Sunday, 26 October 2008

Cwmpadarn School's controversial car park

Below is the coverage from the Cambrian News, 23rd October 2008, page 11 (click to enlarge - this applies to all images on this page).

In that article the school Governor, Ben Davies, makes a number of misleading comments in an attempt to deny the ineptitude of the school administration in reducing school traffic on an unsuitable road.

  1. He says that the school is responding to an Estyn inspection report which said that there should be no cars by the schoolyard. However, by creating more space for cars to turn around, there is now an encouragement for even more parents to drive up the lane - increasing the number of cars by the schoolyard, and therefore the traffic danger too.
  2. Ben Davies described the land being used as a "bit of rubble and empty land" - which is perhaps a rather eccentric way of describing what was a grassy bank, before the school hired mechanical diggers to ruin it. Following the Ben Davies school of description, where grassy banks are seen as 'rubble and empty land', perhaps he would describe the Welsh countryside as being "some lumps of dirt with scraps of wood stuck in it"?
  3. He mentions the fact that the school had been planning the work for 18 months - in which case there was plenty of time for the school to consult with locals who are affected by the school's traffic day in and day out. Yet as mentioned here, the school headmaster, Mr Raw-Rees, had refused to mention these plans even when a resident had written to him and made it clear that they were concerned about traffic and parking issues. It seems that disregard for the local community (or at least, anyone who does not have a child at the school) is present in at least two of the senior school officials.
  4. Finally, his comment that he is "flabbergasted that someone could deprive our schoolchildren of safety" is hilariously ironic considering that the greatest danger for schoolchildren walking to the school is all the parents driving their cars up an unsuitable road to drop their children off.
Local residents have also passed on a response from the Ceredigion County Council Department of Education and Community Services. Unfortunately it mostly consisted of repetition of statements already made by the school, rather than acknowledging the problem. However two of the statements made by the Department require further comment.

1 - Is someone lying? Or just confused?

The Department of Education and Community Services states quite clearly that the new parking area is NOT for parents (see below).

This is particularly strange, since the defence from the school all along has been that the car park has been built at the recommendation of Estyn - but the Estyn inspector's report states specifically that the recommendation is to look at parking for parents - see image below.

Therefore either:
  • the school representatives are lying in saying that the car park was in response to the Estyn report (since the report recommended investigating parking for parents, and these car parking spaces are not for parents, and therefore not dealing with the issues raised in the report);
  • or the Department of Education and Community Services is lying when it says the new parking area will not be used by parents.
Either way the whole thing is suspicious, and gives the impression that there is some misunderstanding and confusion between the school (represented by Ben Davies above) and the Department of Education and Community Services.

2. Overstatement

The Department of Education and Community Services states in the extract below that the school has made EVERY EFFORT to tackle traffic.

That is untrue. Has the school:
  • Closed the school gates to vehicles, deterring parents from driving up the lane, in order to protect walking school children and residents?
  • Placed staff at points near the school to monitor walking children's safety?
  • Used every opportunity to request that parents not drive up the lane to drop their children off (i.e. is it raised at every PTA meeting and included in every newsletter from the school until the message sinks in?)
  • Requested all staff and Governors to walk (rather than drive) to work in order to set an example?
  • Taken part in European ‘no car day’ on September 22nd?
  • Worked with the transport sub-group of Transition Town Aberystwyth to investigate this problem?
  • Organised lift shares to reduce traffic?
The school has not done all these things. Therefore it is a lie to say that they have made 'every effort'. The truth is that they made a bit of an effort; then gave up after their half-hearted and unsuccessful attempts. Let us hope that the children at the school do not adopt that attitude.

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