Forward planning is needed

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It is interesting that the Local Authority are planning two new secondary schools in Sheffield. It is shocking that tens of millions of pounds will be spent on them when the smallest amount of forward planning and strategic thinking would have avoided it.

The authority have had 11 years’ notice of the increase in student numbers in secondary schools.

It was clear from health authority birth data that the number of young people was growing. Over this period we have seen the swelling school population move through primary schools and have had to build new ones and expand existing ones.

Also during this period Sheffield went through the Building Schools for the Future programme with £230 million pounds being spent closing and rebuilding schools in Sheffield.

This included the closure of Wisewood, Myers Grove and Abbeydale Grange secondary schools. Wisewood and Myers Grove were merged and reopened on the old Myers Grove site.

The new Forge Valley School was exactly the same size as Myers Grove.

In effect two secondary schools (Wisewood and Abbeydale Grange) were removed from Sheffield at a time when planners knew that in a few years they would need the spaces.

The lack of strategic planning on the part of Local Authority and Government officers and politicians was breathtaking. The future lack of places was brought to the authority’s attention at the time by campaigners but was wilfully ignored to the detriment of Sheffield and its students.

In addition there is the unquantifiable cost of the damage caused to the education of thousands of students who were uprooted by the completely unnecessary upheavals. Students require stability and continuity with any change brought in gradually based on evidence and genuine discussions with stakeholders, including affected staff.

Councillor Drayton is quoted in your article as saying “This strategic vision will see two new outstanding secondary schools.”. I do hope there is a long-term strategy because one has been very lacking in the past. It takes years or decades to build an outstanding school and the stroke of a pen to destroy one as we saw with Wisewood. It is spin and conjecture to state that any new school will be outstanding, though I’m sure everyone would hope that it is. Sheffield does not have a good record of opening ‘outstanding’ schools.

I hope that lessons will be learned from this debacle and our Local Authority will start to argue and plan for what is in Sheffield’s long – term interests far more effectively in future.

Toby Mallinson

Hibberd Road, Sheffield, S6

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