Villagers turn out to oppose Secondary school campaign

CONCERNED residents came out in force last night (Wednesday), to voice their opposition against plans to build a school in their village.

Around 200 people packed out Woolmer Green Village Hall yesterday evening, for a meeting to discuss proposals by the We Need A School Group (WNAS), which is campaigning for a new secondary to be built in the area.

With the WNAS campaign buoyed by education secretary Michael Gove’s invitation to submit a business plan under the Free Schools programme, fears have grown amongst villagers that the school could become a reality as soon as 2012.

And last night they were united in their derision of the WNAS.

The meeting, organised by Woolmer Green Parish Council, was originally billed as a clash between WNAS and new opposition group the Save Woolmer Green Campaign.

But with no member of WNAS able to attend, the evening became a public forum for residents to voice their concerns.

Parish councillor Judith Watson did read out a lengthy statement from the WNAS group at the start of the meeting, which outlined the group’s aims and ambitions.

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But it did little to quell resident’s anger towards the proposals.

Central to villagers’ frustrations was the perceived misinformation being published by WNAS. One resident questioned the validity of WNAS’ 1,200-strong petition, saying she’d seen duplicate names, and names of people she knew to live “a long, long way from here” on the list, including some in America.

Another resident demanded to be told whether the school would have a secular ethos, while others cited the forthcoming closure of a school in Stevenage as reason why a new school is unnecessary.

A show of hands towards the end summed up resident’s feelings. When one member of the public asked if anyone in the room supported the WNAS campaign, not a single hand was raised.

Speaking after the meeting, Save Woolmer Green spokesman Gareth Lloyd said: “I thought it was brilliant. It just shows the overwhelming weight of support not to have a school built in Woolmer Green, and to introduce a population of 900 people into a village of 1,300.

“Secondary schools are for towns, not villages.”