Sat, 13 Jan 2018
PARENTS made emotional and passionate pleas for Theale Parish Council to relinquish the land needed to build a new primary school in the village during a packed meeting this week.
It was standing room only, as it seemed half of Theale turned up to voice their concerns.
More than 100 people gathered outside in the freezing cold waiting for councillors to arrive, with many of them holding up placards in protest at the council’s reluctance to give up the playing fields.
Before the meeting, one parent told the Newbury Weekly News that children were having to eat their hot dinners at their desks because there wasn’t enough room for them to eat in the school hall.
During the meeting, Tim Manousos, whose son attends the school’s Special Educational Needs (SEN) unit, said: “Theale’s a beautiful village, but ultimately it needs to grow.
“More importantly, children need to get a good education.
“I am emotional now just talking about what they have done for my son at the school. My son has come on leaps and bounds in the few years he has been there.
“If they are able to do that with the limited site they have got, imagine what they could do on a larger site, with far better facilities.
“It will make children’s lives a lot easier. You can’t hold back the tide of time. We can’t hold back the fact that this is a small village, it is going to get bigger, no question.
“Houses are going to be built, people are going to have children. We can’t stop that.
“What we can do is make sure that they have a place to go that is local to them and that meets their educational needs, whether it is in mainstream or SEN.
“It is not going to be to everyone’s liking, but the school needs to be built. Progress needs to happen.”
He concluded by saying: “The school is brilliant and it needs to get bigger.”
Parent Cleone Wright, who set up a petition that has racked up 700 signatures in four days, echoed Mr Manousos’ words, saying she thought it would be a “real shame” for Theale to grow as a village without a school.
She told councillors: “Having a new school on North Street playing fields is the right thing for the village. I don’t believe it is the perfect site for the school, I don’t believe Theale has a site that is perfect.
“Whichever site we chose there would be issues.”
Gary Miles said: “I would just like to express my anger, I guess. We moved to the village 12 years ago and have a three-year-old son.
“He is in the pre-school, he is loving it there. We would like to keep him in the village, we don’t want to send him anywhere else.
“It just seems a bit unfair why you can’t relinquish the land. The pitches here are plenty big enough to be used as football fields, they are underutilised.
“It just all seems a bit silly.”
Andy Higgs questioned why information and minutes from meetings that Theale Parish Council had with West Berkshire Council were not in the public domain.
Chairwoman Becky Williams informed the meeting that councils have the power under the Local Government Act to keep certain information confidential from the public.
That then started a separate debate about who makes the decision about who deems what as confidential.
Mrs Williams responded by saying that any decision would have to be made in public.
Another parent, who has a son at the nursery school, said: “I am a teacher myself so I am well aware of financial pressures on education, so why are we turning away £8m of funding for a new school?”
Mrs Williams: “As far as we are aware, it was a £7m project, it only seems since Thursday it has escalated to £8m.
“It is a very complex matter in which there are quite a lot of confidential parts to it and that is why there has been no official response from the parish council.
“The letter from West Berkshire only came in on Thursday. We have not had the chance to sit down as a council and agree what can be released to the public.”