Visit our dedicated Extension website, here.
UPDATE: August 2017
WESTERINGS PRIMARY ACADEMY- BUILDING PROJECT - Letter to local residents
To all Hawkwell and Hockley residents as well as those with an interest in Westerings,
You are likely to have heard about the proposed building project at Westerings Primary Academy, however, unfortunately, there are incorrect pieces of information and rumours that have been spreading around the local area. These have, understandably, caused some upset and worry amongst local people. For those who do not have children at Westerings, hopefully this will provide you with the correct information and an understanding of what is happening in the local schools.
History- why families choose Westerings
Westerings was built around 40 years ago as a two-form entry school (ie, two classes in every year group). In 2009 numbers of pupils had been declining for a while and the school only had enough to admit one class per year group. Admissions reduced to one class each year.
In September 2011, along with two other local schools, Westerings became one of the first primary schools in the country to choose to become an academy. In April 2012 the school had its first ‘good’ judgement from Ofsted. This was a major turning point for Westerings as we had been working towards improving the quality of provision by employing high quality staff, improving the facilities at school and changing the systems and ethos to offer the best possible start in life for our children. Ofsted noted that at Westerings every child ‘is known and valued as an individual’ and this continues to be central to our ethos- something that many appreciate. We are often told by pre-schools, parents and local people that Westerings is their school of choice for their children. We have staff who are ex-pupils, families who are keen for each of their children to attend Westerings and a number of families whose parents also work as employees or volunteers in school.
It is a school that many hold fond memories of and a school that we are all proud of. In our recent Ofsted inspection in March 2017, Westerings was graded ‘Outstanding’ in Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare – continuing to demonstrate how much the staff, Governors and school care about the children as individuals. All other areas were judged to be good. Ofsted stated that ‘School leaders are fully committed to ensure that every pupil at the school does as well as they possibly can.’ They also stated that ‘Parents value the school’s work and the commitment that staff show in ensuring that pupils are happy, safe and well looked after. They recognise the strong and positive contribution that the school makes to pupils’ lives.’ Other comments in the report include ‘The school provides a safe, secure and highly stimulating environment in which pupils are able to thrive both academically and socially.’ ‘Pupils love school’ and children ‘quickly develop into confident, self-assured learners at Westerings Primary Academy.’
In the past four years Westerings has been awarded several accolades to be proud of which have demonstrated our keen desire to ensure the best provision for our children. Westerings was announced as School of the Year in the Rochford District Sports Awards 2016 for high quality sports provision, having been Runner Up with Distinction the previous year. Westerings has also just been awarded Gold again in the national School Sports Awards which makes it the only primary school in the whole of the Rochford and Castle Point Districts to achieve Gold four years running. Westerings also has a quality mark from St.John’s Ambulance as all staff and some children are first aid trained. Other awards include a Gold Woodland Trust award, four stars from The British Safety Council amongst other health and safety awards; and a silver kitemark from the Youth Sports Trust.
Westerings was one of the first primary schools in the UK to be completely cloud based, that means that we do not use a computer server on site- the children use the latest technology and skills within their lessons and at home. We have staff who lead at national conferences, support other schools and train teachers and learning support assistants. Through our links with Academies Enterprise Trust we are able access high quality educational support and newest educational thinking nationally and as part of the Rochford Extended Services Partnership, who have been awarded a quality mark in services, are able to offer support for families and individuals in crisis situations.
Since 2012 we have seen a rise in popularity of Westerings and this, along with rising numbers of families due to the various building projects in Hawkwell, has led to increased demand for places. We are lucky, in Hockley, to have three good primary schools, however, most year groups in all schools fill up very quickly and in some cases, families can not get their children into the year group that they require. In 2014, due to the demand for school places, Westerings started taking two classes in Reception again. This has continued since then. The classes have not been completely full, but as Government guidelines state that Infant class sizes are limited to 30 (which were in 2014 full) having two classes meant that there were spaces for families who needed them. We do have a small number of children who live further away and we are happy to be able to offer them a space if we are able to, however, the majority of pupils are from Hockley and Hawkwell, demonstrating how much the area has grown in the last few years.
For the past three years, since 2014, Westerings has been admitting two classes in Reception. Each year, the children move up to the next year group, increasing the whole school total by one class each year until the school returns to the capacity that it was built for, which is two classes in every year group. The school, therefore, is not really expanding but is returning to two-form entry over time. There have been concerns that Westerings is going to ‘literally double in size overnight’. However, this information is incorrect.
The proposed building project is for three classrooms and toilets to accommodate one class of children each year for the next three years as they move through the school. A few years ago, due to demand, Westerings started a Breakfast Club which increasing numbers of our working families use. One of the classrooms had been structurally changed to accommodate this ‘Family Room’ as well as an office. Whilst improving our Early Years provision with a dedicated class and outdoor area we also set up a room and outdoor zone for a pre-school which Clever Clogs Pre-School use. We admit children from many different pre-schools however a lot of our families have appreciated having a pre-school on site for their different aged children and it has been very important for both parties as a transition between pre-school and primary school. Two rooms which were previously classrooms have, therefore, been structurally changed over the years. Another room which was previously a classroom is no longer big enough to accommodate a full class due to changing fire and building regulations since the school was built. It is now used as an area for small groups of children with Special Needs or for those who work with our Learning Mentor.
At Westerings everyone is very pleased that Essex County Council has plans to provide these three classrooms. Whilst we have worked hard to ensure the best provision for our children and families, classrooms are a cost that we could not afford alone and it will mean that our children will have up-to-date facilities in modern rooms.
Local identified need for school spaces
It was identified by Essex County Council that ‘there will be a sustained deficit of places in the immediate area. This is due to both birth rise from the number of children registered at local GP practices as well as a number of new housing developments in the Hockley area’. There will be a shortage of school places for families in Hockley and Hawkwell. The Council undertook a viability study within all three primary schools and Westerings was selected as the best option to provide spaces. This is largely because the school was originally built for two classes in every year group so have most of the facilities necessary. The viability study took into consideration a range of things including available facilities including toilets, kitchen and hall space, utility systems and feasibility to expand, parking and access; and ecology surveys. Groups of surveyors and building and design professionals have visited the school to offer their opinions. The building project at Westerings only requires three new classrooms and staff parking spaces. If other schools were expanded instead of Westerings, a much larger building project would be needed as extra facilities would have to be created.
There have been some concerns that Westerings is being expanded to accommodate the Hall Road development in Rochford. However, this is incorrect.
In July 2017 the Essex County Council Schools Operations Officer confirmed that ‘the increased need for Hockley did not take the new homes at Hall Road into account as this development is closer to schools in Rochford’. The 10 Year Plan ‘has always indicated that the Hall Road development would require a new 1 form entry primary school to be built in the Rochford area, not Hockley. The plan to introduce a new 1 form entry primary school as a result of the Hall Road housing development still exists in the 10 Year Plan. The current intention is to open this school in 2022 within the Rochford area, and this is based on the number of houses being released at each phase of the new development.’ The Council’s 10 Year Plan is updated annually and published on their website.
At Westerings we have a very active and supportive parental network and they, along with children, staff and Governors at school, are dismayed to find that local residents are still upset that some parents are not parking considerately and that roads are being blocked at collection times. The safety of the children, families, staff, visitors and residents is paramount. Similarly we do not wish to upset local residents as we are here to provide a community service. We are happy to do what we can and work with the local community to help ensure that everyone can live and work safely in the area.
Since 2014, the school has actively changed systems to encourage safer driving and parking and will continue to do this. A copy of our Travel and parking Plan can be found on the Westerings website via this link: https://sites.google.com/aetinet.org/extension/home
All local Headteachers meet regularly and we have all experienced similar problems at our schools. With more working families and more cars per household, traffic is increasing. In Hockley in particular, increasing numbers of commuters park in residential roads and the Main Road is a thoroughfare for a lot of traffic between Rayleigh, Hockley and Southend. As a growing and more popular area, this is likely to increase and I’m sure that we would all agree that it is important that local councils are mindful of the pressure on infrastructure, for example, ensuing traffic and accessibility, and enough facilities including shops, doctors and places available in local schools.
We have always considered Westerings to be one of the best placed schools for accessibility. There are two exit roads as well as many alleys and pathways through housing estates and the woods. Many of our families walk through the woods to school. We actively encourage families to park further away in surrounding roads and walk in to school. We have also changed our working systems timescales to make this easier. However, considering that a large majority of our families live within Hockley and Hawkwell, we would like to see more families walking and cycling to school both for health benefits as well as to ease congestion. We have been working with the Essex County Council Sustainable Travel Planning Advisor and like many schools, have plans in place to encourage better choices of travel where possible.
I hope that this detailed information, whilst lengthy, will dispel some of the concerns, particularly those based on incorrect information. Everyone at Westerings is very focussed on doing whatever we can for our children so they have the best start in life. We are here to provide a service for our families and local community and we are proud of the provision that we offer. I’m sure that you would agree that all parents wish for their children to attend a good school in their locality. It is worrying to see statements in the community that are encouraging the people of Hawkwell and Hockley to block the expansion of the school as that would mean that there will not be places for the same local residents to send their children and their grandchildren in the future. The numbers of families requiring places now and in the future is already apparent, the Westerings building project of three classrooms is designed to meet that need.
We are a school that prides itself on the ethos that ‘every child matters’ and wish to continue providing the best provision possible for families. If you would like to know more about Westerings, please visit the school website: www.westerings.org . From there you can also access our dedicated YouTube Channel (@WesteringsAET). You can also visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/westeringsAET
Whilst the consultation period for the three-classroom build has finished, further comments can be left via this link: tinyurl.com/y8dk86go
We would like to know your views. All comments regarding the building project will be sent to Essex County Council.
Mrs E. Atay