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Urgent News :

New Building Update

 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 December, 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