KCC plans to expand Slade Primary School from 315 to 405 places to cope with the foreseen shortage of school places in Tonbridge. The expansion will begin with reception year intake rising from 45 to 60 pupils in September 2014. KCC has acquired Deacon House (behind Hildenbrook House at the bottom of The Slade) and will convert it into additional classrooms and other facilities.
The school governors have written to parents giving further details of foreseen changes.
At the end of last year SARA surveyed members’ views on the basic issue of expanding the school and submitted these views to two consultations on the proposals.
It is hoped there will shortly be a meeting between SARA representatives and the school to discuss the implications of the likely worsening of traffic problems.
[su_spoiler title=”What members’ said” icon=”plus-circle” anchor=”comments”]
There was a relatively large response with comments received from 37 members. Of these, around a third welcomed the proposal or were not much bothered either way. The rest were either opposed or had concerns about foreseen problems and the lack of detailed information that might indicate how the problems could be solved.
By far the biggest worry was about increased pressure at peak times on our narrow and often congested roads, particularly Stafford Road and its junction with Hawden, Houselands and Lodge Roads. This issue was mentioned in 66 per cent of replies including some of those generally in favour of the school expansion.
Most of these replies considered that some parents transporting children to and from school made the situation a lot worse by driving dangerously and parking illegally in Stafford Road. The problems were seen as bad enough now and bound to get worse with more children coming to the school from outside the area. It was pointed out that the road conditions at dropping off and picking up times didn’t just hold up traffic attempting to leave the Slade along the only available route but posed a considerable risk to pedestrians outside the school, particularly the schoolchildren themselves.
The situation was variously described as “horrific”, “chaos”, “terrifying” and “a nightmare”.
The other main concern was that the school would be adversely affected by such a big expansion. This was mentioned in one way or the other in nearly a quarter of replies with comments including that the friendly neighbourhood character of the school would be threatened and the playground would be overcrowded. Two members with teaching experience were adamant that smaller schools were much better for children.
Some of those replying felt they needed to know more about the plans for housing the pupils. What was “Plan B” if KCC’s negotiations to buy Deacon House fell through? (The owners have planning permission for houses on the site.) Would the fall-back position be more portakabins?
Some felt that Deacon House was unsuitable because it was so close to Hildenbrook House. Three residents of Hildenbrook House were also worried about this and keen that the area between the buildings should not become a playground.
Three replies suggested there was more room for expansion at other schools in the area or that a new school should be built.
Among those in favour of the plan who gave reasons for their view this was generally that it was good to increase access to this well-regarded school.[/su_spoiler]