I have been following with interest the saga of the Chichester Free School and its search for suitable premises for its projected opening in September.
Whatever one might think of the whole idea of ‘free schools’, such as the fact that their teachers do not need to be qualified, that their costs are not public, that the substantial amount of money set aside for them takes away money from other parts of the education budget, the major drawback of this proposal is their decision to open at a site in Vinnetrow Road, Chichester.
This site, which I believe was once rejected as a new site for the driving test centre because of the associated road congestion and dangers, is where it will welcome pupils from Chichester and the surrounding area. This decision shows a complete lack of regard for local residents and other road-users and for any green agenda.
The proposers of the school could hardly have chosen a worst site in terms of journeys to school. The road is too narrow to allow any pupils to cycle or walk to school safely. It is not near any bus or train link. That means all pupils, staff and visitors will arrive by car. Nevertheless, the supporters of the school seem to be determined to go ahead with the Vinnetrow Road site if they get planning permission for change of use of the buildings.
The lesson their pupils must take from their determination must be that instead of waiting until a suitable place is found, eg one with good public transport links, a project should be pushed through regardless. I fail to see how providing more ‘choice’ for a small minority of local pupils is seen as more important than considering green issues and being a good neighbour.
The existing secondary schools in the area all have excellent train and bus links and many pupils can cycle or walk to school. Surely the first duty of the proposers of an extra school should be to find a place to which their staff and students can travel without the creation of hundreds more car journeys a week at busy times along roads that are already overcrowded and not particularly safe.