Sunday, 6 October 2013

£2,000-a-month for Arden security over footpath row

TAXPAYERS are footing a £2,000-a-month bill for a security guard so the public can use a footpath through Arden school’s grounds and pupils can be kept "safe", its headmaster has said.

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Martin Murphy says Arden and council bosses are paying for the staff so it can meet legal requirement to open the footpath while keeping children “safe”.

A security guard will “escort” those who wish to use the footpath, he said.

Arden closed the footpath in 2008 by putting up gates at Milverton Road, blocking access along the footpath, along the edge of the site to Station Road.

It says the alternative is a diverted footpath – but this will cost £100,000.

In 2011, residents applied to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) to have the footpath officially recognised.

The council threw out the application but this was overturned on appeal at the independent Planning Inspectorate.

In a letter to parents, Mr Murphy said: “We believe it is totally inappropriate to have a public footpath across the site due to our safeguarding duty of care.”

He said the governing body had carried out “detailed risk assessments” to find a way to re-open the footpath and keep pupils and staff safe.

Meetings with staff and the council had not found a solution and the school hired temporary fencing during the summer holidays for £300 a week to “secure the main school buildings”.

This could not remain as pupils and staff needed to access buildings and un-named alternative was not accepted by the council “following further pressure and threats of potential legal action from local residents” he said.

He said: “Following further discussions with SMBC we have now agreed to put into operation a managed solution with a security person opening the gates and escorting those who wish to use the footpath between 8.45am and 6pm.”

Mr Murphy wrote: “This, as you will understand, is at a considerable cost to the school and SMBC who are supporting us in manning this short term solution (some £2,000 per month).

“This is sadly using up much needed educational resources.”

Yet he said he is seeking governing body approval to “reroute the footpath to a suitable location in the vicinity of the school boundary”. He said: “The estimated cost for a diverted footpath is approximately £100,000.”

Residents had previously raised concerns about a diversion, he said.

The council threw out the bid to have the footpath officially recognised in March 2011 as it said the route had not been used uninterrupted for 20 years, a key test.

It said available evidence could also not show that the school intended to allow it to be used a right of way when it was open, another key test.

The inspectorate said 39 evidence forms from the public with 41 letters said the footpath was used by the public

Inspector Barney Grimshaw said these show “enough use by the public throughout both the period from 1980-2000 and from 1988-2008 to raise the presumption that the route had been dedicated as a public footpath”.

He added: “The current head of the school has stated that she has never seen anyone use the route during the seven years that she has been head.

“She also stated that the caretaker and other staff had reported to her that people have been seen walking through the school site but that on each occasion they have been challenged and have left the site.”

The chair of governors said in a letter in 2008 that “I quite accept that passage through the grounds has taken place for many years” and acting head Patti West said in a 2007 email that
“there is a public footpath from Milverton Road through the school site” he said.

He found: “There is no incontrovertible evidence that the claimed footpath cannot reasonably be alleged to subsist and I therefore find that the existence of a public footpath on the claimed route has been reasonably alleged.”


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31 comments:

  1. The footpath has been throught the school grounds for years and years and my children have been at the school during that time and many others of my friends and no one was worried about attack, abuse etc. and it never happened, the front and side of the school is aways open and you can without much trouble enter from the little lane at the back. We are just getting things out of all proportion in this country, the children all wander around Knowle before, during and after school times and are far more likely to be approached then. Stop being so silly about £2000 a month, I am sure you could get several part-time mothers etc. for a fraction of that to do the job and help them out in a time of unemployment. You could get I am sure out of work students who needed a job and were one of the millions unemployed. £2000 what a joke.

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    1. Surely there would be no need for anyone to do the job if residents just walked round the road way instead?

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  2. Totally agree with the above. What a farce!

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  3. It's a long way round if you live at the end of Milverton, and have been able to take the short cut for over 40 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! without any danger to the children.

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    1. It's a long way round if you live in Dorridge!!

      Surely a little light walking wont do you any harm??

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  4. When I said totally agree I meant that I totally agree with 10:15 and 22:55. What an absolute farce!

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  5. This WAS a public right of way. I do not understand how it was legal to block its use. It really is a waste of money to pay for a "gatekeeper". What if someone wants to take the route at the weekend?

    Just what are we trying to protect the youngsters from????

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  6. Not to school, but to Drs. Dentists and other things in Knowle. This footpath was not for school children it was for the general public and has been in use for over 40 years. So nothing to do with walking from Dorridge.

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  7. Much ado about nothing.

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  8. Why worry when I have just heard that they are going to build a new school further down the playing field and knock down the present one and sell the site for housing, this all starts in March 2014. So what is the problem about the footpath as it will no longer be by the new school. I wonder are they going to knock down the new 6th form that cost so much money only a very few years ago??

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  9. To be fair, 40 years ago schools didn't have stringent safeguarding policies as they do today and I can understand the Head wanting to control who is entering the school site. I don't agree however, that spending money on a security guard is a worthwhile allocation of funds.

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  10. Unfortunately, Arden School has a long history of bullying its neighbours, and the current head is continuing in a similar vein. We want schools to be safe, but Arden have an attitude that they are more important than anything else in the world.

    The school also has a long track record of mismanagement:

    £4.5million spent on school buildings then they complained that the rat infested temporary classrooms should be kept because this new space was inadequate. The building named after the then Chair of Governors had structural problems and is mainly empty space, though an expensive boardroom was included and also an IT room with expensive desks that they then didn't want to let children use. They spent £20,000 on fencing off the rear gate a few years ago to deliberately block the path, yet the rest of the school was left open.

    They spent a lot of money on an all weather games area but having had a good plan (which a included safe access path to the school away from busy Station Road), they decided they wanted it closer to the school to save time they ignored criticism about the drainage, so the pitch doesn't work and can't be used and school children continue to spill into the road as they don't fit on the pavements near the school.

    It is no surprise that although they knew that the footpath could have been approved for 5 years, they deliberately developed things around and across it to try and make it difficult to re-open it rather than work with the community to find a compromise solution. I was told that they even used presentations by children telling of their terror of rape and dog attacks (clearly an everyday occurrence in Knowle) to try and embarrass the neighbours into giving in.

    Appeal was lost by the School over a year ago and the Public Inquiry (where the school employed expensive consultants and solicitors against the handful of neighbours who made their case) was determined in May, yet the School did nothing, even when they knew they were breaking the law.

    The alternative footpath should not cost £100,000 - it is some number plucked out of the air based on a very high specification to make it seem impossible and unreasonable, so how can you have sensible discussions when the School is using its newsletters to put out misleading propaganda (it wasn't so long ago that Mrs Green sent out a letter on the footpath suggesting that it would cause them issues like Baby P - a disgusting use of a tragedy in circumstances completely unrelated to the footpath)?

    Yes, taxpayers should be concerned about the waste of money at Arden - but they should be looking at the last 5 years of wasteful spending.

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  11. Would residents not feel a little embarrassed being escorted through the school by a security guard? It sounds as if a little more sensible discussion and compromise is needed here.

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  12. To 11:36 - where on earth do you get your information from - the daily record? A lot of what you say is utter garbage and I would know - I work there! The Smart centre - named after the chair of governors has no problems and is used as a main teaching space, the pupils have full access both and out of lesson to the computers. The board room is used all day every day.
    The all weather pitch is maintained to a high standard and is used by all pupils in lessons.
    It is completely inappropriate to allow any public footpath through the school grounds. Whilst you may think everyone from Knowle is perfect, is it not a little naive to even risk dodgy characters and criminals to wander through the school? It would only take one incident to close the school due to children's safety being compromised. Aside form that when the path was open for people to roam as they pleased there was dog muck everywhere - lovely people of Knowle! Stop wingeing and just take the long walk round, doesn't sound like you have much to do apart from moan and complain.

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  13. I find it really hard to believe that people think its acceptable to have a public footpath that goes through a school. Only last week, there was a post sent around regarding a school in Lichfield, where a lady had been spotted on a number of occasions hiding in the school bushes, she had also been spotted getting into a car which had two men in there, they sat parked outside the school. I have heard on too many occasions of this sort of behaviour going on around schools.
    To think that local neighbours, some of them maybe parents, can be so naïve to it, makes me quite scared.
    My opinion is, that the general public should definitely not be allowed to walk through the school, to be honest, I can’t see why anyone would want to walk through a school? Walk around, it may also help the obesity crisis we have in the UK.
    It is much safer for the pupils, if Arden can have as much control on who’s entering the school. I seem to get the impression that the local neighbours feel it’s a vendetta against them, why don’t they realise, Arden won’t be interested in causing conflicts with locals, it has more important things to deal with. Arden is simply doing what is best for the pupils and their safety.
    Yes, it may be an easier walk home for pupils through the back gate, but by opening the gate and making it a public pathway you are allowing a gateway for ANYONE to enter.
    Reading some of your comments..
    ‘it’s been open since I was young, never hurt us’
    ‘What exactly are you protecting them from?’

    Believe you me, think of your worst nightmare and X it by 100.

    Please don’t be so naïve

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    1. Was the post about the alleged Lichfield school incident sent around by Arden School by any chance ?
      If the risks are so high maybe all children should be schooled at home - as 2 gates will make no difference to anyone who actually means to do something they shouldn't ?

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    2. You are coming across as quite uncaring, which I'm sure you don't mean to be!!

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  14. Regarding the comment made by Anonymous 14 October 2013 11:36 which read.....

    ‘Arden have an attitude that they are more important than anything else in the world’

    your correct, this is a safety matter and pupil safety is the most important thing to them in the world.

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  15. Well wait until the new affordable housing (council housing) is built in knowle,people from the north of the Solihull borough will be moving in, and threre children will be moving into local schools.I think we are misled by the words affordable housing.and its naïve to think these propertys will go to local people, I have a friend that works for Solihull council and they have told me most propertys go to people with issues or have children with issues,and that most of the tennents selected for new propertys are from chelmsley wood and the north of Solihull,Most other housing authoritys have a local connection rule that if you don't have a local connection then you cant be selected for those propertys but unfortunately Solihull don't have those rules .there are many hard working people that live in council homes or need a council home because they have been made redundant or lost their home through no fault of their own but it seems that many of these propertys wont be given to those that deserve them

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  16. Don't understand your point at all. What has that got to do with Arden?
    Arden HAS to address this as a school can fail an Ofsted inspection purely on safeguarding issues. Arden is an outstanding school and wants to stay that way.

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  17. Well how outstanding will the school be when its over run with children from problem familys ! we will have more than a foot path to worry about.

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    1. The school is outstanding because staff are non-judgemental and help all children to make progress, whatever their background.

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  18. A massive smell of snobs and nimbys in the air!!!

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  19. What I do not understand is what all the fuss over people being able to access the School grounds by a footpath, you can get in from other parts of the grounds and even from the front, so how is shutting the footpath going to make the grounds safe? All the locals know of several ways to get in. So to those who thing that closing the footpath will make their child safe are in a dream world. As I walk through the park most days, half the school seem to be there a various times of the day, their children are much more likely to be abducted from their than from someone using a footpath. Do you homework and see how little difference it would make.

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    1. The locals have no reason to be in there whether they can get in or not! You wouldn't dream of walking across somebody's garden or driveway just because it is the most direct route to the shops. When the children are in the park after school they are no longer the responsibility of the school; if they are on the school site, then yes they are, and of course should be kept safe.

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  20. You have missed my point, and that is if the locals can get in so can the 'child abducters etc' so the footpath would not make any difference. Also the children are in the park in school time, they are there eating their lunch, loads of them, just take a walk and see. I will say again that if I or any of the locals can get in anytime so can others.

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    1. It would make a big interest. It means strangers can be detected and challenged more easily by staff.

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    2. It makes a big difference. Not having it, means strangers can be detected and challenged more easily by staff.

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  21. Wouldn't it just make a lot more sense having a fenced off footpath skirting the Eastern boundary, going behind the sixth form and along the Eastern edge of the field to the bridleway.

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  22. More nonsense from the school "management". Have the legal requirements changed - No. Has the path changed - No. Has the "risk" to children increased - No !
    The change is the school wanting to waste more taxpayers money to to be able to say they've done something different!

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    1. legal requirements *have* changed though, if you consider the safeguarding/duty of care responsibilities and are comparing back to when the path was first used.

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