St Mary's Centre
By Andy Leach, HCJS Head - 26th May 2021 12:30pm
As announced by the parish council recently, the Haddenham Youth & Community Centre lease is being transferred to the Junior School. As well as making daytime use of the building during the week, the School will take over hiring the Centre for evenings and weekends. This new arrangement has raised some concerns among the community, especially by organisations which made regular use of the space for their meetings. Below, Head Teacher Andy Leach and Chair of Governors Alysoun Glasspool provide the details.
We are writing to address some of the concerns and comments that have reached us regarding the future of the Youth and Community Centre.
The Community Centre is, as we are sure you are aware, located within our grounds and is attached to the main school building. It is not ideal timing for us to be publishing this piece, as nothing has been concluded and we are not currently responsible for either the running or administration of the building. However, we are aware that a certain level of anxiety and misinformation exists that we would like to address and clarify.
Firstly, some context that you may find helpful:
In the last 5 years, Haddenham Community Junior School has seen the number of children on roll increase by almost 45%! This growth of 111 pupils represents the equivalent of almost 4 new classes.
We formally raised our Planned Admission Number (PAN) to 90 eighteen months or so ago. This has resulted in our agreement to provide three classes of 30 in each of our year groups. Unfortunately, our classrooms were designed for groups of 25 or 26. In Year 6 alone we currently have two classes of 31.
As a result it will not surprise any of you to learn that the pressure on our shared spaces such as cloakrooms, dining room and hall has become acute over this period.
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly not helped; the need for 'bubble' groupings, staggered lunch and play times and separate staff rooms for groups of teachers and support staff has exacerbated the problem, but the underlying challenge remains; we have run out of space.
If we want to preserve a full curriculum in the afternoon and include quality PE or music teaching for example, we need more space for teaching and learning. Currently (and post pandemic) we are serving hot dinners for up to 50 children in our main school hall (on top of those in the dining room) and the clean up operation can last well into the afternoon session.
Fortunately, we have received a lot of support from Buckinghamshire Council, who are committed to helping us address some of these issues. In recent years, they have funded extensions to 4 of our classrooms and we are hopeful that further work to extend the remaining rooms may commence later this year.
At the same time and due to various reasons, not least the difficulties caused by Covid-19, the Youth Centre Management Committee were no longer able to manage the Youth Centre and have now returned the lease back to Buckinghamshire Council. We have therefore been in discussion with them regarding the future of the Community Centre building.
Unfortunately, these discussions have taken some time and are still ongoing. However, it is hoped that a lease of the site will be agreed between the school and the Council as soon as possible. This will allow the school to manage the building, with the children being able to use it in full during the day and manage the hall for hire at the evening and weekends. Whilst we appreciate it may be disappointing that the Youth Centre hall will no longer be available to hire in the daytime, it will allow us to cope with our increasing pupil numbers.
In addition, there are other reasons why it makes sense for Haddenham children to receive priority for daytime access to the building. In recent years safeguarding (child protection) and Health and Safety have quite rightly become top priorities for the inspection and assessment of how schools are led and managed. Site security and the safety and welfare of our children are the very first considerations for any judgement made against our school.
Put very simply, it is no longer advantageous or helpful to have members of the public accessing the school site (and playground in particular) during school hours.
As I stated earlier, it is unfortunate that we are writing this today, earlier than planned. In our discussions with the former management committee of the Community Centre, they made it clear that they would work with daytime hirers of the building and signpost them to alternative accommodation. At the present time, we are fielding many telephone calls and emails from hirers past and present and other community groups seeking information about new and existing bookings. Although we haven't yet taken on responsibility for the building we are in the process of writing to all exiting hirers (and those who have contacted us) to set out our position, but for reasons of transparency, we would like to set out the following:
* We are very keen to continue hiring the Youth Centre hall to previous regular (evening and weekend) hirers and also look forward to welcoming new bookings.
* The lease to the school will also ensure that the Youth Club is prioritised, it will continue to run and this will be arranged with the Parish Council.
As Headteacher and Chair of Governors we are proud and committed to being a Community School. We urge any of you with questions or concerns that you would like to discuss to get in touch, we'd be delighted to talk to you.
Andy Leach, Headteacher and Alysoun Glasspool, Chair of Governors
Haddenham Community Junior School
Tel: 01844 291829