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).

Read more of this post

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been judged to be “Satisfactory” at its last inspection in 2011 – an over-harsh judgement which I am glad has now been superceded.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

Thomas Tallis School opens up its sports halls

IMG00219-20111102-1044Thomas Tallis School, which was completely rebuilt two years ago with state-of-the-art sports facilities, is now offering more public access to them, both for individuals as well as sports clubs.

The sports halls at Tallis have been used by clubs- including the Metro Judo Club which used to meet at Mycenae House, and which Olympic medal-winner Gemma Gibbons used to be a member of – ever since the school’s new building opened in November 2011. The new school and its sports facilities are an important part of the borough’s Olympic legacy.

But the Halls’ availability for use by individuals, rather than clubs, had not been well publicised. Local residents, including Labour candidates Cherry Parker and Simon Thomson (who both live on Kidbrooke Park Road near the school) have lobbied Greenwich Leisure Limited (which is contracted to run the sports hall under its new brand name, Better) to ask them to publicise its availability better. Read more of this post

John Roan school – work finally begins

After many years of discussion – and a possible move to the Peninsula which won planning approval but was halted by tightened safety rules over the gasometer near the site – work on rebuilding John Roan School’s Westcombe Park Road site has begun.

Work there to lay the foundations for temporary classrooms at the back of the Westcombe Park Road site has now started. The new classrooms should arrive in March 2012, with demolition of the current building starting in July 2012 – just as the Olympics start – at the end of the summer term. 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

St. David’s Day

Monday 1 March is St. David’s Day which brings out the Welsh in me (my middle name is Llewellyn) but should also be a sign of the first daffodils flowering and Batley Park (aka Blackheath Standard) breaking out in the colour of crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils. Alas, spring is delayed. Global warming is ushering in greater volatility in our weather. But hopefully soon, there will be more sunshine to help our confidence and the green shoots of the economy.

Despite, the cold and wet we have kept up the round of meeting everyone in Blackheath westcombe yesterday in the Kidbrooke Park estate nestled between Kidbrooke Park Road and the noisy A102. People were pleased to see the Labour team and the Decent Homes programme making a difference. The new entrocoms in the blocks are going in and will mean a big improvement in securtity and peace of mind. There is a problem with people dumping rubbish on the overgrown land at the back of the Rochester Way shops which is a real eyesore; the trouble is it’s private property and the council’s powers are limited. But we will press on.

Today my normal 10k run with my eldest (just adult) daughter and out meeting the people with Nick Raynsford MP (quite a few people coming back to Labour it seems) before some domestic chores. We discuss the nightly closure of the Blackwall tunnel which doesn’t affect me as a public transport fanatic but my wife and friends (and many on the doorstep) have been really inconvenienced by the southbound closure after 9pm. Why there cannot be a carefully controlled contraflow with a 20mph speed limit as in the rothehith Tunnel is quite beyond Nick and me. We will campaign on for Mayor Johnson to see some sense here.

Tomorrow is John Roan Governors which I chair. We will be reviewing progress with getting the final sign-off for the restroration of the Maze hill site and rebuilding of westcombe park under the Building School for the future programme. It is very exciting but also challenging. We fear that a change of Government would lead to the plug being pulled on the schools’ rebuilding programme and Boy George wields the axe. But the polls are now closing: it does very much look possible for Labour to win. In any event, the physical transformation of the school will not be allowed to get in the way of the educational transformation of John Roan which goes from stregth to strength. I remain very confident of continuing year-on-year improvement from 50% in 2008 to 62% in 2009, up to 70% this year and 75-80% the year after. We continue to attract more applicants, being three times over-subscribed this year.

Time to sign off for a little domestic harmony!

David Gardner