There has been much debate and local disagreement about the proposed housing build at Darley Dale Primary School (Greenaway Lane). However, little of this has considered the impact on our children and their learning. As a parent, I chose Darley Dale Primary School because of its wonderful location in the middle of extensive playing fields with ample opportunities for learning outside and the fact it was a split site offering a gentle introduction into the education system. I am, however, very disappointed by the lack of creativity shown in the proposed development of the school site. Whilst I can see some benefits to uniting the school into one building, I feel the proposed plan is a compromise with the children losing valuable teaching and learning space. The proposed development of the lower school site will see the school losing two classrooms. Currently, the lower school also has a dedicated playground and the use of the enclosed grassed area, both of which will be built on under the current proposals. This will impact on the school’s ability to deliver the full range of the curriculum for KS1 and the EYFS which requires learning to take place both indoors and outdoors. Why settle for minimum build requirements in terms of space when what we already have is so much better? I think the school will soon regret the loss of so much valuable space. How will the school cope with everyone using the one hall for lunch? How will our youngest Foundation Stage children cope with the noise and size of older junior children?
In the school’s letter of support for the proposed joining together on one site it states:
“The present infant class rooms are no longer up to the standard as required for the present day teaching standards as pointed out by OFSTED on their recent inspection. They state in their report, ‘There are insufficient opportunities for children to use the outside learning areas independently. However there are plans for a purpose built unit for the EFYS/K.S.1 stage to resolve this issue. (Dec. 2008).’”
Surely this is what we have already?! If children are taken outside they can use the outside space independently. Independent child-initiated learning is of paramount importance to children of this age, it requires skilful and creative practitioners/teachers who are able to deliver an exciting and challenging curriculum, it does not require an enclosed small courtyard as set out in the new classrooms. What could be more inspiring and challenging than an afternoon spent outside bug hunting or creating an Andy Goldsworthy-style sculpture on the Infant Playground and Orchard? I believe this comment has more to do with teaching and learning opportunities and less to do with the actual building. I do not believe the new classrooms will resolve this issue and the children will lose a wonderful space and sense of freedom. I have been an ardent supporter and advocate of Darley Dale Primary School but feel that the governors and DCC are taking a very narrow view with no consultation with parents over the future of the school. I believe very strongly as does OFSTED that schools should work in partnership with parents and the wider community. In this matter I do not feel this has been the case and urge them to re-consider their plans so any changes are of benefit to our children rather than to their detriment.