Over the Easter weekend I found myself reluctantly having a spiky conversation with some very long-standing friends whose daughter recently left Tormead. They pedalled out the “Oh, but what about the benefits of the Urnfield development to other schools and the local community” line that has been used by Tormead and County School throughout, with virtually no evidence to back it up. Here’s what it says on Tormead’s Twitter page….
“21st Century Home Sports Ground for @Tormead_Sport! We are delighted that the development of the Urnfield sports ground has been allowed by the Planning Inspectorate, bringing huge benefits to the pupils of Tormead, our partners at Guildford County School & the wider community.”
Interestingly, since planning permission was given at appeal, County have remained publicly silent on the “huge benefits”.
As far as we know, none of the main state secondary schools in Guildford plays hockey competitively, just the odd friendly match. GHS and St Cats play lacrosse, not hockey, so they don’t need a pitch. Priorsfield and Charterhouse have their own. So where exactly are these other schools that need an extra competition standard hockey pitch?? Where is the community need, or community benefit exactly? Ok, Guildford Hockey Club might sometimes make use of an overflow pitch at the Urnfield, but their main base including multiple (floodlit) pitches and their clubhouse are all at Broadwater School, several miles away.
I have been trying unsuccessfully to speak to the CEO of Learning Partners Academy Trust, which manages a large group of schools in and around Guildford, including the one my kids go to, and County School as well. With the new signage at the Urnfield already firmly branding it as Tormead’s alone (no mention of County School), one must assume that the “huge benefits” referred to on Tormead’s Twitter are, for County School, solely financial. I can understand County seeking to maximise its income, but I would be interested to understand whether they had fully explored other ways to monetise the special nature of the Urnfield ground, or considered less harmful development options.
So how do we feel about a state school selling at scale its access and its asset into the independent sector, and at such a huge cost to the environment and the local community….?? You can be the judge.