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Lowbrook Academy: School bosses call on councillor to resign

Calls have been made for the cabinet member for children’s services to resign after the Royal Borough voted against funding Lowbrook Academy’s expansion.

David Rooney, executive principal of the primary school in The Fairway, Cox Green, has criticised the borough after a tense meeting on Tuesday last week which saw councillors vote against a proposal to give it £775,000 for four classrooms and a hall.

Dominique Du Pre, chair of governors, and Mr Rooney have sent a letter to Cllr Natasha Airey (Con, Park), cabinet member for children’s services, calling on her to resign.

Cllr Airey presented the paper to council but abstained from the vote, which ended up being 23 for and 23 against, with the casting vote being taken by the mayor Cllr John Lenton – who voted against.

In their letter, they wrote: “As lead member, and after promoting your paper and answering questions for it, we believe it was unacceptable that you proceeded to announce you would be abstaining from the vote.”

They also wrote that the school did not have the right to speak freely at the meeting to correct inaccuracies and did not have the opportunity to contribute to the paper.

The school has also suspended its obligations to Holy Trinity School, Cookham, where Mr Rooney is also executive principal, after Cookham councillors Cllr Richard Kellaway and Cllr Gerry Clark voted against Lowbrook’s plan.

Mr Rooney said he has had limited contact with the Royal Borough since the meeting, but he believes the land at Lowbrook needed for expansion, which is owned by the borough, will be gifted to the school.

He said he will have to apply to the Education Funding Agency to see if a scheme can be funded and he said he would work on a ‘plan, B, C or even D’ so Lowbrook, an outstanding primary school, can eventually become a two-form entry.

He said: “It’s the end for the current cohort who will not have a place in September; some of the parents have to change jobs.

“No one seems to want to fund it, but these children have been offered places where they have to drive to. It’s a really simple problem to be sorted.

“The democracy in RBWM needs looking at – it is not a model to be proud of.”

Cllr Airey said she abstained because, although she was not against Lowbrook’s expansion, she would be leading a £220m expansion process for school places in September and she had to be fair to all schools.

The money needed for the expansion equated to the basic need budget for all schools in the borough, she added.

She said: “I didn’t realise the vote would be as tight as it was. It’s not that I don’t want Lowbrook to expand. It was a very difficult situation.

“It was right to abstain to protect my integrity in leading the expansion process coming in September.

“We’ve provisionally gifted the land to the school for five years, so when they go for extra funding they can say we’ve already got the land to expand.”

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  • Traceybee77

    17:05, 09 July 2017

    With the council going full steam ahead on the BLP, it was shortsighted to refuse the expansion. By Cllr Airey abstaining and the school not been given a voice. Her letter to the school replying to their call, states that a meeting was had about the paper. What she fails to mention is the paper was already filed and the council would not accept any changes? It happened the day before the vote, the school was not allowed to keep a copy. Their right to ask questions at the vote, was only allowed ahead of time so that she could make prepared statements only and so would not be caught out for her failures. The residents expect more and should receive better service. Time to hand the reins over to someone who actually can deliver without constant failure

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    • pef24

      17:05, 09 July 2017

      Interesting version of democracy!

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  • aconcernedparent

    11:11, 09 July 2017

    What a disappointing decision by Cllr Airey to abstain from a vote on the proposals of the paper she helped write. Sadly this is but the latest example of Cllr Airey struggling with her remit. Let's not forget that Lowbrook expsnsion was agreed in June 2016--the current problems began when the Council failed to provide the funding they agreed to. Lowbrook delayed expanding until they had the money and Clkr Airey did nothing to get this basic task done. She also failed to clarify misunderstandings of other Councillors (e.g., around the size of the school hall) and failed to involve Lowbrook in writing the proposals around its own expansion. We didn't have to be where we are today. This did not have to happen. Worse yet, Cllr Airey also likely violated Council rules, around abstaining. Rather than following Cllr Dudley's example of abstaining by joining the public area and not commenting during discussion, Cllr Airey remained with other Councillors and contributed to the discussion (with factual inaccuracies) before abstaining. Had she voted for the policy she helped write, Lowbrook would have gotten the expansion it needs. Cllr Airey's actions raise serious questions about her ability to oversea future school expansions. Already, parents are pitched against parents and schools against schools. This isn't the way it should be. Letting someone else take the reigns would be a good next step.

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  • pef24

    09:09, 09 July 2017

    Does this mean anything in future affecting schools is too controversial for her to vote on? What about other councillors and their responsibilities, is precedent being set to not vote on matters in their area of responsibility? Nonsensical way of conducting an apparently democratic process. The meeting was a joke! Documentation not available till the last minute with Lowbrook not having the right to reply and amend the document. Inaccuracies were passed as truth and Lowbrook weren't even allowed to speak at the meeting other than the advance notice questions. Councillors based their judgement on assumptions that Mr Rooney didn't help other schools to be outstanding when that was wrong - he helps quite a few but will probably think twice before offering assistance across the borough now as no one is helping him. Cllr Airey is responsible for this entire farce. Lowbrook are right to call her out on her actions.

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