Moving Pupils In Is A 'Recipe Foe Disaster' Say Portland Parents

DEEP seated rivalry between 'Portlanders' and 'Hartlanders' is "very real and very dangerous," according to parents of Portland children.

An emergency meeting called last week saw parents reeling off concerns which revolved mainly around the safety of their children.

And they remain convinced that closing Hartland School and moving the children in to Portland School is a 'recipe for disaster.'

"Portland has been improving for a while now and integrating the Hartland pupils is going to drag Portland down," said Martin Spencer of Shireoaks.

"The Private Finance Initiative schedule to open a 'super-school' in 2007 was ideal because it gives the kids a chance to get used to the idea."

"The original plan to build a school at Gateford was even better but money seems to have proved more important than education."

The plan to build a school on a site in Gateford was scuppered after planners failed to find a suitable site and PFI bidding fell short of the 120 million target at just over 60 million.

Parent Tanya Clarke believes children at Portland are not as 'streetwise' as Hartland children.

"We send our children to Portland because that is where village children go – the kids from bigger estates will take advantage of them," she said.

"The trouble that erupted two weeks ago saw Hartlanders with knives and all sorts of weapons which is really worrying."

"We've just had 14-year-old Luke Walmsley stabbed to death in Lincolnshire – who will be responsible when a child gets hurt because of this move?"

But Hartland School headteacher Kate Reid insisted some of the stories about the disturbances two weeks ago were 'urban myths.'

"Absolutely nothing happened of that nature. We have heard numerous stories, some of which are laughable," she said.

After reading and hearing similar reassurances from Mrs Reid and Portland School headteacher Paul Buck the parents still weren't convinced.

"They're always going to play down the trouble but burying your head in the sand is a very dangerous thing to do," said Angela Gibson, whose two children attend Portland.

"You have to remember that it's not just the kids who are rivals but some parents also harbour rivalry – that will take years to disappear."

As well as the safety of their youngsters, parents are also worried that results will 'nose-dive.'

"History proves that the bigger a school becomes the worse results get," added Mr Spencer.

"The personal touches that Mr Buck and his staff can provide at the moment will be lost and the children will suffer as a result."