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THE EDENBRIDGE VISION - DETAILED PROPOSAL
 
Introduction

The initial Edenbridge Vision proposal was submitted to KCC on 19th February 2002 for consideration during the consultation period on the closure of Eden Valley School. This more detailed proposal builds on the initial outline. It has been worked up by a multi-agency group who are committed to working in partnership towards retaining and further developing secondary education and community facilities on the site.

This innovative and ground-breaking partnership project aims to keep Eden Valley School open, paving the way for the new Edenbridge College to be established to meet the needs of this rural community.

The Eden Valley Parents' Action Group (EVPSG) marketing plan is attached as Annex A. and plans of Edenbridge are included as Annex B.


Background

Edenbridge is a market town of nearly 8,000 population on the borders of Kent, Surrey and East Sussex, serving as a centre for the surrounding rural area. The road links to surrounding urban areas are poor.

The population of the town has expanded since the early 1970s and is comprised of three distinct groups; the original population, the community that settled in the area as a result of the GLC overspill projects in the 1970s and the newest group, who have taken occupation of the new social housing. There is a strong need for a community facility to help the residents of the area to reduce current and potential tensions.

Edenbridge has experienced growth throughout the 1990s with the number of households increasing from 3,000 in 1990 to 3,416 in 2001, with a further 106 houses planned for construction in 2002. Most of the growth has been in social housing, representing an increase in social housing stock of approximately 40%. The two main social housing providers are West Kent Housing Association and Moat Housing Society. West Kent have 544 units in the area, mostly two and three bedroom houses or bungalows but also including 146 one bedroom properties, mostly flats, and 43 sheltered units. Moat Housing Society has 229 units, mostly two and three bedroom houses, as well as 12 hostel units.
The town has pockets of deprivation in close proximity to moderate affluence. An area of social housing in the town centre is surrounded by owner-occupied housing, which highlights the contrast. In the DETR Index of Deprivation 2000, the two wards of Edenbridge South and Edenbridge North are in the top 6% of wards nationally for education, skills and training and ranked 10th and 11th in the 331 wards in Kent. Edenbridge North is ranked 3rd in Kent for truancy.

Reported crime in Edenbridge more than doubled over the three years to 2001 and is 33% higher than the Kent average. The number of abandoned vehicles in Edenbridge for 2000/02 was 142, a 57% increase over the previous year. There has also been an upward trend in flytipping since 1997. Additionally there are problems with criminal damage, which has risen significantly in the area recently, with 280 incidents recorded during 2000. Criminal damage is three times higher than any other category of crime in the area (source Kent County Constabulary).

The problems experienced by the community have also been highlighted through public consultations in the town. Intimidation is a serious problem in the area and has contributed to the stress and fragmentation of the community. The actions of a small group, for criminal damage, litter and graffiti have left many of the vulnerable residents in the area feeling fearful and isolated. Public meetings have identified a range of issues that are of most concern to the community:

  • Anti-social behaviour;
  • Criminal damage;
  • Lack of police presence;
  • Harassment;
  • Intimidation;
  • Environmental issues (litter and graffiti);

The Edenbridge Community Appraisal 2001 demonstrated the views of the community on a range of issues. Key concerns for the area included education, crime and activities and facilities for young people. A recent bid for funding from the Neighbourhood and Street Wardens' Programme further highlighted these issues.

A Street Warden will commence work in Edenbridge in April 2002 and will help to ensure that progress can be made towards addressing some of these problems. A steering group consisting of 4 tenant representatives, 2 owner-occupiers, a Town Council representative, 2 housing officers, a representative of Age Concern, a police representative will work with the Wardens supervisor to help target the resources effectively.

Many of the residents of Edenbridge are heavily dependant on local services and there are severe pressures on the primary and secondary school, police, social services, health providers and voluntary organisations. Long-standing residents feel that the social housing in the area attracts disaffected families. Their perception is that this is exacerbating the situation.


Eden Valley School

For many years Eden Valley School, which is located close to the centre of Edenbridge, has provided a strong community focus in addition to secondary education. It hosts a range of community activities, together with a youth and community centre on site.

However, for a variety of reasons, including the choice of Grammar and Comprehensive schools in the surrounding area, a large number of young people travel to schools outside Edenbridge. Currently, Eden Valley is the smallest secondary school in Kent, with 228 students on roll. First preference applications for the intake for the current year (September 2002) are only a quarter of the level set by OfSTED as required for a viable secondary school. Taking account of the falling school roll, the increasing budget deficit and a variety of other factors, the most recent OfSTED inspection report concluded that the school is likely in the future to fail to provide an acceptable level of education despite the best efforts of the headteacher and her staff. The school was placed in Special Measures in January 2002. The LEAs considered response was to consult on a proposal to close the school and transfer existing pupils to other available schools some miles away.

However, since the beginning of 2000, an innovative partnership arrangement with Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls (TGSG) has been developed. This has resulted in improvements in GCSE attainment through:

  • the provision of a high quality acting headteacher
  • the creation of a nucleus of a strong teaching team
  • improved student behaviour
  • raised standards of achievement
  • some refurbishment and remodelling of the premises to include an IT suite, a Social Inclusion Centre and improved site security
  • improved management of the school

Other imaginative partnership projects have also been undertaken with the literacy and numeracy programmes provided with the Chiddingstone Primary School and the Eden Valley Project, which through the Sevenoaks District Community Safety Partnership, has addressed the level of truanting and social dysfunction. These achievements must be built on and it is proposed that declining pupil numbers could be halted by providing a community college with special vocational appeal.


Needs Appraisal

Initial assessment strongly suggests that there is a need in the area for a community facility, that provides a wide range of services and facilities. As well as the educational needs of the young people in the area, there is a need to ensure continued provision of the range of services currently available on the site.

Educational provision on the site should be inclusive. There is scope to provide a range of adult learning and lifelong learning services as well as secondary schooling. Adult learning courses are currently provided and these could be expanded to further meet the needs of the community.

Vocational education could be developed to match the potential of the community with the needs of local businesses. This would increase the level of participation for many residents as well as helping to reduce the in-flows and out-flows of traffic in the area at peak times. This would also help to ensure that the local economy is more able to be self-sustaining, while also contributing to the reduction of petty-crime in the area.

By providing vocational education, the Vision will help Edenbridge to work towards the aims set out in the recent Education Green Paper.

Further information will need to be gathered through other studies, such as the SRB feasibility study into apprenticeship schemes in order to provide an in-depth needs appraisal on which to base future plans. It is intended that this will be done in June/July 2002.

The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act places a requirement on all local authorities and the police to draw up a Community Safety Strategy. The aims and objectives of the partnership and indeed the strategy are as follows:

  • To reduce crime and its effects on the community;
  • To reduce the fear of crime;
  • To work together with the community to provide a safer environment and improved quality of life for everyone who works in the District.

The Crime & Disorder Audit 2001, carried out by Sevenoaks District Community Safety Partnership demonstrates that there has been a significant increase in petty crime and vandalism in the area. This has been further underlined in recent public meetings and is being addressed by specific police operations. However, longer-term gains must have community involvement, if they are to fulfill their potential.

The needs of the people of Edenbridge were reflected in the Edenbridge Community Appraisal 2001. Key issues reflected in the Appraisal included 77.9% of respondents considered continued education provision in the town to be important or very important, more activities for young people, crime prevention (particularly vandalism which was highlighted by 91.8% of respondents), improved social facilities for young people (71.1%), the provision of adult evening classes (54.5%), and after school clubs (39.2%).


Matching Needs

The Education Green paper suggests that vocational education should be provided to those young people that would benefit most, thus reducing the extent to which their opportunities are limited as a result of low attainment at GCSE level education. Young people in the area would benefit from the provision of vocational training as this would increase their chances of finding employment in the local area. Through vocational training, skills can be directly linked to the needs of local businesses.

By increasing the opportunities for local people to gain employment with local businesses, there will be a reduction in commuter levels as well as the real advantages for employers and the community of Edenbridge. This will contribute substantially to reducing traffic volumes in an area that does not have good road networks.

This can also be addressed through the development of a comprehensive community facility, where there is a likelihood that the community at large can take greater ownership of their environment. By encouraging a greater level of community involvement, many people in the area can enrich their lives through attendance at the various local groups. It is also likely that these people will have the opportunity to experience things that they would not otherwise have done, thus resulting in improved life-skills.

The development of the facility can help local people to live healthier lives. The range of clubs and facilities will allow all members of the community to participate in sports, games and other activities would have a knock-on effect of improving health generally.


Community Development

By providing a wide ranging facility, local people will be empowered to address key issues for their community.

New housing planned for the area (106 units) will increase the number of families and children requiring the services set out above, and the need to incorporate these new residents into the local community is recognised.


Partnership Working

The Edenbridge Vision has been worked-up by a multi-agency group. This has helped the development of the Vision in that all views have been represented and a balance has been struck between each of the needs of the various groups.

This partnership approach should continue as it is the best way to address the range of issues and needs of the community. By continued partnership working it is likely that a greater range of solutions and services can be developed and implemented.

The Vision aims to be an outcomes based project and seeks to ensure that all outcomes are maximised.


Educational Provision

The recent Education Green Paper, published on 12th February 2002 sets out a 'new and different approach that will enable young people in the 21st Century to realise their full potential in the light of the changing requirements of the UK labour market'.

The key messages for Edenbridge are :

  • Increase the proportion of 16 and 17 year olds who stay in full-time education;
  • Address skills gaps, especially in information technology;
  • Increased vocational education and training for under 19 year olds;
  • Improvements in independent careers advice available to young people.

Edenbridge Community College

It is proposed that the school site should be a focal point for the whole community as follows:

1. A nursery centre:

  • Edenbridge Day Nursery

A Management Team made up of Edenbridge parents has been recruited to establish a nursery centre at Eden Valley School. This will offer 40+ places for children 0 - 4 years, 5 days per week.

It is estimated that £175,000 would be needed for the centre and a surveyor has been employed to work up a plan of exact costings. The group will apply for KCC Early Years Capital funding. Research is being undertaken and training for the group is being delivered.

A number of agencies support the scheme including the Kent Guidance Consortium, West Kent Early Years (KCC), Association of West Kent Tenants, the Pre-School Learning Alliance and West Kent Council for Voluntary Service (WKCVS). The nursery centre would be an extension and enhancement of the Bridges Allsorts child-care work that has already proved very successful and there is support from the local community for the scheme.

West Kent College has a partnership with WKCVS and have agreed to help develop a business plan for the nursery. As well as creating a valuable resource for parents, it is envisaged that the facility would be used by a variety of community groups. It will also provide training opportunities for staff, students, young parents and others with accreditation.

  • A crèche

A crèche for users of the facility will also be provided to tie in with facility activities. Further work with potential providers is needed.

  • A breakfast café

It is proposed to base this on the Swanley model established at a location next to St Mary's Primary School, which was originally piloted in September 1999.

The breakfast café would provide an informal meeting point for parents, where they can discuss issues, access information and training and become more involved in local activities and decision making.

Food and drink would be available and a non-compulsory donation would be invited from attendees. The project would provide first aid courses, exercise sessions, a basic food hygiene course, a make over course and literary skills support.

The project would also provide information and support on a wide range of issues including child health matters, welfare benefits, employment and training opportunities, housing and community safety concerns.

Involvement in the Swanley model has been high and the participants have now expanded its remit further and have begun to take over responsibility for the operation of the project itself. A similar development plan will be prepared for the Edenbridge breakfast café.

Funding would be sought for this project by the Association of West Kent Tenants who would sponsor the café.

2. Secondary and post-16 Education

The vision for Edenbridge Community College includes the provision of a seamless, cohesive system of education for local young people, spanning the secondary and post-16 sectors, in line with current government thinking. The establishment of this vocationally based local provision would require foresight and investment on the part of the relevant decision makers. This is strongly endorsed by the community, 77.9% of whom have indicated their backing in the Edenbridge Community Appraisal 2001.

Investment would be needed in terms of commitment to the vision, commitment to the well being of the Edenbridge community and an initial financial subsidy until the College could access the Fresh Start funding and build up reputation and recruitment.

  • Secondary Education

As already stated, the DETR Index of Deprivation 2000 places the wards of Edenbridge North and Edenbridge South in the top 6% of the most deprived wards nationally for education, skills and training and is ranked 10th and 11th of the 331 wards in Kent. The complete eradication of any educational provision post -11 in the town can only acerbate the situation. It is educationally and socially unacceptable that a growing and thriving rural/light industrial community, such as Edenbridge should be left without any secondary educational facilities.

In the short term it may be difficult to provide financial justification for the continuance of education in Edenbridge for pupils at Key Stages 3 and 4. More importantly, however, in the longer term, the educational, social and practical arguments for maintaining this provision are self-evident. These include:

  • the need for the stability and support of a local community educational institution in order for current and potential pupils, especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, to achieve fully
  • the vision of the Government's Green Paper 14-19, in terms of promoting 'a truly coherent education system', 'extending opportunities, raising standards' and 'the development of the whole person' as an active responsible citizen
  • the social and economic necessity of maintaining the cohesion of the local community for people of all ages
  • the undesirability of bussing large numbers of young people, some of whom may well be already disaffected, artificially away from their local environment
  • the high costs of such transport arrangements and of the resulting supervision requirements
  • the further alienation of some young people from their home environment and resulting increase in the vandalism and petty crime which would destabilise a small community
  • the short sightedness of ignoring future demographic requirements for secondary provision in Edenbridge and the attendant high wastage of public finance in terms of the combined costs of closure and subsequent rebuilding from scratch.
  • A continued system of secondary provision, as an integral part of the Edenbridge Community College, would have the following characteristics:
  • a vocational focus, with the possibility of specialist schools status under the TC Trust as an Engineering or Technology College
  • the full range of National Curriculum Core subjects, together with a range of vocational GCSEs such as business, health & social care, engineering, ICT, travel & tourism
  • a well-structured, interactive and disciplined working environment, which stresses active learning and personal responsibility both within the College and within the wider community
  • the cost-effectiveness of sharing human and capital teaching resources with the on-site post-16 provision and the sharing of the other physical resources with the other services in the College
  • the support of on-site community support services, a lifelong learning centre, homework clubs, voluntary sector facilities and youth facilities which would extend pupils' and students' learning experiences and improve their opportunities for achievement
  • on-site youth facilities for enrichment activities, including those provided by Connexions and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme as set out below
  • a seamless 14-19 educational on-site provision for young people in Edenbridge and surrounding areas
  • strong effective links with local industry, which enhance learning and motivate learners.
  • Post-16 Education

The Edenbridge vision includes the provision of vocationally based post-16 education in Edenbridge College which follows on directly from Key Stages 3 and 4. This would offer the young people of Edenbridge a cohesive and uninterrupted process of learning, not only for 14-19 but also 11-19. The benefits of such a system are very clear and include many of those already mentioned above in the section on Secondary Education.

Additional benefits would include:
  • a familiar, secure environment where teachers would have come to know their students well and understand their learning and support needs
  • an enriched learning environment, providing extensive opportunities for academic, vocational and personal development
  • cost-effective sharing of facilities both with other on-site services and with local industry
  • opportunities for students from surrounding areas, such as Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and East Sussex to benefit from both the vocational curriculum offered and from the unique learning environment
  • The post-16 provision would share all of the relevant characteristics of the pre-16 provision including its distinctly vocational flavour. Opportunities for study would include:
  • a range of level 3 VCE AS/A Level courses such as Business, Engineering, ICT, Travel and Tourism
  • a number of level 2 and level 1 Intermediate and Foundation GNVQ courses in similar areas to the VCE AS/A Level courses·
  • NVQ and other vocational courses at various levels in areas such as childcare, business administration/secretarial
  • collaborative and/or franchise links with other FE colleges in the region for extension and broadening of the curriculum initially
  • development of the use of ICT for delivery of the in-house curriculum and also for delivering courses from outside the College
  • effective, vocational links with local industries for curricular and work experience purposes
  • development of European links through Edenbridge's twinning arrangements for enrichment and work experience

3. After school and homework clubs:

  • After school club

The club would be developed using the Twiglets model in Swanley and would help to work towards addressing the community's desire for after school clubs, as reflected in the Edenbridge Community Appraisal.

It would provide after school care between 3.30pm and 6.00pm for 5 - 14 year olds for up to 5 days per week. The club would provide attendees with a meal as well as helping with their homework. Toys, books and games would be available. Club members would have supervised access to the other facilities on site on an agreed basis.

The club would also cater for special needs children and a quiet area provided for IT access to assist with homework.

Funding would be sought from KCC Social Services and external funders.

  • 10p Club for 11 - 14 year olds

This club will be started in March 2002 at the Exclusion Unit in Eden Valley School. The target group for the club is 11 - 14 year olds who are not represented at the Youth Club. The young people will have access to painting materials, computers skills training, cookery lessons (parents will also be encouraged to attend), life skills training and instruction in improving self-esteem. It is envisaged that over time, parents and carers of the young people will become involved with the club. This scheme is already funded by KCC Social Services.

In the Edenbridge Appraisal 2001, 39.2% of respondents indicated their support for after school clubs. Closure of the school will is likely to result in this essential club closing as well. There is a lack of similar services in the area, with other schools operating clubs of this type during lunch times. There is strong concern over the likely further alienation of young people in the area if facilities of this type are not provided. The likelihood is that this situation would have a knock-on effect of increased levels of vandalism and petty crime as identified earlier.

4. A vocational education centre, to include apprenticeships:

  • Apprenticeship course and schemes

A feasibility study into this proposal will be undertaken by Edenbridge Town Council during April 2002 - June 2002 with SRB funding. A report will be prepared for publication before the Autumn to enable detailed plans to be drawn up. Local businesses have already indicated a high level of support for this proposal.

  • Work experience

Work experience opportunities are already available to some extent within Edenbridge. The range of options will be expanded to include greater participation from the list of businesses supporting this Vision and listed in Appendix 2 of Annex A of the Eden Valley Parents' Action Group marketing plan. Edenbridge Town Council will develop this option in conjunction with the Connexions service due to go live in September 2002.

5. A lifelong learning centre for adults of all abilities:

It is proposed that the site would provide a venue for adult education, including literacy, numeracy, arts and crafts and Information Technology. Courses would lead to more specific accredited learning, leading to improved employment opportunities. The need for facilities of this type was highlighted in the Edenbridge Appraisal 2001, in which 54.5% of respondents said that adult education evening classes were needed in Edenbridge.

It is envisaged that this would encourage people from surrounding villages to use the centre, thus increasing the potential for additional services to be provided on the site.

Local businesses would be able to tap into the facilities and services offered at the centre and would be invited to help shape the subjects and courses that are provided, in order to increase the skills base of potential employees in the area. The centre could also be used for training local employees and for promoting local businesses and recruitment.

  • A venue for adult education, including literacy, numeracy, arts and crafts

West Kent College currently runs a community programme at Eden Valley School and can, in the future offer Further Education courses, vocational GCSEs for 14 - 16 year olds, plus Link courses and Adult Education. The range of community programmes the College offers include basic skills training, assertiveness skills and returning to work assistance for adults. The adult courses are funded by the Learning Skills Council. West Kent College has expressed particular concern for the 14 - 16 year old students at Eden Valley School and have pledged their support for the young people. Vocational GCSE courses will commence at West Kent College in September 2002. The College have offered their help to students who may need it should the school close.

  • Open days for local businesses (local recruitment and training promotion)

Meeting rooms and a larger open area would be a feature of the centre. These would be used for a variety of purposes by local businesses, including open days, exhibitions and training, as set out above.

  • A library

It is proposed to negotiate moving the library in Edenbridge to this site to increase the centre's potential to provide a wide range of education and information. The library would be of use to school children to help with their studies and would be of particular help for homework clubs. It would also be a very important part of any adult learning courses, providing the required literature and information or help and guidance on how to access information.

The development of a library would allow story clubs for children to be opened up and would provide parents with a venue and material to read with their children. This in turn will help to identify the need for literacy classes to be offered to some of these parents - directly linking-in with the courses offered on the site.
Computers, with internet access, would be situated in the library. These would be used for both formal educational purposes, as well as for informal research and general usage.
Negotiations on this possibility would need to be carried forward by KCC Education & Libraries and would need to include public consultation. This proposed move would also provide capital investment in the new facility. If it is not practicable to develop a library on the site, regular scheduled visits by a fully equipped mobile library will be necessary. (This would not be the best option but would contribute to many of the proposed services.)

  • Family learning days

Multi-agency provision of sessions including painting for all the family, Information Technology, story reading/writing are a good way of bringing in all members of the family in a relaxed and informal manner, introducing the idea that learning can be fun, as well as helping to develop the 'family' as an interactive whole.

There is a likelihood that these types of sessions could encourage the involvement of parents who would otherwise be unlikely to access learning opportunities and signpost further new activities and opportunities.

A detailed multi-agency programme would be drawn up to commence from April 2003.

6. A range of Community Support Services, including 'life skills' and health information:

  • CAB outreach for young people

The Edenbridge CAB is currently looking at the possibility of outreach services including the idea of Future Benefit Surgeries for lone parents, young adults, and families on low incomes, within the local community. This could be accommodated within the college premises.

  • Drugs and alcohol education

The Community Safety Partnership is looking at providing a programme of drug education in schools for primary and secondary age children and for those young people who may not be attending or have left school. This would be assisted from the Communities Against Drugs Fund. This programme would be focussed on the Edenbridge Community College in particular and this work would be linked to Health Promotion and funding for any proposed projects would also be sought from the South West Kent Primary Care Trust (PCT).

  • Police Surgeries

At present, these are held on an ad hoc basis in Edenbridge in Spitals Cross. These would be moved to the college to enable a wider range of people to participate. Area Neighbourhood Watch meetings would also be held on site and arranged via West Kent Area Neighbourhood Watch Group.

  • Health Promotion

The South West Kent PCT has expressed a wish to be involved in the provision of services at a community facility in Edenbridge. This would take the form of 1-2 hours per month for a health after school drop in service. It is envisaged that a Health Visitor or PCT team member would work in school health promotion, in particular the anti-stigma awareness of mental health issues. This would be carried out during 2-3 sessions during term time. A cash contribution would come via the Health Promotion Strategy. The provision of a health education programme to cover sexual health matters and teenage pregnancy issues will also be investigated. The PCT has also suggested the provision of Parenting Education for parents with school age children to cover issues such as behaviour management skills. This would take the form of 10 x 2 hour weekly sessions twice a year.

  • A Health Action Team

This could be set up locally to bid for funding for a healthy living centre in partnership with the South West Kent PCT who have confirmed their longer term plans to extend their role in health promotion in the future.

  • Healthy Living Centre

The Healthy Living Centre could be based on the Swanley Shaping Up model which aims to contribute to improvements in the health and wellbeing of Swanley residents.

This seeks to:

1. increase the participation of residents in exercise and healthy lifestyles
2. decrease the number and rate of teenage pregnancies

The Health Action Team will provide a co-ordinated and targeted response to the needs of local residents, which complement mainstream NHS services. The programme aims to improve community awareness about the help available locally to achieve healthier lifestyles and to encourage take up by addressing access issues.

This experience could be drawn on to improve local health and well being in a way which builds on the lessons learned through the pilot that is currently underway in the District.

  • Housing Association Surgeries

West Kent Housing Association, which is closing its Edenbridge office is keen to hold weekly half-day surgeries for tenants and would consider relocating activities which currently take place in a small room at Templar Court to the new facilities. Moat Housing Society would also provide regular fortnightly surgeries on site and wish to use the improved facilities for tenants meetings.

7. Voluntary Sector facilities:

  • Volunteer Bureau outreach

The current Volunteer (Transport) Bureau in Edenbridge organises transport for the elderly and people with disabilities via Sevenoaks District Council's mini buses and also provides an extensive network of volunteer drivers.

An urgent need has been identified to provide conventional volunteer bureau services to enable local people to access volunteering opportunities in Edenbridge and the surrounding rural area. These opportunities would have the double advantage of promoting community cohesion and on an individual basis providing a range of experiences for volunteers. Outreach from either Sevenoaks or Swanley Volunteer Bureaux is envisaged as a possibility in the first instance.

  • VSU Youth in Action initiatives

VSU are interested in the possibility of using the facility. Subject to staffing resources, it is hoped that the children's club in could be re-opened. There is currently a project with Mencap with 3 volunteer pupils from Edenbridge. A reading scheme to help primary school children or an after school club/homework club could link in to the other initiatives planned and provide valuable volunteering experience for local people.

  • Office facilities for local groups

The Enterprise Agency for North Kent has recognised that there is a shortage of premises in Edenbridge for start up of small business. Provision of space which has short lease times, parking, possible access for deliveries, small workshops and offices for between one and four people are needed. A percentage of the income generated from this could contribute to the overall facility. There could be joint usage with the Faith Community, with office space for shared ecumenical use.

  • Senior Citizens group

An established Senior Citizens group Currently use the Astor Centre. This could be extended to benefit larger numbers and links with Positive Ageing and the University of the Third Age could be established.

  • Mind social evenings for people with mental health problems

Sevenoaks and District Association of Mental Health, which is affiliated to Mind, have identified the lack of facilities in the town for people with mental health difficulties. They would welcome access to facilities provided as a result of the Edenbridge Vision.

  • Building Bridges project for people with mental health problems

The Building Bridges Service for Edenbridge is a three year project for families with a parent experiencing mental health difficulties and is based on models in Luton, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets. It is proposed that the project will run for 15 months initially, with the aim of reducing the likelihood of children experiencing neglect or suffering physical and/or mental harm and to positively enhance the relationships between family members. It is also hoped that the knock-on effect of this work will be a reduction in the number of families that require additional social housing.

Social workers point to the need for such a service in the area as there is evidence of family breakdown, resulting, in some cases, in children being taken into care. There is currently no such provision in the area.

The service is supported by the Family Welfare Association (FWA), a registered national charity that provides support for children and families in need. The FWA has a long history of developing innovative and effective solutions to the problems faced by vulnerable families, including family support, mental health services, grants for people in need and educational grants.

Funding for the Edenbridge project, which will be run on the existing premises, has already come from a range of sources:

  • £20,000 from the Sainsbury Family Trust
  • £80,000 from KCC Social Services (Children and Families)
  • £5,000 from Sevenoaks District Council

Closure of the school will mean that this important service will not have a suitable venue.

  • Counselling services

Expressions of interest have been received for counselling facilities on the site. Relate currently have offices in Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks and would be interested in establishing a facility in Edenbridge if demand was sufficient. This would include usage as a 'drop in' centre. Mentoring and befriending would be relocated to the facility.

SWKPCT provides services to deal with sexual health matters. They highlight the fact that there is only one General Practitioners practice in Edenbridge and have suggested that there is scope to develop a drop-in health clinic for teenagers. The service could also provide discrete advice about pregnancy and contraception at times when young people would be able to access the service. This is of particular relevance to the area as teenage pregnancy rates are rising.

  • Mencap

Mencap currently use the Astor Centre for weekly sessions, which are well attended. The group also organises swimming sessions at the local leisure centre. Other activities include parties and discos.

Mencap would welcome the proposed refurbishment as an enhanced provision and are committed to continued usage.

8. Refurbished youth facilities:

The existing Astor Youth & Community Centre is in urgent need of refurbishment. £150,000 private investment is already available through a Section 106 agreement with Bovis, the developers of a nearby housing site. This money is available to improve the premises and provide a rollerblade/skate board area, plus a multi-purpose hard court area is estimated at around £350,000. KCC Youth and Community is responsible for delivering a programme of youth activities on site. Its current commitment includes a full time youth worker, a part time centre bursar, a part time staffing budget of £9,000 and a contribution towards running costs and curriculum delivery in the Centre.

In the past year this work has been supplemented with the provision of specialist courses supported through the Connexions budget and it is planned for this to continue.

Recent consultation with the young people in the Edenbridge area has highlighted their desire to have a skateboard park built on the site. They have raised awareness through a video and petition to various public agencies. The young people have indicated their willingness to fund raise for this facility. There has also been wide support for a hard court area to be provided, in order to allow sports such as five-a-side football and basketball to be played. Based on land at the rear of the Astor Centre, this would represent a very useful facility for the young people in the area and contribute to the healthy lifestyles agenda.

The English Basketball Association has offered their support to this idea and there is a possibility of match-funding from Sport England or the Foundation for Sport and the Arts.

  • Develop as a local centre for the Kent and Medway Connexions service

The Governments new Connexions Service is due to be launched in Kent in September 2002. The Service is intended to compliment the other youth projects in the area and create a quality support and advice network for young people aged 13 to 19. At the heart of the development is the creation of 'one stop shops'. These would help to bring together the wide-range of services available to young people in a more coherent way.

The refurbishment of the Astor Centre is essential to ensure that a suitable venue for such a service is available. By housing a range of services in one location, integration between the different providers and the users of the services would be enhanced. If Edenbridge is not chosen for a One-Stop-Shop, an outreach service will still be required on site.

  • Additional specialist activities for youth groups

The refurbishment of the Astor Centre would enable the delivery of more specialist activities including arts provision and ICT. These services are currently difficult to deliver due to the layout of the existing building.

By upgrading the current computer facilities, not only would young people benefit from improved learning opportunities, but the potential for adult learning at the Centre would be maximised as set out above.

  • Personal achievement awards and Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme

Improved links with the Careers Services and local colleges, through the Connexions service for example, would broaden the opportunities available for young people to access a range of opportunities for personal achievement and accreditation. There could also be the opportunity to explore support for young people at risk of disengaging with the Education service.

In addition to the more formal routes there would also be the opportunity to undertake other options including the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. There could also be enhanced vocational opportunities for young people from the area through potential links with West Kent College.

  • Air Training Corps (ATC)

The ATC currently occupy premises on the Eden Valley site and provide the usual range of opportunities for young people connected with the RAF.

It is intended that this excellent structured activity should continue on site as it offers a very real alternative to the more relaxed approach of the youth service, and appeals to the needs of young people who relate better to a more formal approach.

The ATC have expressed concerns that closure of the school will have severe implications for their cadets in that numbers would be likely to drop.

9. The Local Faith Community

There is also scope to further develop existing links between faith groups in the area. Consultation and discussion between the leaders of the various churches in the area have resulted in a broad base of support for the Vision and strong support for the involvement of the Eden Baptist Church.

Good examples of the work already underway in the area are the Bridges Project and the Eden Christian Trust. The Eden Christian Trust provides a youth coordinator to work with young people from all faiths, as well as those who do not attend church at all. The Trust runs a very popular group on Friday nights, with some fifty young people involved, as well as a range of activities throughout the year, which are also available to all.

Work is ongoing to develop the links between the church and the Sevenoaks Youth Development Officer to further strengthen provision in the area as set out in Sevenoaks District Council's innovative Youth Peoples Action Plan.

The Eden Baptist Church has been considering the possibility of developing a new church/community building for the last two years. The church has worked with the school and the community to explore the benefits of this potential development, aimed at serving the needs of the community in a variety of ways.

The church, in addition to traditional services, also runs and hosts a wide range of activities, including mother and toddler groups, a mentoring scheme for children in need of extra attention, a lunch club for the elderly, a youth club and various other groups. These activities could compliment the proposed development of the centre and could form a key contribution to the Vision.

The Eden Church has submitted a proposal for a new building on the school site, adjacent to the existing ATC buildings, and would offer to accommodate these activities if this goes ahead. Alternatively, there is a great willingness to contribute to any new community facility, both in terms of funding and resources, providing a designated part of the building could be used for church services. This could be combined with greater ecumenical input to the facility, which has worked well elsewhere, for example at Temple Hill, Dartford.

In the Edenbridge Community Appraisal 2001, 36.6% of respondents saw the local church as a focal point for the community. There was even higher level of support for other church functions, such as weddings and funerals, to be provided locally.

The Short Term

In the short term it is essential that urgent consideration is given to the future use of this site.

Once a decision has been made as to the shape of the future, detailed plans will be required to be completed by July 2002 either to refurbish the existing premises to meet the needs of the Community College, or to develop a new community facility.

If a new community facility is to be built, it will be essential to retain use of the existing premises to support current community services until any new centre is available.

Funding the new College - Fresh Start

Fresh Start is designed to replace a school that is in special measures with a new school. Schools must be approved by Ministers for acceptance into a Fresh Start programme. The purpose of the programme is to help schools to establish themselves in their local community, to embed good practice into its operation and to become a successful school, achieving high standards. It is proposed that an application should be made by the LEA to enable the new Edenbridge College to commence from September 2003 as part of this programme.

A Fresh Start college would:

  • Be established with a clear commitment from its LEA and senior management to provide the right learning environment to enable pupils to achieve their full educational potential;
  • Ensure that staffing and governance are suitable for providing the appropriate learning environment;
  • Have clear, well planned and financially secure strategies in place for tackling weaknesses and building on the strengths of the school, with particular reference to teaching, learning, curriculum and staff development, behaviour and attendance, leadership and management, staff appointments, and responsiveness to the needs of the local community;
  • Have a Raising Attainment Plan (RAP), for implementing strategies, agreed with its LEA, OfSTED and DfES.

Planning for Fresh Start should begin immediately to allow at least a year before the proposed new school is to open and should involve all key partners. The LEA should appoint a project manager, preferably by September 2002 to oversee the project from start to finish.

A Handling Plan would need to be drawn up following consultation. This should be finalised by January 2003 to enable the new college to open in September 2003. It should set out the timetable and identify key milestones, with particular reference to:

  • Procedures for consulting with unions, parents and the wider community;
  • Procedures for formally closing the existing Eden Valley school and opening the new College;
  • Procedures for appointing the Headteacher, who should be in post one term prior to the opening, and for the governing body and other staff;
  • Likely revenue costs for the three years following confirmation of the proposal
  • Likely capital costs.

Once the initial planning stage is complete, financial support is dependant on DfES and OfSTED approval of the Raising Attainment Plan (RAP). This should be approved at least a term before the new College opens in September 2003 and would provide the blueprint for the future.

The RAP would need to be drawn up by the new Headteacher in consultation with the LEA, the Fresh Start project manager and the newly constituted shadow governing body as well as OFSTED and DfES.

The key elements of the RAP are:

  • Planning, building on the LEAs Handling Plan, which ensures that sufficient time and resources are made available;
  • Teaching, learning and curriculum, should be clearly defined. Based on best practice at other schools, there should be a clear strategy for the proposed improvements, setting out how the new curriculum will relate to the needs of the community;
  • Behaviour and attendance issues from the Eden Valley school should be dealt with in the strategy. Consideration should also be given to issues around exclusion from other schools;
  • Staffing needs should be clearly set out, including articulated, robust and professional requirements. The RAP should be the focus to ensure that staffing, curriculum and behaviour are managed effectively;
  • Finance should be reflected, building on the Handling Plan. Costs of establishing and maintaining the new Edenbridge Community College for at least three years following confirmation of the proposal should be considered. A clear distinction is required between capital and revenue expenditure and also between different sources of funding;
  • The RAP should include a strategy for ensuring that the new governing body has the necessary skills to support the Headteacher and staff positively. It should also include monitoring procedures;
  • Consideration should also be given to marketing and potential media interest.

The revenue funding would be allocated on the basis of a fixed sum, plus an element based on the size and phase of the College. It would be available for the first three financial years following approval. Resources would be allocated subject to satisfactory progress against the RAP and grants would be paid via the Standards Fund.
Capital funding should be bid for separately and could be available for genuine capital expenditure, such as new building, major refurbishment or other major items such as ICT and professional fees.

Physical facilities/buildings

The existing physical facilities on site include the existing school premises, the Astor Youth and Community Centre and the surrounding school grounds which also include the ATC building. As set out above, there is a need for substantial refurbishment of the Astor Centre and some refurbishment of the existing school building, or alternatively a new community facility.

If new buildings are to be developed, a plan of work will be required, based on the requirements identified, as set out below. There is the potential to develop the site to include workshops, office space, meeting rooms, hall area, kitchens, a skate park, a hard court for sports and specialist youth facilities, subject to planning permission. It should be noted that this site is within the green-belt and therefore specific additional regulations apply.

When refurbishing the existing buildings or when building new, consideration must be given to the needs of elderly or frail people and those with disabilities or special needs. These considerations should be included in the architects brief.

Refurbishment/new facilities - plan of work

  • Inception

Basic requirements, cost range and timetable need to be established and an architect appointed.

  • Feasibility

The brief should be developed and the site, legal and other constraints identified. The architect can then advise on the feasibility of the project in functional, technical, financial and contractual terms.

  • Outline proposals

The brief needs to be further developed and a cost plan established.

  • Scheme design

The outline specification and overall programme should be developed and planning and other approvals applied for.

  • Detail design

A detailed design should be drawn up with complete cost checks.

  • Production information

Working drawings, schedules and specifications and bills of quantities should be drawn up and tenders sought.

  • Tenders

Tenders should be reviewed and a suitable contractor appointed.

  • Project planning

Contractual documents would then be processed to enable the contractor to plan the work.

  • Operation on site and completion

Work on site would need to commence in sufficient time for the new College to open in September 2003. The timescale for a new building could be more flexible providing the existing premises are kept open until the works are completed.


Funding the facilities/building
Funding for the building works will be dependant on what is to be provided on the site. Sources of funding would be sought depending on the nature of the requirement, both capital and revenue. Commitment from Kent County Council to invest in these facilities will be essential to enable this ground breaking project to go ahead and will be essential to attract other external funding.

Implementing the project

The Edenbridge Vision was submitted on 19 February prior to the close of the public consultation on 20 February 2002. These more detailed proposals build on this initial outline following further partnership work which has been undertaken during the intervening 12 working days. The degree of progress made in this short period indicates the level of multi-agency recognition of the problems facing this rural area and the joint commitment to resolving them together with the community.

This proposal represents an excellent opportunity for KCC to invest in the long-term future of Edenbridge and the education and training needs of generations to come. At the same time, this will make a significant contribution to current and ongoing community needs, provide equality of access and promote community cohesion.

Subject to the outcome of Kent County Council's consideration of these proposals, a multi-agency group would need to be established urgently to take this project forward. The Eden Valley Parents' Action Group have drawn up a marketing plan attached at Annex A and will work with local parents and others to encourage a high number of children to benefit from this enhanced educational provision.

If the Vision for the Edenbridge Community College and its proposed educational and community provision is given the opportunity to come to life, not only will it bring wide-ranging benefits to the entire Edenbridge community and surrounding area, it will most certainly provide an innovative role model.
Recommendations for approval by the KCC Cabinet meeting on 18 March 2002

As set out in the initial Vision document, the Cabinet is asked to approve the following:


1. Continuing to support the existing school by keeping it open for a further year to enable the proposed Edenbridge Community College concept to become a reality in September 2003

2. Providing LEA Officer support to work up a Fresh Start proposal for September 2003 and to support the preparation of the Handling Plan and the Raising Attainment Plan (RAP)

3. Approving and providing an ongoing commitment to enhanced community provision on site including the refurbishment of the Astor Centre and some parts of the school premises.


If the full proposal is rejected, it is essential that Cabinet approval and commitment is given to the following recommendations.


4. Providing a new community facility on the Eden Valley School site to
accommodate a comprehensive range of services to address ongoing community
needs.

5. In the context of (4) above, agreeing to keep the Eden Valley School premises open for ongoing community use until such time as the new facility is opened.

6. In the event of developing the existing school footprint, committing to re-invest
capital and ongoing revenue funding to enable this innovative and groundbreaking
partnership project to go ahead.



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