More school places in Crouch End

Flashed over to St Ann’s for a road show and meeting on the “restructuring” of mental health services in Haringey. If this is more care in the community then it had better be better resourced – given that so many people with mental health challenges come to my surgery as the support for them in the community is not adequate. The police, doctors, CAB, politicians who hold surgeries – and ultimately prisons – are all paying the price for inadequate care in the community. Don’t get me wrong – the more someone can stay in the community the better – but the services and the support just is not there in enough quantity to support the number of people who need it.

In fact – and interestingly – Haringey is the one of the ‘worst’ health authorities because they have mental health inpatients for longer than most anywhere else. However, their return rate is one of the lowest. Methinks someone should be looking at that as perhaps an indicator that shoving people out too early (much like in general health) can mean lots of return visits.

I asked for a comparative figure for the budget for drug therapies used versus budget for talking therapies. It wasn’t a question the Chair and Chief Exec could answer on the spot – but they acknowledged it was a good question and that they had no means of collecting such data. Behind my questions lies the fear that the Government is willing – as are health trusts – to fund drug therapies but not talking therapies to the same extent. I suspect this is partly because of cost – though drugs can be very expensive – but mostly because they can’t measure outcomes so easily in this target driven world we live in. Patients like talking therapies – they find it therapeutic – and possibly therein lies the point.

The other question – even better than mine – was from a user who was asking what choice the patient had in their treatment. If the patient feels better and more secure with a particular method of treatment their recovery would be better. So why should the patient have no say at all? The Chair and Chief Exec agreed that there was no choice!

The scooted over to a public meeting on the proposed expansion of Coleridge Primary School in Crouch End. Lord knows – residents, colleagues and I all campaigned and worked to get Haringey Council to buy the old TUC building to provide desperately needed school places. Crouch End parents, not surprisingly, have been going mad over the last few years over the shortage of places for their little ones.

Anyway – the building was purchased. The issue now is that the site is directly opposite an existing school – Coleridge – with a busy road between the two. So, should Coleridge be expanded, using the new site, to be a four-form entry? This would make it one of only twelve schools in the country to be that big at primary level.

The Head, the Council and the architects had obviously done a huge amount of work on designing a structure and form that would make the children still feel like it was a small family atmosphere school. However, all the work in the world could not offset the anxieties of the existing parents that their children would be ‘swamped’ in such a vastly expanded school.

The argument from the panel against creating a second school across the road, rather than expanding the existing one, was that it would split the community. But they really didn’t seem to have spent much time on an alternative – and the proposal to expand was clearly what they all regarded as the only viable option. I suppose there is some truth in that if there was a second school parents who put Coleridge as their first preference but ended up at the second school might feel that they got second best.

When asked if this was a genuine consultation and that if enough people were against the expansion would that change the outcome, Ian Bailey (Deputy Director of Education) said yes. But it did feel like the only game in town from the way it was presented.

It is now vital that they consult even better – as many people at the meeting had only just about heard about the plans. The main thing, however, whichever way this goes forward is that there will be more school places available in the area for local children – which is brilliant.