My reply to a standard e-mail about the planning application site for the proposed temporary site of the Steiner Academy Exeter in Exeter has opened up a dialogue with a parent:
Dear Cllr Bull,
Thank you for your swift response to my letter. I would like to address one or two points.
Firstly, the youngest children will not be required to stay at school for the whole day unless they are in afternoon care. This means that many will leave at lunchtime.
Secondly, many of the parents who live “out” will no doubt already be thinking of moving into the city. Having suffered a year of long school commutes, that is just what I am doing!
Thirdly, you mention that you can find no reference to walking to school being part of the Steiner philosophy. I was fortunate enough to attend some of Alan Swindell’s lectures last year and he specifically mentioned insisting that parents should walk their children to school. This is because children concentrate better if their bodies have done some work first. They also have time to experience first hand the weather, whatever it brings, and the passing seasons, an important aspect of Steiner education.
There are a great number of parents who are very grateful to Mr Swindell and his team. This gratitude should not be underestimated. If Mr Swindell insists that parents walk their children to school, they will.
You will be pleased to hear that the planning application was approved at tonight’s meeting.
On the points you raise:
I have read ALL the documents that were submitted as supporting evidence, all of which need to be taken account of as material planning considerations in determining any planning application in what is a quasi-judicial process.
I’m sorry to go on about evidenced-based documents, but the planning committee have to have the true facts presented to them in the application documents and the presentations at the committee meeting.
The document I prepared was in response to discussions with one the Governors of SAE, Jenny Salmon, who is a resident of the ward I represent..It took shape as I worked as a critical friend, highlighting what I thought was missing in the past, and what would help the application in the future.
I would like to think that some of the work I’ve been doing in the background has helped this come to a successful resolution.
And to address you specific points:
1) At NO STAGE was any reference made to younger children leaving school after the morning session.
The transport strategy and the standard travel plan refer only to morning delivery and afternoon collection, and the amended planning condition makes reference to morning start time and afternoon finish.
If it were thought that mid-day collection would reduce predicted trips, then this should have been in the documentation.
2) Again I refer to the data in the documents, especially in the transnport strategy and the standard school plan.
These are quite clear on predicted modes of travel, with a predicted 60% of pupils needing a car to get to the site.
3) On walking, if this philosophy is so fundamental to Steiner educational delivery, again why wasn’t it in the original documents?
And if it is so fundamental to Steiner principles, why isn’t it in big bold letters on SAE and other websites.
I have no doubt staff and parents will join local councillors in making all aspects of traffic management work for the limited time that SAE is on this site