Tuesday 10 April 2012

You don't know what you have lost, 'til it's gone!!!!!

On 16th March I published a Blog about the proposals to rebuild St Martin's School on the School Field and as one can see from the Blog, I am not enamoured. http://bobhilljersey.blogspot.com/2012/03/st-martins-school.html

At the time of posting the Blog I was still waiting for answers to a number of questions I had asked of the Education Department. Unfortunately not only has it taken a long time to receive them but what has been received is incomplete.

We are told that £7.7 million pounds has been set aside to build a single form entry on the existing school field. I do not have a problem with replacing the current school if a case can be made, but one needs to be convinced that all the boxes have been ticked and all the relevant evidence is to hand.

One supporter for the rebuild is claiming that as there will be more homes being built in St Martin then it is necessary to build a new school to accommodate the perceived increase in population. If that is the case why is a single form entry school being proposed?

It is suggested that the size of some of the existing classrooms are below the UK new build guidelines,but the guidelines are for new build not for existing buildings, if that was the case then how many other Schools have classrooms which are smaller than the new build guidelines and will they have to be replaced? I did ask that question but did not receive an answer, I wonder why, surely the information is to hand.

I was told that within the last ten years three schools have received major funding but were redeveloped rather than rebuilt on another site. It would have been helpful to know if classrooms in those schools are within the new build guidelines, but perhaps that is why I did not receive an answer to that question. Is it because some of the classrooms are smaller than the new build guidelines?

My other concern is that the decision to build a new school on the school field which defies logic because St Martin's like the other three could be redeveloped on site and the school field retained. In answer to my question regarding the financial difference between the new build as opposed to redevelopment, I was told that it will only cost £107k more to build a new school. Very conveniently I never received a breakdown of the cost but was amused that the word only preceded the £107k, I thought we were short of money? I also find it hard to believe that the rebuild will be over £7.5million, however it appears that considerable funding will be required for temporary classrooms, unfortunately no figures have been supplied to substantiate that claim, I wonder why?

Even though I have not received a breakdown of the redevelopment costs I bet “Honest Nev” would never take my bet that the value of the field as a site and a loss as an amenity was not taken into consideration. “Honest Nev” who apart from being a Bookie has been President of St Martin’s Football Club for far longer than the 30 years that the Club has used the school field as its home pitch which will no longer be the case if the new school is built on the field..

The field has been part of the School since 1947. There was a belief that a covenant existed which prohibited development, that was confirmed some 10 years ago when the Parish Football Club wanted to erect a changing Room on it. It now appears that there never was a covenant, so who has moved the proverbial goalposts?

One fact which can not be disputed is that field has been enjoyed by countless pupils since 1947. I have attached two photographs, the one at the bottom of this Blog is of the school's athletics and tug of war team of 1948/9 which was taken on the school field. You will note how rough the grass was and the age spread, I represented the school in the 8 year age group. The team also included another pupil who became a States Member, our team included a number of pupils from the Home for Boys who lived at Haut de La Garenne.

The photograph above was also taken on the field a little later and is of the school football team. By co-incidence three of the team including me joined UK Police Forces. Regretfully the one who was from the Home for Boys has died recently. The purpose of the photographs is to illustrate that three or possibly four generations have enjoyed the use of the field which was always intended for recreational purposes. The field is also enjoyed by countless members of the public of all ages who bring their children to play on the swings or for a kick about on the field or to watch whatever activity is taking place on it.

If the most logical decision is taken, that being to redevelop the school, the field could be enjoyed by future generations. As can be seen in my letter below which was published in the JEP on 4th April, if today's pupils were asked whether they would be prepared to endure a year's disruption by being accommodated in temporary classrooms to ensure that the field is saved for future generations, I bet they would go for the redevelopment option.

Please see the following letter referred to above and I welcome your comments but there are no prizes for identifying me or the other States Member.

Dear Sir,
With reference to my letter to the Editor regarding the proposed rebuild of St Martin’s School which the JEP kindly published on 16th March. At the time of writing I was still waiting for answers to questions asked of the Education Department in relation to cost of redevelopment compared with the rebuild for which £7.7 million pounds has been set aside. Although the information now received falls short of what I asked for it is sufficient to question why building on the School Field was the favoured option.

The Education Department was unable to inform me of the amount spent on the school since 1992 when in that year many hundreds of thousands of pounds was spent on major structural alterations which led to the Nursery unit being built. However since 1996 a further £654,000 has been spent upgrading the school.

With regard to the rebuild versus redevelopment question I have been informed that the option of redevelopment to a level comparable to the other parish schools had been given detailed consideration during the feasibility study. Detailed costing indicated that the cost of redeveloping the existing premises was closely comparable to the cost of a new building, with the total costs of the latter option being only £107,000 more than redevelopment.

I would have welcome a detailed breakdown of the costs because the redevelopment costs are very questionable, however I am told that the high cost is due partly to the difficulties associated with converting and remodelling existing buildings, together with the need to provide temporary accommodation for the duration of the project. A new school will not require temporary accommodation during the building phase, as students will simply move from the old to the new premises upon completion.

In answer to my question about work carried out at other schools apparently Trinity, St John’s and St Peter’s have all received significant attention in the last ten years or so. What is apparent is although temporary classrooms were used the pupils, staff and parents took the disruption in their stride and were none the worse for the experience.

Even if one accepts that the new build will (only???) cost £107,000 more than the redevelopment option, it is apparent that the value of the school field has not been brought into the equation. That omission greatly distorts the costing. In my view it is difficult to estimate its true value because as an amenity and a green lung it is priceless and once built on will be lost for ever.

The field has been part of the school since 1947 and the pupils who first used it are now grandparents and whose children and their children have utilised it. If the current pupils were asked if they would be prepared to accept some disruption and being taught in temporary classrooms in exchange for the retention of the field for their grandchildren I am sure they would willingly accept the redevelopment option. 

Perhaps when they return from the Easter break their views could be sought?

With no apologies to Joni Mitchell and Big Yellow Taxi, but please heed the words
"I said.  Don't it always seem to go, That you don't know what you've got 'Til it's gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot"
Please do not replace paradise with a school especially when it can be redeveloped.


  1. Bob.

    You seem to be doing a lot of wondering why your questions are not getting answered. After spending 18 years in politics one would have thought you would have grown used to not getting straight answers to straight questions? Nonetheless no matter how bad you thought it was trying getting answers as a backbencher, now that you are a member of the public, you'll be lucky to get a reply, let alone be fobbed off with a load of nonsensical dribble.

    Indeed nonsensical dribble is about the best you can hope for!

  2. You are correct about not getting straight answers, but having years of people trying to fob me off, I am used to it. However we both know that straight answers were not given because they would have revealed that the proposal to build in the school field just does not stack up.

  3. you are right Bob...go for it...plenty of puff left in you yet....

  4. Jennifer Bridge24 April 2012 at 10:45

    Well done Bob for pursuing this. I hope some current members will pick this up and ask questions in the Assembly if you are not getting answers. I do not understand why they are doing one form entry. Surely it's better to have some extra space so that if it is needed to go to 2 form then there is room.

    I assume this is based on demographic information that they have to hand but I would like to know on what basis they are making their assumptions. E.g if there is a change in the population policy, if there is a change in planning policy then this will have an impact on the number of children residing in or near the school.