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A “Miscellaneous” Page
A “Miscellaneous” Page
Rocheway College's Uncertain Past and Future
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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Courtesy of James Bowker’s blog



On 9th November 1959 MP for Essex, South East - Bernard Braine -stood up in the House of Commons and spoke about the "the serious lack of provision for secondary education in Rochford; and, secondly, the inadequacy of present proposals to remedy that situation in the future". (At the time, with a far smaller population than now, MPs' constituencies covered far greater areas - the future Sir Bernard Braine's stretching to Thundersley).


In Rochford the problem was due to the massive post war population explosion, it had doubled since 1945. At the time, Rochford's primary Secondary School was at what is now the Adult Education Centre in Rocheway and it had run out of space. The result was that around 600 children were being taught in the local British Legion Hall, The Congregation Church (which he described as a "slum school out of Dickens") and other temporary accommodation.  


The existing situation was made worse for the existing school, Bernard Braine explained, by the expanding Southend Airport; "every fifteen minutes of the school's working day an aircraft takes off or comes in directly over the school building, making teaching difficult and sometimes intolerable for both staff and pupils. I know this myself, because I have attempted to speak in the school at such a time with aircraft overhead."


He explained that the situation was likely to worsen due to the proposed increase in airport movements.  


A year earlier an extension to the school had been proposed to deal with the situation.  However, the Ministry of Transport decided that, with Southend Airport's intended expansion, it was inappropriate to site any expansion directly beneath the take off and landing path.


Bernard Braine's appeal to the Commons, therefore, was for a brand new school to cope with the existing and projected new numbers for the District.


Mr Kenneth Thompson, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, responded that the build of what is now known as Greensward Academy was underway and, additionally, referred to the future King Edmund school by saying that "The local education authority is trying at the present time to complete negotiations for the acquisition of the Oxford Road site to which my hon. Friend referred. Negotiations are almost completed. There are only one or two minor details to finalise and that school will be in the building programme for 1960–61". And so it was. Parliament keeping its word...


In recent years, the old School has continued to play its role in the centre of the community as a centre for Adult Education, a Nursery school and HQ for a local football club.  Now, all that is under threat as Essex County Council has given notice that it is centralising Rochford area Adult Education provision to Rayleigh.  


As the future for the College hangs in the balance, while Essex CC and Rochford DC establish whether the College can still play a role serving Rochford, Mini Marvels, the pre-school nursery, and others, are considering their options.  It is surely ironic that the expensive and controversial Disability Essex Centre next door may have been an ideal tenant and precious green belt need not have been sacrificed.  The worst case scenario is that no further use is found and this attractive and historic building is put up for Auction by Essex County Council as an Asset no longer required.  But that is not the case as I write, discussions to secure its future continue, so let's hope for the best and watch this space!