Public debate and opposition to the re-siting of Preshute school has been lively. As a Governing Body we have chosen not to enter into this debate, recognising that there is a due process that should be followed when any new development is planned.
Despite our collective decision to remain silent on the debate surrounding relocation sites for the future, we do feel it right and proper that the public is fully informed and in this open letter we hope to share with you the reasons why Preshute School needs to be relocated onto a suitable site that is fit for purpose in order to survive into the future.
The current school was built in 1845 originally for less than 50 pupils, over the years we have expanded the site to accommodate the increasing demand in line with the increasing population in the area. The physical expansion reached its limit 16 years ago with the addition of 2 temporary classrooms at the back of the existing site. Since this time further expansion has been limited to optimisation of the existing building space with initiatives such as moving the school library into the corridors to create further teaching space. We have now reached the limit and the status quo is that the school can take no further children but cannot meet the demands for places.
Some of the compromises the school has to deal with every day are:
• Unable to deliver indoor PE to the Juniors on site and having to pay to use the Marlborough Leisure Centre.
• An inability to install any wheelchair access requiring wheelchair users to be lifted in and out of the building and unable to use the playground or back classrooms.
• No dedicated green field space for break times or sports; the current field is on loan from a generous neighbour.
• Reliance on the generosity of Marlborough College or St Johns to rent space to put on performing arts events such as plays and concerts.
In 2012 and 2013 independent advisors and assessors made the following comments in relation to the school.
“The school is old and is significantly too small for the large number of children on roll…all circulation areas are crowded and they are not adequate…” – Diocesan Advisor
“The accommodation requires radical improvement. It is only the outstanding behaviour of the pupils and the effective procedures employed by staff that ensures this does not impair the orderly management of the school.” – School Improvement Advisor
Due to the age of the school and the limitations of the site our maintenance bill climbs each year and is currently significantly higher than other local schools. Over the last 3 years we have had 3 floods causing disruption and damage to the fabric of the school. The most recent Wiltshire Council survey has identified £75,000 of essential works, most of which will need carrying out over the next two years, all of which will come out of the school budget; all of which could and should be better spent on teaching.
Despite all these setbacks, we have an incredibly happy, positive and vibrant school that excels in setting the children up for secondary education and essential life skills. The school continues to be highly regarded by prospective parents evidenced by the high numbers of applicants compared to the space available. The school is and always has been committed to being a fundamental part of the Manton parish community and has no desire to find itself in a position polarising opinion.
The sad reality is that the school must evolve and must do it soon if it is to survive. There are no options to further develop the current site; unless a new site is found then the only possible outcome will see Preshute downsized and Wiltshire Council creating capacity elsewhere; this option we be a huge loss to the parish and its children.
Last year Wiltshire Council earmarked money to build a new school, however this offer won’t last forever in these fiscally constrained times. We are now at the stage where we must grow to the next level or face the consequences.
We very much hope that this puts our quest for a new site and a new school in context, we are not seeking to enter into the ‘where’ debate but simply to present the case for a new school. We do think it prudent to point out that when the school was built the children came almost exclusively from the original Manton area (south of the A4), however since the houses in Barton Park and College Fields were built, the majority of our pupils now come from there. At present just 11 children come from the village itself.
You have only to visit us or to see our website (www.preshute.wilts.sch.uk) to see that we are a very successful school with delightful pupils and outstanding staff; how much more could we offer on a better site?
Z Garbutt and M Paul
on behalf of the Governors of