The latest news from the Plan Projects team.

In March, Plan Projects was commissioned by London Borough of Hackney to run a workshop looking at the Stamford Hill neighbourhood from the perspective of knowledge, skill and learning.
Important areas of debate emerged; in particular, a concern was expressed that many of the independent schools do not have the resources or the space to provide an acceptable standard of education to children. 
During discussions, it became clear schools represent a lightening-rod issue, channelling debate about not only about the quality of the schools estate, but also questions of community cohesion. 
The event was successful in bringing together people from across the community to discuss a challenging topic. For the Jewish community, in which 54% of the population are aged below 15 years, the topic of schools is a key question. 
The Jewish people who attended were adamant that their young people deserved an education consistent with their religious beliefs in surroundings spacious enough to offer a safe and comfortable environment; moreover, these facilities should be located within the community, so as to ensure safety during the trip to and from school. 
These needs were identified as being responsible for creating huge pressure for additional schools, some of which, according to other participants, were being set up in inappropriate locations without regard for neighbours’ amenity. The tone of the debate made it clear this poses a real threat to community relations. 
A number of policy ideas were tabled as part of the discussion
  • putting in place a clear and transparent policy to guide the delivery of new schools
  • sites should be sought for new schools outside the area
  • an assessment should be carried out into the development potential of the existing school estate to seek opportunities for expansion or, indeed, the provision of additional land uses such as housing
  • new schools should be included as part of larger mixed use developments
  • the richness of the neighbourhood as a learning environment could be improved by channelling resources into those places outside schools that offer alternative and potentially rewarding learning experiences for both children and adults, such as libraries and open spaces.  

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