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“People are desperate” says Crawley council leader at packed Thomas Bennett public meeting

With almost 200 people in attendance the show of concern from residents was evident at Tilgate Community College.

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Photo by Councillor Peter Smith

Crammed into the small community hall almost 200 people, many standing, listened to numerous speakers all concerned over the cuts proposed by TKAT on Thomas Bennett Community College.

In a meeting that lasted a couple of hours residents patiently listened as councillors and even teachers spoke up.

Speaking to us after the meeting Leader of Crawley Council Peter Lamb expressed his views of the situation:

Peter Lamb, a very interesting evening.

“I think it’s a very concerning evening. But there’s an awful lot of hope that – when you look at the number of people who’ve turned out to express their disgust at what’s being proposed to Thomas Bennett – that the community is about to take the action necessary to save its school.”

More news: Crawley MP explains why he missed Thomas Bennett public meeting

What action can they take though?

“Well with an academy it’s difficult because the power’s no longer in the hands of the local community through their local representatives. Really it’s going to be a case of applying pressure nationally to government in part to take steps, but also directly applying pressure to the local academy chain to make it clear that if they’re not willing to put children first, we expect them to be stripped of their franchise.”

It was a packed auditorium, almost a couple of hundred people here. Did you get the feeling of belief that they can do something if they all stick together?

“I think people are desperate and they will do whatever it takes to ensure that their kids are able to access a decent education in Crawley.”

Do you think that includes pulling their children out of the school?

“The problem is there’s nowhere really to go with those kids. It’s all well and good talking about choice but as things stand we know another secondary school is going to be needed in the town in the next few years because we’re already at capacity. Really, parents are left without much of a choice. The only thing we can do is fight and make it clear that if someone anticipates us to support them representing us, an elected office, we expect them to make the effort to ensure kids get a decent education.”

We caught up with several other councillors who spoke at the meeting:

Councillor Carlos Portal Castro for Tilgate said:

“It was very interesting. I think we had more support than was expected. It was a full house. The main point of what everyone wants is they want to get rid of the academies. It’s like the snowball – once it starts rolling the problems only going to become bigger and bigger. The teachers and the students are losing out for the big CEO’s salaries which is obviously what’s happening with this particular trust.

So basically education has opened a business. When I stood up and spoke, I suggested that we should use this situation that’s happening with Thomas Bennett and use as an example that the academies are no good for education, that it should go back to the authorities to have control so that way at least we can put forward the representatives that we elect to take responsibility for what they are doing to the education so when it’s not working we can let them know.

But what I said about tonight was let’s all get together, contact the friends that could have their students or relatives in another school throughout Crawley or West Sussex because it is more than one – it’s not just Thomas Bennett – and I believe that there’s more schools this could happen to. So, all the parents should get together, all the children should get together and basically go knock on their door and say ‘You don’t mess with our education’ because otherwise you’re just going to get kicked out.

Councillor Peter Smith said:

“It’s been a fantastic meeting and it’s really brought on by very sad circumstances. The people of Tilgate and the parents of children at Thomas Bennett are extremely upset at what TKAT are doing to the school.

I have a TKAT school in my own Ward. I was talking to them when they wanted some money from the council to help them do a garden up. But I’ve got other issues and now they won’t see me at all. There’s no way to find out what’s going on.

As the spokesperson for the NEU, the union for teachers, said they’re not allowed to tell the public what’s going on because of their contracts and then they’ll have problems. What we’re trying to do is organise the parents – the public. It’s our money that’s being spent and it’s our money that’s being wasted on high salaries and cuts while the teachers are struggling to get paper to teach the children.

We had an appalling example from Councillor Duncan Crowe the county council who said he knows nothing about it and there’s nothing he can do. Well I’m sorry that’s not the case. I’m trying to do something for the school in my Ward and I think he should do better.”

One resident who asked to remain anonymous said:

“I get the impression that a lot of the parents and a lot of the teachers who work there – a lot of the people who turned up today – were very galvanised by what was being suggested and what was being said.

Sadly, the cuts that are being proposed by TKAT are going to be devastating and it will have an impact on the students: future students, current students and it will sadly be a real shame.

We know a lot of students have approached a lot of staff. They have asked staff about what’s going to happen and who’s leaving. Unfortunately, it’s having an emotional impact already.”

A facebook page has been setup for anyone wishing to support the campaign against the cuts. https://www.facebook.com/SaveThomasBennett

Business

Annual apprenticeship graduation to take place at The Hawth

West Sussex County Council will be hosting its fourth annual apprenticeship graduation ceremony on 20 May at The Hawth, Crawley.

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The ceremony is open to all West Sussex residents who have completed their Higher/Degree and Advanced Apprenticeship from 1 January 2018 to 28 February 2019.

TV newsreader and journalist John Young will be opening and compering the event.

John said:

“I’m delighted to be invited back to host a second awards ceremony for West Sussex apprentices. We need a wide range of talent to enter the workforce and if the apprentices I met last year are anything to go by we’re in good hands.”

Graduates will celebrate their hard work and achievements with a traditional ceremony and can invite two guests. Light refreshments will be served during the registration and robing and each graduand will receive a certificate and commemorative pin to mark their success.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is hosting a business networking reception for apprenticeship employers and training providers to attend before joining the main ceremony.

The ceremony on 20 May is from 3pm-4.30pm. Attendance for you and two guests is free of charge, but registration is essential and must be done by 24 April. To find out more and book your place go to www.westsussex.gov.uk/graduation

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