The Strasbourg Seven

By Mike Rawlins

It’s about 06:45 and I’m out in the cold, on a slightly foggy Longton Road in Trentham looking for the Strasbourg Seven.  I picked up my E-mail late last night to find a forwarded mail from Tony, telling him and now me, that the Strasbourg Seven would be leaving Trentham at 0700 on Sunday morning to go on a ‘training run’ to Llangollen and back.

The Strasbourg Seven is made up from some of the members of the ‘Trentham Ten’ who did the Walk To Westminster last May and some new faces.  The plan was for the team of cyclists to cycle from Downing Street Westminster, where they delivered their petition in May on to Strasbourg to publicise the plight of Trentham High at the hands of the City Council. After Friday’s announcement by Rob Flello MP that Trentham High had been saved from closure, the cyclists were over the moon at the decision, but are still continuing with the training.

One of the riders, Mark Steele, aged 46, who has two children at Trentham High, said: “As the decision has still not been formally announced by the EMB, we, The Strasbourg Seven, are still pressing ahead with the cycling event training (just in case). As a local Scout Leader, I have to fully embrace the motto ‘Be Prepared’.  We want our children to receive their once-in-a lifetime chance of a good education at Trentham High ““ our own choice of school. It is our local community school and we firmly believe that the community of Trentham and Hanford would suffer greatly with the loss of it. Some people left the cause in the duration of the fight, because they thought it was a lost cause. And Roger Ibbs and Ross Irving ignored us because they thought the same. But we fought on because this is about the future of our children.”

Steve Martin, 44, has a son who is set to move up to the high school soon. He said: “We are going to raise money for a school in Africa which is twinned with Trentham High if the vote at the council meeting on the 15th supports Jim Knight’s proposal. When the head went to Africa, the children who have literally nothing had banners saying ‘save Trentham High’. Just a couple of quid a month will send one of those kids through school.”

Out with Mark and Steve for this morning’s training ride were:

Michael Fox: “My two girls, Katie age 13 and Joanna 14 both attend Trentham High School. The decision to do this ride was very easy to make as they mean the world to me but more importantly it doesn’t make sense to destroy a community spirit where my girls have a feeling of belonging and their personality reflects on the school they attend – one of the best performing schools in Stoke-on-Trent.”

Jeff Broome, 63, from Hanford: “I have been a resident of Hanford for my whole life and three generations of my family live in this fantastic community. My children went to Trentham High and we want our two grandchildren aged 6 and 8 to go there. I’m doing this ride for them and the other children of this community who deserve the same excellent education as the thousands of children who have gone through Trentham High’s gates in the past 40 or so years. I believe in the saying “If it aint broke, don’t fix it” and Trentham High is far from broken, so I will do whatever I can to ensure it is not raised to the ground.”

Kev Winstanley, who had a heart by-pass operation last year was driving the support vehicle this morning. Kev was going to drive to Llangollen, park up then cycle back to meet the rest of the team on the route.  If the ride to Strasbourg goes ahead, Kev will be cycling in relay with some other riders.

Drew Bailey

Steve Martin

Sharon Turner

Hopefully they won’t have to ride any further than Llangollen any time soon.

Just to prove that they made it all the way (and didn’t turn back as soon as the camera was away!), Matt turned up at LLangollen, although he chose a bike with an engine as his preffered transport:

The Strasbourg cyclists after they made it to Llangollen

The Strasbourg cyclists after they made it to Llangollen

TAG get on their bikes!

First there was the walk to Westminster – here.bike

Now there is the cycle to Strasbourg – here.

These are the lengths that the most exceptional of the passionate parents and grandparents will go to in the fight for their cherished community school.

Following appalling treatment by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, the “ËœTrentham 10′ set off on 7th May 2007, on a 150 mile walk from Stoke-on-Trent all the way to Westminster, to deliver a ~13,000 signature petition against the closure of Trentham High School.  These were ordinary parents and grandparents going to extraordinary lengths for the benefit of their children and grandchildren. The aim was to publicise our cause, show how badly we are treated and how awful our council is and to ask central government for help.

I’m afraid I wasn’t able to go on this journey because of family and work responsibilities.  But I was able to accompany the walkers on the first half day, from Stoke-on-Trent to Stafford.  That was only 12 miles but I got blisters nevertheless.  I have to confess I enjoyed walking only that far.  I wimped out after lunch and got on a bus back home.

The walkers arrived in Westminster on 14th May after a gruelling and very hot week of walking.  Central government were no help.  Nevertheless the walk did publicise our cause and was a great show of determination.

Now a 500 mile cycle ride from Westminster to Strasbourg is planned, over about a week, to deliver our petition to the European parliament.  Some members of the Trentham 10 are going and some new people. (I will not be taking part in this either.)  I have lost faith in politicians to be bothered with what real people want and need, but it can do no harm to ask.  This will certainly further publicise our cause and show how awful our council and the British government are.  It will also show that we are just as determined a year on, our children’s education matters to us that much, it really does.

What now looks more likely to achieve a positive outcome is the legal challenge to the school closure under judicial review – see Sentinel article here.  Now a decision to issue a closure notice for Trentham High has been made, this can begin to get underway, but actual publication of the closure notice for the school is awaited for this to really accelerate.  I expect the cycle ride to take place during the time the case is in court.

Well done to Mark Steele, Steve Martin and the others for taking this on.  Go for it!