of swapping positions but is it sensible to stick with a policy that has clearly been shown, since November 6th to be fatally flawed. If officers had made information available to councillors sooner, rather than concealing flaws and data errors, then maybe even Labour and Green Councillors would have figured out that the proposals don't add up.

You have ensured :

  1. You said Falmer is a good and an improving school and will therefore thrive. I agree it is an improving school but only because it has had a more comprehensive mix of late, including children directed from Hanover and Queens Park . Not any more. How can you disregard the comments of the school itself (which incidentally never made the Director's report) who wanted their catchment pulled further south? Did you even read the Falmer High report?
  2. Those with least choice of all in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean have zero chance of accessing better schools which is completely contrary to the new code.
  3. Certain and massive oversubscription in the Stringer/Varndean catchment, by at least 95 children in 2008. (Does anyone believe you will spend money putting 3 extra classes on at Varndean when there are 82 empty desks at Patcham ??)
  4. A lottery deciding where over 60% of our children are educated.
  5. A huge increase in cross-city travelling as children from as far away as Queens Park will now access Stringer/Varndean and children living as central as West Street end up at Hove Park Lower School in Hangelton. But then you knew that as it is the sole reason no transport analysis has been undertaken.
  6. Some children who can now walk to school such as those in Prestonville and Westdene will have to be bussed 4 miles to Hangleton. (no doubt better for the city as a whole)
  7. Uncertainty for all. Equality of uncertainty has now been achieved.
  8. Patcham school will be not better off as claimed. The system is full so all places must be filled. (i) the catchment only has 178 children in it for 210 places so where are the other 32 children coming from? (ii) 50 Patcham children will still get places at Stinger/Varndean. So 82 places at Patcham school (39% of the year) will be filled by ?directed children? from other catchments. It's simple mathematcis.

I must also comment on the awful way you chaired the meeting yesterday. I lost count of the number of times you were either not paying attention or talking to Gil or David, rather than actually listening to your fellow councillors when they were speaking on such an important issue.

Finally, how you believe that you will be allowed to get away with imposing this calamity on the city is, in your words Pat, beyond me.

Yours sincerely,

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