July 28th 2010
If all of the money wasted upon bureaucracy, the generation of a succession of schemes and replicated “consultation” had been spent instead upon bricks and mortar then the proposed Hartsdown/Foreland school campus on the existing Hartsdown site could, by now, have been built and opened.
It is a tragedy that, in trying to achieve what most would recognise as much-needed renovation of old school buildings, the replacement of “temporary” mobile classrooms and, in some necessary cases, the construction of completely new secondary schools, the last government instead created a monster of waste and inefficiency called Building Schools for the Future.
Not only in the present economic climate but under any circumstances a responsible new administration should have called a halt to a programme that had become a milch-cow for those engaged in the process and a job-creation exercise for administrators.
That said, it is also clear that there are projects – and the Hartsdown/Foreland development is a case in point – that cannot be left in limbo. The Foreland school premises are no longer fit for the purpose of providing for those young people with very special needs that it accommodates and a Hartsdown building that has, scheduled for demolition, received no deep maintenance for several years, is now severely dilapidated. This, remember, is a school that was built in the 1950s and almost immediately condemned at that time.
In terminating the BSF programme the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has made it plain that there is no intention that capital investment in school buildings should also cease and that he wants to review all proposals on their merits in order to see what is affordable and offers value for money. Laura Sandys, as the Member of Parliament for South Thanet representing Foreland School, and I, representing the Hartsdown interests, are as one in seeking to press the Minister to indicate swiftly what programme he now proposes to support in order to ensure that the education of those students attending Foreland and Hartsdown is able to develop and prosper and the immediate needs of both establishments are met.
The petition presented by Hartsdown sixth-form students at the House of Commons and received by Laura has been passed to the Secretary of State as it represents the responsible and very real concerns of current pupils. The views of the teaching staff and parents who have approached us have also been made known to the Education Department. If to carry on as before was not an option then to do nothing is not an option either: we need a solution to the Hartsdown/Foreland future and we need it swiftly.