07:00AM, Friday 02 June 2017
Cllr Simon Dudley
A £200m capital programme which will see 10,500 additional school places across the Royal Borough up until 2032 has been pledged by the leader of the council this week.
The comments, made by Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Maidenhead Riverside), came as frustrated parents at Lowbrook Academy complained about their concerns at the lack of a decision over its expansion falling on deaf ears.
A funding disagreement between the council and school in The Fairway led to only 30 primary school places being offered, instead of 60 for next year.
The council confirmed last month a decision would not be taken about additional funding for Lowbrook until after the general election due to purdah restrictions.
It has now been confirmed by Cllr Dudley that on Monday, June 19, the Conservative Group will take a free vote, by secret ballot, about whether to give the school extra funding to expand to a two-form entry.
Cllr Dudley has said on the record he will recommend at the group meeting the council funds the full expansion, but will not participate in the vote due to his links to Holyport College, which also hopes to expand.
Cox Green parish councillor Craig Monks, who has a child at Lowbrook, has written several emails to the council and Prime Minister Theresa May who has been supportive of the school's plans.
He said: “This week has seen a new level of ignorance from members of RBWM. This situation is getting out of hand now with Cllr Dudley ignoring constituents and blocking them on social media.
“In response to this behaviour the parents, through frustration, have started a campaign via their website www.kidsbeforepolitics.org.uk as well as a petition and leaflet. This very simple-to-fix issue is now reaching a critical stage which has been manifested by Cllr Dudley.”
More than 10 parents have been blocked by Cllr Dudley and Holyport College, of which Cllr Dudley is a founding member and a governor, on Twitter.
Responding to the parents' concerns, Cllr Dudley told the Advertiser: “We have a general policy to create more places for outstanding schools but this is a specific decision about the amount of money it will cost to expand Lowbrook.
“I want to expand Lowbrook but there are issues about the specification of what they want.
“That is what is presenting the issue, because after Lowbrook there is a paper coming to cabinet in September for 50 forms of entry in primary and secondary schools over the course of the next decade.
“This is a huge programme, and the council needs to be fair to everyone, new schools and expanding schools.
“What decision is made about Lowbrook will set a precedent for what goes on with the other schools.
“I will meet with any parent at any time, but I’m not going to have lots of trolling tweets. It’s not grown up and it’s not helpful. If they want to talk to me, I’ll meet with them face to face at any time."
When asked how parents complaining about being blocked on Twitter was any different to him complaining about Angela Rayner MP blocking him on Twitter, he said: “She is the shadow secretary of state for education. I’m holding her to account.
“Someone accused me of being a crook, how is that a mature debate when I’m trying to bring about the expansion? If you want to call me a crook I’m going to block you. People need to be focused in their approach and positive, nothing grows on scorched earth.”
He also said he was disappointed to learn the school would not be taking 30 extra pupils in September even if the extra funding is granted due to missing ‘critical deadlines’ such as teacher recruitment.
A report on school is expansion in the Royal Borough is expected to come to cabinet in September.
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