The need to extend Belleville school

Author: Cyril Richert

This is our second article (0f six) of our series on primary schools in the Clapham Junction area.

Belleville and Honeywell are the two most successful schools in the area, and they both happened to be located in Northcote road. The main difference between the 2 schools are: Honeywell is a foundation school (and in two separate schools – infants and juniors, with two separate headteachers – although very close to each other) and is non-uniform while Belleville is one of the biggest primary in the country with 4 receptions (currently 3 they are admitting), with uniform.

Belleville is very popular, no doubt on it. With increasing demand and birth rate level in the area, they decided to expand in order to admit additional children.

Expansion on Belleville’s site

Their first aim was to expand within their current location. A study indicated that it would be feasible to extend the main Belleville school building onto the car park area and into the area occupied by the school keeper’s house, without loss of playground. The investment in the school would have been in the region of £6million.

According to the Council’s papers, the school could benefit from the addition of substantial new and remodelled facilities including:

  • nine new classrooms
  • a brand new integrated nursery class, and associated facilities;
  • significantly more toilets, which will be modern and well equipped and available on each floor;
  • additional support spaces;
  • a double height multi purpose hall;
  • improved external facilities;
  • lifts will provide access both in the Victorian and new building.

There would be additional funding that will go directly to the school in the light of the increase in pupil numbers. This would provide the school with additional resources for teaching, learning, ICT and general support. The school would have more money to recruit good teachers. There would be good quality facilities to enable the school to cater for all needs.

The Council decided to consult on the proposals for Belleville School at the end of September 2009 until mid November to take account of parents’ views and enable the proposals to be considered at the Council’s Executive on 23rd November.

Belleville’s parents opposed

The proposal was turned down at the end of 2009, while both Belleville school and the ward Councillors (thus the Council) facing a large outcry of discontent parents whose children where going to Belleville Primary and did not want the school to become bigger.

Current average primary sizes are 224 in England and 128 in Scotland, although Belleville already has around 630 pupils. The extension proposal would increase that number to 840 pupils over a period of seven years, thus becoming one of the biggest primary school in the country.

Pupils would have had to be housed in temporary accommodation until building work to cope with the increased intake was completed in 2013. According to the Daily Mail, parents had said they were ‘outraged’ by proposals to use temporary classrooms

They were also fears that it would create major problems in terms of controlling and organising the growth and could become out of control.

Forthbridge road site extension

Therefore Belleville made a second proposal presenting a split site school, with a three reception class school remaining on the main site, and a second, new, single reception class school being established on the Vines School site on Forthbridge Road, off Clapham Common Northside. The cost is said to be £2m (instead of £6m for onsite extension). The Vines was closed in July 2007 and is currently temporary home to Paddock Primary School (special needs), which will move to its refurbished site in Putney this autumn.

They published proposal in January 2010 in order to add a new class from reception level – i.e. by 2017, 8 classrooms so “one form entry” or 30 pupils per year (currently they offer 90 new spaces per year). The Council ran a consultation (to be found under BSF – Building School for Future).

In parallel, Belleville went ahead with its will to extend and started to admit the additional number of pupils in its February 2010 list.

The new school needs to be refurbished and modernised and thus will not be ready until Sept 2011, so for those of us whose children start school in September 2010, depending on how far away they live and hence their position on the places list, their children may start school on the Belleville main site and then be moved at the end of their first year to Forthbridge Road.

Interestingly, places in the new school would be allocated on the basis of distance from Belleville school main site NOT the distance from the Forthbridge Road site as might be thought.

This proposal obviously also impacts on prospective parents whose children will start school beyond 2010 and I don’t know if the Council has made any attempt to include them in the consultation process.

The complete proposal for the school extension on the Vines site says:

The Council has consulted with parents, staff, governors, current applicants and pre-school nurseries in the area around the two sites inviting comments on the proposals. A consultation meeting was held at the school on 2 February 2010. 133 responses were received, of these 107 were in favour and 15 against. 11 were unclear were unclear whether they were in favour or against.

Most parents with children in the school are in favour but some have expressed concerns that new facilities will be needed for the children being taken in 2010. A large number of pre-school parents are strongly in favour of the proposals. A number of residents around Forthbridge Road have expressed concern over the catchment area for the school and potential traffic problems.

As we will see in our next article, the new project is facing concerns from Belleville’s parents and also from Forthbridge road residents who considered the proposal to be deeply unfair.

Next week: Opposition to Belleville extension

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