Wednesday, 28 July 2010


About a fortnight ago in an earlier post I mentioned that Michael Gove, Secretatary of State for Education, on 6 July had called in 'for discussion' the new-build element of Drapers' Academy. This was along with 130 similar projects.

We were very disappointed at this sudden change in direction. This particularly as we are within a few weeks of sign off following two years of work and very considerable expenditure: about £3million of taxpayers' money according to our calculations. And there is also about a million pounds of preparatory work in hand, some of which has been put on hold and some that is going ahead.

On 12 July we were asked to produce answers to a questionnaire produced at short notice by the Department of Education. This required a huge amount of work. It was essentially in two parts.

The first was to justify numbers who might attend the Academy and show how we were planning to double numbers and attract a sixth form within four years.

The second was to demonstrate why the existing buildings are just not up to the job. London Borough of Havering played a blinder and commissioned Jacobs to produce a condition survey at great speed. It confirmed our worst (or is it best?) fears that the buildings are virtually worn out and that a refurbishment option would be poor value for money.

We of course backed this up with our conviction that a new school was central to achieving the exceptional vision we have for the Academy.

The Academy team pulled together very well and in particular the support from London Borough of Havering was pivotal in getting a very strong case together.

We got the questionnaire back by Friday. Since then our response, along with many others, is wending its way through the Whitehall labyrinth and nearly two weeks after submission no decision has yet been made. The new term is getting close so it is quite a strain on the staff of the new Academy headed up by the Principal (designate), Matthew Slater.

We hope that Michael Gove's decision, when it comes, will uphold our case. We remain absolutely convinced that we can only meet our vision of changing educational opportunity with new buildings and that Harold Hill families deserve a better deal.

Readers of the blog will be kept updated.

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