Improvement and development of our school facilities
We have a Masterplan for the long term development of the St Thomas of Canterbury School site which is our dream of what our school could look like in the future.
The obvious caveat for such dreams is the reality of cost. Like the entire nation our budgets are extremely tight and we have no magic money trees. Having the dream is important though as it ensures that we don’t take steps now that might need to be undone in the future and it allows us to plan carefully and with clarity for the future.
One asset that the school currently owns is a field at Greencroft. The school was allowed to sell half of the field some years ago and the proceeds from that sale helped fund our Multi Use Games Area and some classroom and structural improvements. The hope had been that the remaining part of the field would have provided great community use and an income stream to the school as well as providing an addition sports field for the school. This has not turned out to be the case. We have not been able to encourage use of the field and we do not use it for school sports as we can use our on site facility with far greater ease and convenience.
Accordingly the Governors are seeking approval for the sale of the remaining part of the Greencroft field to help fund much needed enhancements to our sport and PE provision on the school site.
A public consultation about these plans ran from 23rd September to 4th November 2022. The Governors made their application to the Secretary of State for approval to sell the land in January 2023 and we are currently awaiting a response.
The proposal to sell the Greencroft sports field
In these difficult and uncertain times the Leadership team and governors at St Thomas have been considering how best to ensure the continued development and improvement of our school. Looking to a bright future we have employed architects to work with us to create a Masterplan for the school site which will allow us to meet all our curriculum aspirations. This is aspirational but you need to know where you are going in order to take the right first steps and that is what we are doing!
As a school we are in the fortunate position of owning additional land at Greencroft which is not able to be utilised to its full potential either by the school or external community use. As a field with changing rooms it is not a practicable resource for our own curriculum provision for physical education as we have facilities on the main school site which are utilised fully and which can be accessed without any issues about timing or staff ratios or risk factors in leaving the school site. We have struggled to attract community use and the costs of maintaining the field exceed the income that we are currently able to generate from its use by community groups.
We are therefore looking at the disposal of the Greencroft site to help fund the future development and improvement of the school site and our ability to provide our children and the wider community the highest quality provision for PE and sport.
What is the process?
Following the consultation process, the feedback will be summarised and shared with all stakeholders and on the school website. The Governors will then decide whether to continue with the application and, if they do, an application has to be made to the Education Funding Authority to approve the sale of the land because it is a sports field. This consultation is part of that application process. No action can be taken unless and until approval is given. We anticipate completing our application shortly after the end of the consultation period and certainly before the end of the Autumn term in December. It is likely that the process will take a number of months before we have an answer. If approval for the sale is given then the long process of sale would begin and only if successful would we then be able to embark on the development projects we so need. It will be a long process.
Details of the Proposed Changes
The proceeds from any sale of the Greencroft site would be used in the following order of priority to improve the facilities that we can offer and so improve the provision of PE and sport and community use at the school:
1. An all-weather sports pitch at the school covering most of the main field area (the remaining grass area is to be used to develop our Forest School provision)
2. A cover over part of our existing hard surface Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) to allow for outdoor PE and sport (and play) whatever the weather
3. An extension and upgrade to one of our school Halls to enable quality gymnastics and dance can be provided within the school and for wider community use.
How much of this we would be able to do will depend, of course, on the sale proceeds and the costs of building at the relevant time.
FAQ – Why are we looking to sell the field…?
Why don’t we just use Greencroft?
- We have space at school for all of our PE needs which can be accessed within a minute of leaving the classroom ensuring that the full timetabled PE time is used well.
- Walking to Greencroft requires additional adult supervision (up to 15 adults required for the EYFS cohort) which we cannot afford to release without an adverse impact on the quality of education elsewhere in the school and even our Year 6s will take at least 10 minutes to get from the school to the field, reducing their PE learning by at least twenty minutes in an already crowded timetable.
- We have also struggled to get any interest in community use for the field. Guildford Saints have used it periodically but have better facilities (including all weather facilities) elsewhere. It costs us more to maintain the field and pavilion than we receive in rental payments which is not sustainable.
Why do we need an all weather surface in place of our school field
- Our field is currently out of general use for at least a term a year – a third of the school year and sometimes up to half a year. This is because it becomes too muddy and bare of grass in late Autumn and doesn’t recover until late Spring/early Summer. This limits its use – we do still use it but less intensively than we would like.
- An all weather surface would mean that we can continue to use the area for sport and PE throughout the year with the exception only of snow or ice. This would greatly increase our ability to offer high quality sport and PE both within the school day and beyond with our co-curricular offer of after school clubs.
- An all weather surface will also be far more attractive to community use and we already have a number of children’s sports clubs who have expressed interest in using the area – a key element of ensuring its maintenance and sustainability as a resource into the future.
Why cover part of the MUGA?
- Whilst the existing MUGA provides a great sports and playing surface all year around, we are still restricted a little by poor weather. A roof over half of the MUGA would alleviate this issue and also allow us to put in lighting which would enable the space to be used all year around for our after school sports offer and wider community use. Again we have already had interest from outside groups who would be interested in using this improved facility
Why extend and upgrade the school hall?
- Our current “Junior Hall” has not been upgraded from the time it was built in the 1960s as part of the original school buildings. We use it every day for PE and for co-curricular after school clubs but it is not large and the space is crowded particularly when teaching gymnastics or dance. An extension would make the PE provision far more efficient and safe and also provide a better space for community use. It is already used each weekend for a pre-school and infants sports club but numbers are limited by the space available and certain activities restricted because of the floor area.
- As well as extending the hall in size into what is currently an open courtyard area, the wooden floor would be replaced to create a better floor for both gymnastics and dance and the opportunity taken to add a corridor space to avoid teaching being interrupted by the fact that the hall is currently an access point to classrooms.
Will you be able to maintain these expensive new facilities?
- Based on the interest we have already seen, we anticipate that the community use which will be attracted to use the new facilities will enable us to budget for the upkeep and eventual replacement of the new facilities.
The consultation period ended at midday on Friday 4th November 2022 with an extension to midnight on 7th November to facilitate the wishes of some of our neighbours.