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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NOT The Big Society

Off to town again and a wonderful education on the way.

I have a table seat and am joined by two "ladies" as I later discover they're referred to by our local council. They're actually two very driven new mum's. To call them mums-net types would seem to me to be mislabelling them, doing them a disservice and being patronising all at the same time. They are formidable mothers who quite simply are on a mission to get something done. A very specific something. To build and operate a school for their community.

Perhaps I should go back to the beginning and explain....

Mrs G and I used to live in Brockworth. It's a village in Gloucestershire that has three reasonably well known claims to fame. 1) The home of Cheese-Rolling on Cooper's Hill. 2) The playground (in his youth) of the now world famous actor/writer and nerd, Simon Pegg and finally ..3) The invention of the Jet engine took place here under the guidance of the genius that was Frank Whittle.

Of the three, the most pertinent to our tale is the third, for long after the second world war and Mr Whittle's jet engine genius-ness, the airfield that he used during the development of his now common-place device fell into dis-repair. Time passed, weeds grew and generally not an awful lot happened to the large strip of concrete fenced off from the main road opposite the grotty pub (sorry, but it is grotty) The Victoria.

Somewhen in the last 10 or 15 years, while the housing market was on the up, bits of the land became very interesting to the type of company that like to develop small trading estates and out of town industrial parks that aren't excessively industrial but do allow for massive warehouses. Wincanton distribution have been out there for quite a while (I'm sure you've seen their trucks on the Motorway) and then a large part of the Gloucester sorting office moved out there. There's an insurance company, a technology company, part of the NHS and a wine distributor. All well and good. It's also nicely situated for Motorway access and there has been a road bridge over the M5 for a very long time, but until recently the bridge came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the old airfield with no connection into the village itself.

And then about 5 or 6 years ago, the developers finally got a green light and a decent size housing estate began appearing on top of the airfield which is now never to be seen again.

A very substantial Tesco's arrived and then a Gym, a TravelLodge (well you have to, apparently) and a new pub (The Whittle) in memory of Frank. All of this to service the huge numbers of houses in an area now known as "Cooper's Edge". Great stuff. All well and good. Everybody's happy.

Ah.... Wait a minute..... Hundreds of houses means hundreds of family's means hundreds of kids means a school is required. Oh... Hmmmm.... And a housing market slump, and no plan of any great consequence and a small group of mums with no school for their kids.

You see where this is going?

These two mums have spent the last three years making it happen, and they seem to me to be pretty much unstoppable. There isn't anything they haven't yet overcome. They've successfully mobilised their community and now have plans which have been approved and a builder all set to go.

Best of all it's absolutely nothing to do with the coalition government's "Big Society". One of the recently appointed local MPs did try very briefly to suggest that his party's policies might have helped enable their superbly executed work, but a local resident who knew the truth soon put him right via the local paper. "Get back in yer box" seems to sum it up nicely.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure some elements of TBS are almost a good idea, but to take these "Ladies" hard work and pass it off as something you've "enabled" is as low as a... Well, its as low as a politician. Ah. Yes. Good point. Well quite.

Anyway, their race is far from over, but they seem not to worry and are all guns blazing for the next challenge that the project presents, whatever that may be.

Right now they're working on a community centre (well a temporary one), the fixtures, fittings and colour schemes for the school, library systems, ICT, staff rooms and classrooms, nurturing their own children, holding down full time jobs AND maintaing husbands. And we all know how demanding that lot is.

I'm seriously impressed and won't be at all surprised when women like these, up and down the country are putting the world to rights and shaming the rest of us into fixing the country properly with far less interference from local government, council and central government who quite frankly wouldn't know what to do with a mother and baby in their boardroom and that's before they realise that the mothers are explaining to them how to do their jobs.

Which leads me on to "what can I do?". Their spot isn't even in my community anymore. I don't have kids of school attending age and even though the senior Balls are involved in schooling, I'm not.

However, there might be an angle. Starfleet might have something in the form of corporate citizenship and doing smart and clever things for the community. For now, investigations are afoot. I've made no promises, but if comes to it, I'll willingly pick up a paint brush at the very least - should that be required to get the job done.

My hat is off to them. You can find out more about the sterling work that the two J's ("we're joined at the hip" or so they told me) have done and continue to do here: www.coopersedgeschool.co.uk



This post originally appeared here: Posterous
 

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