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letters Pimlico governor: we're under no gagging orders

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As a fellow governor of Pimlico School, I must correct the impression given by Rob Hughes (aj 29.7.99) that we all hate the proposed new building and are suppressing our feelings because we have been flattened by some political juggernaut. Most of us who have spent years voluntarily considering every aspect of the school's future (myself more than four) have only ever sought a practical solution to the problems of the current building to give pupils a fair wind for the future.

The fact is the central London site was never large enough to give nearly 1500 children comprehensive sports facilities - they will always have to go elsewhere to play football or other organised outdoor team sports.To yield up a fraction of the ill-used barren concrete space surrounding the current building to a residential development that will help pay for a more appropriate new school with state-of-the-art science and it laboratories and ample enjoyable landscaped outdoor space for break times, can only benefit pupils, staff and local residents alike.

After three years of meetings with architects, financiers and related professionals - leading to a full understanding of the issues involved - the governors' original decision a year ago was to go ahead with the pfi. Almost immediately, and through no fault of our own, we lost members of the governing body. Sadly, among those lost was Sir Ashley Bramall, the school's long-time former chair and ilea leader who died last February. He was in favour of the project. Since then the decision-making process has come to a grinding halt, as new members who have had less time to evaluate the £50 million scheme repeatedly return to issues already resolved. Anything less like a juggernaut of any persuasion, it is hard to imagine.

It is just not true to say that there is massive opposition at every level. Parents' meetings have only ever been attended by a handful of the 3,000 interested parties, despite frequent mailings and exhibitions on school premises.

All governors naturally harbour some nostalgia about a former prize-winning building that has outlived its purpose; but Pimlico School's glaring faults - including vast areas of glass, making temperatures soar in summer and plunge in winter (and causing lessons to be curtailed), plus its multiple entrances (a proven security hazard) - are all, alas, irredeemable without spending far more than any refurbishment budget warrants, and it's this which has dictated the way into an exciting future.

Many of us had initial misgivings about keeping the school on site during the rebuild, but having considered all other alternatives and by insisting on ultra-modern transition techniques, we are as sure as anyone can be that everyone's interests will be best served by the final plans.

Pimlico School has a tradition of marvellous aspirations, but these can only be realised by making the most of our opportunities. We are still looking forward to a positive final vote next month in favour of an imaginative solution to the limitations of a school site that is neither small nor large enough to fit any easy notions about its future, and could easily be lost for educational use if the demanding standards of the new millennium cannot be met. Who knows - the new school may end up winning architectural prizes and educational ones too.

Glenys Roberts, Pimlico School Governing Body

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