News Newschooldelay rowerupts

APLANto build amuch-needed 1,200-place secondary school inMaidstone has been delayed by a year after a bitterwar ofwords between itsmanagement and the borough council. In a letter to parents from Valley

InvictaAcademies’Trust (VIAT), co- chief executive officerVicAshdown apologises to thosewho had hoped to secure a place at the New Cut Road school next September, blam- ing it on an “impasse”with council- lors. The fate of the application for the

Maidstone School of Science and Technology (MSST) will now rest with a government inspector. The letter states: “We have lost

faith in the ability of the (Maidstone Borough) council to deliver the nec- essary and lawful planning permis- sion in a timely fashion and have referred the matter to the Planning Inspectorate. “We understand that this will

offer little comfort to those of you who were seeking places in 2018, but given the circumstances pre- sented to uswe have been unable to

SCHOOLS in Maidstone are fac- ing amajor shortage of governors – but that has come as no surprise to one education expert in Kent. Figures from Kent County

Council and analysed by the edu- cation charity Governors for Schools shows there are 564 un- filled positions. Maidstone and Tonbridge and

Malling areas are short by 156 – the highest in Kent. Dartford, Gravesham and Sevenoaks are short by 150 and Ashford, Shep- way andDover by 145,whileCan- terbury, Swale and Thanet are all looking for 113. Peter Read, a former teaching

professionalwho runs Kent Inde- pendent Education Advice, said he is “totally unsurprised” by the figures. Mr Read (pictured), himself a

former governor, added: “A lot of governors are not appreciated by

Artist’s impression of the proposed new secondary school in :Maidstone

proceed in any otherway.” In it, the trust claims the council

was looking for contributions to- wards infrastructure totalling about £1m, but states this is “potentially neither reasonable, nor legal”. It says the council failed to com-

municate, deferring decisions be- yond the set deadline of June 2017, while the project received govern- ment backing in May 2015. But councillors say that,while they sup- ported the new school, the appli- cants were unwilling to enter into

School governors shortage ‘unsurprising’

their schools or the wider community. “There is

also a signifi- cant degree of expertise r e q u i r e d which most n o r m a l working peo-

ple do not have the time for. “There is no point in being a

governor to sit around and agree with everything the head teacher does. You have to challenge the head.And I think that is an essen- tial part of accountability, espe- cially in this day and age.” As a governor,Mr Read said he

often had to read documents whichmeasured six inches deep at times. The chief executive of Gover- nors for Schools, Louise Cooper,

Shane’s ideas for arts centre put youngsters centre stage

STAGECOACH’S performing arts centre in Bearsted has a new prin- cipal. Shane Nippard (31) starred in

TheWire, a short filmthatwon the FilmBounty award in 2014. He has appeared in theatre and was fea- tured in Equity Magazine for his part in The TolpuddleMartyrs’ doc- umentary in 2015. Shane promises big things for Stagecoach Bearsted, which re-


hearses at InvictaGrammar School inMaidstone. He said: “I’m buzzing with cre-

ative ideas to build a strong syl- labus that I hope will be fun, educational, stimulating and re- warding for the talented children of Bearsted and the surrounding area.” Classes are available for young-

sters from four to 18. For details call 01622 910051.

Maidstone East November 2017 Shane Nippard with young actors fromStagecoachMaidstone East

said: "While many of the head- lines at the moment are around teacher shortages, the problem in recruiting governors is just as acute. "Governors are critical in ensur-

ing that schools are being man- aged efficiently and effectively so that they can deliver excellent ed- ucation." She said becoming a governor is

"incredibly rewarding". But one former Maidstone gov-

ernor said: "LouiseCooper is right about it having its rewards but you have to have the time and there can be a large amount of pa- perwork. "Silly as it sounds, if your panel

meets at 6pm or 6.30pm and you work more than five miles away from the hall, the chances are you'll get stuck inMaidstone traf- fic. That was one of the reasons I gave it up."

negotiations and took the plan to appeal 36 hours before itwas due to be approved by the council’s plan- ning committee.

‘ Themost inflexible

approach I have come across in 20 years on the planning commit- tee..

Cllr Clive English The committee approval would

have included conditions to satisfy issues including school transport provision and traffic congestion. The chairman of Maidstone’s

planning committee,CllrClive Eng- lish, described the approach taken as “the most inflexible I have come across in 20 years on the planning committee”. Cllr English added: “Any reasonable applicant would have waited a day to have the plan considered in the properway. “We were not against the school,

which ismuch needed, but the plan- ning process is about dialogue.” Cllr English says councillors had

wanted to discuss issues including the loss of mature trees, access and design issues, and a contribution to- wards the cost of running school buses, butwere denied the opportu- nity. He added: “It ismy belief that tak-

ing the plan to an inspectorwas seen as a way to avoid consultation and escape conditions and costs ofmeet- ing the needs of the community.” Adetailed submissionwill be sent

to the planning inspector,making a strong case for the borough and county council’s needs to bemet as part of any final approval.

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