LALEHAM GAP SPECIAL SCHOOL (AND ME)

I have a long and very fond memories of a school (that I never actually attended myself but) which keeps popping up from time to time throughout my life.

LALEHAM. I was born at 62 Laleham Road in Cliftonville and we lived there as a family until I was 18, so Laleham School was the wonderful place at the top of our road. For all of my childhood I passed one side of the school to get to Palm Bay and through the middle of the site, down the old tram track that still didvides the site to this day, for Walpole Bay or the shops in Northdown Road. Indeed, I remember as a very young lad, having a friend whose Dad was caretaker at the school and that meant early summer holidays with the full run of the school grounds.

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GAP HOUSE. As a teenager I served an electrical apprenticeship and many months of it were spent re-wiring Gap House School in Broadstairs. I got to know the place like the back of my hand - every 'knook and cranny'. Scariest moment was getting stuck under the floor in one of the corridoors whilst pulling in cables. No room to turn around so had to inch my way backwards, laying on my chest, through a long maze of underground passages.

To make matters even more coincidental, the headteacher of Gap House at this time (1973/74) was my very own favourite teacher of all time from my Drapers Mills days - the now late Mr Knox.

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COUNTY HALL. The years passed and eventually I bcame a Kent County Councillor and with that came the opportunity to become a L.E.A. School Governor. I jumped at the chance and in 2005 I was appointed to the Board of Governors of the now 'joint' Laleham Gap Special School. I proudly held that position for two years.

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LALEHAM GAP. In 2007 I was elected Chair of Governors at Laleham Gap School. This was one of my most treasured roles and I held the position for 5 very positive but challenging years. Positive - because I was honoured to be the figurehead for so many inspirational children, teachers and parents. Challenging - because it was during this period that we got right to the point of building our new purpose built school, only to have the opportunity snatched from us (and quite literally at the very last moment) when the Government pulled the plug on the 'Building Schools for the Future' programme just as papers were about to be signed.

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THANET DISTRICT COUNCIL. Towards the end of 2011 I became Leader at Thanet District Council and pressure of that role meant that I simply had to step down from my role as Chair of Governors.

However, a little later, through my new role as District Leader I also became a Director of EKO. The joint TDC / KCC venture already had plans for a 'mixed' development at their Eurokent site in Haine Road when I joined them, but I was not at all convinced that their plans were anywhere near as 'mixed' as they should have been. The former TDC Chief Exec and I pressed this point over and over. In the end, changes were agreed to increase the mixed nature of the proposed development that included a school for the Eurokent site.

And guess what school KCC had in mind?

Yes - a new Laleham Gap Special School.

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And today the new Laleham Gap School is being built on the Eurokent site right next to the Marlowe Academy. The new facility will bring together both primary (Gap) and secondary (Laleham) schools on one site for the very first time.

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Clive Hart