In any densely populated area you would expect to have a secondary school to serve the children and the community. If you didn't have one you would expect the local authority to build one. What you wouldn't expect is for the local authority to take away the only school you did have, together with the playing fields, and leave you without altogether.

Miles Off Target: Inconsiderate school place management is forcing children to have to go to school many miles from where they live, sometimes involving journeys that take over an hour by bus. In densely populated areas, such as London and the suburbs, this should not be happening. So why is it?

Logistical Nightmare: When it was time for my daughter to go to a secondary school in 2005, there were over fifty children living in Slade Green that couldn't get a local secondary school place. When I say local, I mean within five miles. Those children were instead offered places at schools at Falconwood and Sidcup. Both locations involve a double bus journey taking over an hour in total. Alternatively parents have to take them in the car. In a densely populated London Borough such as Bexley, this is wholly unacceptable and a major logistic problem.

Ten Years After - Still No Better: Ten years on, the school placement situation is still in disarray. My next door neighbour recently applied to five different schools and was unable to get places at any of them. Instead he has to ferry his children to and from a school at Charlton everyday. A thirty minute car journey and a distance of about nine miles by road. Is it surprising that there is so much additional traffic on the roads in the morning when school placement is so inadequately managed?

Local School Sacrificed: We used to have a secondary school in Slade Green, which is a fairly large community island. The school was called Howbury Grange and in fact the facility is right opposite this house. Ultimately given up on as a school by the local authority, it was renamed the Howbury Centre and was handed over for adult education, sporting and recreational facilities. Gymnastics, gym, table tennis, toddler's groups, etc, and it also housed the local library, so at least it was still serving the community.

Robbed Of Local Facilities: The local people were also able to use the playing fields to play football and tennis, etc, and to walk their dogs, so it was a great local facility and very useful to the people of Slade Green. However, without giving any consideration to the people of Slade Green, or the needs of the children, Bexley Council decided to sell off the school, the school grounds and the playing fields for development. No doubt somebody got a nice sized brown envelope and the people in Slade Green had no say as they lost a valuable facility for all time.

Howbury Grange Secondary School that became the Howbury Centre that became extinct

A five second walk to secondary school that became a double bus journey taking over an hour.

People Locked Out: In preparation for the sell off, and to get people used to being without their much loved facility, Bexley Council locked the local people out and prevented them from walking their dogs and playing on the fields by erecting a very large fence. They blamed the need for this fence on the fact that there had been occasional trouble with children breaking into the centre at night.

Don't Call The Police! They never bothered to ask the police to address the problem, they simply used it as an excuse to put up the fence. Of course, the kids just climbed over the gates, as you would expect. Ironically part of the adjacent facility was also used as a police liaison centre at the time, however, the police in the centre were never called upon by the Council to liaise with the children causing the nuisance.

CCTV Simple: To try and keep our facility open it was suggested to Bexley Council that some CCTV would enable any problems with troublesome kids to be dealt with instantly. Bexley Council's lame response was that there was no point in using CCTV because the kids wear hoodies. However, CCTV can be monitored and it enables one to instantly call the police to deal with any intruders. The word soon gets around and lo and behold the trouble goes away because the kids only do it if they think they can get away with it. Everyone knows that, don't they? Yes, of course they do. They were just lying through their teeth!

Mind Made Up: Bexley Council decided to sell off our school and our playing fields and didn't stop for a moment to consider the people. Apparently people in Slade Green are somewhat low priority and don't warrant much consideration. Instead, they're building more houses and more people will still have no secondary school. We will also be significantly short of places for infants and juniors. But that's ok because someone will make lots of money. Bexley Council cannot manage anything very well it seems, apart from their own bank accounts perhaps and of course making a mess of things for us! They can certainly manage that!

More People, But Still No School! Against the wishes of the people that live in Slade Green, Bexley Council have already sold off and built on part of the playing fields and another valuable facility has been sacrificed. Where are the children in the new houses going to go to school? If we wish our children to go to school, we should at least make sure they have a school to go to. Of course we would have liked to have kept some of our facility to be able to play and walk our dogs as we used to be able to but to Bexley Council, it's too much to ask it seems!

It's A Mess! Living in Slade Green, our nearest local secondary schools are now at Northumberland Heath and Bexleyheath, locations which both involve bus journies or long walks of 40 minutes or more. As secondary school places had become an issue, in 2005 I spoke to the headmasters of those two schools to get their perspective on the matter. They both agreed that there were serious issues with finding enough school places for local pupils and that there was no more room to expand either of these schools. The headmaster at Bexleyheath said he had children coming to his school from Blackheath, displacing local children from here. Blackheath is in the London Borough of Greenwich, and is itself a 35 minute single bus journey.

Traffic Problems Compounded: Of course many parents end up driving their children to school and this is why we have so much additional traffic on the roads. It is also why the roads are so much less congested during the school holidays. Children crossing over into other boroughs travelling long distances to go to a school wastes everybody's time. It all adds to making the roads more congested and life more difficult for everyone.

All Authorities Must Wake Up: For the sake of fairness and convenience to our children and easing the burden of congestion on our roads, we should be giving some serious thought to this particular issue. We cannot keep cramming more people into a given area whilst at the same time taking away their facilities, such as schools and open space. There has to be a healthy, realistic and practical balance. Our local authority appears to have lost sight of that! Or is just another case of they just don't care? Whatever the case, they're not the only ones!

Slade Green schools complex, comprising of infant, primary and secondary schools.

Our schools and playing fields in 2006. The secondary school had now been handed over to adult education.

Our schools and playing fields in 2013. The triangular site to the left is expected to accommodate another 350 houses.

What used to be our secondary school and playing fields bulldozed for housing to boost Bexley Council's coffers.

The triangular site on the far left is also expected to accommodate another 350 houses.
So many houses and still no school.

Crosstalk by Taz...
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