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Effingham Trustees Respond to School Over Playing Field Charges

Published on: 18 Jul, 2017
Updated on: 20 Jul, 2017

The KGV playing fields in Effingham

The managing trustees of Effingham Village Recreation Trust (EVRT) have expressed “shock and disappointment” about a letter sent out to parents by the Howard of Effingham School, which they say gives a misleading impression about the charity’s approach in recent negotiations on the terms of the school’s continuing use of the playing fields maintained by EVRT, the King George V Fields (KGV).

The school’s letter to parents stated that EVRT, “has felt it necessary to impose a significant price increase of 43% on our current terms,” and the school had decided to stop using the KGV fields when the current licence ends on 31st August.

But although admitting that a 43% price rise was suggested the trustees say that it was only according to the trustees, “an initial proposal made at a preliminary brief meeting in June.”

In a press release, issued yesterday (July 17, 2017) the trustees go on to say: “At that meeting the trustees explained to the headteacher Mrs Pennington that for the charity’s finances to be sustainable the fee for the school’s continuing use of the whole KGV grounds, as in the school’s current five-year licence, would need to increase by up to 43%.

“The school’s letter to parents made no mention of EVRT’s subsequent formal offer of a new licence with a 2.1% increase in fees, which took account of the school’s financial position and the fact that the school no longer made use of all the facilities in the KGV grounds.”

“The EVRT trustees’ formal offer to the school of a new licence with a 2.1% fee increase gave the school the facilities it needed while ensuring EVRT’s costs were properly covered.”

It was proposed that the new licence would include the use of two rugby pitches, two football pitches, a cricket square and athletics track, plus free use of the rest of the grounds for orienteering, cross-country etc.

EVRT say they also offered to extend the current licence for three months to allow time for more detailed discussion.

Chris Iles, now the newly elected chairman of EVRT, led the negotiating team. He said: “The trustees are deeply shocked that the school has chosen to misrepresent our position in this way. To suggest we were imposing a 43% price increase is simply untrue.

“We tried hard to engage with the school constructively to find a way forward which recognised the need for both school and charity to have sustainable finances, taking account of the current uncertain funding position for schools.

“We were more than ready to have further face-to-face discussions about our 2.1% offer to reconcile the requirements of the school with the needs of the charity.”

The Howard of Effingham School have made use of the sports pitches at the KGV for over 60 years, with the school paying a fee for the licence which covers the cost to the charity of maintaining the pitches.

Headteacher Helen Pennington had earlier told The Guildford Dragon NEWS: “I discussed at length with my PE team what they felt they would require and asked trustees to consider renting us the two pitches for after school use from September to March and all day from April to July.

“The response was a request to meet as the school and EVRT trustees were ‘a long way apart in terms of agreeing a further licence’ according to Mrs Bowerman [one of the EVRT trustees]. I was unable to meet with them on either of the two dates they offered and in the meantime felt obliged to consider alternative provision.

“EVRT have subsequently offered a three-month extension to our current lease on existing terms and conditions. Given that they are clear that we currently do not use what we pay for and that investment in our own facilities is required, I do not feel in a position to accept this offer.

“The PE staff and I are determined that our provision, both in terms of lessons and extra-curricular activity, will be impacted as little as possible by this very difficult decision. We are grateful for the support from our community at this time.”

Liz Hogger, EVRT hon secretary, who is also Effingham’s Lib Dem borough councillor and a parish councillor, said: “I am hugely disappointed that the school has taken this attitude, and it would be very sad if the long-standing good relationship between school and charity were to end like this.

“The KGV fields offer a wonderful space right next to the school, and the pupils surely benefit from having such extensive sporting facilities on their doorstep.

“The volunteer trustees work hard to ensure the charity’s finances are secure, since there is no subsidy from Effingham’s council tax payers. We want to be fair to all our user groups as well as Effingham residents.”

The EVRT press statement continued: “The charity receives no public subsidy and depends on its various users paying a fair rate for the facilities used, so that the KGV can be maintained and improved for the benefit of the whole community into the future.

“The proposed fee increase of 2.1% was just sufficient to cover the charity’s direct costs and essential overheads in maintaining these facilities using professional sports pitch maintenance contractors.”

EVRT have made public their chairman’s letter to headteacher Pennington in reply to her letter to the trustees terminating the agreement.

Click on image to expand

The EVRT have made public their chairman’s letter to headteacher Pennington.



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Responses to Effingham Trustees Respond to School Over Playing Field Charges

  1. Name withheld by request Reply

    July 27, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I am a user of the KGV playing fields and a parent of a child at Howard of Effingham School.

    I feel utterly disappointed in the lack of community cohesion in this instance and can’t help but feel there is an ulterior motive by one party or the other. Time will show.

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