Councillor Clark Vasey (Conservative, Churchfields) explains why he campaigned for 60 additional school places in Woodford, and why he continues to press the council on the issue
Your child starting school is a momentous moment for any parent. However, for parents across Woodford, this sense of anticipation was replaced with worry as a failure by Redbridge Council meant Woodford had a shortage of school places, while Ilford had an excess of up to 200 places.
The result of this failure meant parents across Woodford saw their children dumped in schools of more than two miles away. In some cases, the distances were more than three miles away. Two to three hours of walking a day would have ruled out walking, and the location of the school meant public transport would, in many cases, take just as long and involve almost as much walking. The distances meant these schools were simply inappropriate and would have turned family life upside down.
The priority for Redbridge Labour is Ilford and Woodford consistently loses out. In street cleansing and resources generally, Woodford is at the bottom of their list, but it is the failure to provide enough school places which shows Labour’s neglect of Woodford at its most unfair.
However, Woodford parents did not take this lightly and supported by our local MP, Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative councillors for Churchfields, South Woodford and Monkhams wards, they exerted maximum pressure on the council. To prove the distances of the proposed schools were not acceptable, I walked the route with a Churchfields family, and at one hour and seven minutes, it proved our point.
From the outset, we called for a bulge class, and in a meeting with the Head of Education when it was clear a single bulge class was not going to help all of the Woodford families, I called for a second bulge class. After months of campaigning the council finally relented and the solution was two bulge classes, one in Oakdale and one in Nightingale, meaning 60 extra school places for the west of the borough. This has meant a school closer to home for these Woodford families.
The parents affected this year now have a school which works for their child, but this continues to be relevant. If the shortage of school places in Woodford is not addressed, then a new group of families will find themselves in this unacceptable position next year. The council cannot claim not to know this is a problem. We have pressed the council to review school places in the borough. Woodford might not be the part of the borough which Labour cares about, but they must recognise that children in Woodford are entitled to a local school. We need a long-term solution. What we need are fair school places for Woodford.