Why I support Leighton Andrews’ stance

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Photo credit: Wales Online, by Andrew James

It has not been an easy week for the former minister.  A tweeted picture of him at a demonstration opposing a school closure in his constituency has led to the First Minister asking him to resign.

He, however, has no regrets, and neither should he.

“It’s been an unexpected week, but I don’t regret standing up for my constituency.

 

“It’s important local people see they have a community representative with a passion who makes an effort to stand up for them.

 

“The issue for me is that all councils need to ensure they’re spending their money efficiently and in the correct way, including getting a grip on surplus places as this has an impact on money.

 

“But in addressing these issues it’s up to the AM to scrutinise these proposals and make sure they make educational sense and are in the best interests of the community.”

 

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/former-education-minister-leighton-andrews-4734959

I could not agree more with him.  Rosemary Butler and Paul Flynn both declined to even look at – let alone scrutinise – this proposal.  It is not in the best interests of the community and makes little educational sense. Yet neither of our senior elected representatives know this as they preferred not to hear about the proposal.

It’s important local people see they have a community representative with a passion who makes an effort to stand up for them.

Hear hear!

And my personal view is that Councils in some cases have used the vague cover of “surplus” as a kind of “catch-all”, “get-out-of-jail-free” card to push through other proposals they want to see happen, especially when they do not have the money to accomplish them in other ways.

I may of course be wrong, but the proposal to amalgamate our schools would seem to be an example of this.

They need an ASD school but cannot afford to build new, so they identify a school building which they wish to use then justify its closure using the WAG 10% surplus guideline (knowing full well that within 5 years neither school will have any surplus at all, and this September, the Infant school will have just 7% surplus).

There are other schools in Newport with similar or worse levels of surplus, but they are not facing this situation.

So, knowing more now, I still say “Bravo, Mr Andrews”.  You put your constituents before your high-level political career, and I’m sure they are rightly grateful and proud of you for doing so.

 

 

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Leighton Andrews….standing up for his own constituents

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Photo credit: @buffywills Elizabeth Williams

I came across this news story today, and my jaw dropped:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-23039749

Leighton Andrews has stood up and, as local AM, supported this school against its local Council’s attempts to close it.  Wow.

The Council says: “Rhondda Cynon Taf council (RCT) has just completed a consultation on closing Pentre Primary School which has just 73 pupils with a capacity of 202 – a 64% rate of unfilled places.

The council says this is the highest rate of all 138 schools in the borough, adding that as a result of a directive from Mr Andrews, they propose to deal with these surplus places by amalgamating Pentre with nearby Treorchy primary.

Mr Andrews responds: “As assembly member for the Rhondda I have made a very full submission to RCT on this issue, […] I have also attended a public meeting called by the Pentre parents action group, met the action group, and attended their recent demonstration. I have also met parents from Treorchy Primary school who are also affected by the proposal.

All local authorities, including RCT, have to reduce surplus places. There is clear Welsh government guidance which local authorities have to follow when they propose the closure of any school. My submission questions whether RCT have, in fact, properly followed this guidance.

I make no apology for standing up for my constituents in the Rhondda“.

And he shouldn’t have to.  He is doing his job as a local AM.  Something which our local AM, Rosemary Butler, refused to even look at.  “As, I am sure you are aware, provision of school places is a matter for the Local Education Authority and as I have no direct influence over such decisions I do not believe  a visit would be helpful  at this time.

It seems Mr Andrews would not agree with you there, Mrs Butler, that it is only a matter for the LEA.  As a local AM, you should have at the very least investigated our deep concerns, listened to us and met with us.  We even went to the Senedd – your office, so to speak – invited you to attend and you still did not show up to give us support.  That was left to your Conservative colleague, Mr William Graham.

And look who else is in the photo, local MP Chris Bryant.  Where has our MP, Paul Flynn been?  Erm, his response was “In the 26 years since I have been an MP, I have never become involved in issues of this kind. There are many issues for which I have sole responsibility. In this case the matter it is for your councillors and ultimately  the whole Council to decide. Your cases must be made to them.”

I’m not exactly clear what issues are his sole concern, but should they not be those that affect a significant portion of his electorate?

To be fair to our local councillors, they did attend one community meeting in January, at which Mark Whitcutt managed to offend a lot of parents (http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/10158731.Anger_as_parents_meet_over_Gaer_schools_merger/).  They did also attend the demonstration, if only to get us off the pavement and into the council chamber, where Cllr Whitcutt again managed to offend the whole room (http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/10449592.Newport_school_campaigners__disrespected__councillor/) , and Cllr Wilcox insinuated that I was only leading this campaign because I had ‘political ambitions’ (https://savegaerschools.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/the-meeting-with-the-councillors/).

So, not such great support then.

There is no conflict of interest for Mr Andrews so far as I understand it – his issue is not with the plan to reduce surplus in the area, nor even in that particular school, but the way the the consultation has been handled.  And in any case, I am sure he must recuse himself if the decision lands on his desk at the end of the process.  But I doubt the local Council will stand up to the Welsh Minister on this.  More than likely, they will not press forward with the Statutory Notice.  But, who knows?

He has also had the same concerns with his Welsh Minister for Education hat on, over the proposal to close another school – Rhosgoch school in Powys.  Again, the concern was the way the consultation was carried out, not the proposal itself.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-23036021

I wonder if our local LEA are starting to have any concerns that maybe – just maybe – they have conducted a flawed consultation too?

I hope that Mr Andrews sees the sense in our campaign when it comes before him, that he will see what we see – that the consultation is not only flawed, but also completely unnecessary and unjust.

I applaud Leighton Andrews, AM and Chris Bryant, MP on taking a stand for something they believe in.  Bravo, sirs!

What a shame our local councillors Mark Whitcutt, Debbie Wilcox and to a slightly lesser extent Herbie Thomas, as well as Rosemary Butler, AM, and Paul Flynn, MP are not so concerned with their electorate’s deep-seated concerns and objections.

Well, 2015 and 2017 are not so far away now, are they?

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Journey to the Senedd….

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Well, we have finally come to the end of a long and fraught process.  Yesterday at 5.30pm, a small delegation from the Gaer went to the National Assembly in Cardiff to hand over a dossier of concerns, objections, and – most importantly – newly discovered information since the end of the Statutory Notice phase.

William Graham, AM facilitated the visit, and met us on the steps of the Senedd with the officer from Mr Leighton Andrews’ department.  We were extremely pleased that no less than FOUR Newport City Councillors came with us!  Cllr Miqdad Al-Nuaimi (Labour) has been a strong voice in this campaign, and a great support to our schools (he is on the Infants’ Governing Body).  Also joining us (having gone to the Bay specifically for this purpose) were Cllrs David Atwell, David Williams and Charles Ferris (Conservative).

We spent some minutes with the officer, handing over the dossier and also a smaller copy of the wonderful artwork book done by the families during the Family Learning Programme.  He was kind and professional, promising to pass everything to those handling this proposal within the department.

After that, the AM William Graham and all the Councillors stayed – still on the steps of the Senedd!! – to discuss further with us the situation and how it had come to this.

Cllr Atwell was particularly interested, as in the previous Administration (which ended in May 2012) he was Cabinet Member for Education and Children in Newport.  He was surprised to hear the way he have been treated, and said it seems we are being ‘rail-roaded’ into a single-site amalgamation.

All Councillors were surprised when I told them that we have recently received our full figures for September, and in Gaer Infants we will have reduced our surplus to just 7%.  Yes, you read that right – 7 PERCENT THIS SEPTEMBER!!

So all the Education Department’s claims that this proposal is to deal with ‘falling pupil numbers’ and to help us to come into line with Welsh Government guidelines of no more than 10% surplus are blown out of the water.

We also discovered that monies paid by the MonBank Sidings and Whiteheads Developers to help provide additional school places in the area for the children who will live in their development (called ‘Section 106 Monies’) will be going to Maesglas Primary as the Council anticipate the children will go there.  Now, whilst we don’t begrudge some money going to Maesglas, it raises a few questions:

1. Why have they not told us this before? We raised the issue of these developments back in December, and asked in our letters then where those children will go to school. 

2. When was the decision made that the money would go to Maesglas? 

3. Why is none going to the Gaer schools, despite the fact we are the same distance from the developments, and on a far safer walking route?

4. Why did Cllr Wilcox, who has publicly supported the proposal to amalgamate our schools on the Junior site, not admit at any point that the school at which she is a Governor (Maesglas) is going to receive this funding, even though I and others talked with her and the other Ward Members more than once about this specific issue – where the children would go and any funding that goes with them?

Some of you may also have read the ‘Summary Document’ that they sent us after the end of the Statutory Notice.  If not, you can find it here: http://www.newport.gov.uk/stellent/groups/public/documents/report/cont712658.pdf 

You may have been happy with the ‘promises’ made in it, that all community-funded equipment would be replaced, that the Head Teacher and the Shadow Governing Body would be the ones to decide which internal facilities are required, such as a happy room, library, multi-sensory room, etc and that there has been no limit set on how much money will be spent on creating the ‘new school’.

However, are these promises binding? Do they have to fulfill them if the proposal is agreed?  We (the Infants’ GB) have asked this question of the Legal Officer in Newport City Council, as well as of the Education Department and – surprise surprise – neither have answered the question.

What James Harris has replied, however is:

No costs can be clarified at this stage without an initial assessment of the site and provisional design concept which will be undertaken in consultation with the Headteacher designate, shadow governing body and statutory organisations. Tenders have recently been invited for the appointment of cost consultants to work closely with the client project manager to deliver the council’s 21st Century schools programme. The cost manager will be required to liaise with the design team and contractor to achieve the financial objective of containing the cost of the work within the available budget parameters without compromising the key aim of delivering fit for purpose 21st Century schools. The key stakeholders in the Gaer schools project will form part of the project team and will be available for decision-making to help progress the project to a successful conclusion.”

This is markedly different from the Summary Document, in which the Head and GB will be the ones to decide what facilities we would get, not just that they would “form part of the project team and will be available for decision-making to help progress the project to a successful conclusion“.

Equally, whereas the Summary Document claims that there is ‘no limit’ on the sum to deliver the ‘new school’, here he says “No costs can be clarified at this stage without an initial assessment of the site and provisional design concept which will be undertaken in consultation with the Headteacher designate, shadow governing body and statutory organisations. […] The cost manager will be required to liaise with the design team and contractor to achieve the financial objective of containing the cost of the work within the available budget parameters without compromising the key aim of delivering fit for purpose 21st Century schools.

Can you spot the glaring differences?!

And still no word on whether the promises are ‘legally binding’ (but I think we can safely assume, from the response above, that they are certainly not binding on them in any form at all).

So, now we just have to wait. Mr Andrews and his department will look at the proposal at some point in the coming weeks, though his department have told me they don’t expect it will be until after the end of term.

I have some confidence that he will see the truth of this situation, as we wrote in the letter to him, “The only reason why they will not consider [a split-site amalgamation] that really makes any sense, is that the LEA need a building for an ASD school and they have decided that the Gaer Infants is the one they will use.”

Thank you all so much for your support.  Thank you for writing letters and ensuring that our community knows the truth.  The Gaer Infants’ staff and Governors are so proud of our community, and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

And as one of the Councillors said to me last night on the steps of our country’s government – “You must remember, you have right on your side, and that counts for a lot”. 

Amen to that!

A Welsh Fairytale…

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Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a benign King who ruled his Kingdom with the Knights of his Round Table.

One day, the King’s servants approached a small hamlet, and told them that they had great news. The King – in his kindness – had been made aware of the parlous nature of the little village’s habitations, and was offering his subjects the opportunity to move to another area where he would provide them with much superior housing and farmland and barns for their animals.

The villagers were delighted. A wonderful new village?! They had long petitioned the Royal Courts for finance, which they had not ever received before, to improve their buildings, as they were getting old and in need of repair.

The first villager asked of the servants, “Where shall we be moved to?” And the servant replied, “Fear not, for the place chosen for you is just over the hill. Please, just sign this paper and we will arrange everything for you”.

That was good news, for they saw that they would not have to move far from their friends and relatives. But a second villager thought about this, and said, “But sir, there is no room over the hill for new houses and farms to be built, for it is already occupied by our neighbours”. The villagers realised this was a very good question, and waited for the servant to respond. “Fear not”, he said, “We will make sufficient room for you, your families and your livestock. Now, kindly sign this paper and we will be on our way”.

The villagers were, by now, starting to feel concerned. “Sir”, a third asked, “where will you build the new houses for us?”

“Ah”, stuttered the servant, moping his brow and looking nervous, “We will not be building new houses and barns for you, we are making space in the farms and homes of those who already live there. After all, you don’t really need all this space, do you?”

The villagers were shocked. Did he mean to remove them from their homes and expect them to live in other people’s houses? “Erm, what I mean to say is”, the servant stumbled on, “we do not have the money to build a new village for you, and the King has decided that it is better for business and trade if more of you live in a smaller area, for you can trade with each other more easily and the economy will improve. So, we really think that this is the best for you all.

You can learn from each other’s farming skills, and it will be so much easier to live much closer together, do you not think? In any case, the law states that a village must have no more than 10% empty buildings in it, and you have many more vacant properties than that, as does the other village. It makes sense to combine you all in one area”.

The villagers shook their heads in disbelief.  “But sir,” questioned another. “Those homes are empty because their occupants are away.  They will be returning soon – do you not remember? You told us so yourself in the village council last month.  You had had notice that they will move back shortly.  Why do we need to move to rid ourselves of the vacant properties?  They will not be vacant much longer, will they?”

The servant coughed a little, and said nothing.  The villagers grew perplexed.

Then one plucky inhabitant piped up, “Sir, what will the King do with our land when we are gone? For we have lived here a very long time and love this land and our homes, and we will be so very sorry to see it all taken away and descend into a fruitless waste”.

The servant pulled anxiously at his robe. “The…erm…the er…land will not lie idle,” he admitted. “The King has promised your village to others. They really do need a place to live as they have been wandering without a home for so very long”.

The villagers considered this. They knew of the people of whom the servant spoke, and had long supported their goal of a permanent home because they could see it was not easy to be lodged in other’s homes as the Wanderers had been forced to do. For the King had never provided them with a home of their own before. But now that they knew that the new home for the Wanderers was to be their home, they were not very happy at all.

“Why does the King want to waste money on moving us when he could just build a new village for the Wanderers?” one asked.

“The Tax Monies cannot afford the cost of a new village,” responded the servant. “It is a far better use of resources to give them a village which already exists.”

“But you are moving us out to make room for them! That is not fair. I do not think that your plan to move us into the homes of our cousins over the hill has anything to do with improving our lives. You just want us out of the way!” The villagers cheered this decisive blow.

But the servant was not perturbed. “On the contrary, my dear people. Our only concern is for your well being. But surely you do not expect us to leave the village deserted? And in any case, the plans are not linked at all.”

“Poppycock!” yelled an elderly lady. The villagers laughed. “You are just saying that. If you try to move me out of the home my family have occupied for generations, I shall tie myself to the village tree! You should be ashamed of yourself, trying to mislead us like that. Did you think we are just poor, uneducated villagers who would not see through your ridiculous plan?”

One villager, in an attempt to cheer everyone up, said “Do not worry, friends, for I am sure we will get a far better home over the hill. Yes, we may have less space, but we will have far better facilities, and we can take with us all our community assets that we have paid for over the years, so that we can make ourselves at home there, right sir?” He looked encouragingly at the servant, who only looked more uncomfortable.

“Well, you see….” he stammered. “Those things in the village, they are on the King’s land and so he…well…he owns them, and he has promised them to the new villagers as they have never had anything like that before. Do they not deserve these things too? Surely you can raise the money again to replace anything you think necessary. After all, you did it once, you can do it again!” He tried to be chirpy and warm, but his words died on his lips as he saw the faces of the villagers around him.

“Please, my dear people, sign the papers now. You must trust that the King knows best and he will ensure you get everything that the law allows for”.

“But what about the things that make our community great but are not enshrined in law?” shouted one very angry looking man.

“We will work out all the details once you have signed the papers”, squirmed the servant.

“But how can we sign something, agree to something, when you have given us no idea what we will get? How much is the King going to spend on moving us?”

The servant looked about. “I cannot tell you how much he will spend as until the time we are ready to move you we will not know. And in any case, if we tell you that, when we ask the carpenters how much it will cost to extend some of the buildings to squeeze you all in, do you not think they will give exactly that figure? You must understand, my dear people, this money is from the payers of tax, and we have a responsibility to spend it wisely and to use as little as possible on every project. It is your money, after all. You don’t want us to waste it, do you?”

The villagers were stunned. They were expected to sign and agree to something and they did not know if what they would get would equal or improve upon what they already had.

“What if we refuse?” one villager boldly demanded.

“Well, if you refuse, we shall just do it anyway as the land belongs to the King and he can do whatever he wants with it. Coming here to talk with you today was really just a courtesy, but as I can see I am getting nowhere I shall now leave. My wife is cooking a lovely chicken for my dinner. Please send in your objections in writing to the King. All your opinions will of course be taken into consideration.”

“But you just said even if we object you will do it anyway”, shouted an irate villager.

“Oh, my dear people, the King is not a despot. He will will listen to your complaints and make the decision he feels is best (once we tell him what that decision is),” the servant added under his breath.

“Where are our Knights?” the people cried. “They will fight for us for this is their home too, and they sit at the King’s Round Table. Surely they will explain to the King how unfair this is and why we cannot agree.”

The Knights surely did come to talk with the worried villagers. But they did not seem to understand the people’s concerns, and kept talking about moving into the 13th century and how they should be grateful that any money was being spent on them at all, as other villages would love to have such an investment.

“But you do not understand!” the villagers declared. “We do not know what we will get. The King’s servants refuse to tell us. They say we will find out after the decision has been made. How can we agree to that?” And on and on went the discussion, but to no avail. The Knights were determined not to break the Circle of the Table, and to stand in unity with the King and his servants.

Then the people remembered that one of the Knights had closed the local scroll swap shop, and now the elderly and the young had to travel far to the big city to be able to swap their scrolls. Many people had objected to that, but the Knight had gone ahead nonetheless, just as he had decided to end the displaying of artistic artefacts in the city even though the people cried out to him to save the display, and all to save the payers of tax some money.

And then a farmer reminded his fellow villagers that one of the other Knights was behind the decision to destroy a lovely tapestry depicting the city’s glorious history, because it was situated in an area that was to become a large market, and there was no space for it there. When the townspeople begged him to use some of their tax money to move it elsewhere, he replied that it would cost too much and would not be a wise use of their money, could they not see that?

So then the people’s shoulders drooped and they could see that their Knights were not going to ride in to their rescue. They would put their duties to the Round Table and their Knightly brethren ahead of their concern for their neighbours in the village.

And so the brave villagers stood up to the Knights and the King’s servants, and demanded answers (which they did not get) and asked for details (which were not forthcoming) of the plan to move them from their ancestral home.

Some suggested they were foolish to even try. Some said that they should be grateful that the King was willing to give them anything at all. Some said they should just trust the King’s Grace, that the ‘new’ village would be a vast improvement on the old.

But the villagers did not give up hope that the justice of their cause would shine brightly enough for the King and his servants and his Knights to turn their heads and consider their concerns.

That Truth and Justice and Fairness would win out, despite the odds, and that in the end they would gain a better, stronger future for themselves and their children and their children’s children.

The very fight itself made the village strong and united and reminded the people that in fact they had more power than they had thought. They also saw their Knights’ true colours, and vowed never to forget what the Knights had done.

The villagers came to believe that they, too, could live happily ever after.

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*This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.🙂

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The meeting with the Councillors…

ImageThe meeting was…interesting.  It was exactly what I expected – nothing of any real value was said, but that ‘nothing’ spoke volumes.  In fairness to Cllr Wilcox, she did make clear that she does support the proposal because she believes the end result will be a school ‘fit for the 21st Century’.

They claimed that behind the scenes they have been working hard to put our concerns and objections to the Education Department.  This may be true, but we have no evidence to support or disprove that claim.  There have been no changes to the proposal and, as I showed in the blog post here they have not represented us well in writing.  If they have made representations, clearly they don’t have the influence they might think that they have, as nothing has changed!

Cllr Wilcox said that they have had assurances that what we will get will be a 21st Century school.  She claimed that money will be spent on upgrading the whole school, that (some) facilities lost will be replaced (Cllr Whitcutt piped in that we’ll get a new timber trail!) and that the end result will be brilliant.  To the bemusement of all the parents and children, she then claimed that the Infants’ building is in a shocking state of repair!  When confronted with our evidence that disproves the claims of what we will get, they repeated that they had had ‘assurances’, but could offer no proof.  They even said that the officer who gave us the information in the meeting a week ago at the Juniors which our Chair attended, is not a ‘senior’ officer and implied that he does not know what the plans are.  I had actually seen him (the officer) outside the Council Chamber and asked him directly why the plans he had spoken of are so restrictive, not even including toilets for the nursery children, and he replied that it was not in his control, all he had done was relay what he had been told and explain how he would be able to facilitate that (his job is implementation, not to design the proposal in the first place).

Cllr Wilcox was adamant that they would fight tooth and nail to get this school they are promising (the phrase “seven figure sum” peppered her speech).  ‘Did we really think that they would settle for anything less?

My answer to that is, yes, Councillor, I do believe that you will settle for whatever we are given.  You have given no evidence for this ‘fantastic’ new school – in the face of our evidence – and have totally failed to fight for us on this.  Why would we believe that you will suddenly fight for us after the decision is taken?  You seem to have had no influence now on the proposal, so what makes you think you’ll have any more influence on the Education Department when it comes to the far tougher reality of actually spending money?

I was mildly amused by Cllr Wilcox’s opening gambit, in which I was accused of using the campaign as a springboard for my own political ambitions.  I guess the post here really hit a nerve.  It is actually an insult, to suggest that I am not really interested in saving the school but am actually plotting my own rise to local political power and using the campaign to get there.  And as for the facetious comments about my ‘polished lobbying skills’ and saying she would like to have me working on her team, all I can do is laugh!!  I’m not a lobbyist, Councillor, I’m a parent.

I have asked other parents to give their views of the meeting, so that the accusations that I am ‘misrepresenting them’ can be put where they belong – in the bin. 

Firstly, Lisa Ball (also our newest parent governor at the Infants)

The peaceful demo did exactly what we planned. It got our voices heard (some more than others!) but remained within the boundaries of ‘peaceful’. There should be no doubt that there is and always has been strong opposition against this proposal. The fact that other ward councillors were able to show their support, but our own ward councillors could not do this is a disgrace.

If Cllr Herbie Thomas, as he stated, has always been against it, why hasn’t he shown us more support? We can all say that we have ‘been doing things behind the scenes’ but where’s the proof in that? Our proof is very transparent for all to see.

As I have previously quoted in letters to all of our ward councillors, there regulations state that they ‘are the voice of the community within the council’. I don’t feel that they have fulfilled their role. It was stated by Debbie Wilcox in the meeting that there are many people in the community, for and against this proposal. I beg to differ, there may be a few for it, but through our diligent door knocking and speaking to THEIR electorate during this campaign, I only came across one person who was for it, but once the ‘deal’ was explained to her, she realised that it was not as good as it sounded for the Gaer children and happily signed an opposition letter (incidently she had 2 grandchildren with autism who were having to go out of county for education).

I feel that the councillors invited us into the chambers to get us off the street rather than to give us any answers.

One of my friends who came to support us (who has nothing to do with the school) is a body language expert. When we left, he asked me who ‘the bloke on the end’ was (Cllr Mark Whittcut). He said that his body language was so disassociated and uninterested in anything that was going on.

The fact that Cllr Whittcut said that we were ‘disrespecting’ him was disgraceful, who does this man think he is? Respect is earned……what has he done for us to respect him? His reason that we were disrepecting him because people were talking over him was preposterous as he was doing exactly the same. I could rant all day, but I’m going to end on a lighter note, they didn’t get my best side in the Argus photographs!

Secondly, Phill Doherty:

I am dumbfounded by the reactions of the Councillors. Okay we don’t think they council very well, but it’s hardly a personal attack! The fact that there are so many disappointed/desperate people of the Gaer, they should feel compelled to up their game rather than take umbridge to criticism!

If we feel let down/angry it is appropriate that they take responsibility and not attempt to worm out of the situation with text book replies and distracting language. Even if they had acted appropriately, the information is not getting cascaded down to the people and that in itself is not good enough.

I appreciate I don’t know the etiquette, but why is everything so cloak and dagger, surely when children’s welfare is being considered, everything should be transparent.

I think the meeting was a waste of time, they attempted to shut [Debbie] down, refused to listen to facts. I think Hannah’s passion was needed because they couldn’t pacify that with nonsense answers!

I thought the protest was a success as I saw some people stopped in their tracks in the corridors. And the councillors were seen in public with no election imminent, they must be running scared.

I can only hope they have an epiphany and change their minds and do represent us to the Assembly.

So, there you have it.  The meeting was supposed to be a chance for the Ward Councillors to repair some bridges with us (I imagine, based on the letter they passed out to us all) rather than to discuss the proposal and how they can support us in our opposition. 

Self-defence, self-justification, self self self.

All they did was cement in the minds of those present – and by now most of the rest of the Gaer who have been told about it – that our Ward Councillors are only interested in themselves and their own positions, not in their electorate. 

So if they hoped to pour oil in the waters, they failed spectacularly.

Nice job, Councillors.

 

Our Ward Councillors – What have they REALLY said?

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About a month ago, I wrote to our Ward Councillors with questions relating to the submissions they had made to the Consultation Process, after they wrote to the Argus claiming we were misrepresenting their views and I had also received an email from Cllr Whitcutt on behalf of the three, saying, “It does not appear from its contents that you have read the submission which we made in response to the Cabinet Member’s Report. This seeks common ground and consensus as a way forward taking fully into account the views of the stakeholders”.  I wrote back, disputing this claim and told them that I would publish the letter – and their response – on this blog after 1 week.  Subsequently, the Ward Members arranged meetings with us and, out of respect for them, I held off posting my letter, as they needed time to respond.

Well, it has been a month and no response, and – given their claims on Wednesday in the paper they handed out, and verbally in the meeting, that they had consistently represented our views to the Education Department – I have decided to post this now.

You be the judge on whether they have supported us.  They can claim to have been working ‘behind the scenes’, and while this may be true, there is no evidence of this.  All we have evidence of is their public positions, as written in the reports published by the Education Department.

Here follows my letter.  And, Ward Councillors, if you read this, please feel free to respond to the points in it via email to me and I will publish – unedited – what you say on the blog here, for your constituents to read.

Monday 29th April 2013

Dear Cllrs Whitcutt, Wilcox and Thomas

I write to respond to Cllr Whitcutt’s email, on behalf of you all, in which you questioned whether we had read your submission to the Cabinet Member’s report in March 2013. I can confirm that not only did we read it, but fully understand it. “It does not appear from its contents that you have read the submission which we made in response to the Cabinet Member’s Report. This seeks common ground and consensus as a way forward taking fully into account the views of the stakeholders”.

I would respectfully dispute this second sentence, that you are seeking common ground and consensus, and I highlight the reasons for this here below:

After the community meeting in January which you all attended, your joint submission to the Consultation was welcomed by the community. Although it did not go as far as we would have liked, you clearly iterated some of our main concerns,

  1. The loss of existing amenities for children at the present site
  2. The need for appropriate facilities for the Foundation phase
  3. Nursery provision in future years
  4. Potential over-crowding and size issues in terms of the Gaer Junior School site

You also proposed a number of alternatives (1-2) and necessities (3-5) which we support fully:

  1. The possibility of the establishment of amalgamated provision on a split site
  2. Accommodation in the ASD unit into the Gaer annexe and/or new build
  3. The need, whatever the outcome, to ensure that there is no detriment to the children of the Gaer infants and Juniors in terms of the overall learning environment
  4. The necessity to ensure that wherever possible outdoor facilities are guaranteed for the future needs of the Foundation phase at the Gaer school
  5. That officers should place at the forefront of their assessment the needs of the children of the Gaer and the necessity for the fostering of improvement and educational excellence

You concluded with an explanation of your joint desire “to ensure the best possible outcome for the children in our ward. We want therefore to maximise the potential for investment in education for the good of all our children, including both mainstream and those with special educational needs” and with the exhortation to the Education Service, that they “take these representations into account in determining the future of educational provision within the Gaer”.

The report which was ultimately published, in which the recommendation was made by the Education Service that the Cabinet Member move to Statutory Notice, did not satisfactorily address any of the concerns listed above. Nor did it even mention the main one, which is that there is no justification for the move to amalgamate the two schools on a single site due to the issue of ‘surplus’, as:

  1. The proposal still recommends that the capacity of the amalgamated school be the joint combination of the two current schools (although they suggest this could be amended post-decision)
  2. The Education Department’s projected pupil figures in 2018, is 379 being 90.2% of the capacity of 420
  3. There is no proof that they have considered what will happen to families moving into Monbank Sidings later in the year, before any school which may be built there is started, never mind completed. The Gaer schools are the only non-religious based, English Medium schools in the entire area with any kind of space for those primary-aged pupils.

With regards to the ‘responses’ given by the Education Service to your main concerns as written in the submission above, please see a comparison of your concerns, versus their ‘responses’:

  1. The loss of existing amenities for children at the present site
    1. The potential build project to deliver the amalgamated school will ensure that fit for purpose accommodation including a range of external learning environments is provided, which meet statutory requirements for the Foundation Phase or any similar education requirement. The new Headteacher, the Shadow Governing Body and the pupils would be involved in any design work should the decision be taken to amalgamate the two schools onto the Junior site. ” (p2)
      1. The facilities currently provided, as you know, far exceed ‘statutory requirements’. Minutes from previous meetings with representative(s) from the Education Department, clearly show that they have no obligation to replace ‘like-for-like’ and indeed, will not. So while we will have outdoor space as this is statutory, it will in no way resemble the facilities and fixed play equipment that the children currently have access to, nor will it be a requirement to replicate the amount of external space they currently have access to.
      2. Equally, it does nothing to respond to your point that there is “the need, whatever the outcome, to ensure that there is no detriment to the children of the Gaer infants and Juniors in terms of the overall learning environment” northat there is a “necessity to ensure that wherever possible outdoor facilities are guaranteed for the future needs of the Foundation phase at the Gaer school”
        1. How can we infer from the proposal that there will be “no detriment” to the children of the Gaer, when there is absolutely no indication given as to what the finished school would look like?
        2. How can there be “no detriment” when it is pretty clear that neither part of the school would have a library, nor any of the other non-classroom spaces they currently enjoy and learn in (the ‘empty’ four classrooms will be used as Foundation phase classes, and the minimum size of wing will be added)?
        3. What facilities does this proposal ‘guarantee’ other than that there will be some outdoor space?
  1. The need for appropriate facilities for the Foundation phase
    1. As above
  1. Nursery provision in future years
    1. The current nursery is a feeder for other primaries in the area; there is a current nursery expansion programme with proposals to set up nurseries in all local primary schools, including those currently fed by this nursery; there is also a local registered provider who is situated on the Gaer estate in the Gaer Park Hall, called “Buzzy Bees” led by a fully qualified Teacher who has capacity for funded nursery places including ‘Rising 3’ places”. (p2)
      1. So Gaer children who cannot access rising threes provision in the Gaer school (due to a cut in nursery spaces) can go to a private provider? Are you in agreement with this?
    2. A school re-organisation proposal to increase nursery education across the city is currently out to formal consultation, the aim is to expand the level of current provision in all areas, with a mixed economy of both school sites and non-maintained (early years) settings. A local non-maintained (early years) setting has capacity to take more children – Buzzy Bees. ” (p3)
      1. This is given as a reason for cutting the numbers, but even a cursory glance over data at Gaer Infants will show you that every September, a couple of children go on to Reception in other schools such as Glasllwch and Highcross, and between 8-10 go on to Catholic primaries, especially St David’s. The Diocese has no plans that we know of to put nurseries in their primary schools. The vast majority continue to the Gaer Reception class, or are rising threes.
      2. Cutting nursery provision so there are only 4 more places (64) than Reception places (60) means that we cannot guarantee that we could continue to take children going on to the Catholic schools, and almost certainly means that few if any children will be given rising three places.
    3. Neither of these responses they have given, impact on your initial concern, that “officers should place at the forefront of their assessment the needs of the children of the Gaer and the necessity for the fostering of improvement and educational excellence” as this part of the proposal will clearly reduce rather than improve the education of the youngest children of the Gaer, and detract from the educational excellence already in place. There is no indication in any of their reports, that the motivation behind the proposal is “the needs of the children of the Gaer and the necessity for the fostering of improvement and educational excellence”. Their motivation seems to be purely to move the children to the Juniors, in the face of data that shows their ‘reasons’ for such a move are invalid, in order to make way for the ASD school.
  1. Potential over-crowding and size issues in terms of the Gaer Junior School site
    1. Sufficient accommodation would be built to meet the needs of all pupils; outdoor facilities would be part of the potential new school ”
      1. The current schools have sufficient accommodation to meet their needs
    2. The potential new school would have appropriate accommodation built to host all pupils and staff. ”
      1. This is unclear – there has been no mention of extra staff room space as the wing will only occupy the top playground (they have said unofficially), so where will that be placed?
    3. The Council are able to modify the proposal after the decision has been made and following a more detailed review of the needs of the potential amalgamated school that a more suitable size may be less than 420. Following any decision a review of all current space and all required accommodation could be carried out to incorporate the findings of the formal consultation stage, and only after that has been carried out, would the final capacity of the potential amalgamated school be identified. That modification would be in consultation with the Shadow Governing Body, if the decision is taken to amalgamate the schools. The Junior site is currently identified by fencing between the two schools, the potential amalgamated school could have an extended site to accommodate the required number of pupils and activities to support that cohort, such site dimensions would be determined during the planning of the potential redevelopment of the site as a whole ”
      1. This makes nosense based on their own data. If their projections are correct and by 2018 the school will have 379 pupils (not including nursery), how can they cut the capacity as by then we will have reached 90.2% of the capacity of 420?
      2. If they do cut the capacity – and I really can’t see how they can do this easily – then what will happen to the ‘extra’ pupils up to 379? If each year is reduced to less than 60 – let’s say for the sake of the argument, to 50 – then the capacity of the school will be reduced to 350. What happens to the extra 29 pupils they expect will be in the school by 2018? Which local school will they go to?
      3. How can they ‘extend’ the site? The Infant site is fully developed, so it is not possible to extend the Junior site without taking away facilities from the Infant (ASD) site. This comment proves that they do not know the sites at all.

In comparison to your original submission, your comments in the March 25th report differ substantially.

You mention the compelling case for a through primary on the Gaer, something that we can all agree on. However, you then say “ in our view there is scope to take account of views expressed by parents and stake holders” […] which are reflected in the content of this report.”

I would not agree with this second statement, that the concerns are reflected in the report. Most parents I have spoken to feel that either their concerns were not addressed at all (such as mine with the non-issue of surplus) or that they were casually disregarded (such as the nursery numbers and the suggestion that the parents use a local private provider).

Equally, in no way have the parents’ views been taken into account in the report. There are no changes made to the proposal as a result of the submissions. They are all summarily dismissed.

In the initial statement, you list possible alternatives, none of which are even touched upon in the Council report, yet you seem to fully accept the report, simply asking that “change is carried out in an evolutionary way, so as to maximise support and to allay the fears of participants in both schools”, going on to suggest a delayed implementation date of September 2014, something which seems to be acceptable to the Education Department in their response (“The Council are able to modify the proposal after the decision has been made and it might be that a more suitable implementation date could be September 2014.” p.3)

Whilst a delayed implementation date is something, it hardly “allays our fears” as our fears are based on losing what we currently have without it being replaced, the drastic cut in nursery numbers, and even the necessity to amalgamate on a single site in the first place (surplus). Equally, you again seem to fully accept the content of the report, simply suggesting that the “change is carried out in an evolutionary way”.

You even suggest that the decision will be made rather than if it is made “We believe that this would be an important modification once the decision has been made and that the implementation date should be reflected upon”.

You mention the “manner of implementation” needing to be considered, something which is not the same as whether the proposal should be implemented, and then qualify that statement with the need to find “a compromise ‘half-way house’ solution in the meantime. This may mean retaining the positive characteristics of the two schools in the short term until the ‘shadow governing body’ is in a position to plan the most appropriate way forward.”

Both of these phrases “half-way house solution in the meantime” and “short term” make it quite clear to every reader that you are assuming that the proposal will go through, and as you have not opposed any portion of it in this statement, other than the implementation date and suggested change to capacity, that the content of the proposal is acceptable to you now.

Whilst you qualify your statements with “The outcome must be the establishment of a ‘through’ school with facilities of a high standard that will enable the improvement of educational achievement at both the infants and junior schools” there is nothing in the proposal, nor the subsequent reports, to indicate that this is what will be the ultimate reality. Over 20 years, we may again reach a level where our facilities are of a high standard, but in the interim, we will be left with almost nothing.

We can, however, achieve your desire (that we share) for “the establishment of a ‘through’ school with facilities of a high standard that will enable the improvement of educational achievement at both the infants and junior schools” by amalgamating on a split-site, keeping all the “facilities of a high standard” you wish for the school, as we already have them, whilst benefiting from the through nature of an all-through primary.

Finally, you say “The potential investment offered for the site as a whole is considerable and must be welcomed for the greater good of all of our children who attend the infant and junior schools”.

I ask again, in what ways – other than the benefit of a through education, which can be gained in other less drastic ways – does this proposal benefit the Gaer? How does it add to the “greater good” of all the children who attend the two schools?

The “potential investment”, as you remark, is not for the site as a whole. It is for the added wing at the Junior school and to make the existing classrooms intended for Foundation Phase use fit-for-purpose, and to make the Infant site ready for the ASD school. We have been told that none of it is intended to upgrade facilities through the rest of the Junior school, so it does not benefit all Gaer children at all.

The whole proposal is unjust. The one you suggested in your original submission, based on what we would like to see happen is far far better for your Ward. It would mean much more ASD provision for primary-aged children in Newport, the benefits for our children of integration with children with ASD, keeping all the current facilities and sharing them with the ASD unit in the annexe, and the benefits of a through primary based on a split-site amalgamated school. It would mean that they could not offer 11-16 or 19 ASD provision at that site, but in fairness, how were they proposing to integrate that age group with non-ASD pupils on the site? It is not appropriate to integrate them with primary-aged pupils, so they would have to make alternative integration arrangements with the high schools, though the nearest are both 2 miles away (Duffryn and Bassaleg). Is it not better that they create another ASD unit attached to a secondary school to cater for that age group?

To return to my first point, that of your assertion that “This [submission] seeks common ground and consensus as a way forward taking fully into account the views of the stakeholders”, I would respectfully disagree with that, as there is no attempt to find common ground or consensus with the stakeholders in your submission, although there is clear consensus and common ground with the Education Department. There is no attempt made, either in the proposal or the Cabinet Member’s report, to take into account or include stakeholder views. Indeed, Cllr al-Nuaimi’s long submission was not even responded to, dismissed with the words “The comments are noted”. It may be your desire that our views be taken into account, but the reality is that they have not been.

So with that said, if you truly wanted the Education Department to take account of our views, then you should have written a much stronger submission to the Cabinet Member, not one which – to any one who reads it – seems to say that you are now fully content with the proposal (minus the minor ‘tweaks’ of the implementation date and the possibility, however unrealistic, of a reduction in capacity).

Finally, your comments in the Argus today are unclear. “Our comments in the cabinet member’s report regarding the amalgamation of Gaer Junior and Infant school clearly state that we support an amalgamated 3-11 straight through primary school […] What we in fact say is, the manner of implementation needs to be considered and that agreement should be sought on a compromise ‘half-way house’ solution in the meantime. We go on to state our support for retaining the positive characteristics of the two schools in the short term, and task the shadow governing body with the approach to implementation in the longer term. That remains our position.”

Whilst you do clearly state your support for an amalgamated 3-11 straight through primary school in the report, as do all the stakeholders including governors, staff and parents, the consultation is not merely on this it is on the proposal to amalgamate on the Junior site.

You say the “manner of implementation needs to be considered and that agreement should be sought on a compromise ‘half-way house’ solution in the meantime”. The consultation is on the proposal as is which means amalgamating on a single site, losing all the facilities and reducing the nursery drastically. There is no option/mechanism available to change the proposal beyond minor tweaks (date of implementation, etc). What you are saying is impossible, you are either for the proposal as it stands, or against the proposal as it stands. There is no neutral, middle ground that you can occupy here.

If you are not in favour of the entire proposal, single-site, losing the infant school, cut in nursery and with undetermined facilities provided at the ‘new’ school, then now is the time to say so, and to make it clear to your colleague, the Cabinet Member for Education, that you are opposed to the proposal. The proposal cannot be amended now or after the decision has been taken as you seem to suggest, so if you really want them to listen to the community and take into account our views, then this proposal has to be ceased, and a new one begun that incorporates our views – the best would be the one you yourselves suggested in your January submission, being a split-site amalgamated school with new ASD unit attached in the annexe.

If you are in favour of the proposal, then you really need to be clear on that and say so too. Right now, based on everything you have written and said, every parent who has spoken to me believes that you are in favour but trying to find some non-existent ‘middle ground’ from which to side step the issues at hand.

If this is not your position, then only you can clarify it, but not with the sort of statement you have provided to the Argus, as we are aware that your statements are not possible in the context of the proposal – there are only two possible positions for anyone to take, to support or oppose the proposal.

I am not a political person. I am not for or against you or any of your colleagues. I am not trying to discredit you within the community, I have no interest in people’s political opinions on the Gaer and who they say they will or will not vote for in future. That is a matter for them to decide from their own convictions.

I am against this one proposal, as I can see zero benefits to the Gaer from it, and deep losses that will take a generation to recover from. The alternative as you mentioned is far better, and one that I would happily champion with you in the community, as would all the governors and parents.

I look forward to receiving your response to this letter by the end of the week. I will then publish both this, and your full response, on the blog so that the whole community (hundreds do read every blog post) can be sure that they clearly understand your position, and there will be no need for any of us to resort to comments to the Argus in future.

Kind regards to you all.

Debbie Haile

on behalf of the Save the Gaer Schools Campaign

The aftermath….

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Well, we did it! We banged our drums and shouted “Save our School” til we all but lost our voices! The kids were an absolute credit to us all and to our schools and the community. I was so proud of them, chanting and banging one minute, and then sitting so respectfully and quietly in the Council Chamber the next…but more on that in the next post.

I was mildly surprised that all three Ward Members were there. But then I realised that that was surely because the cameras were there. After all, as the Gwent Music Service saw, almost no-one came out to watch/engage with their musical demonstration, and they had no TV coverage.

I was totally blown away that ITV Wales News not only promised to come and cover the story, but actually came and covered it! I felt that the coverage was fantastic, and the best thing is that it was part of a wider story regarding the consultation to downgrade A&E services at the Royal Glamorgan. The reason that is good news is that it is Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Minister for Education (the man who will make the final decision on our schools) who is leading that campaign against the cuts, and here – right in the middle of his story – was a story of how the cuts were affecting children’s education in Newport (his area of influence being the Minister). So he must have either seen or been told about our news item, which will at the very least show him the intense opposition there is to this proposal (which may or may not be accurately reflected in the report that the Education Department here send him, if the last reports are anything to go by!)

The Argus reporter, Emma Mackintosh live-tweeted the demo to the Argus website, and we made yesterday’s front page (with a not-so-flattering ‘live action shot’ of some of us on the front!! Ha ha!!)

Early on in the demonstration, some of the other demonstrators saw some people taking photos and even possibly a video of us from the windows in the Civic Centre overlooking the demonstration. This is appalling.

Just because official media outlets, ITV News Wales, and the SWA had been invited to document the event, and others were openly taking photographs with our consent (e.g, Maria Farrelly, a parent) this DID NOT give anyone else especially unidentified, hidden-behind-curtains employees of the Council the right to do the same.

It is not just that this may be a breach of the Data Protection Act (no permission sought or given, and we don’t know who the people were or why they wanted the photos or videos of us), it is also a Child Protection issue.

I would never dream of videoing or photographing other people’s children in a public park or in the street, so why on earth would Council officials, who should know this better than anyone else, think they could?

Finally, and most importantly to me, these actions speak to a clear narrative thread that has run thoughout the ‘consultation’ process – intimidation and bullying.

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As I have shown in previous posts, our staff feel intimidated and bullied, having been told at the eleventh hour (well into the Satutory Notice period) that they should not have been openly opposing their employer, and if found to have done so, disciplinaries could follow. Why were they not informed before the start of the consultation? Neither were we – the Governors – warned to protect them in this way until after the fact.

Our Chair of Governors was called down to the Civic Centre three weeks ago to be effective grilled by a senior Education Department officer and a representative from HR. The Junior school Chair was not there (that’s Cllr Herbie Thomas for those who are interested).

To what extent have the staff been involved in the campaign? Have they handed out flyers? Was the school photocopier used? Etc etc. Seriously. This is completely unacceptable. Bullying in my view.

And let’s not even go into another senior Education Department officer’s conduct in the December 3rd meetings. A complaint went in at the time about that behaviour and attitude, and all aspects of the complaint upheld.

Questions have gone unanswered, letters unresponded to.

I have been accused of using the Save Gaer Schools campaign as a springboard for my own political ambitions.

How insulting.

How dare anyone suggest that I am not genuinely interested in saving my children’s school, but actually am using it to further my own ends. It would be funny if the claim was not so downright petulant and childish..

I am not the one trying to use this situation for my own benefit.

I am not the one – and neither is the campaign or anyone involved in it – that has sought to get politicise this protest.

The next post will be about the ‘meeting’ with the councillors after the demo. I have invited some of the other parents to share their views, and they are doing so. I’ll collate them and post them together.

Rock on, Gaer.

 

 

 

 

ITV News Wales will come to the demo!

Just to let you all know, ITV Wales News have confirmed they will be attending this afternoon’s demo at the Civic Centre, along with the Argus reporter.

Please come and show Newport City Council that they have backed the wrong horse this time.  Admitting your mistake will make the electorate think much more highly of you than we currently do, Councillors.

 

So now we officially know what we would get…

ImageLast Friday, 17th May, a meeting was held at the Junior school between Haydn Ames, the Council’s Project Manager, and the Head and Deputy Head of Gaer Juniors, both schools’ caretakers, and Sarah Osolinski, Chair of Governors at Gaer Infants (the last by invitation of the Junior Head).

Sarah sent this report to Mr Harris at the Education Department yesterday, asking for permission to report this to the community after 24 hours.  She told him, if he did not respond, she would assume that he has given his consent to us publishing the report.  He did not respond.

Here follows Sarah’s report on that meeting:

Mr Ames had come to re-assure that no plans were, at present, set out for the amalgamated school, but that he would like to give us an outline of the instructions he has been given for this project.

He confirmed that he is in the process of sending out “tender notices” but that nothing further would be undertaken until the Minister has made the decision to amalgamate.

He talked us through the Junior Site as it is now, and outlined his thoughts on what could be done to incorporate the Infant School.

The Juniors would all be located on the “Upper Finger” as there are 8 classrooms.

Year 1 and 2 would inhabit the “Lower Finger” as there are 4 classrooms.

This means a new wing for Nursery (32 place) and Reception (3 classrooms to be built in total)

Questions were asked about Staff provision i.e Staff Room, extra toilets and parking arrangements and Mr Ames stated that these were not items for consideration.

All “Break Out” rooms would disappear as would the Library and I.T Suite.

No extra provision for lunch-time or indeed hall use.

Re-furbishment of the existing Junior School building, which is in a sorry state of repair, is not included in this project.”

So there we have it, exactly as we feared – we get NOTHING.

  • Nothing that is being taken will be replaced.
  • No improvements will be made to the Junior school for the Junior-aged children, and they lose everything they currently have.
  • The Infant and Junior children will cease to have any non-classroom spaces available to them.
  • The hall and dining room will not be extended or additional large rooms created to facilitate PE, lunches, etc

Tell us again, Mr Harris …. this is best for the Gaer HOW?

Don’t forget – peaceful demo tomorrow at 3:45pm, meet at the upper car park at the Civic Centre.

Also, some people have not realised that if they wrote in during the first consultation phase, YOU MUST WRITE IN AGAIN NOW, BEFORE 5pm TOMORROW!  If you do not, they will assume you have withdrawn your objections.  If you still object – TELL ‘EM!!

Peace!

This will not be forgotten….

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Whatever the outcome of this situation, one thing is sure:  the residents of the Gaer will not forget this for many a long year.

How can we forget being ignored? 

How can we forget the sting of disappointment as our Ward Councillors failed to represent us as we expected?

That Rosemary Butler, AM and Paul Flynn, MP refused to even look at what has got us so upset, citing that these are issues for the City Council.

That Education Department officials refused to answer basic questions.

That we still have no idea what we might ‘get’ in the ‘new’ school should the proposal go ahead.

That we all feel that the consultation has been a sham and at no time has there been any intention to engage with us or answer our concerns.

It came as no surprise to me that I – and Hannah Berry, another Gaer Infants parent governor – have been approached to stand in the 2017 Local Elections for another political party, against the incumbent Labour Councillors Wilcox, Whitcutt and Thomas, should they stand next time.

We are strongly considering this, as despite both being Labour voters, we have been so utterly distressed by the total lack of regard for our legitimate concerns by the Labour Administration, that we feel that the Gaer deserves better.  That may or may not be us, but I think it is safe to say that many Gaer residents feel that the next Ward Councillors will not be the current ones.

Please come to the peaceful demo at the Civic on Wednesday at 3:45pm.

Debbie and Hannah

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