02:30PM, Friday 07 July 2017
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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