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Crawley school students launch petition for change as funding cuts threaten their education

The change.org petition has been launched by some students at Thomas Bennett Community College and already has over 200 signatures.

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The school has been in the news over the past few months due to the funding cuts by TKAT.

With teachers leaving the school and residents community meetings being held with councillors it has been and continues to be a turbulent time for all associated with the school.

Now some students have taken it upon themselves to launch their own petition aimed it seems at changing the school for the better.

The students say:

“We are Students that are currently attending Thomas Bennett. We are undertaking our GCSE’s and are month’s away from exams. With limited welfare support throughout the school, such as a medical room assistant or a pastoral support assistant for each year we are struggling tremendously with the way the school is run due to low funding.”

The student who has launched the petition also mentions how he emailed the CEO of TKAT raising his concerns but was told it ‘wasn’t in their hands and overall should stop talking about it’.

Whilst the petition does not mention it there is a feel that the aim is to bring the school back into public sector as stated by Crawley Council leader Peter Lamb who has show his support of the petition.

The petition states:

“Over the years Thomas Bennett has struggled with funding, only to which this struggle became increasingly more difficult when the academy, TKAT, took over our school. Profit not students success is what this academies aim is and large group of students including me are ready to do whatever needs to happen for something to change! Whether that’s a whole year walkout or a strike with the whole school. “

It adds:

“A walk out is something TKAT does not want to face especially with media coverage and limited time for year elevens, a whole year will not just get bad qualifications with missed time but will also reflect on the education that is being provided for students by this school run by the academy.”

The very fact that students themselves have now made the decision to make a stand shows how passionately the pupils feels about their educational needs but a viable outcome still seems distant.

A spokesperson from the Kemnal Academies Trust commented,

“We welcome our students’ active involvement in their education and the Trust has been working directly with the students at Thomas Bennett.

Funding is a national issue for Education affecting all schools, with the West Sussex “worth it” movement taking a leading part in the campaign to improve funding for all schools”.

The petition can be read here.

Education

Crawley pupils reduce local CO2 by Three Tonnes

In just two weeks Crawley school children reduced local air pollution by six kilogrammes of dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost three tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by walking, biking and scootering to school, instead of travelling by car.

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Pupils at Waterfield Primary School with Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability and Patrick Alexander, Bike It Officer at Sustrans.

As part of cycling and walking charity Sustrans’ annual Big Pedal challenge, children from eight Crawley schools used human power for an astonishing 18,284 journeys. 

This comes hard on the heels of two important new pieces of research:

  • Sustrans published YouGov data in March which showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of teachers would support a school gate vehicle ban during drop-off and pick-up times and that more than half (59%) want urgent Government action to improve air quality near schools
  • Public Health England called on local authorities in March to limit transport emissions urgently, banning idling car engines around schools and investing in foot and cycle paths.

NOx can cause breathing problems, reduced lung function and damage teeth. CO2 is a major contributor to climate change. In Crawley children travelled 12,655 miles actively during the challenge, which equates to travelling almost half way around the world. The reduction in CO2 and NOx was calculated by comparing this to the amount generated if all these journeys had been taken by car.

Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Sustainability, said:

“It is fantastic to see an increasing number of schools in Crawley taking part in the Sustrans Big Pedal, whilst promoting sustainable travel to young people.”

Children at Waterfield Primary have won special recognition from Sustrans for their Big Pedal achievements, receiving a certificate in a presentation attended by Cllr Geraint Thomas. The Bike It Crew at Waterfield Primary are notoriously competitive. They held a Bike It Breakfast, Bling your Bike and daily assemblies to mass up a total of 4,386 journeys and a total score of 76.91%. 

Justin Moss, the Deputy Head of Waterfield Primary said,

“Our pupils are so motivated when it comes to travelling sustainably; they’re also very competitive. They walk, scoot and cycle regularly so the Big Pedal has been amazing for us over the past few years. We regularly talk about the benefits of exercise with the children in whole school assemblies and because of this the children understand the differences it can make to their moods and their ability to engage in their learning.

“At Waterfield we have an elected Bike It Crew and the Big Pedal is their biggest job during the year. They have worked tirelessly to encourage teachers and children to continue to travel sustainably as well as organising events and judging the Bling your Bike competition. I am extremely proud of them and all of their achievements this year.”

Hot on their heels was Seymour Primary, who organised Bike Days for all children from years three to six. These days provided an opportunity for children to progress their bike skills and have a go on the bike obstacle course. On these days the school was flooded with bicycles, scooters and active children.

Across Crawley eight schools took part, from a potential 35. While we can’t say what the impact would be if it was replicated across Crawley even just for two school terms these findings raise interesting questions.

Sustrans’ Regional Director for the South, James Cleeton, said,

“The children, families and schools of Crawley have shown how individuals can dramatically improve the world around them, by replacing cars with human power for just part of the daily routine.

“These children haven’t just prevented the emission of dangerous, invisible pollutants around their schools, but they’ve improved their mental and physical health, giving all of them a better start to the school day.

“At Sustrans, we’re so grateful to every local authority, school, teacher, parent and child who has helped make this possible. What a great start to summer – and a glimpse of what school mornings in Crawley could be like in future.”

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