Barrington Annual Parish Meeting
Tuesday 27th April at 7.30pm by Zoom.
Meeting ID: 942 5298 7211
The link is also in the calendar on the website www.barringtoncambs.com
1. Apologies for absence.
2. To receive the Minutes of the last Meeting held on 7th May 2019.
3. Anthony Browne MP – local issues facing Barrington
A question and answer session.
4. Presentation from the Chairman of the Parish Council, Cllr Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp.
4.1 Conservation of the Village Green Your Council leases the recreational areas of the Village Green from the Green Charity and is responsible for their maintenance. The grass in these areas is cut more regularly than the rest of the Village Green. Following a decision to further assist the Green Charity we now maintain the rest. Tree maintenance, for safety and access for grass cutting reasons, has been ongoing throughout the period. A tree survey was again carried out by a specialist company leading to a programme of tree work.
4.2 Playgrounds – Cllr Day
The Play Area on Challis Green and the Under 5s’ Play Area adjacent to the Church Car Park have been monitored monthly by Justin Wilmott and a report presented to the Parish Council. Our Clerk has kindly inspected weekly. We continue to ask for an Annual Inspection from RoSPA and this should take place in April. We did have to close the Play Areas for a time during “lock down” and all the equipment was very thoroughly cleaned before re-opening. We ask all users to continue to use the guidelines provided in posters.
Our equipment is robust and is generally valued and respected. However, there have been instances of vandalism, in particular damage to Swing seats and chains. We hope to have these replaced shortly. Thankfully, such instances are rare, but they do have a financial cost. We do still sometimes have instances of dogs being taken onto the main Play Area: this is illegal.We are grateful to Herts and Cambs Ground Maintenance Ltd for their continued care in grass cutting, etc of the Challis Green Area and to the Ranger for helping to keep the sand in the Under 5s clear of weeds and tree debris. Also, to the volunteer who regularly rakes the sand when needed. We hope to have the sand
topped up within the next few months.
4.3. Ditches and ponds
CHallis Pond – Cllr Rhodes-Kemp
We located a company who can help regenerate this pond but who also did it before in 2004. They understand the specific challenge of refreshing the pond but also its vital role in our drainage and waterway system. It is also possible that we may get a grant that will enable the work to be carried out at the back end of 2021 or early 2022 when the wildlife will be least impacted. There will be less Island, grass, and silt. A viewing platform is included in the plans and hopefully a new fence. Whilst Volunteers from across the village will help with ongoing maintenance there will be regular professional input in future.If we do not get the full amount, we will approach other sources of funding to bridge the gap. It will be lovely to at last see this pond regain its former character in such a prominent position in our village.Thank you to Cllr McBride, Cllr Day, the Clerk, Lucy Brazg, and the Gilberts for all their positive hard work on this.
4.4. Traffic Calming – Cllr Rhodes- Kemp
This is a Parish Council working Group set up several years ago to address traffic issues, predominantly speeding, in Barrington. Some may recall the Dummies on Glebe and Shepreth Road. Former Councillor Richard Gibson and Rosamund set up the group and Richard instigated the formation of the Speedwatch Team of volunteers and ultimately the procurement of our Speed Panel which is named Richard after him.The Traffic Calming Working Group has always included volunteers and more recently several of the Speedwatch team.
The village was consulted on an initial Traffic Calming Plan back in February 2019 when we all thought that the Redrow construction was imminent along with S106 monies and was designed to address existing and future traffic issues.
More recently Redrow are on site and houses are soon to be built. On top of this we have to consider the threat of Thakeham, Foxton Park and Ride (500-900 spaces) and new Village (1500 houses and business units) and the land on Shepreth Road (3000 houses and business units). Any or worse all of these will mean a significant increase in traffic through and around the village.
So, there is a need for traffic calming measures to be revisited to address all of the above. We believe that initial professional advice is required as the psychology behind traffic management changes all the time and we do not want to waste resources on ideas that fall foul of County Highways guidance as they will have the final say in any plans put forward.
We have £165,000 allocated under the 106 for Traffic Calming.
An initial draft of information to go to potential Advisers has been prepared and is ready to go out.
• Ensure Funding stream is secure and CCC agree in writing to TCWG proposals
• Invitation to Tender
• Receive a report
• Consult with the village
• Implement plan
4.5 Roadways and footways where adopted by County Council Highways Potholes and poor road surfaces
throughout the village remain a major problem and indeed throughout the county. We encourage all
residents with internet access to make use of the Cambs County Council reporting system at:
highwaysreporting.cambridgeshire.gov.uk or to contact the Parish Council. Currently roads and footways are
not being repaired pro-actively.
4.6. Footpaths – Cllr Day
Barrington continues to work with Cambridgeshire County Council Highways in monitoring and routine maintenance to those paths closest to the Village. There is no longer funding for this from the County Council, so we are limited overall to one Annual maintenance. We are grateful for volunteer help with maintenance to the sides of the Footpath leading down to Little Rivers and to the Footpath leading from West Green. Liaison with local landowners is ongoing, particularly when fallen trees make access difficult and if it appears that a path is not accessible. We do currently have concerns about the safety of the Bridge at the bottom of the disability access path leading from Boot Lane. It has become very unstable in its moorings in the banks following the recent flooding. Cllr McBride has been monitoring and liaising with CCC Project Manager – Bridges. He is arranging for the Bridge to be checked regularly. A design and replacement/repair scheme will be embarked on with their contractors.Over the past year, all our footpaths have been very well used and appreciated by our residents and by those from further afield. One of the most popular walks follows the Bridleway from the Church Car Park to West Green. For many years, a section of the Bridleway has been maintained by the Parish Council, with help from Cambridgeshire County Council for a time, as a Green Lane. The peace and tranquillity as the Lane meandered through ancient hedgerows was much enjoyed and was a tangible reminder of an accessway around the North side of The Green from the past. How great the shock and dismay then when part of the hedge row alongside what was part of the garden of the listed building was removed by a developer allowing vistas into drastically cleared land and of the large new build. This is visible when walking from Back Lane and from the West Green end. This should not have happened, and we are trying to ensure that it will be rectified over time.
4.7. Parking on the Village Green areas Your Council is continuing to discuss with the Green Charity the control of illegal parking on the Village Green. Many houses now have need for parking spaces for more than one car and there are increasing numbers of cars parking on parts of the Green. – for example, on Challis Green in front of the Church to allow children to be taken to school. BPC is in discussion with the school and the County Council regarding travel to school plans, but there is a wider issue concerning how best to control unwarranted parking on the Green.
4.8. Woodland/Community Orchard – Cllr McBride
Volunteers continue to maintain the woodland on a regular basis, although this has been restricted during recent lockdowns. Many residents have appreciated visiting the space during the pandemic. More volunteers are always welcome to join the team.
Barrington Community Orchard
At the beginning of this year the Parish Council, in partnership with Barrington Eco, was awarded a grant from the South Cambs Zero Carbon communities fund to plant a small community orchard and forest garden. The site is by the rear entrance to the school, next to the Woodland. Thanks to an enthusiastic team of volunteers, heritage East Anglian fruit trees and some fruit bushes have already been planted, and more plants and a seating area will follow. It is hoped that the orchard will become a space for the whole village to enjoy, as well as offering hands-on learning opportunities about cultivating trees and plants and growing food in an environmentally friendly way. The school has been invited to use the orchard as an outside classroom for the older children and for Forest School for the younger years.
4.9 Planning – Cllr Kemp
• The Parish Council is a “Statutory Consultee” on Planning Applications – it does not make the decisions
• Context: Barrington has some 450 properties with a further 220 new units (50% more) being built on the new Redrow (former Cemex) site BPC Planning Committee Work 2020-21
During the past year Barrington PC dealt with the following – many of which required substantial document review and considered responses.
• Full Planning Applications – 18
• Planning Appeals – 3
• Notified of various amendments and planning condition discharges
• Tree work applications – 11 (for work in the Conservation Area)
• Numerous Consultations:
• Minerals Plan
• Local Plan Call for sites
• Thakeham “New Town”
• Foxton Hub
• Other consultations such as the air traffic changes to Luton and SC housing strategy etc
Conservation Area Appraisal – The Parish Council is currently working with the Conservation Team of Local Planning Authority to review the Conservation Area in Barrington.
A Conservation Area Appraisal document will be prepared which will be of greater assistance when dealing with planning applications in the future.
4.10 Website – Cllr Hopewell.
As technology has changed the Parish Council website has been assessed and needs an overhaul. To make
the website more accessible to a wider audience various changes are needed and will be put in place. Also,
it has a ‘dated’ feel so in order to appeal to a wider age group we are looking at how it can be changed and
how we can use other technology e.g. Facebook to reach the wider age group.
For the Parish Council to be a more cohesive team we are also looking at how we can work more efficiently
using collaborative workspaces and document storage. During this we are also looking at changing our
website domain over to www.barringtonparishcouncil.gov.uk (presently this goes to our current website but
will update as we proceed) and whether all councillors utilise this for emails.
5. Clerks Report – Mrs Beckie Whitehouse
Writing this at the beginning of April I have been the Clerk for BPC for about ten months and clerking for ten
years. I would like to thank councillors and those residents I have met/spoken to for their warm welcome.
Every parish is the same but different, there are always trees and potholes, but all councils are unique, all
parishes face slightly different pressures and there are always new things for me to learn. There have been
many challenges for all of us over the last year including holding remote meetings every month I still breathe
a sigh of relief as people join the zoom meeting that it has all worked.
Due to changes in the law the ability to hold remote meetings is due to end on 6th May. The Government is
being lobbied to allow them to continue and if there is a last-minute change, we will keep you informed.
My job is to assist both the Parish Council and parishioners. I do not always have the answer but am happy
to try and find out. Communication is key in relationships this is no different. Please do get in touch if I can
help or you would like to raise something with the Parish Council.
6. Parish Council Financial Matters To receive the Parish Council Audited Accounts to follow
7. To record attendance of Parish Council Members. The Parish Council met did not meet in March and April 2020 and the Annual Parish Council meeting did not take place. Between May 2020 and April 2021, the Council met 12 times.
Cllr Bedford (12 Cllr Bird(12) Cllr Brass (resigned Nov 2020) Cllr Day
(12) Cllr Gibson (resigned July 2020) Cllr Kemp (12)
Cllr McBride (12) Cllr Rhodes-Kemp (12) Cllr Walker (12)
8. Speedwatch – John Granger Acting Chair Barrington Community SpeedWatch
• COVID restrictions stopped almost all our activity over the past year and continues to do so. We held just nine sessions during 2020 all of which were in a three-week period from 16 Sept • Eight sessions were planned in the two-week period from 29 March this year in line with the second stage of Step 1 of the Government’s COVID ‘Road Map’. The Police stopped us after just two sessions saying that they wanted to discourage all but essential travel; very puzzling. They have now allowed us to resume on 1 May which is equally puzzling as this does not coincide with
any of the stages in the ‘Road Map’
• The SpeedWatch Team is very visible, and vehicles can be seen slowing down before they come into radar range. We are a proven deterrent reducing the incidents of speeding normally to under 10% from probably over 50% when we are not in session.
• Commuter traffic is down considerably since COVID, inbound Orwell Road and outbound Foxton Road regularly recording 250 plus vehicles in the early morning sessions pre-pandemic. The close correlation of these figures suggests the village is becoming a ‘rat-run’.
• As a proportion more vehicles are inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon (vans and small trucks) than before COVID; this perhaps reflects more building work in the village.
• Most surprising, and disappointingly are the number of speeding vehicles going past the school during drop-off and pick-up times. On the morning of 29 March, we recorded one car at 47mph that continued to accelerate as children were arriving at the school, and one afternoon in September, 12% of drivers were speeding past the school as children and teachers were leaving.
A VAS device was delivered just before the COVID lockdown. These are now familiar sights in many villages, whereby speed is measured and displayed to the motorist, often accompanied by a ‘smiley face’ if within the limit, or a frown if exceeding it. Research shows that these are reasonably effective in ‘shaming ‘motorists to slow down.
As well as displaying speed, the device can gather very detailed data on traffic movements and speeds, which will be useful in determining where and what traffic calming measures will be most effective in the village.
Trials are now in progress and the device should be operational by the time this report is published.
There are currently nine members of the SpeedWatch Team, but we need more if we are to be truly effective. So please consider volunteering by contacting me via firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, we are a proven deterrent to speeding in the village which most of us believe has increased over the past year. Being a member of the Team is surprising sociable, and we do not run sessions in bad weather or when it’s really cold. Full training is given. Finally, I would like to thank fellow members of the SpeedWatch Team for their time, their good humour and their company, and we look forward to being able to re-start our sessions shortly.
9. Roadways and footways where adopted by County Council Highways Potholes and poor road surfaces throughout the village remain a major problem and indeed throughout the county. We encourage all residents with internet access to make use of the Cambs County Council reporting system at: highwaysreporting.cambridgeshire.gov.uk or to contact the Parish Council. Currently
10. Community Car Scheme this has not been able to run through lockdowns but will start again as restrictions are lifted and can sharing is permitted.
11. Mobile Warden Scheme Barrington is a member of the Harston and District Village Warden Scheme.
Sadly there seems to be an ever-growing problem with litter on the approach roads to the village, but thanks to an ever-growing team of volunteers joining the Barrington Hillpickers, they are now regularly cleared.
13. Cambridgeshire County Council – Report from County Councillor Sebastian Kindersley Foreword
The last twelve months have been the strangest of all the 22 years I have been a Councillor. Life, personal and communal, has been dominated by the Covid virus but, at the same time, every effort has been made to ‘keep things going’. The County Council has continued to function and most of its scheduled meetings have taken place, but by Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
The two major issues that have taken up most time in the past 12 months have been East West Rail and South West Cambridgeshire.
I chair CamBedRailRoad and over the last 3 years we have promoted a proper assessment of a Northern Approach into Cambridge alongside East West Rail’s ideas. We have pushed EWR away from a Bassingbourn route and have most recently persuaded EWR that a station north of Cambourne is the way forward. EWR is currently consulting on a preferred route that runs from North Cambourne through the South Cambridgeshire countryside to Shelford with a 7km embankment 80 metres wide and 10m high which will have a considerable impact on all our lives. Now working with Cambridge Approaches we continue to press for a fair assessment of the Northern Approach most recently with a meeting with the Rail Minister.
Another threat to this area comes in the form of proposals from a West Sussex speculative development company Thakeham which is proposing to create a new town sprawl of 25,000 homes between and encompassing the villages of Shepreth, Melbourn, Meldreth, Whaddon, Bassingbourn, Wimpole, Orwell, Barrington and Foxton. The new town, dubbed ‘South West Cambridge,’ would be half the size of Cambridge and would profoundly change the hinterland of a multitude of villages and eradicate the rural nature of much of South Cambridgeshire.
The developer has missed the deadline for the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan’s ‘Call for Sites,’ in spite of having spent the past two years preparing its scheme, during which time it will have been fully aware of the South Cambridgeshire Planning process. It now proposes a late submission in the Call for Sites – promised by Easter but still awaited. I am part of the South West Cambridgeshire Action Group and you can see our campaign at http://www.swcag.org.uk/
At the time of writing, there seems to be the possibility of a return to ‘normal’ in the next few weeks but we do not yet know if the new normal will be like the old normal or whether certain procedures will be changed indefinitely. My main report follows below and contains no surprises as I have been reporting to Gamlingay Division Parish Councils every month and keeping in touch as necessary between meetings.I stand for re-election this May and – whatever the result – I would like to thank parish councillors and clerks for their work for the local community and to say how much I have enjoyed working with them.
Keeping you informed
It is all too easy for councillors to become engrossed in their work on committees and lose touch with the people they represent. That is why I attend monthly Parish Council meetings and provide all residents with up-dates online as appropriate. I quite understand that not everybody shares my political perspective nor my interpretation of national developments, but I have tried to engage constructively with any residents who have raised issues with me.Full details of the County Council structure, committees and meetings with reports can be seen on-line at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk. Full Council meetings are webcast.
13.1.The political balance of the Council
The political composition of the 61-member Council now stands as:
35 Conservatives, 16 Liberal Democrats, 7 Labour, 2 ‘St. Neots Independents’, 1 Independent.
The Council has seven decision-making committees. with a Conservative majority on each committee and every Committee chaired and vice-chaired by a Conservative. The committees are:
Adults Children and Young People
Commercial and Investment Economy and Environment
Health Communities and Partnerships
Highways and Community Infrastructure
The overall political and financial direction of the Council is in the hands of the General Purposes Committee comprising 15 members. This is chaired by the Leader of the Council who is also the Leader of the Conservative Group.
In addition, there are several smaller committees covering, for example, Planning, Audit and Accounts, Constitution and Ethics, Pensions, Staffing Appeals. All the committees are chaired by Conservatives except Audit and Accounts which is chaired by a LibDem.
13.2. Council officers and Council offices
The Chief Executive, Gillian Beasley, is shared with Peterborough as part of the policy of reducing back-office costs and several other senior posts are also shared with Peterborough. The trend of recent years to reduce council staff, has continued. The CCC HQ building, Shire Hall, has been closed and emptied prior to being redeveloped for other purposes, and the County Council will move to new buildings in Alconbury Weald, probably from September 2021. The new buildings will be more economical to run but, being on the western edge of the Council area, there will be increased travel costs and time for staff, and more road pollution.
13.3. What the Council provides
Social services to children and young people, older people, people with mental health problems, physical and learning disabilities; Planning of
school places and some support for schools (although the funding for day-today running comes from central government); Coordinated Early Years provision, nurseries etc.; Libraries; Road maintenance; road safety measures;
Growth and wider development issues; Trading standards; waste disposal and recycling centres. The former responsibility for overall transport strategy is gradually being taken over by the Combined Authority.
13.4. The key issues faced by Cambridgeshire County Council: reduced funding.
increasing costsincreasing demand Covid paralysis
The reduction in general grants from central government has continued except that some extra money has been made available for Covid measures. The Local Government Association, a cross-party organisation, has been ringing alarm bells recently about the greater financial burden placed on local councils and several have become insolvent. County Councils have the flexibility to increase tax levels (see below) without having to call a referendum. The demand for services is increasing as the proportion of the population needing adult social care support increases. Although the total number of under-fives is not increasing at the moment, the severity of need of an increasing proportion is placing greater demands on a hard-pressed service. The general pattern is for the cost of providing services to rise above general levels of inflation.
13.5. Council Tax The government has again capped the levels by which local councils can increase tax for 2021-22: 3% over two years towards Adult Social Care and 1.99% towards other services. Cambridgeshire CC has decided to limit the social care increase to 1%, followed by 2% next year and 1.99% for other services. So, for the coming year 2021-22, the total 2.99% increase will cost a Band D household an extra £54.22 per year. Over 60% of households in Cambridgeshire are in the lower bands A-C. In round figures, every 1% brings in about £3 million to the Council.
Since capping was introduced in 2014, the Council has not made use of the full flexibility allowed by central government. As a result of the compounding effect of those decisions, the Council’s income is much less than it would have been.
13.6. Services for older people
More and more people are living longer and, in the main, healthier lives. When they do become dependent, the cost to the Council is very considerable. The Council’s aim is to enable more people to live longer at home and be supported there rather than going into sheltered accommodation. The policy of ‘Transformation’ is based on a significant reduction in personnel together with higher expectations on the voluntary sector and an assumption of a willingness on the part of beneficiaries to accept new ways of being supported. While there is obviously merit in trying to find new ways of providing services, there can be no disguising the fact that provision will get worse for some and this is a matter of great concern, both locally and nationally.
13.7. Transport and Highways
a. Road maintenance and footpath repair are the most frequent source of complaint from residents.
b. The impact of the decision by the County Council to reduce the drain clearance process was cruelly exposed by the recent flooding incidents across the County.
c. The work on the new A14 is nearing completion, and this produces knock-on effects on the rest of the road system. Highways England is responsible for the maintenance of motorways and trunk roads, but most A and B roads are maintained at the expense of the local authority which is
designated as the ‘Highways Authority’. The Highways Authority receives a grant from central government towards those costs.
Proposals are coming forward for the dualling of the A428 from the Black Cat roundabout to Caxton Gibbet. The proposed new road does not go through the Gamlingay division but residents definitely use it!
All Cambridgeshire secondary schools are now ‘academies’ which means that the Council has no jurisdiction over them. The disruption of the last few months has caused the suspension of Ofsted inspections and of conventional examinations, so it is not possible to make a comment on the success of Cambridgeshire schools against national benchmarks. Only a small minority of primaries have become academies.
The County Council retains responsibility for the ‘well-being’ of children in academies though it has no formal role in intervening if things go wrong. Central government grant to Cambridgeshire improved in 15-16, and has been maintained. A ‘National Funding Formula’ published in September 2017 was a small move in the right direction. Costs in schools have increased at a higher rate. Independent researchers confirm that, in real terms, funds available to schools have been cut by 9% since 2010.
The major topic this year, as last, is that funding for children with special needs has not kept up with the demand. The ‘High Needs Block’ in Cambridgeshire now has a deficit of £28 million, and a similar pattern is seen in other counties so this is a national problem.
13.9. Climate Change
The County Council, in common with many others, is beginning to take this seriously and is beginning to develop a Strategy to reduce energy consumption. The particular problem for Cambridgeshire is the massive expansion of housing and population. Cambridgeshire is, mainly, an attractive place to live and though house prices are rising, they are good value compared with the London area. A rapidly increasing population puts pressures on many services which use energy but I am sure we will see new ideas coming forward.
13.10. Combined Authority
Since May 2017 there has been a ‘Combined Authority’ for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough with James Palmer (Con.) as Mayor. The combined authority comprises: Peterborough City Council (a unitary authority), the district councils of Huntingdonshire, Fenland, East Cambs, South Cambs and Cambridge City, and Cambridgeshire County Council. The Mayor has a Cabinet comprising the Council Leaders from all the constituent councils, i.e. five
Conservatives, one Labour and one Lib Dem, and there is also a scrutiny panel. Some people claim that the introduction of a Combined Authority makes it unnecessary to have County and District Councils as well as parish councils and perhaps one of the layers of local government could be pruned to save costs.
The Mayor has also been offered greater scope by central government in order to ‘level up’ to the Metro Mayors in the North of England. This means adding adult education and the development of a university in Peterborough among other projects as well as oversight of strategic housing development. The next Mayoral election will be on May 6th 2021.
13.11. The future for local government services and the implication for communities
a. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the structure and funding of local government as we have known it for many years has changed and will continue to change. Central government has been decreasing its grants to local councils with the expectation is that services will be ‘transformed’ and local groups – parish councils, voluntary groups – will have a bigger role in supporting those people in the early stage of needing help.
b. The County Council has continued to make savings in its procedures and in increasing income. For example, it has set itself up as a property company and is trying to sell off some of its land holdings for housing. Plans for moving HQ offices out of Shire Hall in Cambridge to a new building in Alconbury Weald are coming to fruition.
13.12. National uncertainty It is probably not an exaggeration to say that we face, as a country, greater uncertainty than most of us can remember in a lifetime. It is already becoming apparent that the process of Brexit will be much more complicated than previously claimed by national politicians. We frankly do not know what the implications
will be for the country economically nor for us, the general public, in our everyday lives. Problems for fishermen, farmers and for some industries are emerging. Climate change, still disputed by some, appears to be confirmed as an international trend with local implications for changes in our daily patten of behaviour.
And then we have the recovery, we hope, from Covid. If the vaccination programme continues to go well, we may be safer but we do not yet know what the impact will be on many aspects of our social and communal lives.
14. South Cambridgeshire District Council – Report from District Councillor Aidan Van de Weyer
15. Open discussion for residents.
Redrow Home Ltd – Mr Matt Parry Planning Director
We are continuing the enabling and set-up works in order to establish permanent compounds for both Redrow and MV Kelly (the ground worker).
Vegetation through the woods in the southern part of the site, along the drainage and cycle way routes, has now been cleared in preparation for the start of the foul drainage works. This is in accordance with approved plans and as discussed in detail on site with Councillor Van de Weyer last month.
In addition to the foul drainage route works, we have also been carrying out the works to enable the start of the construction of a network of ponds and swales in the southern part of the site. These works will ensure surface water is collected from the site and discharged into the surface water sewer system.
You may have noticed increased frequency in lorry movements to and from site – this is to enable the import of clean topsoil to the site. The increased frequency of lorry movements is projected to last approximately two weeks.
We are progressing with the variation of the s106 Agreement with both the District and Parish Councils.
Barrington Church of England Primary School – Mrs Gill Davies Headteacher
Belonging, Believing; Together Succeeding!
Since there was no meeting last year due to COVID restrictions this report will cover the two academic years
since the last report; 2019-20 and 2020-21.
In September 2019 we returned to school to open the new school extension. The new extension is made up of three extra classrooms, an ICT suite, a new front entrance and a beautiful school library. As we currently have 4 classes of children in school, we have spread out through the building so that both KS2 classes have an empty class next to them to use as an extra teaching space.
The most significant event of the 2019-20 academic year was the national lockdown. From March to June we had between 8 and 15 children in school daily. These were vulnerable children or children of keyworkers. During this period, many staff members stayed at home, either shielding or supporting their own children with remote learning and a reduced workforce of the head, 4 teachers and 2 TAs worked in rotation to provide the face-to-face learning for the children in school. During this period with every class teacher was able to have time away from this face-to-face teaching to plan the work for children at home.
In June YR, Y1 and Y6 could return to school, if their parents were happy for them to do so. However, at this time the maximum group size was 15, this initially meant that we could not take many of our Y6 pupils who had been learning at home back into school, until the Local Authority approved us having two groups for this class with a teacher and TA covering them between them, using walkie-talkies to communicate. Towards the end of the summer term we offered the opportunity to all our children who wanted to come into school for 3-4 sessions and most of our families took up this offer to give the children time in school in the hope that they would then be less anxious about returning in September.
During the whole of the March to September closure, the school wrap-round provision (The Peacock Club) had to stay closed. This provision, staffed by school employees, provides childcare before and after the school day, from 7.30am to 6pm, for working parents and is essential for many of our families. The provision is funded by the payments parents make when their children attend, however for over 6 months is had to stay closed, we still had the £1,500 bill every month for staff salaries. Unfortunately, because it is school run provision, we were not eligible to use the government furlough scheme. This has left us with a huge deficit. During the January closure we were asked to stay open for critical workers children and were able to claim from the Local Authority for the difference between our expected and actual income, which helped a little. However, the six months with no income has left a huge hole in the school budget.
For the autumn term we were open to everyone and children were expected to come into school; during this period school attendance was very good. The best part of the whole year was seeing how happy the children were just to be back in school and how quickly they adapted to the new ways of working. Since the start of wider opening in June, the children have been kept in class bubbles with no direct contact between class bubbles, only two bubbles go out to play at the same time and the playground is divided into zones for each class. All assembly sessions are done remotely with the children staying in their classes and either Rev Felicity or myself and lunch is eaten in separate sittings.
As a school we have been working with the children over the past few years to develop their understanding of mental health and how you can support your own mental health and that others. We have worked hard on their emotional awareness and ability to identify how they are feeling and their ability to empathize with the feelings of others. Since January 2021 we have been using yoga to teach the children strategies to give themselves time and space to identify their emotions and to help them manage extremes of emotion.During the autumn term 2020 the school appeared on an episode of the BBC TV programme, The Repair Shop.
We had asked for their help to restore the old school deed sign and had dropped the sign off in the summer of 2019. The sign was returned to school by a film crew in the November 2019, but we had to wait a whole year to see it on TV due to postproduction delays caused by the COBID crisis. They have done an amazing job, cleaning and restoring the school sign and it now hangs in the new school entrance hall.
The hardest part of the whole lockdown for school was the January to March closure. This time we had an average of 44 children in school, again either vulnerable children or children of key workers, with the rest at home. Unfortunately, the number of children in school meant that every class had to stay open, so class teachers were teaching a group of 9-13 children all day in school, while trying to provide the same learning for children at home. This time we were better prepared with a secure online platform for children and parents to use to access tasks, videos and games and to use to submit finished work back to teachers, but the workload for class teachers was huge.
Although a huge amount of time and energy have been devoted to keeping the school safe and all our children learning during the pandemic, we have also been developing areas of our provision in school.
We have worked hard on the development of outdoor learning. School staff have had training on using orienteering skills as part of lessons and running outdoor math lessons and we have invested in a bank of outdoor math resources. As well as being very engaging for the children, teaching outside is a far more COVID safe way of learning than being in a classroom. As part of the development of outdoor learning we have also invested in a canopy for Orange Class so that there is a covered area for our Y1/2 children to work all year round, providing shelter from rain and shade in the height of summer.
A lot of time, energy and resources have gone into setting up the new school library. We are extremely grateful for a donation from Shepreth Parish Council, which has been used, along with a donation from the Rugby Cement Benevolent Fund, to buy a lovely range of reading books to fill the library shelves. We have also invested in a computerized catalogue scheme so that the books can be scanned and borrowed, like a proper lending library. While there has been a delay in lending library books due to COVID, we have devised a COVID safe system, and the children have just started being able to borrow books to take home to read.
Over the past two years our staffing has continued to stay constant; two teachers have moved from fulltime to part time working for personal reasons and we welcomed Janice Nussey to be our Y5/6 teacher in September 2020. All other staffing remains the same.
Over the past two years school numbers have remained fairly constant at around 105 pupils, however we have
a larger number of pupils than normal requesting places for September 2021 so will see a slight increase in the number of pupils in school, if these children all take up the offer of a place here.
Challenges for the coming year;
Staying open and COVID free!
Developing an outdoor quiet area with seating (the previous one is now under the school extension) for children who would like an area outside, away from the hurly burly of the main playground. Any volunteers from the local community who have gardening expertise would be very welcome to come and help.
Continue the development of outdoor learning to include a range of resources to support learning across the school curriculum.
Developing the children’s understanding of the range of strategies to support their mental wellbeing and helping them to resolve any anxiety and extremes of emotion caused by the pandemic.
Growing in size as a school as houses in All Saints Gardens are released to families to live in from December 2021 – it will be a balancing act to try and ensure we have spaces across the school for children moving into the village while working within the tight school budget.
The Annual Meeting of the Green Charity will follow