READERS’ LETTERS February 10

Readers’ letters from the February 10 issue of the Observer.

WE ARE writing as a group of parents of children at Central CofE Junior School.

So far the school has maintained a dignified silence in response to several provocative letters to the Observer.

However, we now feel that these attempts by a small number of local residents to do down this great local school should not be allowed to continue.

It is worth noting that in December 2010, Ofsted deemed West Sussex County Council as inadequate in its procedures for safeguarding children.

WSCC stated in a press release its desire to ’assure residents that the protection of children is an absolute priority as far as this council is concerned’.

Surely Central School’s actions in erecting a fence around its designated playing field should be commended if this pledge is to be believed.

The school, following its Ofsted inspection last year, was verbally instructed to make the field more secure for its pupils, or fail its inspection.

Headteacher Mr Goff, and governors, recognised this need to improve the safeguarding and protection of children in their care and duly entered into a dialogue with the local community – residents, parents, and county officials.

A group of parents got a petition together to show their strength of feeling over this issue.

More than 160 parents and carers have so far signed this petition.

Many of these parents are local constituents and their views should not be overlooked.

As regards resident participation, they have been involved in public and working party meetings consistently since last summer.

The school was initially going to fence off the entire field and a generous compromise to share the field was agreed after listening to residents’ opinions.

The school will still maintain the whole area for both the schoolchildren and residents to enjoy.

We would like to add that Mr Goff has been verbally abused and sworn at by local residents on more than one occasion, both in school and on the playing field.

They have also threatened to tear the fence down.

This is not behaviour that we feel should have been rewarded by further dialogue between the school and residents, but his goodwill has enabled them to meet on subsequent occasions.

Central School is a wonderful school, with strong leadership from the staff and governors, and above all a firm commitment to the welfare and safeguarding of children.

This should be applauded.

Steffanie Haplik, Aidan Roberts, Ryan Marsh, Wendy McPherson, Tamasin Tasker, Jo Lunn, Jonathan Lunn, Raichelle Weller, Ruth Gaucheron Land, Claire Blacklock, Becky Stuckey, Gina Davis, Lisa Black, Chichester

AS A parent whose children have attended Central School across the past eight years I have been reading the ‘School Field Fence’ saga with interest.

Firstly, for clarity let us remind ourselves that we are talking about a school playing field and not ‘a community open space’.

I applaud Mr Goff in taking the necessary action of erecting a fence to enable the school to fully utilise their school field for what it is designed for – namely educational activities – and to now be able to undertake such activities in a safe and clean environment as the school has a duty of care to do.

I accept that some local residents regret that their extended back gardens have been clipped somewhat and others dismayed that their dogs no longer have the freedom to foul wherever they please – this being the only ‘community’ use of the field that I have ever witnessed.

Perhaps, now concerned local residents who generously still have unrestricted use of a large section of the school playing field, will start to ‘pick up the poop’ lest they, like many of the schools pupils over the years, experience their (dogs’) creations at first hand (or foot!)?

Barry Smyth, Oak Avenue, Chichester

BOTH OF my children went to Central School and I have been impressed by and grateful for, the dedication and hard work of the staff.

It is a happy school and a good place for children to grow, learn and play.

Headteacher Mr Goff is always an approachable presence in the playground after school and I do respect those doing one of the most important jobs in our society – educating our children.

Mr Goff and his staff put the best interests of the children first and I think this a lesson we could all learn throughout larger society.

It is therefore a shock to see a smear campaign against Mr Goff in the letters page of The Observer.

I don’t think that he is the sort of person to have someone ‘pulling his strings’ as letter writer P Wreyford suggests.

Likewise, the governors deserve our gratitude and respect for performing an important role in the community for no pay – a rare thing these days.

I was therefore, equally appalled to see them pilloried as ‘dictators’ (P Wreyford again).

Further to this, the only requirement of the complainants appears to be to continue using the playing field as a toilet for their dogs.

If there is another reason could someone send in a letter stating it clearly?

Not couched in woolly corporate speak such as ‘concerns regarding public access, safety and maintenance’.

Surely the safety of the children should come first?

I think anyone who allows their dog to soil a school’s playing field has got things very wrong.

Certainly, I would not want to waste too much time (and public money) listening to their ‘needs’ and ‘concerns’.

Our children do not have the freedoms we had at their age.

There are articles in the national press about children’s lack of fitness and the growing problem of obesity.

I’m sure that the complainants enjoyed the freedoms the current generation of children lack.

It therefore seems rather mean that they should put their needs before the needs of children.

All children should have the right to play at school in a clean, safe environment without having to worry about rolling in dog poo.

These days it seems that everyone has to be consulted about everything.

Surely this should not be the case when they are just wrong and have warped values?

The headmaster and governors have more important things to do with their time (the education of our children, perhaps) than having to worry about some frankly, very selfish people.

Rather than wasting time ‘trying to understand each others needs’ there is only one thing to do here, which is to act in the best interests of the children.

If the governors and Mr Goff are guilty of anything, it is this and they deserve our appreciation, respect and support for doing so.

John Kent, Summersdale Road, Chichester

THE GOVERNORS of Central Junior School, while reluctant to prolong exchanges in the columns of the Observer about the school playing field, cannot let pass without comment the ill-founded and provocative assertions that have been made in recently published letters to the paper.

The governors of the school serve no interests other than those of the children at the school. 

These include their safeguarding while on the playing field – from the risk of children disappearing from the field, or being harmed by dog mess or other undesirable litter.

This has been a matter of growing concern to the school for some considerable time.

A concern orally reinforced at the time of the Ofsted inspection late in 2009.

We have had support from officers of WSCC who have assured us that the field belongs to the county council and is made available by them to the school to use for educational purposes as the school sees fit.

WSCC as responsible for children’s services of course shares the school’s concern for child safeguarding.

Our initial plan was to make the whole field secure.

It was put to us that this would deprive local residents of a facility which, though not an entitlement, they had enjoyed for an extended period.

We therefore embarked on a process of consultation, from which we judged that there would be support for a compromise which securely fenced approximately half of the field while leaving the rest accessible as at present by local people.

The school would remain responsible for the maintenance of the whole field and its cost.

Against this background we have to say that, while we understand that the action taken is unwelcome to some local people, the tone and style of continuing opposition is very disappointing.

The letters from local residents which you have recently published are inaccurate in content and intemperate in tone.

Members of the school staff – including the headteacher – have been subjected to abuse and allegations of bad faith which are unworthy of those claiming to represent the interests of local people – many of whom, it is to be remembered, are school parents or in other ways connected with the school.

The picture of the school as detached from the surrounding community is fanciful.

Many children live nearby, the school buildings are home to a thriving local church and to a number of musical groups, local people use the school car park out of school hours and there are close links with other local schools.

It must be stressed that on this, as on other matters, the headteacher and the governing body are at one: Mr Goff has our full support.

We now urge local people, and your wider readership, to accept that what we have done has been done in good faith, in the interests of the pupils for whom we are responsible and with proper regard for local community use of the field.

We are anxious to promote responsible use of all parts of the field and will be happy to have continued dialogue with residents groups to ensure this is achieved.

Allison Thorpe, Chairman of Governors, Central Junior School

IN THE replies to the Chichester Observer’s request for reactions to the horse’s head effigy on the Trundle, there is a thread that says; ‘Already there are radio masts on the Trundle, so why not a horse’s head?’

Please don’t use the radio masts as the thin end of the wedge: we have radio masts so why not a horse’s head?

Oh yes, why not a few wind turbines too?

Where does it all end?

No, please let’s get rid of the horse’s head effigy and then maybe, just maybe, the South Downs National Park will have the clout to get rid of the radio masts.

Jake Wright, Stane Street, Halnaker

I THINK this is a good point.

I have attached the email I received from Mrs Linda Scully, which she sent to 10 Downing Street and not even a reply from them.

I didn’t know people care so much.

Nice touch I thought.

‘During frequent visits to Italy I became aware that the supermarkets there are not allowed to stock and sell goods which one can get from small shops. For example, if you want tobacco you go to a tobacconist. If you want bread or cakes you go to a baker. If you want alcohol you go to an off licence or a public house. If you want flowers you go to a florist. If you want meat you go to butchers, etc.

‘Why cannot the supermarkets here have the same restrictions, allowing small businesses to survive?

‘Or would the government be too afraid to act on this’?

Sharon Chittock, The Globe Inn, Southgate, Chichester

I WAS delighted to read your article Speaking in Public, printed on January 27.

Having enjoyed hearing the team from St Philip Howard speak on several occasions, I can endorse all that is said of them.

They are an example of the better side of young people today – the side rarely publicised.

If your readers would like to experience how good they are and give themselves a really uplifting evening I suggest they join us at the District Finals of Youth Speaks, organised by the Rotary Club of Chichester, at the Boys’ High School next Tuesday, February 15, at 6.30pm.

Richard Hancock, Chichester Rotary Club

I WRITE in response to Clare Hawkin’s front page article of January 20, headlined: We must be reasonable: don’t leave motorists out in the cold.

I believe that all things considered there is no real reason to need a car to commute to work.

Every city or town in the UK is accessible by a combination of train, bus, walking or cycling routes.

Anyone who disagrees need only look at a map.

Additionally, not only do these modes of transport offer access to pretty much anywhere you would ever need to go, they can also get you there cheaper and almost always faster than car travel could.

As for people living within the eco-town, there are strict rules concerning the design of the areas which state that there must be at least one job opportunity per household within walking, cycling or bus travel distance, so the complete necessity for cars is non-existent.

I think that after looking at the evidence, the only real reason that one can fathom for needing a car is not being bothered to cycle, walk or catch the train or bus.

And if the worst comes to the worst?

If there are no closer jobs available?

If you simply can’t do without your car?

Don’t buy a house in the eco-town.

Ben Thair, Chichester

MAKE NO mistake: social cohesion is under attack.

We now hear that seven out of ten local authorities may drastically cut essential bus service subsidy, adversely affecting non-car users who rely on essential bus services to get around: the carless, the frail, the disabled, the young.

A greener agenda, including fewer cars on less-congested, dangerous and polluted roads, is best served by a subsidised public transport provision: a regular, reliable, timetabled bus service, managed, financed and run by local councils, not a random postcode lottery of volunteers; serves everyone’s long-term welfare.

Save us from chaotic big society dial-a-bus ad-hockery.

Peter Lansley, Cedar Drive, Chichester

I WRITE to say how delighted I am to read that the Licensing Authority of Chichester District Council has seen the sense of granting a licence that will enable The White Swan at Bosham to reopen as a public house. (Observer, January 27)

Until a couple of years ago the building was a recognisable landmark. Then it was closed, vacated and the licence was surrendered.

The building rapidly deteriorated and was vandalised and it became an eyesore.

The intending purchasers, Mr and Mrs Irish, have gone to considerable lengths to inform local residents of their plans, and to invite observations and suggestions.

They should be congratulated for these efforts and encouraged in a venture that will revitalise the community of Bosham.

Thank you, Nick and Tina.

I look forward to enjoying a drink, eating some good food and meeting with friends – all within walking distance.

No parking required.

Well done!

Jane Turton, Bosham

I RUN a national children’s charity and funds are becoming more and more difficult to obtain and, from what I hear, won’t be getting better.

Prime minister David Cameron talks about the Big Society where more of us volunteer and contribute to the activities of our local organisations.

The problem is the Fernleigh Centre has been the home of many charities and voluntary organisations for years.

Support has come from the council, WSCC and fundraising.

What if no alternative facilities are found?

Added to this, when funding is withdrawn or reduced because of all the cutbacks, what becomes of the charities and organisations which clearly benefit many people?

The charities and voluntary organisations throughout the UK are already part of the Big Society and have been for years.

My charity has been around helping families for more than 33 years.

Where would this country be if it was not for the many charities and the countless thousands of volunteers?

Charities and voluntary organisations – local and national – cannot run on thin air.

What’s the point of Mr Cameron talking about the Big Society if the organisations no longer exist?

You cannot have it both ways – either we support the voluntary organisations and charities, enabling them to carry on helping those less able in our society, or their needs are met by government departments or, at worst, people who need help are let down altogether.

Let’s hope the Fernleigh Centre will be found some really excellent facilities and that both WSCC and CDC realise how vital the charities and voluntary organisations are to our Big Society.

Sally Bunday MBE, Chichester