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Council leader pledges £200m for 10,500 school places

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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  • AmyMonks

    16:04, 02 June 2017

    I am one of the people blocked by Mr Dudley. Lowbrook's situation is simple. Expansion was agreed. The school needed "X" amount of money. It was agreed in principle pending the cabinet meeting last year. But someone at RBWM accidentally put "Y" amount on all the official documents after a miscalculation. So "Y" was agreed. Lowbrook pointed out the mistake but we're repeatedly ignored. They were told the Council would underwrite the cost above and beyond the current agreed amount. Then when the school told RBWM they needed more money during the build, all hell broke loose and the school was accused of being greedy!! RBWM won't acknowledge the admin error and are calling the funding shortfall "additional" funding. Parents are campaigning for the council to grant the correct amount of funding. Theresa May just wants it all sorted and for the whole mess to go away. Senior figures at the council are livid about being challenged. That's it.

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  • Jwiggles

    11:11, 02 June 2017

    You are a crook Cllr Dudley, you need to be held to account on all fronts, you know the school has never been at fault and it was a calculation error by RBWM, the way you talk about Holyport School expanding is top of your list but money for others just gets pushed aside, and don't get me started on your blocking of all the parents at Lowbrook Academy from not only your twitter account but Holyport College twitter account too - how petty and ridiculous, if you don't like the fire, get out of the frying pan and step aside. Put someone else in charge that can get the job done for the children that deserve the very best future we can give them.

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  • Traceybee77

    10:10, 02 June 2017

    So it's not okay to block him by it's okay to block others. If you look at the tweets, none could be considered as trolling tweets, yet so that he doesn't have to listen, he blocks people. He made insensitive tweets regarding Holyport being expanded for the good residents of Holyport, whilst the good residents of cox green are in limbo over theirs. A fare by which a free vote, not heard of in a school expansion scenario, will either okay or derail the whole project. This council leader is not being honest and transparent, after all he has sacked another Cllr for speaking out about his plans. Good help is, if he decides this free vote should be free to say no. After all, the conservative group meeting is private. Parents in cox green will be watching closely ready to challenge if necessary. The council needs to be held to account.

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