More excluded pupils on St John’s Wood site will ‘increase crime’

Strict management plan imposed after Quintin Kynaston gets go-ahead for alternative education centre

WHEN planning permission was granted last week for the redevelopment of the Quintin Kynaston (QK) and George Eliot schools site there was one issue that residents and councillors considered most important – the provision of both an Alternative Provision Centre (APC) and a respite and re-engagement unit for excluded pupils.

QK already caters for a respite and re-engagement unit but the application proposed to add an APC at the other end of the site – which was granted.

Residents had sought for the two units, which both cater for pupils experiencing difficulties with mainstream education, to be consolidated into one building and a cap of 50 pupils imposed.

However, while the planning committee approved strict management controls on both units, it gave the go-ahead for both and set a limit of 50 pupils at each unit.

Residents fear an increase in mainstream school excluded pupils on the site will amplify issues of anti-social behaviour and criminal activity which they claim are associated with some QK pupils.

At last week’s planning meeting, Councillor Nickie Aiken, cabinet member for children and young people, urged the committee to approve the application.

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“An APC is about providing education for young people who can’t go to mainstream schools for a number of reasons,” she said.

“This is not about sending naughty children to a different school. It will give every child a chance to make a better life for themselves.

“I think the term anti-social behaviour is quite emotive and I understand there are issues with some young people who are involved in anti-social behaviour.

“But there are some cases where young people are just hanging about and that’s not anti-social behaviour. I feel the design work has resulted in a plan that designs out the issues of anti-social behaviour and a solution has been found.”

Both units will been subject to strict management plans to assist their day-to-day running.

Pupils will not be allowed out of school unsupervised during the day and CCTV is to be installed outside both units.

Students attending the APC are also to be supervised to and from the school or accompanied to public transport.

Police were forced to break up an organised street fight on Marlborough Hill in December while two pupils from the existing respite and re-engagement unit were found in school with knifes in separate incidents in December and January.

Extra police resources have been put in place over the past few months to help reduce issues of anti-social behaviour around the school.

Planning committee chairman Councillor Alastair Moss said: “There has been some quite serious criminality at the site so I think it would be remiss of us not to deal with this in quite a harsh and heavy handed way.

“I admit that it’s only a few pupils but the local voice is saying that we should do something about it.

“The fact that the safer neighbourhood team has actually put extra resources towards this says something.”

Marlborough Hill resident representative Dick Schumacher said: “The APC has the staffing and the control measures to educate the students but also reduce the risk of anti-social behaviour in the community.

“Unfortunately the recent history with the QK respite unit hasn’t been so good with respect to that.

“Having a high school with approaching 1,500 students and an APC and a respite unit is too much given the issues with anti-social behaviour that already exists.

“Residents are likely to push very hard when the final application for QK is presented that the respite unit at QK be deleted.”