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Letter to Editor: SFG College: The Department for Education’s refusal to answer parents questions shows contempt for students and parents

Education: Secondary / Tue 16th Jan 2024 at 10:45am

Dear Editor,

ON December the 8th I met with Helena Mills, the CEO of the Burnt Mills Trust who have responsibility for SFG. In that meeting I presented a compilation of questions that a number of parents, myself included, had for the DfE about the chaos that our children endured last term. 

I made it crystal clear that we wanted direct, straight forward answers to our questions. That being the least parents could expect. Ms Mills agreed with me and promised to pass the questions onto the DfE unaltered.

A month later some of our questions have been answered in a communication directly to parents that can be viewed here. 

https://www.sirfrederickgibberdcollege.org/1398/temporary-accommodation-communications

However, as you will see, many questions have not been fully and directly answered. 

When asked if any Conservative MPs, their families, friends or donors were financial beneficiaries of the contracts awarded for the oversight of the construction of SFG, the answer was “not to our knowledge”. A vague and very unsatisfactory answer. The DfE have had more than a month to establish this and come back with a yes or no answer. Why didn’t they?

The DfE were asked when the promised meeting with the Baroness responsible in the would be held. We didn’t get an answer to that question, the DfE came back with the answer to a slightly different question. Rather than give the date that parents wanted, the response was to give an approximation of when they would announce the date. Why haven’t we been given a date for the Baroness to return for a face to face meeting?

Far from the clear, direct answers to the questions parents had a right to demand, what we got was vague, non answers to all the difficult questions that the DfE would rather not answer.

Parents will have to draw their own conclusions as to why. But it looks to me like it’s part of a pattern. Parents will remember the live question and answer session with our MP and the minister that was reduced to an online one hour meeting, at which only a few questions could be asked and even fewer answered. A meeting that Robert Halfon spoke at briefly before ducking out before a single question could be asked of him. The pattern is of broken promises, kicking the can down the road and offering opaque excuses that avoids anyone in authority having to shoulder responsibility

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that the response shows contempt for the students and parents of SFG. I firmly believe that if there was nothing to hide they would have been much more forthcoming.

However it’s the start of a new year, so let’s hope 2024 brings our children a full year of education without any more last minute closures and that the promised portacabin style temporary classrooms are delivered in April. 

Yours sincerely

Mark Ingall

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4 Comments for Letter to Editor: SFG College: The Department for Education’s refusal to answer parents questions shows contempt for students and parents:

Nostradamus
2024-01-16 11:52:15

Mark, might the Labour shadow education minister raise the issue about SFG and the general state of schools in Essex due to building problems? eg crumbly concrete.

Mark Ingall
2024-01-16 13:16:09

Nostradamus. I understand the MP for a constituency near Bristol, where another new school built by Caledonia Modular is to be demolished, will be asking a question in parliament about the scandal. Its a shame Mr Halfon views his ministerial salary as being more important that representing Harlow's SFG students and parents.

Alex
2024-01-16 14:58:26

Mr Ingall, your Labour led administration in Harlow was a disaster. You left a massive mess and works backlog in 2021 when you were unceremoniously kicked out. Hardly a shining example to criticise others. Look at you own pathetic record!

Parent
2024-02-04 16:37:06

Alex, how does your comment help the situation at SFG?

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