Invicta School’s rebuilding moves a step closer

InvictaThe rebuilding of Invicta Primary School has moved a big step closer. A planning application could be submitted this summer, following consultation with parents and the school’s neighbours, and work could start on site this autumn. The new school building could be completed in late 2015 and all work on site finished as soon as spring 2016.

A letter from the headteacher Marie Corbett to parents earlier this week explains that Invicta has been designated by the Education Funding Agency as the ‘Initial School’ (in other words, the first to be rebuilt) in the batch of three south-east London schools in the Priority School Building Programme (one of the others is Our Lady of Grace, the Roman Catholic primary school just down Charlton Road from Invicta). You can read the letter, which has been posted on the school’s website, here.

As Ms Corbett’s letter says, the school has waited five years for this good news and a new building for Invicta (which was last rebuilt in 1952, in buildings thaThomas Tallis School - new signst were supposed to be only temporary) is long overdue: it is two and a half years since Greenwich’s Labour council first submitted a bid to get Invicta rebuilt.

The rebuilding of Invicta (which was rightly judged to be Outstanding by Ofsted last year) will follow the rebuilding of both secondary schools in Blackheath Westcombe ward through the last Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Thomas Tallis‘s rebuilding was completed in late 2011 and the rebuilding of John Roan‘s Westcombe Park Road site, and the refurbishment of its Maze Hill building, are on track  to be completed in September 2014 (work is currently a few weeks ahead of schedule in fact).

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Congratulations to The John Roan – another good local school

John Roan upper school before refurb 2012The John Roan School has just been judged as “Good” by Ofsted inspectors – a real tribute to headteacher Des Malone, other staff and governors. The school had been judged to be “Satisfactory” at its last inspection in 2011 – an over-harsh judgement which I am glad has now been superceded.

Ofsted’s report, published on December 6th after the inspection on November 20th-21st, can be read here. What’s telling is that the school has been found to be doing so well despite the current disruption caused by the school’s rebuilding – the Maze Hill campus is currently a building site, on the Westcombe Park Road site pupils are being taught in a temporary block as work is completed on a new building, and the school has temporarily taken over a third site, on Royal Hill in the middle of Greenwich, in the meantime.

John Roan School's new Westcombe Park Road building has recently been topped out

John Roan School’s new Westcombe Park Road building has recently been topped out

“The major building works which have been underway for more than a year present particular challenges which the students cope with extremely effectively,” the inspectors say. “They behave in an exemplary fashion when moving site to site and their good behaviour is remarked upon and appreciated by the local community.”

Ofsted inspectors do not give praise lightly, so the judgement is something that the school, and its governors and students , can be very proud of. Read more of this post

Invicta: a great school deserves a great building

Invicta signInvicta Primary School is a great local success story. It has recently expanded to two forms of entry,  and was judged as “Outstanding” by Ofsted earlier this year. It has just started supporting Bishop John Robinson School in Thamesmead – a huge vote of confidence in the head, Marie Corbett, and the other staff at Invicta. It has a thriving Children’s Centre in its grounds, offering a range of services for under-fives and their parents.

But lnvicta deserves a better building. Its current building dates back to 1952, replacing a Victorian building that was badly damaged by wartime bombing, and this 1950s reconstruction was never intended to be permanent. By and large the building (apart from the addition of some portacabins because of its recent expansion to two forms of entry) is exactly as it was when I was a pupil there in the early 1980s (I am now a governor there, as is Labour candidate Cherry Parker). Its windows and roof have reached the end of their lifespan and the building is simply not fit for purpose. Read more of this post

One Nation Education: Roy Preston’s memorial conference

Education conferenceSixty delegates came to the Forum at Greenwich two weeks ago, on June 22nd, for a “One Nation Education” conference in memory of Roy Preston, a long-standing Labour party member, school governor and former councillor, who died in June 2012. A year on from his death, it was poignant not having Roy as a participant at the kind of event he would have loved.

Local party members Annie Keys, Jo Ann Galloway, Prof Carl Parsons, Ella Statham, John Galloway and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Cllr Jackie Smith all spoke, as did the headteacher of John Roan School, Des Malone, and the developer behind the new Cruise Liner Terminal planned for Greenwich, James Blakey. And we were honoured to have Roy’s widow Pat and his children Nick, Karen and Alison all there. Read more of this post

Keeping people in work

Gordon fired the starting gun on Tuesday, and we were away! – a few days before the Grand National.

Of course, in Blackheath Westcombe we’ve been out talking to people all year round – but it will now be meeting and greeting voters every day until 6 May. Still, time for my morning run with my eldest today before canvassing and for the traditional Sunday dinner with the family afterwards.

On the doorstep, I am finding people are very friendly, even those that are confirmed supporters of other parties. The main local issues are schools and probably Greenwich Park being used for the Olympics. People are very happy with the recycling and bins, generally with the state of the streets, public transport and with other public services.

On schools, the good citizens of Westcombe Park are very pleased with Halstow – an excellent primary that is consistently the best or second best in Greenwich and the good citizens of Blackheath with Brooklands (which has overcome the glitch from last year’s OfSTED inspection after some great support from Halstow). Invicta in the middle of the ward is fast improving and many also go to Sherington just over on the west of Charlton which is one of the most improved schools in recent years. At nursery and primary level, most parents are concerned about getting into the school. That is why Labour is committed in our plans to expanding Halstow from 1 form entry to 1.5 form entry and under the building schools for the future programme there is a commitment to rebuilding Invicta school.

I am only too aware that secondary schools have been more of a challenge for parents but am very pleased at the wide recognition that John Roan school is steadily improving in terms of its ethos, behaviour and, most importantly, its results. As Chair of Governors there with an excellent team of Governors we have worked extremely hard to transform the school with the new Head while building on the traditional strengths such as pastoral support. The fruits of all this will continue to come through with this year’s results and further improvements year-on-year. I did hear of a disturbing incident at the end of last term on Humber Road, which I shall get to the bottom of, though I am pleased to say this does appear to be isolated. After improving the school so it is the school of choice for all the local community, we our focusing on the physical transformation of restoring the listed Maze hill site and rebuilding the Westcombe Park site. At this point, we are waiting for approval of our Outline Business Case from partnership for school, the Government body in charge of the programme. Of course, there is no guarantee that a Conservative Government would honour this commitment and with the cuts proposed, the chance of rebuilding Invicta school would be very slim. Thomas Tallis, of course, has started their new building on the Blackheath Park side, so we trust this will be quite safe!

Overall, we have seen a transformation in school standards but I fully appreciate that all parents want the best for their children and we have further to go. Am very interested in people’s constructive ideas and comments. All I can say, from a Roan perspective, is that it is a school now of real energy and determination as well as commitment to our local communities – and perseverance of excellence.

Greenwich Park has been raised a lot with me and everyone loves the park – I am a longstanding friend of greenwich park and cherish it too. I understand people’s qualms about the impact the olympics could have, but I think the fears are largely misplaced. Not one tree will be knocked down and the park will only be fully closed for one day. There will be some inconvenience obviously, and if elected my job will be to make sure that the Royal parks agency and Olympics’ organisers are working closely with the four key societies – Blackheath Society, Westcombe Society, Greenwich Society and Friends of Greenwich Park to ensure that the whole process is smooth, causes minimum disruption and deals with issues that are bound to arise. But Greenwich will be a showcase for the world for the modern pentathlon and equestrian events and this will be excellent.

I intend to carry on talking to everyone throughout the ward, taking up issues with my fellow candidates Alex Grant and Pat Boado-Darko and getting things done. Now, I think a walk with the family (without knocking on any doors as people enjoy a sunny, peaceful sunday afternoon!)

David L Gardner

Daffodils… and Alastair Darling

The daffodils have finally emerged around Blackheath and Westcombe Park and the sun has been doing its best to make its presence felt between the showers. Spring is here and the clocks have gone forward. Indeed, I was very pleased to be up on Sunday at 8am to get in my weekly 10k run before heading off to the doorsteps with our MP Nick Raynsford. Not everyone answering though, while of course pleased to see the Labour Party, looked as if they had readjusted their clocks!

In Westcombe Park on Saturday, we met some really excellent supporters in Ruthin Road and Glenluce Road with a small section of Westcombe Hill. A small section because we soon discovered that we were following in the well-trodden footsteps of the Jehovah Witness’ canvassers and a double knock especially after the non-voting JVs in one morning does not always go down well. So hotfoot around the corner to the very peaceful but fascinating slopes of Ruthin and Glenluce. There was general satisfaction with Labour nationally and locally though of course a few niggles on a variety of issues. A significant number of non-British EU citizens in these roads and we kept having to remind people them – Dutch, Polish, German, Spanish etc that they can vote in the local elections but not in the parliamentary election. Only UK, Irish, Maltese and Cypriot citizens within the EU can vote for their MP though, as can citizens of all other Commonwealth countries (from Australia to Zambia).

Two issues did come clearly through – the need to keep pressing ahead with raising achievement in our schools and it was excellent to hear Invicta praised as well as Halstow – but particularly our secondary schools. On this score, it is noteworthy that the three state schools in the new Greenwich and Woolwich constituency have doubled the number of 16-year olds gaining five or more good GCSEs from under a third to over two-thirds since Labour came to power in 1997. But it will and must improve further, and John Roan will be leading the way. However, there is a danger

John Roan School

with any change of Government that Conservative cuts and freezing teacher salaries will deflate morale and capacity for continued improvement. Back to the budget and hats off to Alastair Darling for putting the emphasis on jobs and enterprise, ensuring the burden is being more fairly shared but avoiding knee-jerk measures. He has actually confounded his detractors and proven to be a quiet but resilient backbone to the Government that, despite the UK’s exposure to global financial services, has weathered the global recession significantly better than predicted.

David L Gardner

Tory SureStart cuts will hurt Blackheath Westcombe

What’s the best way to help young families in Blackheath Westcombe? SureStart Children’s Centres have been a hugely successful initiative created the Labour government with support from the local council.

Surestart centres offer a range of services to support young children such as playgroups, toy libraries, parenting classes and also often childcare – as well as help for struggling families, like support in claiming benefits. We have three Centres nearby: Robert Owen, Invicta and Sherington.

The good thing about Sure Start is that they’re open to all children and families – and are spread across all neighbourhoods, so that parents and children from different social backgrounds mix. That’s the particular strength of Sure Start in the Blackheath Westcombe area.

Conservative policy is to reduce the number of Sure Start centres, and focus them on areas supposed to be in greatest “need”. If elected to power the Tories aim to ‘refocus’ the Sure Start budget, and cut £200 million from the Sure Start budget, meaning Children’s Centres in areas like ours, which have a mixed population would close. Join the campaign against the Conservative cuts by signing the petition here.

This is an example of the Tories wanting to cut an universal local public service- free to everyone at the point of use.

It’s also a good example of the Conservatives overly bureaucratic approach to poverty-reduction. The principles behind Labour’s Sure Start programme are simple – every neighbourhood should have the same set of services. Instead, the Conservatives will use a complex formula to give some areas more and some less – meaning people on one side of the road will be able to access to different services than those who live on the other.

We don’t think that’s fair. We think Blackheath Westcombe badly needs more, not fewer, services for young children – and we’re campaigning both for more local childcare facilities and to stop the Tory cuts in our area.