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New Building Update


New Building Update - 11/05/20

In our last update Governors undertook to keep Parents & Carers and Staff updated with the progress of their discussions with WSCC regarding the design and timing of the new building.  

A further Project Board meeting was held on 6th May.  The Governors have now had sight of the revised schedule of accommodation for 100 pupils. There are currently ongoing discussions to ensure that the accommodation is adequate, meets the requirements of BB104 and provides a building which works for the needs of the profile of Woodlands Meed students. Clarification has also been sought as to the external facilities to be provided to ensure that these are primarily specifically suitable and accessible to our pupils. 

A Target Development Programme has been prepared which indicates that the design of the building will be finalised between August and October 2020 with a planning application being made mid November 2020.  Work will start on site in July 2021, with handover in May 2023 and external works finally completed by October 2023.

The Governors anticipate that the Cabinet Report due to be considered on 26 May, will confirm the release of funding of ”Up to £19.5M"  as the overall budget cost (£20M less £500K design fees previously approved). 


New Building Update - 30/04/20 

A virtual Project Meeting was held on 29th April as agreed, which continues to be very positive.

We now have dates for all the Project Board meetings in the diary until the proposed start of construction.  Haverstocks, the Architects have started work on the actual concept design of the building and this will initially reviewed by SMT to ensure that the school are happy that this will meet the needs of our pupils.
 
The WSCC governance meetings are all on track with the Business Case due to be ready for approval by 20 May and Cabinet Decision due 26 May.
 
Our next meeting is 8 May, following which we anticipate we will be able to advise you when it is proposed that we will have designs which we can share with you and will be able to share the outline programme.
 

New Building Update - 03/04/20

A successful virtual meeting was held on 1st April as agreed, with the new team all working together positively to provide the new building.  A preferred construction access was agreed with measures which would ensure the safety of all parties and minimise disruption.  Detailed plans will  be drawn up and full consultation will take place.

WSCC will now complete their Business Plan which is due for decision on 28 May.  In the meantime progress will continue to be made towards planning and consultation with Sports England, so that it will be possible to submit the formal planning application soon after the Cabinet Member decision ( on the assumption that this is positive ). WSCC have undertaken to ensure that Sports England proposals specifically meet the requirements of the needs of our pupils, and to liaise with our Head Adam Rowland to ensure that this is the case.

People should be aware that the new building will have a dedicated Sports Hall, however, this will be much more modest than that which was proposed originally, but which will meet statutory requirements for 100 SEN pupils.

Although physical work for much of the construction industry is affected by the national situation, most consultants and WSCC officers are working using technology to work remotely.  All the preliminary work and project planning is therefore still progressing as anticipated.

Dates for Project Board meetings to completion of the project are being agreed and put in diaries and a headline project programme will be issued shortly.

The delay has been, to put it mildly, frustrating, but the Governors feel we are now back on track and moving forward

 


New Building Update – 13/03/20

Governors attended the Central and South Mid Sussex CLC meeting on 3rd March at which the Council reported "Woodlands Meed Independent condition, and accessibility and sufficiency surveys were commissioned and have now been completed and reports have been received. These are currently being reviewed by the County Council and the school. A series of meetings have been agreed and jointly the school and the County Council will move forward with the delivery of a new school for 100 pupils who have need of a SEND Education ". The Governors have copies of these reports.

One of the first points to be settled is the route for the temporary construction access.  One potential route is across the side of Folders Meadow managed by Burgess Hill Town Council.

Governors attended a meeting of BHTC on 9th March when the Town Councillors unanimously agreed to support such an access if necessary and to seek any consents which may be required. 

Following the WSCC decision to move forward with a new building, the first joint meeting was held on 10th March when the basis for proceeding with the project was agreed.  The first matter to be dealt with is the route of the temporary construction access necessary for 18 months during the construction phase.  Detailed design work is currently being carried out looking at the alternatives and a decision will be taken at the next meeting. 

Once this decision is made, it will be possible to have a clearer idea of a programme for the works.  The Governors noted however, the assurance from Andrew Edwards, Director of Property and Assets, that he has been requested to compress the construction period as much as possible.

The next stage in the WSCC procedural process is the decision on the Business Case.  This too will be informed by the temporary access decision and is therefore programmed for decision in May.  In the meantime work will be proceeding on other practical aspects of the project.

Governors will issue a further update following the next meeting in the first week of April.


New Building Update – 28/02/20

Following confirmation from WSCC that £20M has again been provided for the new building, governors have had an initial meeting with Nigel Jupp, Cabinet Member for Education.

It is understood that consultants have been instructed to resume work on the project and a Project Board meeting has been arranged for 10th March.

Woodlands Meed Head and Chair also met with the Head and Chair of Birchwood Grove School, who have confirmed that although understandably they have concerns, they are supportive of Woodlands Meed and recognise that the college needs a new building.

There is a CLC meeting at Hurstpierpoint on Wednesday 3rd March at which it is understood a brief update statement will be issued.  Governors will be attending, but do not propose to raise formal questions at this meeting in light of the meeting on 10th March.


New Building Update – 14/02/20

The Governors met with Cllr Jupp, Cabinet Member for Education, and Andrew Edwards, Director of Property & Assets, Resource Services, earlier this week and had the opportunity to discuss the anticipated Condition and Suitability Surveys.  The Governors were pleased and cautiously optimistic to learn that at Full Council today he has recommended that Woodlands Meed College be rebuilt.

The Governors are committed to working with WSCC officers to get the best possible outcome for the well deserving students and staff at the college.

The Governors stated “We are delighted that today’s announcement is a positive step in the right direction and will be putting in place arrangements to reinstate the Project Board meetings as soon as possible.”

When asked about the delay from September 2021 to Summer 2023 the Governors commented “The Governors regret the extended timeframe and consequent delay and will do everything within our power to ensure the new College is completed as soon as possible. We will also do all we can to help families affected by the delay”.

“We are looking forward to resuming work with the Council to drive this project forward, and more importantly, we are looking forward to a major celebration when the first digger arrives on site.”


New Building Update – 31/01/20

The Governors have listened carefully to the statements made in relation to Woodlands Meed at the WSCC Cabinet Meeting on 28 January.

They have noted the following comments by Nigel Jupp (Cabinet Member for Education)

  1. He has constantly referenced sums of “up to £20M” and referred to “enhanced facilities” and “any new investment”.  The governors have interpreted these careful and on occasions self-corrected remarks as signally that WSCC do not propose to carry out a new build but are looking to patch up the current prefabricated building and porta cabins.
  2. He has referred to the “earliest date it is reasonable to expect any new investment is Autumn 2023” (35 months).   Further Paul Marshal said “this was the quickest way we are able to do it “However, before everything was abruptly cancelled by WSCC, a number of governors sat at an interview meeting in June 2019 with two respected national building contractors, both of whom said if they started in October 2019 they would be able to construct a new building ready for occupation in September 2021. (24 months)
  3. He referred to “prudent programming” and the need to consider reports from the Planners and Sport England.  This is interesting because WSCC have consistently refused to provide Governors with copies of (amongst others) any reports from WSCC Planners or Sport England. They have ignored a Freedom of Information request for these reports and the governors are in the process of lodging an appeal against the failure to disclose what Nigel Jupp himself clearly accepts, are material reports, with the Information Commissioners Office. 

The governors hold a positive Pre Application Planning report from Mid Sussex District Council, which they commissioned themselves.

  1. Much was made of the fact that WSCC were finding all the funding from WSCC resources.  Governors would ask (yet again)
    1. What is happening with the proceeds of Court Meadow (one of the schools closed to form Woodlands Meed in 2012) which was for sale for housing?
    2. Why has the Council not looked at the millions of pounds they are holding as received unallocated s106 Education payments?  The Governors were in dialogue with planning officers about the potential of these funds for Woodlands Meed in 2017, until all discussion was abruptly curtailed.

Paul Marshall claimed that the information from the surveys could not be disclosed at the Cabinet Meeting because he had committed to sharing them with Governors before a decision was made.  Governors believe that the reason he could not share them, was because he did not have them.

  1. At the Children and Young Persons Select Committee on 4 December 2019, the Leader confirmed that he intended to completely ignore the recommendations of the scrutiny committee and press ahead with surveys which he said had already been commissioned.
  2. The school heard nothing whatsoever about any surveys until hurried arrangements were made on Monday 20th January for surveys to be carried out on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd January.

 


Updated as at 9.30am 30.01.2020.

As the Governors had heard nothing from WSCC following the surveys, a formal request for copies together with the terms of reference for carrying out the surveys was made to the Council, and a parallel FOI was made.  The governors have been told this morning that in fact the Condition Survey is still not available, but a meeting is to be set up in the week after next to discuss the survey reports which should be then be available.  They have yet to receive a copy of the Suitability Survey.


 Update - 17/01/20

Another week, another set of broken promises from WSCC.

  • Paul Marshall and Nigel Jupp promised Governors immediately following the CYPSS on 4 December 2019, that in the spirit of new appointments, fresh start and open and transparent communication they would notify Governors of the specialist consultants they proposed to use and their terms of reference for the surveys they had instigated.   Still no contact from either of them.
  •  
  • Nigel Jupp told Children and Young Persons Services Select Committee on 9 January the surveys would be carried out within days.  As at today's date still no arrangements have been made with the school.
  •  
  • Nigel Jupp promised at the CLC meeting on 12 November to find out what has happened regarding the sale of Court Meadow, and the proceeds of sale.  He has yet to provide this information.
  •  
  • The agenda papers for the Finance and Progress Committee for 22nd January have been published.  These disclose that IF the money is to be provided ( and it is still IF) it will be phased:
  1. 2020/21     £1   M
  2. 2021/22     £5   M
  3. 2022/23     £7.5M
  4. 2023/24     £6.5m

This means at best our vulnerable children would be living in a building site for four years.

It makes no sense commercially.  Spreading an 18m/2yr contract over four years increases the costs of contract preliminaries and construction inflation. 

  • The Forward Plan decision on Woodlands Meed has been pushed back from September 2019 to November 2019 to January 2020.  If none of the proposed surveys have been carried out then a meaningful decision cannot be taken on 28 January. To quote Douglas Adams "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." 

Update 10 January 2020

Following the meetings between governors and Mims Davies the new MP for Mid Sussex before Christmas, the Head and Governors met with Mims Davies and Sujan Wickremaratchi, a WSCC Councillor for Haywards Heath today.  They confirmed the continued support for the new building at Woodlands Meed, although no commitment can be given until the decision at Cabinet on 28 January.

In the meantime, the Governors have been in contact with Architects team at the DfE and have received from them a preliminary schedule of accommodation to meet BB104, which is very comparable to schedule of accommodation agreed with WSCC officers nearly a year ago.

The governors are very much hoping that the decision on 28 January will be acceptable.  However, in the light of previous disappointments are continuing to make contingency plans, should this prove not to be the case.

We set out below in full the response to the formal complaint about the conduct of Cllr Jeremy Hunt. Sadly, the response itself contains a number of inaccuracies, and also relies on reference to documents which WSCC have refused to disclose to Governors in response to FOIs.  The Governors will await the decision on 28 January before deciding if it is necessary to take further action on this matter.

Report on Complaint concerning comments at Committee concerning the capital project for Woodlands Meed school.

This note sets out the consideration given to and response to complaints made relating to the comments by the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance at the October meeting of the Council’s Performance and Finance Select Committee which was considering a proposal to commit funds for a capital development relating to Woodlands Meed school. The text below includes the text of the original complaint followed by the Council’s response, including the comments of the member who is the subject of the complaint. The complaint was received on 24th October 2019. It was passed immediately to relevant officers holding information or sources of information related to the content of the complaint and who provided advice and information to the cabinet member. It was also sent to the elected member who was the subject of the complaint who responded promptly. This note incorporates their responses.

The Complaint: Cllr Stephen Hillier asked a question about the position regarding the Decision in the Forward Plan relating to Woodlands Meed and whether there was a question about the date of delivery of the project or the deliverability of the project. In response Cllr Hunt stated inter alia: "It is a matter of costs" "It started out at £14M" "Sir Nicholas Soames promised us the sum of £6M from the DfE... which has never materialised" "..and we are now looking at a cost of upwards of £25M’ These statements were clearly made in order to convey the adverse impression that costs were spiralling out of control affecting the deliverability of the project. The murmurs of assent around the committee table indicate that this was successful and this was the information accepted by committee members.

None of the above statements are true.

1. The cost of the project has never been stated to be £14M. a. The WSCC Business Case in 2018 estimated the cost subject to detailed design and costing to be £16/£18M. b. The Decision of the Cabinet Member for Education to proceed with the project in 2019 was based on an estimate of £20M

2. Sir Nicholas Soames has never made a promise to procure funding for the capital cost of the project from the DfE or anywhere else. He generously offered to assist with a grant application to Sport England to enhance the sports facilities which were at that time promised by the Council. Such an allegation made against a Member of Parliament is a most serious matter, bringing that MP's own integrity into public question.

3. There is no suggestion and never has been that the cost for the project exceeds £25M. In May 2019 an option was reviewed to completely decant the school into temporary accommodation during construction period. This was estimated to cost £24,900,000 and was immediately discounted by all parties.

4. The first pass initial cautious costing was £21,460,000. This figure could be challenged and it is possible to deliver the project within the original £20M estimate. The complaint is that Cllr Hunt made material statements intended to influence opinions and to be disseminated publicly and acted upon by Councillors either knowing them to be untrue or with reckless disregard as to whether they were true or not. That being the case Councillor Hunt was not honest, truthful and transparent and is in breach of the Code of Conduct. Commentary and response to the complaints

1. The cost of the project has never been stated to be £14M.

Response: With the figure of £14m the Cabinet Member is referring to the costs to the Council, rather than the full costs of the build project. The Council’s capital finance team have made clear the position of capital funds aligned to the Woodlands Meed project. It was stated that the capital programme allocated £14m, with a separate line identifying grant funds being required for an additional £6m to meet the then projected potential cost of a scheme (£20m). It can be seen that the Cabinet Member simply stated these two figures in his comments to the meeting. They cannot be characterised as untrue statements. They are factually accurate and drawn from officer advice confirmed by the relevant lines in the Council’s published capital programme. The statements do not refer to the ‘cost of the project’ as being £14m. The statement refers to the cost to the Council as identified in its capital programme and is accurate. Any shortfall in the availability or delivery or projected grant funds would alter the Council’s projected costs from £14 to £20m.

2. Sir Nicholas Soames has never made a promise to procure funding for the capital cost of the project from the DfE or anywhere else. He generously offered to assist with a grant application to Sport England to enhance the sports facilities which were at that time promised by the Council. Such an allegation made against a Member of Parliament is a most serious matter, bringing that MP's own integrity into public question.

Response The Cabinet Member accepts fully that this statement was poorly worded and that he should not have stated that the delivery of grants was ‘promised’ by the MP. The MP was involved in lending support to any efforts to secure such grants for sports facilities. The figure of £6m is the project funding gap against which the grants were identified as needing to cover. The cabinet member had not been involved in the discussion with the MP and had simply misinterpreted how that discussion was reported. There was no intention to misrepresent the position. It is accepted that no promise was made that grants of this value would necessarily be secured. The Cabinet Member is keen to apologise for the comments which suggest any lack of commitment or false promise by the named MP. He has also asked for the minute to record the correct position and for his comments on this item, as recorded to be amended accordingly.

3. There is no suggestion and never has been that the cost for the project exceeds £25M. and 4. The first pass initial cautious costing was £21,460,000. This figure could be challenged and it is possible to deliver the project within the original £20M estimate.

Response Following a review of the viable options which included consultation with WSCC planners, Sport England, adjoining Birchwood Grove school and the carrying out a Highways report into the impact on Birchwood Grove school and the surrounding roads it was discovered building the new school on the playing field would have a serious impact on Birchwood Grove school’s day to day operations but more seriously there would be major Health & Safety risks affecting Birchwood Grove. Various options were considered by officers in seeking to address the scope of the project and to advise and instruct the capital team which new build or refurbishment option would optimally meet service requirements in line with the capital programme proposal. Those options included a new build for 100 SEN pupils at a cost of £18.6m, a new build for 136 pupils at a cost of £21m which did not address health and safety risks fully and some refurbishment project options. A further option for a new build which additionally addressed health and safety concerns for Birchwood Grove school was costed at £25m. This was identified as the full cost of a viable option which covered the identified need in terms of pupil numbers and health and safety and Sport England concerns. It would require temporary relocation of the school. This figure remains subject to further detailed costing. The advice referenced possible highways costs and a sprinkler requirement needing to be considered. It was therefore accurate for the cabinet member to refer to a figure of ‘upwards of £25m’ as this was the figure attached to the option considered to be the most viable in terms of a new build project and in advice to him. It is not correct to refer to the statement as untrue. It may be possible to deliver a project for the school for a lower sum as the above options identify. That does not render the cabinet member’s comments untruthful or inaccurate.

5. These statements were clearly made in order to convey the adverse impression that costs were spiralling out of control affecting the deliverability of the project. The murmurs of assent around the committee table indicate that this was successful and this was the information accepted by committee members.

Response The words ‘it is a matter of costs’ cannot in any sense be described as an untrue statement. At no point does the cabinet member refer to costs being or spiralling out of control. He simply states the facts that were available to him and based on officer advice – that an initial cost to the Council of £14m supplemented by grants of £6m which were now at risk (making a total project cost projection of £20m) had since been recalculated as a potential cost of £25m with the benefit of subsequent additional work. As no build option has ever been agreed there is nothing unusual in cost estimates needing to be reviewed. The advice upon which the cabinet member was relying was that the original project cost estimate (£16-£18) led to £20m being identified as the amount required to be made available). The figure was provided by Hampshire County Council but did not take into account the change in pupil numbers from 100 to 136 that had since emerged, nor did it take into account the severe Health & Safety and operational impact on the adjoining Birchwood Grove school, plus the extreme site restrictions of building on the College site. It was both reasonable and proper for these elements to be factored into a review of project costs. This led to the revised figure cited by the cabinet member. The quoted comments do not, as read objectively, invite members of the committee to draw any adverse conclusions. Murmurs from members of the committee do not constitute evidence of any particular motivation by the cabinet member to promote dissatisfaction among members with the financial viability of the project nor of their assent to such a finding as the complaint suggests should be inferred. These are inferences the complainant makes. They cannot be reasonably and objectively be drawn from the comments themselves or the way in which they were received. Conclusion The Cabinet Member has fully and immediately accepted the inaccuracy of the reference to the role played by the MP in relation to possible grant funding. He has asked that the records are amended to show the correct position.

It would be unnecessary to refer this for further consideration by the Standards Committee as the elected member has accepted the error and is content to take such action as may be required to correct it. The Code advises that complaints should not be referred to the Committee if informal resolution is available. In all other respects the statements made by the cabinet member have been examined against the facts and advice provided to him and are considered to be factually accurate and based upon officer advice in relation to the projected project costs and the treatment of costs and commitments within the Council’s capital programme. The cabinet member cannot, on the evidence, be described as ‘not honest, truthful or transparent’ as the complaint asserts. Those elements of the complaint are therefore rejected as unfounded. There is no basis to warrant a referral to the Council’s Standards Committee as no potential breach of the Code of Conduct has been identified.

Tony Kershaw Director of Law and Assurance 20 December 2019

 


Update 13 December 2019

There is no material update this week because despite the apologies of Paul Marshall Leader of WSCC at the lack of communication, there has been no communication yet from WSCC following the Scrutiny Committee.

After the meeting Nigel Jupp promised to keep Governors fully informed about the "specialist" report he proposed to commission, to advise Governors as to which firm he proposed to select and to share their terms of reference.  We have heard nothing.

A formal complaint for breach of conduct was lodged with WS Monitoring Officer on 24 October, regarding the misleading information provided to the Progress and Finance Committee.  Other than a mere acknowledgement there has been no response to this complaint in accordance with WSCC Complaint Procedure, and the matter will now be taken further.

The Governors are in contact with Mims Davies the new MP for Mid Sussex to ascertain what assistance she can provide.

 


Update 6 December 2019

Governors were invited to attend the Children and Young Persons Select Committee on 4th December.  The main item on the agenda of this meeting was to consider a Council report on Woodlands Meed.  The meeting was held in Horsham to allow as many people to attend as possible.

Detailed questions were raised with council officers by Councillors on the council report.  A report prepared by Governors giving full facts and information was given by the Chair, who also responded to questions raised by Councillors.

The governors were very grateful for the warm support of the Councillors.  A number of Councillors had been to visit the college site recently, and It was clear that they had a really good understanding of all the problems and issues students face in buildings which are not fit for purpose.  Governors would have been  delighted with the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee :

•    that there must be a decision by end of January

•    that this must be a new building and not a "sticking plaster"

•    that there is no need for a further independent report because there was no evidence presented to the committee which justified this requirement

•    that it was accepted that the Cabinet Member for Education would use his best endeavours to bridge any funding gap

•    that the council should take a robust view and overcome any access problems.

•    that a planning application for the new building be submitted to planning committee as soon as possible.

•    that the committee acted either Option One ( a 100 pupil place new build college ) or Option Two a 136 pupil place new build college ) with the indication that the committee preferred Option Two.

•    that it would be recommended to BPG that Woodlands Meed remain an item on the Agenda until the building is completed.

as this would have meant that at long last, after ten years, the council's  decision to build a new college would have been implemented.

However, unfortunately, it would appear that the Cabinet Member for Education Nigel Jupp is not accepting these recommendations, and is pressing ahead with the proposed review by an independent specialist to ascertain if the existing buildings can be improved to a level that meets SEND regulations and requirements within the budget in any event.

The full debate is broadcast on WSCC video link and can be accessed via the WSCC Website on https://westsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/452977

ITV coverage of the event is available to view using this link https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2019-12-04/council-leader-embarrassed-over-handling-of-new-building-for-west-sussex-school/

Listen to the views of the students on the news that the new college is not being completed https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.1a9d2d34-f721-4e2a-a4e2-051ef39db8f8&share_token=AJ7imDPsT_KKloB0hSufMw&mode=share


Update 29 November 2019

BBC Radio Sussex

On Monday, BBC Radio Sussex interviewed the three main party parliamentary candidates for Mid Sussex and questioned them on their views regarding the situation at Woodlands Meed and what they would do if they were elected.  This was broadcast on Wednesday 27th during the Neil Pringle breakfast show.  All three candidates supported Woodlands Meed, and promised to use the lobbying power of an MP to press for completion of the school.

Radio Sussex also interviewed our Parent Governor Zoe Spooner, who explained the fears and concerns of parents at the school if the new college is not built.

ITV Meridian News

On Thursday ITV Meridian News filmed at the school for a news item which went out on their 6.00pm news.  It can be viewed on https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2019-11-27/sussex-school-children-betrayed-by-council-over-new-college-building/

This was a very supportive piece and as you can hear, our pupils were excellent advocates for the college.

This link has been shared widely , including with all the Heads of all the schools in over 40 authorities.

Visit by Head of Inclusion WSCC, Director of Education and Cabinet Member for Education.

This meeting was supposed to explain the impact of the new SEN Strategy on Woodlands Meed as this has been quoted by Councillors are the reason for pulling the plug on the building.  It became apparent during the conversations that the Strategy has no immediate relevance to Woodlands Meed per se.  The impression was given that as it is no longer planned to increase the numbers of pupils at Woodlands Meed, WSCC no longer consider it necessary to provide a new building, rather ignoring the elephant in the room that the existing facilities do not meet statutory requirements for the existing 103 pupils.

Interestingly, for all those who attended the CLC meeting Helen Johns confirmed that she had mentioned a possibility of a new SEN Free School, although the Director of Education was a pains to say the Council have no plans at present to make the necessary application to the DfE.  We shall see how this works out as the new Waves are released by the Government in due course.

CLC members visit Friday

Those members of the CLC who will be attending the scrutiny committee meeting on 4th December, but who have not visited the college are visiting today 29 November. 

Scrutiny Committee 4th December 2019

As advised in the last bulletin The Children and Young Persons Select Committee will sit at County Hall North, Parkside, Chart Way, Horsham, RH12 1XH on Wednesday 4th December. There is no parking at this venue, but there are a number of public car parks in the vicinity.

The meeting opens at 10.30am and the Woodlands Meed item is scheduled for 11.30 for a 90 min slot for discussion.  It is anticipated that there will be a considerable number of interested parties attending.

Marion Wilcock Chair at Woodlands Meed and Karen George one of the leaders of the CWM campaign have been invited to make a 10 min presentation each and will then be available to answer questions from the committee.

The Director of Education is supposed to have issued a written report with the Agenda papers 7 days before the meeting.  At the time of writing this has only just been issued and will be considered in detail. The one thing that is immediately apparent if the information given by the Director of Education at the meeting yesterday on the options being considered was an alternative fact.   The "fourth option", which he and the Director of Education could not quite remember is indeed a 2 hut replacement scheme.  However, it must be remembered that just because this is an option on a report it does not necessarily mean this is the option which will be chosen by the Cabinet. The Councillors are still open to persuasion.

22 November 2019

WSCC Forward Plan

The Decision “Woodlands Meed College Site, Burgess Hill - Allocation of Funding for Project Delivery” has been deferred as advised by Cllr Nigel Jupp at the CLC meeting until January 2020. This was originally due for decision in September 2019 and had already been deferred once. For details see https://westsussex.moderngov.co.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=7055&PlanId=246&RPID=549287

The Children and Young Persons Select Committee

The Children and Young Persons Select Committee will sit at County Hall North, Parkside, Chart Way, Horsham, RH12 1XH on Wednesday 4th December (Time to be confirmed).  There is no parking at this venue, but there are a number of public car parks in the vicinity.

The key item on the agenda will be Woodlands Meed.

This committee sits to question and scrutinise the decisions of Cabinet Members and to provide them with advice.  It is not a decision-making body.

The Committee will question the Cabinet Member for Education and the Director of Education.  They have invited various parties to give evidence to the committee as external witnesses, and this includes the Head and Chair of Governors.

This is a meeting held in public, but not a public meeting, so although the public are most welcome to attend and will have a keen interest in what is said, unlike CLC meetings there is no opportunity for the public to raise questions or to address the committee.  However, parents and carers and staff may well wish to approach their local County Councillor and ask them to raise questions on their behalf.

Contact details of the members of this Committee can be found at https://westsussex.moderngov.co.uk/mgCommitteeMailingList.aspx?ID=164

It is understood that members of the Central and South Mid Sussex County Local Committee (CLC) will also be attending.  Their contact details can be found at https://westsussex.moderngov.co.uk/mgCommitteeMailingList.aspx?ID=183

Visit by David Barling (Chair of the Children’s and Young Persons Select Committee)

In anticipation of the Committee Meeting referred to above, David Barling the new Chair of this committee attended both College and School Sites today (22nd November) to see for himself the lack of appropriate accommodation and facilities and the contrast with the school facilities.

BBC Radio Sussex

BBC Radio Sussex are interviewing all the Mid Sussex parliamentary candidates at the College Site on Monday 25th November.

ITV Meridian News

ITV Meridian News will be filming at the College Site and interviewing pupils on Wednesday 27th November for an item on their 6.00pm News.

CLC Councillors Visit

CLC Councillors who have not previously visited the college will be visiting on Friday 29th prior to the Select Committee Meeting on 4th December.

Director of Education

As previously reported Paul Wagstaff the Director of Education will be meeting with the Head and Chair of Governors “to explain the new WSCC SEND Strategy” on Thursday 28th November.

Freedom of Information Replies

The Governors have now received replies to two of their four FOI requests.  The responses provided do not appear to the Governors to be complete and they have raised further queries.  More information on these FOIs will be provided when the additional information is provided.

Formal Complaint of Misconduct

There has been no response to date to the formal complaint of mis conduction by a County Councillor relating to information given relating to Woodlands Meed.

 


15 November 2019

Following the meeting with Cabinet Member for Education Nigel Jupp and his education advisor David Simmons, Cllr Jupp paid a further visit to the school and was able to see the contrast in the facilities properly provided at the school and those at the college. 

Governors attended the CLC meeting on 12 November, having given notice of two formal questions.  The meeting was also attended by Cllr Jupp and some 60 parents and supporters of the school. The venue was packed to capacity.  An account of this meeting has been published in the Mid Sussex Times https://www.midsussextimes.co.uk/education/woodlands-meed-meeting-sees-tears-anger-and-frustration-995433

The title describes the meeting.

Unfortunately, the article does not mention the contribution of the Governors.  However, a recording of the questions raised by Chair of Governors can be heard on the Burgess Hill Uncovered Facebook page for 13.11.19.

Following the meeting a press release has been issued (see below)

At the CLC meeting Cllr Jupp stated that the decision on Woodlands Meed (originally due in September 2019) has been deferred yet again until January 2020 “to allow a full review to take place”.  All meetings and information have been stalled since 4th July “to allow a review to take place”.  It is difficult to conceive what could possibly be being reviewed which takes six months and requires so much secrecy that no one is allowed to know what it is that is being reviewed.

The latest update on the Forward Plan issued today still shows the decision date as November 2019 …so who knows…..

The new SEN Strategy has been given as a reason for the delay in replies given to Councillors questioning the situation.  There is of course currently no such formal strategy as it has yet to be formally approved by the Cabinet Member for Education.  The Head of Inclusion was asked to identify where in the draft strategy reference has been made to Woodlands Meed and the impact of the strategy on the new build.  The response from Paul Wagstaff Director of Education was “…The only implication that this could have on Woodlands Meed College is that we would not necessarily require additional places at the college on top of those already provided…”.  So we still have 102 students in accommodation which does not meet their educational needs, Strategy or no Strategy.

Paul Wagstaff is due to meet the Head and Governors on 29 November “to explain the new strategy”.

WSCC have decided to set up a new Project Board to implement the new Strategy (at such time as it is formally approved) and in a letter to all governors in the County invited volunteers to sit on this board.  Governors from Woodlands Meed responded within hours of receiving the invitation but have been told “We’re sorry, but we’re afraid that there isn’t space to accommodate you on the SEND and Inclusion Strategy Programme Board or the Task and Finish groups”.

It has now been agreed that the Children and Young Persons Select Committee meeting which was scheduled to be held on 4th December, will now be held on 4th December at the County Hall building in Horsham.  The Governors and a representative of CWM have been invited to address the meeting as external witnesses.  This is a public meeting.  Further information will be provided as soon as these are made available by WSCC.

Press Release issued 13.11.19 following CLC Meeting 12.11.19

The support of all the CLC Members was most welcome and it is encouraging that at last they felt free to express personal opinions and convictions.  However, sadly, Cllr Joy Dennis put her finger on it.  They are "backbenchers". They have little power to make or overturn decisions.  We hope most sincerely that their lobbying will now be effective.


What we still have not got to the bottom of is - who at WSCC is controlling this project?  Who pulled the plug as soon as it got to the point where a contractor was about to be appointed?  Who decided to freeze out Governors refusing them any information?  Who is still issuing or instructing to be published excuses which on inspection do not stand up to scrutiny?

Unless Cllr Richard Burrett was dissembling when he repeatedly confirmed that the funding was available and the project was going ahead - clearly not the Cabinet Member for Education.  We will see if the newly appointed Cabinet Member for Education fares any better.  We can only hope so, and will offer him, and the Scrutiny Committee all the support we can for this purpose.
In the meantime, the Governors will not stand by and wait for the Council to work its way through yet more meetings.  The root of the matter is that the Council decided the buildings at the college did not meet acceptable standards in 2009.  The Council's own documents confirm that they do not meet acceptable standards and statutory requirements.  No school can continue to operate in buildings which are unsuitable and where it cannot provide the primary requirement to deliver the national curriculum.  There are bodies outside the Council who are concerned with such matters which is where the Governors will now direct their attention.

 

8 November 2019

Following the appointment of Cllr Nigel Jupp as the new Cabinet Member for Education, we were pleased that in one of his first external meetings he, together with his Senior Adviser advising on education and Special Educational Needs Cllr David Simmons meet the Governors of Woodlands Meed at the College site.  The Governors went through the full background of the situation and the previous commitments which have been made and promises broken.  The Cllrs were then taken on a tour of the college site identifying the many areas where the college does not meet the statutory guidance for provision of accommodation for SEN Schools.

It is accepted that this was a fact finding meeting for these councillors newly in post, and that therefore no detailed responses or commitments could be expected at that meeting. However, the governors confirmed that they would continue with their strategy to use any means available to them to procure a new building for the college.

Governors had been advised some weeks ago that it was proposed that there would be a specific meeting of the Children and Young Persons Select Committee to discuss Woodlands Meed to which Governors would be one of the parties invited to speak.  However, at the time of writing nothing more has been heard about this proposal.

The CLC meeting will be in Albourne on 12 November.  For those staff, parents & carers who wish to attend the details are shown on https://westsussex.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=183&MId=2038&Ver=4   Governors will be represented at this meeting.  A decision has yet to be made as to whether to raise formal questions at this meeting, as past experience has shown this is not an effective forum for obtaining reliable information.

Governors have currently 4 outstanding detailed requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act, and if not satisfied with the veracity of the responses will be pursuing these with Information Commissioner’s Office.

Governors have lodged a formal complaint of Misconduct against a councillor for misinformation provided to a council meeting.  The response of the Monitoring Officer is awaited.  If it is considered this response does not deal properly with the complaint the matter will be taken to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Governors are considering whether to make a complaint about the conduct of another Councillor.

As one of the reasons given in replies given by WSCC to current  enquiries about the situation regarding Woodlands Meed is that it is to be reviewed in the light of the WSCC SEND Strategy 2019 – 2021 the Head of Inclusion has been requested to provide governors with a copy of this Strategy and to identify expressly which extracts are relied upon in this statement.  To date this information has not been received.  However, the Director of Education is to come to WM at the end of November “to explain the new strategy” to the Governors.  A further update will be issued following this meeting.

25 October 2019:

Following the press release issued last week the plight of Woodlands Meed was picked up by The Mid Sussex Times and BBC Radio Sussex.

The link to the article in Mid Sussex Times is https://www.midsussextimes.co.uk/business/frustration-at-woodlands-meed-as-timeline-for-new-college-appears-to-be-slipping-1-9115145

The link to the broadcast is https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07pp6z3, the WM item is approximately 7.5 minutes into the recording.

The Governors are reviewing carefully responses given at the Performance and Finance Select Committee, the Children and Young Persons Select Committee and replies to written questions raised at full Council.  Formal complaints are being laid where the information provided was inaccurate.

We are advised that there are suggestions for a Children and Young Persons Select Committee and/ or a CLC meeting specifically to deal with Woodlands Meed in November.  We will share details of any such meeting with Parents & Carers and Staff as soon as these are received, as we are sure you will wish to attend.

18 September 2019:

West Sussex County Council renege on promise to build new College.

The replies to questions raised by Cllr Kirsty Lord ( Lib Dem Hassocks and Burgess Hill South ) and Chris Oxlade (Labour Bewbush and Ifield West ) reveal that plans for a new college building for Woodlands Meed are in jeopardy.

Marion Wilcock, Chair of Governors said, “We had suspicions that WSCC had no intention of honouring their promise as soon as a new project manager appeared on the scene back in June and said “There is no certainty this project will go ahead”.   We asked detailed questions about issues that were being raised and challenged the initial project costs suspecting that issues were being created to delay and the project costs inflated. We did not receive a reply to any of our queries

The response from Sport England to a standard planning consultation was said to be an issue, but WSCC refused to provide a copy to the Head and Governors, who have been forced to make a FOI request. 

We have made repeated requests for meetings to both officers and Cabinet Member for Education Richard Burrett.  This Councillor has said in public forums several times that he has been trying to make arrangements for a meeting with the Governors, but we have never received a suggested meeting date from him.   I can tell you if we had, the Governors would have dropped everything to meet him.

In response to yet another request for information , Jerry Dillon, Consultant for WSCC wrote to Governors “May we remind you and the college this is a WSCC lead project and therefore we will conduct this project accordingly……..  We have worked with the college and we will continue to, but not on the college terms”.

The fact remains the prefabricated college building is not fit for purpose.  It does not provide accommodation which meets the requirements of Building Bulletin 104 (Departmental guidance on area standards for special schools), Education Act 1996 and the School Premises (England) Regulations 2012.  Replacements for the 40yr old huts will not make this building comply with statutory requirements.

In August 2017 following formal complaints by governors about the conditions at Woodlands Meed, WSCC were required to attend the DfE and gave an undertaking to address these issues and provide appropriate accommodation.  Failure to deliver a new building with appropriate accommodation will be in breach of these statutory requirements and the undertaking to the DfE.

We understand a new Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Education have been appointed.  We will be seeking an urgent meeting with them so see if this issue can be resolved and the matter put back on track.  Governors have always expressed the view that they will be pragmatic provided the needs of the pupils are met.  However, until this is clarified, our view is that the Council is not fit for purpose and cannot be trusted to provide for vulnerable children.”

9 September 2019:

Attached is the presentation governors made staff and parents & carers at a meeting on 6 September.  You will note that WSCC have now disclosed that the vacillation since 4th July is in fact a deliberate decision not to consult with the school or take into account any of their views or concerns.

Governors are now taking steps to ensure that the voice of the school is heard and that the college building meets the needs of our pupils.

If parents & carers or staff would like more detailed information please  do not hesitate to contact the governors directly. The governors will be manning a new College Update table at parents evenings and at the fireworks evening.

22 July 2019:

The focus of the Governors has been to progress the construction of the new college building.  Following the decision of WSCC to allocate £20M in the budget for this project we were excited to think that at long last after all the battles we were actually going to get a new building and there was a timeline produced by WSCC to deliver this by September 2021.

We are more than disappointed that such are the delays and slippage, we now think this is unlikely to be achieved. Although WSCC continue to state they are aiming for September 2021,

We were so concerned that we raised formal questions in public at the recent County Local Council meeting, not all of which have been answered satisfactorily.

Although as previously reported on 21 June we had been told the next Project Board would look at the revised initial designs currently being worked on, the governors have not been given sight of any plans other than that initial layout proposals.

We have received initial very broad-brush costs estimates showing the project as coming in at more than £20M, to include all contingencies, profit costs, inflation, planning and survey fees and professional costs.  The Governors raised detailed questions about some of the figures which have been produced and understand WSCC is working to refine these figures.

As far we are aware no action has been taken towards the procurement of a building contractor.

We are advised consultants and surveyors for the project team and required surveys are being selected, of whom we await details and a number of preplanning consultations are now underway.

It is not yet clear if there will be sufficient information in time to enable the Business Case to be prepared for a decision in September, as proposed in the WSCC Forward Plan.

Work will continue on the project during the summer and we will be issuing a Governors Newsletter at the beginning of next term, when hopefully we will have more positive news, and will advise what action the Governors will be taking if the September date for the Business Case is missed.

1 June 2019:

The update today of WSCC Forward Plan shows that the proposal to ask the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills to agree the allocation of funds from the Capital Programme to enable the rebuilding and expansion project at Woodlands Meed to proceed has been added to the Forward Plan and that this decision will be made in September 2019.

This means that the project is still continuing and that the design and detailed costing must be agreed by September in order to allow the decision to agree to release the funding for the construction to be made.

21 June 2019: 

There was a Project Board meeting on 20 June to consider a schedule of the costed options for the new building, which included consideration of the possibility of decanting the college to a temporary site, to allow for easier construction and  better configured building and access in the long run.

Although the costs schedule were fairly broad brush estimates at this stage, it was clear that  temporary relocation of the whole college was prohibitively expensive and took the figures well outside the total scheme budget figure of £20M.

The architects are now looking again at the initial designs for the building on the playing field to see if the configuration can be improved.  They are confident that they will be able to design a well-functioning building on the site.

Disappointingly, as previously notified, there is a significantly delay in the selection and appointment of the contractor.  The WSCC procurement board have decided to start again with an alternative framework.  Contractors from the framework will be invited to submit an Expression of Interest (“EOI”) from which a short list of contractors will be selected to present a mini tender, and a contractor then selected.  This whole procedure will take some months. It is not known at present when the EOIs will be issued. Governors are pressing to be included in the selection process.

Disappointingly, as raised at the CLC meeting, WSCC have withdrawn their agreement to provide a 450m2 sports hall as part of the project.  It has been confirmed that WSCC are now only prepared to fund the basic minimum size hall required by Building Bulletin 104. The school will review their current application for funding to the Sports Council with the architects to establish if it is possible to obtain a grant for the additional difference in funding which will now be required to construct a four court hall, the minimum standard required by Sport England.  If this is not possible then the school will reluctantly not proceed with the proposed Centre for Inclusive Sport

Following the CLC meeting last week, a WSCC Councillor has been invited to join the Project Board, and Cllr Anne Jones attended the last meeting.

The next Project Board will look at the revised initial designs currently being worked on and review more closely the initial draft costing schedule.


14 June 2019:

Although it may appear to those not directly involved to have been very quiet, in fact the architects have been working hard with Governors.  There have been a number of meetings on site where everyone has been working out how the site can best be used to provide a building fit for purpose for many years to come and with the best possible facilities.  The architects are very experienced in the design of schools for children with special needs and the Governors have a lot of confidence in their ability to produce what the college needs if they are permitted to do so.  

It has always been accepted that building on the playing fields was not an ideal solution, but the site is the only open land available.  However, the architects have proposed that it might be possible to decant the college to a temporary site which would enable the new building to be sited on the footprint of the present building.  The temporary site being considered is the land at the back of the MUGA at the school site.

On the basis that this would be temporary only, would provide the equivalent or better accommodation than the current college huts and still enable the curriculum to be delivered, would be quicker and easier to build and would result long term in a better configuration and access for the college with a better outcome for students, the governors are prepared to consider this.  A costed report as to whether this is feasible and cost effective will be presented to a Project Board meeting on 20th June.

Governors were disappointed when, at the last Project Board meeting, comments from a WSCC representative, gave rise to a number of concerns relating to the funding and even the way forward with WSCC.  Further there were changes in the procurement process for the appointment of the contractor, proposed changes to the agreed specification and accommodation and facilities schedule and withdrawal of support for the larger sports hall.

Whilst governors do not normally attend the Community Local Councillors meetings held in public it was felt that as Woodlands Meed  update is an agenda item and that Councillor Richard Burrett, the WSCC Cabinet Member for Education and Training, was attending this meeting to answer questions on progress, it was appropriate to raise these concerns with the Councillors present.  Notice was given of a number of questions in advance of the meeting on 12 June.  Whilst the WSCC officers present preferred not to give detailed answers at the meeting, Councillor Richard Burrett did confirm that college building is definitely going ahead and that there is a committed budget of £20M.  He also reassured the meeting that it would be of an appropriate specification with built in sustainability in line with government and WSCC policies.  The governors are still pressing for full replies to their questions.

The governors do however consider that they should advise parents, carers and staff that whilst Cllr Burrett did stress the commitment to delivering the new building by September 2021, the governors have their doubts as to whether this will be possible in the light of the significant delays by WSCC which have now occurred. 

The Governors are committed to keeping this project moving forward in whatever way they can.  Most students are brought to college either by mini bus or in a taxi but for those of you who bring your child you may have seen a number of governors, outside the college, conducting a traffic count during the drop off and pick up times.  Two of the governors worked with students also to continue the count throughout the day. This was an interesting and useful learning exercise for those students who helped us.  The results will enable the school to respond to any traffic queries in due course.

It had been hoped that a design would be available by now to view and for comment, but the architects are not at this stage yet.

Please support the Pop Up Shop which will be in the Martlets, Burgess Hill Town Centre 19th to 21 June inclusive.  Students will be running the shop and selling products which they have made themselves as part of their Enterprises.  This will fantastic learning opportunity for them, and enormous thanks to all the staff who have worked so hard to make this happen.


New Building Update 2 - April 2019

The architectural practice Haverstock Associates have been selected to start work on the design of the new building.  Haverstock are an award winning  public sector practice with considerable expertise and experience in the design of SEN schools.  The selection panel (comprising WSCC officers and advisors and the head and governors from the school) were impressed by their collaborative approach, and their deep understanding of the requirements of the different types of special educational needs.

New building Update 1 - April 2019

Governors have been working with WSCC officers to prepare the design brief for the Architect and Building Contractor, which has included the brilliant Concept Designs prepared by pupils.

Presentations will be made to WSCC representatives and Governors by prospective Architect and potential Building Contractors on Monday 29th April, following which formal appointments will be made. 

A further update with the details of the Architect and Building Contractor selected will be made shortly after 29th April.

New Building Update 2- February 2019

Our learners have been busy sharing their ideas for the new college building.

New Building Update 2 - February 2019

WSCC have agreed the capital funds over the next three years for the new college building.  A dedicated Project Manager has been appointed and work has now started on the selection of the Architect to prepare the design of the new building ready for consultation and planning.

Pupils have already been contributing to the concept design brief for the Architect and parents will be consulted as soon as there is an initial design to review.

New Building Update 1 - February 2019

The Cabinet Member for Education signed off the Decision for the Woodlands Meed Design Fees releasing £500k to fund the design of the new building.


 

New Building Update 3 - January 2019

The decision to fund the new building in full has passed the next stage and will be recommended for formal approval at the next full Council meeting.

The funding will be phased over the next three years, so that the new building will be ready for occupation in September 2021.

The Timeline is on track and meetings are already taking place with council officers to start the preliminary work on plans for the new building.

New Building Update 2 - January 2019

The proposal  to fund the £500k design fees for the new building  will be on Capital Programme due to be considered at the January  meeting of the WSCC Performance and Finance Select Committee.

New Building Update - January 2019

The huts, currently used for education at the College, only have temporary planning permissions for this use, and one consent expires very shortly.  

It has been agreed that this temporary planning consent will be extended only until September 2021 on the basis that the new building will by then be constructed and in operation, and an application on this basis will be submitted in the next couple of days.

Although not a binding commitment to construct the building by this date, it is welcomed as a clear indication of the intention of the Council.

We are therefore, currently, still on track for the timeline issued in November 2018.


New Building Update - December 2018

A step closer to the new college building has been taken. 

The Council have confirmed that Asset Hub are minded to recommend funding for the design fees, ready for Capital Project Review in January.  The proposed decision to fund the fees has been published, as required, in the County Council’s Forward Plan of Key Decisions.

The decision to include the building in the WSCC capital programme is anticipated in February 2019.  It will then be possible to appoint design consultants and move towards an initial design.

We are therefore, currently, still on track for the time line issued in November.

Governors are continuing to meet with officers, so that as much as possible is in place, so that we can move to the design phase as soon as the green light is given in February.

 


New Building Update - November 2018

The Governors have been holding extensive meetings with WSCC officers and other relevant and interested parties over the last few weeks in order to progress the proposal for the new college building.

They have contributed to the Business Case to be submitted to the Asset Hub to support the case for funding the design fees.

A timetable has now been agreed for the various stages up to the opening of the school in September 2021 (see below).

The Governors will keep Staff, Parents and Carers updated via School Bulletins and on the School Website. Please contact the governors if you have any queries, by emailing office@woodlandsmeed.co.uk

Woodlands Meed – Draft Timeline – Updated November 2018

2018

December Asset Hub consideration of Strategic Outline Business Case( SOC)
 

2019

January - Capital and Asset Board consideration of SOC & Cabinet Member Decision on SOC Finance (design fees only)
February to August -  Appointment of design team/ Detailed feasibility design/ Design to planning stage/ Submit planning application/ Construction design
September -  Planning decision
October - Full Business Case (FBC) submission to Hub
November - FBC to CAPITAL & Asset Board (CAB)
December - Cabinet Member decision on full budget

2020

Spring Term Place contract & Start on site
 

2021

Jul / Aug Completion & FF&E and ICT fit-out
Sep Proposed Opening