I am writing in response to the article relating to the proposed sports hall at Carshalton High School for Girls outlined in a recent edition of Focus.
The school has been bidding for funding to improve and upgrade the facilities at the school for many years. In comparison to all other secondary schools in the local area, the accommodation at Carshalton High School for Girls is inadequate with students not having equality of access to specialist facilities as their peers do in other schools. In April this year we heard that a bid we had submitted to the Education Funding Agency on the grounds of condition had been successful and we were granted £2.9million to replace our life-expired mobiles in a new building; which includes new dining facilities, replacing the 1940’s horsa – hut at the edge of the site adjoining houses in Colston Avenue and West Street.
At the same time, for the past 18 months, we have been working with the Education Department of the London Borough of Sutton, along with all other secondary schools in the borough, to discuss expansion of secondary schools to address the extremely serious pupil place planning issues that the borough faces. It was agreed by councillors that Carshalton High School for Girls should expand by one form of entry from September 2015. However, along with the other schools expanding, and the vast majority will be expanded by 2018, even with the investment from the EFA, we have a shortage of space to provide a full curriculum for our students, and one area in particular sports and changing facilities, is particularly poor; we currently are unable to provide a full PE curriculum.
The London Borough of Sutton has therefore agreed to fund a further £2.7million to the school, to enlarge the original footprint of the new building to replace the mobile accommodation, to re-model two current buildings that stand next to each other to provide more classroom space and to build a sports hall with changing rooms.
The Sports Hall
Originally to try to attract funding for the sports hall, the school had been looking to secure grants from sporting organisations including Sport England. In order to do so the plans drawn up needed to be in accordance with the Sport England ‘Aspire’ programme and therefore of a size and standard that would meet the necessary criteria including extensive community use for evenings, weekends and during school holidays.
With the local authority agreement to fund the sports hall the need to satisfy the criteria above is no longer a requirement. The size of the sports hall itself has therefore been reduced to a standard 4 court building with changing rooms. The facilities will be primarily for school use and whilst some lettings may take place it will be in line with the type of letting programme the school has undertaken for many years, which has benefited the local community without causing the type of concerns that the newsletter article outlines.
Specific Concerns Raised
Extra Usage: As outlined above the sports hall will be primarily for school use. The facilities included will limit how it can be used. It is not of the size and scope highlighted in the original plans. The school currently has lettings for sporting activities such as badminton, cheerleading and Zumba. It is envisaged that such activities will continue in the vein of the current provision.
Parking: All members of the community who use the facilities will be required to park in the school car park. Some parking spaces are being created close to the new building but will be accessed from the school site and simply replace others that are being lost elsewhere as the site is re-configured. For example, there are a number of spaces around the current dining room which will be lost when the area at the back of the site is turned back to grass.
Increased Congestion: As there will be limited use of the facilities it is not envisaged that this will create significant extra congestion. Cars will enter and exit the school through the gates on West Street as they currently do and will be parked in the main school car park at the front of the building. There will not be access from Colston Avenue.
Noise: On the previous plans there was significant configured outdoor space to accommodate community use. The new plans do not have such facilities. The new plans simply replace what currently exists in a like-for-like scenario e.g. two netball courts, long-jump pit and grassed area for pitches and athletics. These facilities will be sited on the areas released by the demolition of vacated buildings.
Lettings: In line with all other schools in the area, we seek to ensure that the school is a hub of the community, enabling local residents to access specialised facilities when the school is not used by students. However, the school has total control over the lettings and has for many years taken into account the balance of opening its doors to the community, being able to generate some additional income to plough back into the upkeep of the buildings and ensuring a very positive relationship is developed and maintained with the residents who live locally. The addition of the proposed new facilities will not change that policy or ethos.
Travel Plan:The school has had a travel plan in place for several years and we were delighted this year to receive the Silver Award. There is a commitment to encourage students to walk or cycle to school and we actively discourage parents from parking in such a way that causes issues for the local residents.
In conclusion, we hope this allays any fears that local residents may have and gives an accurate picture of the proposed plans. As a school we aim to do the very best for our students. We feel that the girls have been disadvantaged for many years in terms of accommodation in comparison to their counterparts in other schools, although this has not prevented the school from securing enormous improvements in recent years. We now have the opportunity to re-dress that balance and ensure our students are learning in an environment conducive to the 21st Century. The Focus newsletter sums this up so well with the heading ‘Stronger Economy Fairer Society’; we obviously have a shared vision for young people in this area.
We pride ourselves on having been a part of the local community for years and establishing and maintaining a very positive relationship with local residents. Our recent Golden Anniversary celebrations brought many members of the community through the gates and we want to ensure that positivity is maintained and have taken this into account when formatting the plans for the new building and the sports hall.
The Chair of Governors, the Architect team and I would all be very happy to meet with you to discuss these issues further. Please do not hesitate to contact the school to speak to me or e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org.