More action required after the Open Public Meeting about the Future Plans for Chesterton

Dear parents and carers:

We would like to thank every one of you who came to the Open Public Meeting about the Future of Chesterton Community College, on Tuesday 24 January. Over 200 of you turned up on the cold evening, for what turned out to be a very informative event.

We would also like to thank all 1167 people who signed the petition in support of the much delayed Chesterton Expansion project, and which we presented to the council’s Children and Young People’s committee on 17 January 2017.

We thank the councillors Lucy Nethsingha, John Hipkin, Ian Manning and Jocelynne Scutt, as well as the Chesterton Headteacher Lucy Scott and the Chair of Governor Simon Peyton Jones, who presented their views and answered our questions.

The Open Meeting has been covered in the press, and you can read about it in the Cambridge News here: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/north-cambridge-secondary-schools-full-12505697

 

We video-recorded the meeting, and you can view the footage Below:

 

We will produce a report from the meeting and circulate it to you and to the Children and Young People’s committee shortly.

One thing is clear: a lot of local people care about what will happen with Chesterton. It is also indisputably clear, and triple-checked by 3 different independent professional bodies of analysts, that by 2019, there will be over 80 children without a secondary school place in the north of the city. Both Chesterton and the North Cambridge Academy will be full. Action needs to be taken NOW to be able to provide for this basic education need in time for September 2019!

Our action has already had an effect: the Children and Young People’s committee has finally set a date for the very much delayed next meeting to discuss this issue and come to a decision. This crucial meeting will take place on 28 February 2017 at the Shire Hall. It is a public meeting, so we need you to attend and prove to the councillors that this is a serious local issue and that many people care about what happens to Chesterton Community College.

In the meantime, it became clear at the meeting, that writing to the councillors on the Children and Young People’s (CYP) committee really does have an effect. So, please write to them with your views. In particular, the Chair of the CYP committee declined to attend the meeting, so it is important that she hears your views. Here are the councillor’s emails:

Councillor Joan Whitehead (Chairwoman): joan.whitehead@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Councillor David Brown (Vice-Chairman): david.brown@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

 

Councillor Sir Peter Brown: peterbrowncc@hotmail.com

Councillor Simon Bywater: simon.bywater@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Councillor Daniel Divine: daniel.divine@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Councillor Peter Downes: peter.downes@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Councillor Stephen Frost: Stephen.Frost@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Councillor Samantha Hoy: samphoy@googlemail.com

Councillor Maurice Leeke: maurice16@ntlworld.com

Councillor Mervyn Loynes: mervynloynes@btinternet.com

Councillor Zoe Moghadas: Zoe.Moghadas@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Councillor Lucy Nethsingha: nethsingha@btinternet.com

Councillor Simone Leigh Taylor: Simone45taylor@yahoo.com

Councillor Julie Wisson: julie.wisson@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Councillor Fred Yeulett: fred.yeulett@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

 

Below we attach additional information that you may find helpful.

Thank you and let’s keep up the pressure on the decision makers.

 

Mateja Jamnik Bierman

Judith Harrison

Jane Kroese

 

The demographic need

The Local Authority approached all Cambridge secondary schools urgently in 2013, asking them to consider how they could expand their intake.

Chesterton is full already and, given the imminent demographic changes, we are anxious that we will soon be unable accept all the students from our catchment area who want to study at Chesterton, let alone all first-choice applications.  We were therefore very excited about the new-build possibility, and invested great deal of time and energy with the LA architects over nine months to develop detailed plans for an imaginative new build at Chesterton.  These plans would allow us to expand by a third, with two new forms of entry.  They would also dramatically improve an ageing school site for all pupils.

In the middle of 2015 all these plans were put on hold while the Local Authority commissioned a new, independent study of the demographic projections.   The consultants reported in May 2016, and the Local Authority drafted a strategy paper based on its findings, saying “the outcomes of this review broadly reaffirmed the earlier study.  The key findings were that there would be increasing pressure on secondary school places across the north of the city from 2017/8.”

For North Cambridge it shows:

  • Without any new housing, by 2030 there will be a 48% increase in secondary student numbers, from 2,500 to 3,700.
  • If the expected new housing is built, there will be an 85% increase by 2030 (4,600 students).
  • The LA strategy paper says “By 2019, across the north of Cambridge there will be 400 year 6 pupils for who m a secondary school place is required.  This is an increase of around 70 pupils from the 2016/7 cohort”.

 

So the need is coming, it is coming soon, and it is very large.

The same strategy paper says “Experience gained from delivering school expansion projects in Cambridge highlights the need to engage with city planners as early as possible in this process”.  A £10m new build in a densely populated part of Cambridge takes at least three years to plan and execute.  You can’t turn it on and off like a tap; and it is no good waiting until the need is desperate before starting to plan.  We need to start now.

Chesterton

Chesterton Community College has worked hard over the last 10 years to improve standards and outcomes for the young people in the local community, and we are now one of the top 100 non-selective state schools in the country.   In the recently-published Progress 8 league tables, Chesterton is among the top 5% of schools across the country.

Our hard work and commitment has established a reputation in the community as an inspiring school. The strength of our ethos ensures that students from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences genuinely work and live together as a community, caring for one another and relishing the challenge of academic excellence.

Our outcomes for students have improved consistently year on year and we are delighted that the new Progress 8 measures confirm that not only do we deliver these excellent outcomes in terms of attainment, but also in progress, which is significantly beyond national expectations. This applies to all groups of students, including disadvantaged students for whom we achieve outcomes far surpassing those across most of Cambridgeshire. Some of our headlines from 2016 include:

  • 79% of all students gained at least English and maths grade C, 52% of disadvantaged students did.
  • The school’s progress 8 score for all students was 0.7, for disadvantaged students 0.2.
  • 41% of all grades A or A*

 

Our school is one of the few in Cambridgeshire that has been able to fill all vacancies with well qualified subject specialists.  As we move into even more challenging times our established networks enable us to continue to ensure high quality staff for the years to come.  We have strong relationships with parents and in our most recent parent survey 90% would recommend our school to others. However, we are concerned that if there is uncertainty over our development, particularly after the setback linked to Darwin Green, we become less attractive as a school for inspirational and ambitious staff.

Admissions at Chesterton

Over the last few years Chesterton has been over-admitting in all year groups, as we have been becoming increasingly popular and we prepared for our expansion. We currently have 970 students on roll whereas our PAN would suggest we should have 900.   Here is data for the last three years:

Chesterton Sept-13 Sept-14 Sept-15
Total Year 7 roll 176 183 207
% from within catchment 68.2% 69.9% 74.4%

The demographic pressure can be clearly seen, as the proportion of in-catchment students is steadily increasing even while the total roll is also increasing.

In 2016 the school received 374 applications for places in Year 7; that is, we have about two applications for every Year 7 place.   Of these, 300 were first and second preferences.  We typically receive around 100 In-Year applications from parents who have recently moved to Cambridge or want to move their child from a local school.  We have just hosted our most popular open evening ever in October, attended by over 400 families, and we are currently receiving emails daily about admissions and whether we will have places to meet the demand.

Vagueness about timescales and admissions is proving unsettling for our community.

The Chesterton site

Chesterton has a constrained site in a densely populated area.   The buildings are old, the dining facilities are inadequate, and we have no good, large performance spaces.  The centre of the school site is… a car park.

Every other secondary school in the city and its immediate area has enjoyed substantial new-build investment recently, including Bottisham (£18m announced Nov 2016), Parkside, Coleridge, North Cambridge Academy, St Bede’s, and Netherhall.   Even aside from the issues of demographics, it seems only equitable to offer students at Chesterton the same investment in site and facilities has been offered in other secondary schools in the area.  The proposed new build is an imaginative scheme that would replace the central car park with two leafy quadrangles separated by a large new block containing new dining facilities, performance space, and art studios.  There are beneficial knock-on effects right across the site, so all students will benefit.

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