westhill

Re-establishing community access to the school playing field - update 8.11.18

Update on re-establishing community access to the school playing field

When the school was built in the 1980’s, Devon County Council and the trustees of the new Village Hall agreed that the school would have use of the hall and, out of school hours, the community would have use of the field.

This arrangement continued until recently when large gates and a “private property” notice were erected by the school in 2017 without prior warning or discussion.

The Parish Council has tried very hard to re-establish this long standing arrangement but after many months of discussion, have been told that “it is of no benefit to the school” and that the directors of the Smile Learning Trust (who appear to have taken over from Devon County Council in running the school) do not wish to pursue it. The school has written to the parents to explain why they are not willing to open the gates outside school hours citing vandalism and safeguarding issues.

We feel it is important that the community is made aware of several important points which are not clear from the school’s letter:

The Parish Council is not seeking to establish a new right of access - but only wants to regain the right of community access - withdrawn by the school after more than 30 years. The school itself has previously acknowledged that the field is community land outside of school hours.

The letter does not mention that the Parish Council offered to discuss financial and other support to deal with the potential problems and that the school refused even to discuss the options with the Parish Council.

The importance for residents - children in particular - having access to open space for their mental and physical well-being is well established.  The Parish Council believes that it is unacceptable that this field which has been accessible to all children for the past 30 years at weekends, evenings and holidays etc should now be out of bounds.  The field is the only large open space in our community for children to play in. Particularly in the age of the x-box and the smart phone, we feel we have a responsibility to protect access to this open space for the health and well-being of those who live here now, and who will live here in the future.

With this in mind we would like, again, to invite representatives of the school to meet with us to find a way forward, to enable us to continue the arrangement which has proved so mutually beneficial for the past 30 years.