This letter explores the issues surrounding the replacement of Saddleworth Secondary School and responds to an article in the Oldham Chronicle on Tuesday 16/07/13 ‘Excitement over plans for new school.’
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Concerns over Saddleworth School’s Future
Saddleworth Parish Councillor Rob Knotts
Replacing the 100-year-old Secondary School in Saddleworth is causing concern in the community. The best information currently available is that the budget for the school totals £15 million which will only cover the cost of the building. Furnishing and equipment will have to be transferred from the existing school to the new one. The £15 million does not cover the cost of installing the infrastructure needed to access the new school. Land for building is not readily available in Saddleworth so the choice of a suitable site seems to be extremely limited with one very strong candidate being that of the former pallet works site in Diggle.
Access to Diggle is limited to one narrow street, Huddersfield Road, feeding off the A670 followed by a 90 degree turn into an equally narrow road to reach the pallet works site.
Currently Saddleworth School houses about 1350 pupils albeit that it appears that the new school is expected to accommodate 1500 pupils. Between 14 and 18 buses are currently required to transport children to the school; that equates to transporting about 900 pupils. For the remaining 450 pupils some will probably walk while others will be transported by car. Let’s assume that 300 are ferried to school and back by car. In addition, the school houses about 150 parking spaces for staff. Thus the transport logistics requires the arrival and departure of up to 18 buses, 300 cars delivering children and 150 staff cars, all possibly along a narrow street in Diggle; all the movements will take place in a very short time period in the morning and afternoon on a road which I suspect was not designed for such a volume of traffic. In addition, the road has to accommodate existing public and private transport used by in the order of 2,000 Diggle residents. Safety together with the impact of noise and fumes on the environment are of concern to Diggle residents. It would be interesting to witness a computerised simulation predicting the traffic flow to gauge if the infrastructure will adequately cope with the problem.
An additional concern is the possible impact of the move on the educational standards of the children. One would have hoped that a new school would also be equipped with new and up to date equipment. Other new schools in Oldham have been fortunate in receiving new equipment; in a number of the schools that have been replaced equipment and furnishings have been disposed of at very opportune prices to buyers. However, it looks as though the new Saddleworth School will not be so fortunate and will have to make do with what it already has. Thus the pupils and potential educational standards will be placed at a disadvantage to the other new schools recently built in the Oldham Borough
Residents are also annoyed and frustrated that they have been subject to little, if any, consultation. The cynical view expressed is that any decision on the school’s future will be made without any reference to the parents or pupils. Granted a public discussion appears to have been promised but only after the school’s location has been decided. Thus consultation will be perceived to be purely a decorative feature and will not be allowed to influence decision making. Such is the sad evolution of the modern democratic process.
Some residents also need convincing that the existing school cannot be further developed and modernised thus removing the need to move. Sadly the lack of transparency surrounding the issues outlined above has fuelled dissatisfaction with the way the future of a Saddleworth School has been addressed.
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