Planning go-ahead for ‘Discovery’ city academy

The news has been welcomed by the cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Debra Gratton.

“This gives the green light for the new Discovery Academy to be built and closes another chapter in the BSF story in the city. This new academy will provide first class facilities replacing two high schools and will also act as a hub for community use by people wanting to access the facilities available out of school hours. With the start of development at REACH at Trent Vale, parents, pupils and staff are now starting to see a real difference in the educational landscape in the city.”

Work on the new school, which will replace Mitchell and Edensor High Schools, will begin on site at the in Lauder Place North, Bentilee in September this year and the first pupils are set to move into the new buildings in September 2013.

Discovery Academy – The Final Piece Of The Jigsaw?

The Building Schools for the Future [BSF]controversy has rumbled on and on in Stoke-on-Trent for some 6 years.

It should have been a good, good news story, a win win for every family in the 6 Towns.

But from the moment that the then Elected Mayor and Serco decided to stand in front of secondary pupils, their parents, their teachers and their headteachers and tell them what they were getting instead of asking them what they want, it all went belly-up!

The Elected Mayors Board and Serco described this process as ‘Consultation’ – Oh how the communities laughed.

Citizens and schools staff united and turned into community action groups and gave birth to Hands off Haywood and the Trentham Action Group and the battle lines were duly drawn.

Just like the old Max Boyce sketch, ‘I Was There’! I witnessed the on-going fight that the Head of Heywood had with the leaders of Serco.

I watched with interest the walks to London, Bike Rides to Europe, the sit in in an EMB meeting – yes the Trentham lot were a feisty bunch.

Eventually those two action groups won the day for their communities and the BSF process seemed back on track – or did it?

The last ‘Academy’ site to be finalised was that of the Discovery Academy.

The lead school going into the Academy was to be Edensor High School largely down to the fact that the Head at the time, broke from the ranks of a very united group of ALL the secondary heads in the city and reached an agreement with Serco to move his staff a few miles to the other side of Longton to a new build that would eventually be known as the Discovery Academy.

The council then started looking for suitable sites to house this project. The original ‘preferred’ site was the old Gasometer, this was doomed to failure due to the costs of decommissioning the structre and stabilising the ground.

The site of the old Willfield High was always on the scene but there seemed a reluctance to recognise it as viable option.

Berryhill Fields and Mossfield Road were also contenders.

The Longton High School site was proposed by Rob Flello MP, some suggested that this was politically motivated as it was on the run up to the General Election.

But of the blue, the council announced that their preferred site was now Springfield. ‘Where is Springfield?’ – the residents of Adderley Green asked. ‘Just look out of your kitchen windows!’ – the council replied. The battles lines were drawn once again.

The Springfield Action Group were formed and they took on the council with a little help from PnP’s Nicky Davis who had been an integral part of TAG.

They lobbied, protested, held meetings and lobbied some more and eventually managed to convince a planning meeting that the land was to contaminated to build on and would pose a health risk.

All the time that the BSF proposals were being discussed, objected to, welcomed by some and hated by others, Mitchell High School fought for survival.

They wanted to be merged with Berryhill and a school for both communities built on the current Mitchell site. The school results were phenomenal, one of the most improved in the country. Their arguments however fell on deaf ears.

The Community Schools Action Group have fought a hard campaign, but it’s message has always struggled to be heard.

Finally last week, the decision was made to build the Discovery Academy on the land currently occupied by the Willfield Community Centre.

The decision did not shock me at all. It was a case of damage limitation in my opinion and if I’m honest, I was shocked that this conclusion was not reached a lot sooner.

Yes, it means that Edensor pupils will have further to travel, but many at that end of the City have always believed that the current Edensor catchment area will opt for alternative schools anyway.

Mitchell High have failed in their bid to get a school on their existing site, but have managed to get the new school location closer to their community.

The decision is probably in part due to finance as the City Council own the land that Willfield stands on.

The focus now is that the swimming pool and the City Learning Centre located on the Longton High site is retained and maintained for community use.

Let’s hope that this can be done without the need for yet another Community Action Group.

In the audio interviews below you will hear the relief, tinged with some sympathy from the Springfield Action Group and the disappointment of the Community Schools Action Group.

Townsend Carnival ““ 24th July

The Townsend Carnival takes place this Saturday 24th July, 10.30am ““ 4.00pm, at Mitchell High School.

Rumour has it that this carnival, organized by Townsend Community Residents’ Association, is a most vibrant event and certainly one not to miss. Entry is free and there are activities for all generations, music and family sports and games. Now the rain storms early in the week are hopefully over please come along”¦ or else bring an umbrella.

Visit this ideal school site nestled in the heart of the community. It should remain a school site.

Please, come and sign the new Community School Action Group petition for a school on the Mitchell site. Why another petition, why bother ““ they never listen? This is the thought that will inevitably occur. I will tell you why, because when something is important for your family, your friends and neighbours, your community, you fight for it and keep fighting for it until you force them to listen. That’s how Trentham won.

Everybody is most welcome to sign the petition. But a cordial invitation goes out especially to Mervin Smith to add his pledge to the list of ward councillors who have signed and also to his election promoter Mark Meredith, council leader Mohammed Pervez and constituency MP Tristram Hunt.

This should be a good day – enjoy!

Council seeks views on academy location

People who have an interest in the proposed location for the new Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent are being asked for their views as part of a feasibility study being carried out on behalf of the city council.

The proposed Academy is one of five brand new academies planned to be built in the city as part of the £250m Building Schools for the Future programme.

The independent study will look at possible locations for the Discovery Academy and then advise on a preferred site.

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said:

“We are keen to hear from the public on this very important issue. The Discovery Academy is the last piece of the BSF jigsaw. We want to move this process forward to ensure the young people from Edensor and Mitchell high schools are afforded the same opportunities as other students throughout the city, where outline approval has already been granted for new build or refurbishment.”

Anyone wanting to know more about the feasibility study should visit www.stoke.gov.uk/bsf.