The relevant documents relating to this issue are available here.
The Kingmoor Community and Business Centre
The current facilities known as the Kingmoor Community and Business Centre (KCBC) were established in 2002 as a partnership between Kingmoor Junior School and the KCBC. The school needed additional classroom space and other facilities. The KCBC needed a meeting room suitable for room hire for local businesses and community groups.
These changes were implemented as a single building project but the funding came from two different sources. The understanding was that the funding from the CREDITS organisation would fund the additional facilities for the KCBC. The remaining funding from the school would fund the additional classroom and school facilities.
The funding for the KCBC extension included gifts from local companies who gave money on the understanding that the KCBC facilities were primarily for community and business use: “The Centre at that time were raising money to support the business centre and asking local businesses for donations, this was not connected to the school in any way. It was promoted as a Community Business Centre which could be used by firms needing a conference room or training facility.” (Paul Ferguson – Former managing Director of Cumbria Bearings and Transmissions Ltd. which gave £500 towards the establishment of the new KCBC facilities) In the original application for CREDITS funding for the extension work for the KCBC there is the following description of the relationship between the KCBC and the Junior school: “Whilst the new facilities are primarily intended for community use they will be available for school use when not required by CREDITs in the spirit of the overall partnership.”
(Application document for the funding for the new meeting room for the KCBC.)
This description provides an accurate picture of the excellent working relationship between the centre and the school that has prevailed from the opening of the new facilities until now.
On 3rd May 2016 the Junior School Newsletter informed parents that from September 2016 because of the intake of 86 pupils (85 from the Infant School) they will be using space within the KCBC as a classroom. Business Centre timetables would have to be rearranged to fill one multi-functional room (the smaller of the 2 rooms) with the large room being used as a classroom during the day.
The Residents’ Association were shocked and felt that Catherine Herd (Centre Manager) has been treated very badly. We feel that after all the incredible effort she has put in it must feel like a knife in the back. We have no assurance that the takeover will not be a complete one in the future. The Committee cannot understand how this can just happen without the community being consulted .
A radically new arrangement has now been imposed on the KCBC by the school and the County Council.
Councillor Alan Toole was asked by the Association to look into the original planning consent and possible restrictions on usage. He received a letter from Cumbria County Council on 25 May referring only to the planning consent in 1998 . However, this is the wrong consent as the room being taken over by the school wasn’t built until 2002. Alan subsequently went back to the Council asking for details of the 2002 consent.
Andrew Cairns (Junior School Headteacher) and Tim Parsons (Chair of Governors) were unable to attend the LHRA committee meeting on 8th June to answer our questions and concerns. Many patch reps and residents attended this meeting and were very concerned. At that committee meeting it was decided to invite Andrew Cairns, Tim Parsons and Council representatives to a further meeting with questions being submitted to them beforehand.
Some of the questions regarding the changes affecting the KCBC
1) Why, when the infant school was being extended to accommodate 90 pupils per year group, was it not sensible to assume that most of these would want a place in the Junior School?
2) When the Junior School was extended 2 years ago why wasn’t the appropriate number of classrooms built to make provision for future increasing numbers?
3) If the root cause of this problem is poor education planning decisions with regards to the closure of Belah school, would it not be appropriate for the money derived from the sale of Belah School land to be used to solve this problem properly?
4) As the number of pupils in year 1 in the infant school are only 4 fewer than that of year 2 (and the numbers are likely to go up as quite a few properties have been sold and even more are up for sale on the estate) how is the school going to accommodate 90 pupils next September?
5) Given the ad-hoc nature of the education planning for the North of Carlisle in the last decade what assurance can be now given that a proper plan for adequate future provision is now in place?
6) Can it be clearly established where the funds came from to build this extension and for what it was originally intended? Who owns the building? If it was constructed for community usage with money designated for that purpose is it morally and legally right to have its usage changed without any consultation or agreement from the community?
The meeting was held on 22nd June and was attended by Andrew Cairns, Tim Parsons, Andy Smart (School Placement Officer), Amanda Towers (Senior Manager Learning and Skills) as well as committee members and many patch reps.
The outcome of this meeting was an agreement that Andy Smart would organise an investigation into this change and confirm what the legal position was.
We subsequently received a letter from a solicitor working for the County Council telling us that the governing body and the County Council were acting entirely properly and we were instructed to return a signed copy of his letter to signify that we agreed with his description of the legal position. No documents were provided for us to demonstrate the validity of his understanding.
We have refused to provide this signed letter because we cannot agree to his description of the situation prior to the appropriation of the room.
We have asked councillor Alan Toole to pursue an apology for the tone of this letter and a copy of the relevant documents on our behalf.
As the situation stands the school is expanding by appropriating space from the KCBC. No new classroom needs to be built. No new planning application needs to be made. A classroom has been made available nearly free of charge. No compensation is to be provided to the KCBC. For the school the solution is a dream! For the KCBC however it is a nightmare become reality. An important part of its funding came from the hire of the large room. What is even more concerning is that the pressure for classroom space at Kingmoor Junior School shows no indication of being reduced. We are concerned that as the pressure continues and grows the next phase of Kingmoor Junior school
expansion will be in the same easy fashion… namely the appropriation of the remaining rather cramped space which will be all that the KCBC has left.
This may be a satisfactory outcome for the school but it is not a happy outcome for the KCBC or the wider community of Lowry Hill.
We do not blame the headteacher or the school governing body for this situation (though we would have much preferred to have been fighting expansion alongside them!) They have been put under impossible pressure and had to make the ‘least-worst’ decision in an impossible time frame.
We do feel however that the Infant and Junior school educational planning for the north of Carlisle has been shambolic for far too long and it is time that education planners came up with a proper workable plan that does not depend on appropriating classrooms from Community facilities less than 5 months prior to them being needed for classes!
We have written to our MP, John Stevenson on behalf of the residents to ask for a meeting with him to express our deep concerns over what has happened and over what seems likely to happen in the future.