Archive for August, 2010
Author: Cyril Richert
Why is there no post box around the biggest interchange and one of the major train station in England? All post boxes are about 1/2 mile from the main entrance of Clapham Junction station.
As Clapham Junction’s post office doesn’t even have a post box outside the office hour, is there a specific policy to restrict residents to post their mail in the area?
Train stations are major traffic points, we would expect a post box available, as for Putney station (picture). Sometime improvements can be small, not too expensive but highly noticeable.
Author: Cyril Richert
This is our last article of our series on primary schools in the Clapham Junction area.
The borough has the obligation to provide more primary school places borough wide so it is adding extra classes to various schools. Therefore it has chosen the schools where there is the most need as that seems logical.
If opening a new school on the Vines site means that applications would be low at other schools like High View and Shaftesbury Park (all or nearly all applicants are successful), it does not make sense.
Therefore it has to be a case of some need in the area.
The Council is highlighting the birth rate in the Northcote area (apparently one of the greatest in the country) with increases pressure on Belleville; but they see no such unmet demand in the other area (because by “the other area” they mean the huge Planning Area between here and the river encompassing four council wards: St Mary’s Park, Latchmere, Shaftesbury and Queenstown).
However, as in many other cases, we could consider that offer creates demand and that the location of excellent schools attracts many new couple with projects to extend their family and therefore explain the birth rate increase in the area. As shown in the whole country: successful schools are always over-subscribed.
In addition, as the Council is keen to point out that Shaftesbury Park has got available space to welcome children from Forthbridge area, so has High View for those of Northcote ward (closer than the Vines’ site actually). However this option has not been suggested by the Council. Why?
Moreover, through a Freedom Of Information request there is evidence to show that there were actually more applications per place for the Wix school here on the northside (even to its normal intake English language stream) for 2010 reception places than there were for the reception places at Belleville.
In 2010 applications for reception places Wix English stream had a higher ratio of total applications per place than Belleville and also a higher ratio of first choice applications per place than Belleville.
Even if we use just 90 places for Belleville (as 2008 admission) then although the ratio of total applications per place is then greater at Belleville, Wix English stream still has a higher ratio of 1st choice applicants per place than Belleville
On of the reason why we can see such a demand (it was not even the case a year ago) is because it reflects the fact that Wix school has received international acclaim and transformed itself over recent years from a struggling school to one with a substantial waiting list and a good Ofsted report. We are not there yet as the English school is still under-performing, but the very recent bilingual class has proved itself in a remarkably short time (more than 5 times over-subscribed) and Wandsworth has received international recognition for its foresight and innovation in creating it.
While the model set by Wandsworth has now been adopted in several other Boroughs, it will send a wrong message that Wandsworth is not considering the new system seriously.
Moreover – as shown with the over-demand for the bilingual school – the level of application is directly linked to the quality of the school and excellent schools attract families and very high demand, while some parents without this choice will prefer to rely on private schools.
All those arguments show that this is less an issue with over-subscription in Northcote area, than a problem of lack of good schools in Shaftesbury ward.
Choice of school – a government enforcement
The fact is that parents in Shaftesbury are offered two average/good school (sub-standard to Wandsworth average) with Wix (improving indeed, and attracting also Lambeth children – about 25%) whilst parents living in between the common have access to two excellent schools (amongst the best in the borough) with twice the same capacity and still over subscribed.
It gives two possibilities to explain the situation: either there is no children in Shaftesbury and only people in Northcote has a kid population, or that many parents of Shaftesbury are forced to go private in order to reach the standard of education their wish for their children.
Parents will tend to choose the schools offering better academic (and other) opportunities for their children.
The School Admissions Code comes into force on 28 February. 2007, and sets the duties to increase opportunities for parental choice, respond to parental representations, and improve community cohesion. Thus, you can read p17 of the code:
1.8 Following commencement of the relevant provisions of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, local authorities will be required to promote fair access to educational opportunity, promote high standards and the fulfilment by every child of his educational potential, secure choice and diversity and respond to parental representations.
1.9 Section 13A of the Education Act 1996 (as inserted by Section 1 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006) requires local authorities to exercise their functions with a view to promoting the fulfilment by every child of his educational potential, and, in the case of local education authorities in England, with a view to ensuring fair access to educational opportunity, as well as with a view to promoting high standards.
1.10 Local authorities have a new statutory duty under section 14(3A) of the Education Act 1996 (as inserted by Section 2 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006) to secure diversity and increase opportunities for parental choice when planning the provision of school places.
1.11 In addition, local authorities must consider parental representations about the provision of schools in their areas and respond setting out any action which the authority proposes to take, or where the authority believes no action is necessary, their reasons behind that opinion.
The Council feel that their already-suggested recommendation for a future consultation on admissions across several schools is an adequate response to current objections. But they say it is “too soon” to agree now on the wording of this. Apparently they miss the point that the huge objection was already to the admission proposal – that people had already spoken and they think a school, any school that local children cannot access is very unfair.
This should involve a discussion forum and open meetings with residents living on and around Forthbridge Road, (the consultation conducted with Belleville parents back in 2009 included this).
The Admissions Code itself sets out the conditions for any consultations on admissions.
All admission authorities are required to complete their consultation by 1 March, and determine their arrangements by the 15 April, in each calendar year for the following school year
[page 22 of the Admissions code]
Consultations must happen for at least 8 weeks between 1Nov10 and 1Mar11 in order to effect admissions policy for 2012! The ONLY education committee before 1Nov is on 21Sep10, therefore there is a urgent need to define the consultation wording and process.
Author: Ian Hamilton
A group of local residents and parents decided to make an objection to the Schools Adjudicator about the future admission arrangements to Belleville School, in particular to that of the Forthbridge Road school site. We made this objection on 30th July 2010, one day before the deadline for objections to 2011 admission arrangements.
We would like to make it very clear that some residents, those who are parents of children attending Wix School and formed part of the Deputation to the Council’s committee meeting have chosen not to be included in this formal objection. Amongst their concerns they are reluctant to cause too much additional work for any council officers with whom they would like to maintain positive working relationships re the future development of Wix School.
We, the members of the objecting group, understand and respect this decision and share the concern about extra work for council officers who have indeed been very helpful and professional.
The future wide-ranging admissions consultation promised by Wandsworth council for autumn 2010 can only impact admissions from 2012. In the light of recent media discussions on possible future changes to the Admissions Code and also ongoing concerns that Belleville Primary School has registered to receive information on Academy status, we feel we had little choice but to make a formal objection to the Adjudicator.
On 4th August an Adjudicator was appointed to determine our case and they take evidence from us and Wandsworth council. The school holidays may have a slowing effect on the process which normally takes around 6weeks to yield a determination.
Above-all we are very keen to respect the process of the Office of the Adjudicator and as such we feel it would be inappropriate at this stage for us to say post our full objection letter, but will aim to do so in future.
You will find other information about the school campaigns in the area in our pages, with a series about Belleville school extension published during this summer.
Author: Cyril Richert
This is our fifth article (0f six) of our series on primary schools in the Clapham Junction area.
What immediate solution?
For 2010, there is nothing to do as anyway the site is not ready to welcome anyone and Belleville’s additional children will be squeezed into the existing site. However, a solution will have anyway to be found for September 2011, where reception will admit pupils directly into the Vines site.
Therefore we now need to concentrate on the wording of the future (promised) consultation.
We may keep in mind several possibilities:
A) An oval shape for the catchment area, including both sites.
Moving the Belleville catchement is seen as highly unpopular (around Northcote, for obvious reasons) and thus could be very difficult to achieve.
B) Geographical Priority Areas
The council does use Geographical Priority Areas at some other schools in the Borough. These are a fixed catchment areas i.e. specific shaped area not just distance and one school Beatrix Potter has a first and second priority area with admission priority following that (Children living in the first priority area are given priority over those living in the second priority area. However, living in either priority area does not guarantee a place at the school. This will depend on the demand for places from people living in the priority areas in a particular year.)
The Biggest effect of GPAs however is on sibling admission. Siblings only get priority admission if they STILL live in the GPA and Councillor Kathy Tracey would like the possible change to include Belleville, Honeywell, Alderbrook and Wix.
C) Belleville admission, but with a small proportion of places open for local children
The idea was suggested during the Committee meeting in July by Councillor Kathy Tracey who mentioned a CofE school in the Borough which largely has a faith-based admission, but keeps a small proportion of places (used to be 10 out of 45, now is 20 out of 60 i.e. one third) of open for local children i.e. distance from the site in a small priority area (not faith based).
Next week: Choice of school and the need in the Wix area
Author: Cyril Richert
Transport Minister Theresa Villiers unveiled a massive train station redevelopment project to allow access to London Underground, Gatwick, Heathrow…etc.
While government funding for Clapham Junction’s upgrade scheme was scrapped last month, the Transport Minister helped lay the foundations of London’s next major transport hub in a visit to… Farringdon station on July, 15th (budget voted by parliament in 2006).
According to the Department for Transport, the plan is for upwards of 140 trains per hour to flow through Farringdon as north/south Thameslink, east/west Crossrail and London Underground services all meet at the new station, from 2017.
This would see Farringdon surpass Clapham Junction as Britain’s busiest train [interchange] station and bring passengers from outer London closer to the City and Canary Wharf.
Farringdon will be the only station from which passengers will be able to access Crossrail, Thameslink and London Underground trains. It will provide links to Gatwick, Luton, Heathrow and London City airports in addition to St Pancras International rail station.
“This important work at Farringdon will see the station transformed into a 21st century transport hub, fit for the needs of a flourishing London.
With the completion of the Crossrail and Thameslink programmes, passengers can look forward to better, faster journeys from a station set to become the busiest in Britain. Under those plans, the fully redeveloped station will act as an elegant gateway to London, Britain and the continent. And Farringdon’s patient Thameslink passengers are expected to start to reap the benefits of a much-improved station from as early as Christmas next year.”
We have been advocating all along that Clapham Junction station is Network Rail’s responsibility and as such concourses should be primarily developed by the rail operator, not a private investor looking for huge luxury residential skyscrapers as part of a deal.
Guess what? Farrington new station and ticket hall is being constructed by Network Rail and the Minister’s visit marks the start of work on the hall’s foundations!
CABE (The government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space) wrote:
“The Farringdon station redevelopment is based on a clear organisational diagram, and visualisations of the interior of the ticket hall show a generous space with high levels of natural light. The drawings and visualisations promise a station that will lift the spirits of commuters and visitors to London using the Thameslink and Crossrail services at Farringdon.”
Network Rail’s Thameslink Programme Director Jim Crawford said:
“In less than 18 months time passengers at Farringdon will benefit from this new ticket hall, vastly improving access to the station and helping transform it into one of London’s most important transport hubs.
London relies on rail to get hundreds of thousands of people to work each day, so I’m pleased to say our work at Farringdon is on time and on budget.”
Passengers using the redeveloped Farringdon station will be able to benefit from two new station entrances, a more modern, spacious national rail ticket hall, improved London Underground access and longer platforms that will be able to take 12-carriage Thameslink trains.
It will also be fully accessible for people with pushchairs, heavy luggage or disabilities.
The design and scheme for the redevelopment of the station was not hammered to the crowd. In September 2008, London Development Agency (LDA) organised a global competition with all 26 members of the Architecture, Landscape and Urban Design Framework Panel invited to send bids for the redevelopment of Farrigdon.
The cost of the redevelopment is currently £250m, all funded by government money (~£200 coming from Thameslink project and ~£50m contribution from Crossrail funding, there is no private investment). Atkins has been appointed by Network Rail as the designer for the Thameslink elements of the works (to accommodate longer trains and increase passenger throughput) and, since London Underground own the station, they were commissioned to provide concept and design for the associated station entrances, as well as the respective concourses and platforms. Additionally, Atkins is the concept and detailed designer for the integrated ticket hall, which will not only be the main access for Thameslink services but will also become the main entrance for Crossrail. NR has appointed a joint venture of Costain and Laing O’Rourke to carry the work.
The Thameslink idea started in the 80′s but the £5.5bn funding was eventually approved by parliament in 2006 only. Several consultations occurred all along the project and planning permission was required for redeveloping the station itself (granted through the normal Council’s process in 2009).
Investment at Farringdon station was made absolutely necessary with the projected passengers using the station to triple when the two projects will be finished. Although traffic at Clapham Junction is not meant to triple within the next 2 years (thanks god!), projection from Office of Rail Regulation is already showing a 25% growth within the next 15 years with the current service.
In addition, a number of projects will bring additional passengers with:
- Frequency of overground services to Willesden Junction to be increased to 4 trains per hour from 2011.
- East London Line will link Highburry and Islington and Canada Water (Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf) to Clapham Junction by 2012.
- Heathrow link (direct train between Waterloo and Heathrow airport, stopping at Clapham Junction): Time line: Late 2014 – Heathrow Airtrack services operating
All together, the number of passengers in Clapham Junction could increase by 50% within 15 years. And decision for funding for the period will be made in the coming years.
It is clear that the main difference between Clapham Junction and Farringdon Station – beside the additional flow of passengers – is that the second project was much more advanced and commitments and deadlines already set as part of a biggest and major government project.
On the other hand the failure to achieve any redevelopment for Clapham Junction in the past decade, along with the lack of vision for any long term commitment can just become more exasperated with passengers and services increasing.
But other questions still stand: why is CJ denied any serious thought for a new station/concourse? Why is government money withdrawn for any redevelopment of CJ while it as been widely assessed that it should be a priority?
When Theresa Villiers visited the station in the run up to the election campaign, we welcomed her announcement that a new Conservative administration would make Network Rail more accountable to passengers. With the new spending review period now close upon us (CP5: 2014-2019: decision 2011/12), we hope very much that those objectives will become a reality.
The Clapham Junction Action Group is committed to work with residents, political parties, businesses and all stakeholders to provide ideas for the redevelopment of the station. You can participate here (click).
Author: Cyril Richert
This is our fourth article (of six) of our series on primary schools in the Clapham Junction area.
At the Committee meeting on July 5th, a report by the Director of Children’s Services on additional primaryschool places (specifically the proposal to expand Belleville School, SW11) was produced.
It says that the Council has received 500 responses. 33 were in favour, 456 against and 11 were unclear. The vast majority of these respondents supported the use of the Forthbridge Road site to provide additional primary school places but the majority of the objectors were opposed to the fact that the distance criteria for admissions would be based on the distance from the main Belleville site and that this would effectively stop children local to the Forthbridge Road site obtaining a place. A number of respondents also pointed out that having more children travelling into the area could lead to an increase in traffic movement.
A number, particularly those associated with Wix School, suggested that Wix School should manage the Forthbridge Road site. A smaller number indicated that a separate new school in Shaftesbury Ward would benefit the local community and shops.
The report responded to the criticisms saying:
All of these comments are understandable but they do not address the problem the Council’s proposal is designed to address, which is insufficient places in the area around Belleville and Honeywell Schools and the lack of any alternative primary provision. Nevertheless, a review of the admission criteria for the area is proposed in Paper No. 10-540 in order to ensure the concerns raised by the respondents are fully considered.
Finally, a number complained about the consultation process. There were two issues. First, that the consultation did not cover a wide enough geographical area, Second, the first consultation did not specifically refer to the admission arrangements for the new site,
The area covered by the consultation was the standard area that would normally be covered in any local planning consultation. In any future consultation on this particular issue, a wider area will be covered. On the second point, the consultation was very clear that this was a proposal to expand Belleville School. It was not a consultation on a change to the existing admission arrangements for Belleville School. In the second consultation, the admission arrangements were clearly set out as this has been requested by some respondents.
It is clear that additional places are required to address the demand in the Northcote area and there are no alternative sites for expansion which are immediately available to the Council. Nevertheless, a review of the admission criteria for the area around the Forthbridge Road site is proposed in order to ensure the concerns raised by the respondents are fully considered. This will be a broader consultation covering issues such as admission arrangements; the most recent consultation about which the deputation complained, concerned only a proposal to expand Belleville School.
First you create a “fait accompli” in increasing Belleville, where the only solution is the extension in Forthbridge road. Second, you promise a vague consultation where you a) do not link the use of the site with the result, b) do not commit to any change, c) melt the issue within a global question.
Next week: Solutions for Belleville extension?
Author: Cyril Richert
As published in October 2009, the Council approved the redevelopment of the site along Grant Road (Griffon House & Lanner House 6 Grant Road SW11) involving demolition of existing buildings and construction of new building between 6-11 storeys to provide 452 self-contained studio rooms for use as student accommodation (for use of post-graduate students of Imperial College London) together with associated car and cycle parking, landscape treatment, amenity space, access and servicing facilities.
I met with the developers in August 2009 (read HERE).
Protest on construction site disruption
John Marshall, one of the local resident, has written to Wandsworth Council claiming that Berkeley First contractors are denying pedestrian access by parking vehicles on the pavement and opening the gates outward, completely blocking the pavement. He highlighted 4 contraventions to the special conditions attached to the licence to the site and provided photographs (as shown below):
- They are opening the Gates to the site outward (thus blocking the pavement and forcing people to walk on the road) as well as inward.
- They are parking vehicles on the pavement on Winstanely Road completely blocking pedestrian access
- They have not obscured the traffic signs, instead they removed the traffic sign on Winstanley Road so as to facilitate the parking on the pavement of said construction vehicles.
- Construction vehicles unable to drive on site are using the pavement on Winstanely Road as an extension to the construction site, again blocking pedestrian access.
He asked for the work to be suspended until agreement is found to prevent re-occurrence.
The Council officers responded that they were contacting Berkeley First to get as many issues addressed as soon as possible and try to reduce the negative impact the current works are having on the surrounding area. They also confirmed that the costs of repairing any damage caused will be relayed back to them. However there is no sign that any measure was taken to enforce health and safety requirement.
The old children’s house to be included within the development
The location of the old Children’s home site (50 Winstanley road) has been sold by Wandsworth Borough Council to Berkeley First (report January 2010) (in orange colour in the photos below).
The planning application database being currently unavailable, I was not able to retrieve more information and little is known about the use that Berkeley First wants to do with the new site.
You might remember that the current permission raised questions about the density and size of the buildings (with the provision of 452 studio flats). Any building extension would reinforce the same arguments; but the additional space could also be used by the developers to increase the public space and thus lower the density of the scheme.
Feel free to post in the comments if you know more.
Author: Cyril Richert
This is our third article (of six) of our series on primary schools in the Clapham Junction area.
Concerns of Belleville parents
Beside the previous outcry of parents who did not want Belleville to become bigger, new concerns arose with the new proposal.
Some parents fear that a split would create between the 2 entities with one (probably the new one) being left behind as the main site would be the hosen location of most. Additionally the choice can be driven also with the intention to keep children who went to the same nursery together and they could be split with the new rules (not talking about the drop-off management with one child at school on Forthbridge Road and the other at nursery between the Commons).
A school teacher raise a number of reasons on the website nappyvalleynet.com:
In my opinion, the problem is thinking that it is ok to expand successful primary schools to 3 or 4 form entry. That is huge! Expecting management teams to become like umbrella super – managers of many sites and thinking that this won’t have a negative impact on the children’s education is ridiculous.
And to suggest that having a split site at Forthbridge Road is beneficial for the parents living around Belleville who will be offered places there is missing the point that their children will be going to an annexe site not a separate school. I wouldn’t want my child to go there. How will they maintain unity with the rest of the school? Where will assemblies be? It will be like a strange outpost removed from the rest of the school. Far better to go to High View.
Children fare better is small schools especially at primary school level. Creating 4 form entry primary schools is an awful precedent. I really hope that those objecting to the proposal are concentrating on the educational implications and not becoming side-tracked by class issues. I don’t think this is a moral issue of busing in children to different areas because of class, I think the real issue is trying to over-expand existing schools (because of short-sighted closures a few years back for a start) and save money because its too prohibitive to buy back the land to open new schools.
Belleville Governors decision to run the “Forthbridge annexe” as a separate entity should “smooth” the worries about split school. In other word, the taste of a separate school with the confidence in the Belleville teaching which makes it a successful school.
Forthbridge area protest
It has to be seen (as someone named it) as a “floating” annexe of classrooms from Belleville, a sort of Belleville ghetto if we may say, where pupils would be preserved from being mixed with the environment! All the argument is that the Vines site won’t be a school with the meaning as with its own rules.
Some Belleville parents suggested that it would be unfair to have Forthbridge road’s children to be able to go to the Belleville site in Northcote road, 500 m away. But they do not see any problems for having children living around Broomwood road to travel 1 km to go to the Forthbridge site.
However there is growing protest regarding what most of the people see as deeply unfair treatment. Some parents talked of Wandsworth suggesting that it would create a divide between the have and not-have, and that local children are not good enough for the high standard of the school of Belleville, with the decision to base admission for the Vines site on Belleville’s location and refuse it to local pupils.
Arguments are raised to ask for social mixity in school fairness, as said by a local resident letter:
It can be said that Belleville and Honeywell Schools both perform exceptionally well in national standards because of the families that live local to the schools. They are all predominantly white, upper to middle class working families that live in homes worth £800K upwards. There is a very limited number of council estates anywhere near these two schools. Where as Shaftsbury Park is in the middle of one of Wandsworth’s largest and arguably most dangerous estates. By keeping the affluent middle class children with each other you are leaving all the poorer children to battle it out in barb wired fenced schools and denying them an opportunity at a better education and a better way of life.
Regarding traffic issue, it is only natural that there will be a considerable amount of increased congestion from parents who choose to drive their children to this new site as it is almost a mile away from where they live. The easiest way to avoid much traffic congestion is to allow local residents the opportunity to attend this new site, thus avoiding the need for 120 new pupils to be driven to and from school each day.
Wix school protest
The first Wix even knew about the Forthbridge site even being available for continued school-use (council plans for years were to sell it) was when they were informed of the Belleville expansion proposal (only two nurseries in the area were consulted… and not even the CJAG ). The fact that the council did not even inform Wix which is the neighbouring school ahead of the full consult has shocked.
Wix Governors protested in March 2010 (see their letter here) and asked everyone they could contact to join their protest. They protested on the basis that the Council has not formally consulted Wix School over the proposals nor considered the option of expanding Wix School onto the Vines site.
They named five reasons to consider the application as flown:
1. A large number of families living in the Wix area will be excluded from the Belleville catchment as they will be refused to apply for their nearest school; will be closed to them. Given that the area around Wix is more socially diverse than that around Belleville, it seems a rather odd decision of the Council were it to allow a school to open in the area, but require that you had to live in a more affluent area in order to benefit from it.
2. It will do nothing to improve the overall provision of schooling in the Borough and will increase the privilege of an already affluent area, instead of improving a more socially diverse location.
3. As the distance from Belleville to the Vines site is approximately three times that of the distance from Wix the Belleville catchment will increase car journeys and create traffic jungle in the area.
4. Wix is a school which has received international acclaim and transformed itself over recent years from a struggling school to one with a substantial waiting list and a good Ofsted report.
5. The bilingual class has proved itself in a remarkably short time (more than 5 times over-subscribed) and Wandsworth has received international recognition for its foresight and innovation in creating it. While the model set by Wandsworth has now been adopted in several other Boroughs, it will send a wrong message that Wandsworth is not considering the new system seriously.
Instead of Belleville, Wix has claimed that they wanted to use the site in Forthbridge for an expansion.
However, the Council needed to find an immediate solution to Belleville’s over-crowding as the school went ahead on increasing admission for 2010. On the other hand, it seems that, initially, Wix only raised interest on expanding the bilingual section; but they will have to share with the French Lycée according to an existing agreement, therefore reducing the number of places offered.
Next week: Belleville extension approved by Council