Forthbridge school site campaign takes first step

>> Your chance to contribute: tell us what your think on Clapham Junction station redevelopment

Author: Ian Hamilton

Last night Wandsworth Council’s Education Overview Committee received its first Deputation in over five years.

We are very pleased that the 469 objections made to using the Forthbridge Rd school site simply as an expansion site for the Belleville School have been properly heard.

Part of the proposal is that the admission distance will still be set from the Belleville School site over 1km away. As Belleville is such a large and oversubscribed school, the Forthbridge Rd site will still be well outside Belleville’s catchment area. This means children local to the Forthbridge Rd site will have no hope of accessing the school on their doorstep.

Rachel Casstles spoke eloquently on behalf of the objectors to the committee, emphasising the support for schools in the area, but to exclude local children was felt by many to be very unfair. (Plans are for the site to be run like a separate school with one form entry per year, making it so much more than an “annexe” for Belleville school which itself changed its mind on a plan for on-site expansion last year).

She also presented our argument that actual demand for school places in the area near the site is assessed inaccurately and is underestimated by the Council (demand for places at the much closer and successful Wix school have rocketed in 2010, but it was never even offered the site).

Local area councillor Guy Senior spoke about the strength of feeling in the area and his Shaftesbury Ward colleague Jonathan Cook spoke about this “an undesirable situation” and his concerns for a school “isolated from its catchment and local community.”

Many questions were addressed to both the deputation and the Children’s Services Assistant Director Adrian Butler by other interested members of the committee.

Sadly the committee voted through the recommendations to be approved by the Council’s Executive Committee on Mon 5th July.

As well as approving the expansion these recommendations include a future consultation exercise on the admission arrangements for Alderbrook, Honeywell and Belleville (including the Forthbridge Road site) and Wix School.

We learned this consultation will happen in this Autumn and its results could affect admissions from 2012.

As the Forthbridge Road site is specifically mentioned we are very much hoping to influence the terms of that part of the future consultation. We feel we have a strong mandate to do so and see this as the start of our campaign to gain fair access for local children to the site.

Thank you all for your continued support

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