Town Council hears complaints about behaviour of St John's students in Priory Gardens
The main debate at Monday's full session of Marlborough Town Council (January 22) was about the behaviour in the town of some students from St John's Academy.
During the report of a recent meeting between St John's Assistant Head of Year 11, students, the Town May and deputy Mayor and the Town Clerk, former mayor Councillor Noel Barrett-Morton complained vigorously about the behaviour of St John's students in Priory Gardens - which are owned and maintained by the town council. His home overlooks the gardens.
At the meeting students had asked for the relaxation of some of the rules on what they could and could not do in the gardens - which they mostly use at lunchtimes and after school as they wait for their buses home.
Councillor Barrett-Morton said he had received complaints from people who like to walk in the gardens and he had himself complained in writing to the Headteacher, but had had 'never got an answer': "At some times of the day the gardens are all but monopolised by St John's students."
He said they broke the rules against bicycles and ball games - and even used a skateboard in the gardens: "I am totally opposed to relaxation of the rules. This is a garden - an oasis of peace in our vibrant town."
"This behaviour needs to be addressed by the Headmistress and staff - and not left to prefects."
The two councillors who were most recently students at St John's - Councillors Northeast and Forbes - added to the criticism of current students' behaviour.
Councillor Northeast: "Rules are difficult to enforce....There's a lack of respect for everyone who walks through. I find it intimidating - surely the Headteacher should take more responsibility."
Councillor Forbes: "St John's is doing little about this...Prefects have very little to zero power - sometimes they're simply a name without a role. We should press St John's to send a teacher down [to the Gardens] - perhaps at lunchtimes."
There was general support among councillors for these complaints. But there was some disagreement among councillors when it was stated that St John's policy was that they had no responsibility for students - whether in school uniform or not - once they had left school grounds.
Deputy Mayor Councillor Lisa Farrell agreed with the concerns about behaviour in Priory Gardens. But she pointed out: "We must not punish all the kids for those that misbehave." She did not want the students to simply to be shouted at as that would not help one bit.
The Mayor, Councillor Mervyn Hall: "We have very little power - we can open doors and build bridges. The school are talking to us - we must find a way forward. We cannot be heavy handed and lay down rules."
The Town Clerk confirmed there are no Bye Laws about use of the gardens - and anyway Bye Laws are difficult to enforce. The Deed of Gift when the gardens were given to the town simply says they are to be 'a pleasure garden and public walks'.
The Council will consider whether the notices about use of the gardens should be altered - though Councillors were totally against allowing dogs into the gardens. Also for consideration was later opening in winter so that students could stay there until their buses left.
In response to councillors’ criticism, St John’s Principal, Mrs Nicky Edmondson, told marlborough.news: “We regularly remind students about their responsibilities to the community, about being good citizens, having respect for all, and how their conduct reflects upon the school, especially when they are in uniform. We respond immediately to any reports of poor behaviour and sanctions are applied.”
“The majority of our (1700) students are good citizens and we do receive reports about lots of wonderful things that they do to support the community, acts of kindness and many other good deeds. Unfortunately the acts of the small number of less considerate individuals are the ones that are noticed and assumptions are made that all our students are the same as them, which simply isn’t the case.”