Consultation on proposals to change sibling priority rule

Author: Cyril Richert

A while ago (2011) we published a few articles on school campaign in Clapham Junction. This was mainly triggered by both the successful campaign to open a new secondary school in the former Bolingbroke Hospital, and the less successful campaign to amend the catchment area for the Belleville school’s annexe in Forthbridge road.

The council is now consulting parents in Wandsworth on proposed changes to school admission rules that aim to make it easier for children to attend their local neighbourhood community school.

The public consultation will ask parents if they support moves to update the current arrangements that give preference to siblings when a school is oversubscribed.

Under the existing admission arrangements priority for a school place is given to a younger sibling regardless of where they live.

The council is proposing that sibling priority should only apply in future to children who live within 800 metres of the school. Siblings residing further away would no longer have priority over children living closer. Continue reading

Bolingbroke school plans released

Author: article on Bolingbroke Academy website

The public consultation on the academy proposals took place in autumn 2010. The full consultation report can be read here.

Academy Plans

ARK held initial information sessions about the academy building plans in May 2011, followed by two pre-planning consultation sessions in July 2011.

ARK and Wandsworth Council have been working with contractor Carillion PLC to develop the academy design and are now able to share the detailed plans with local parents and residents.

The plans show a new four form entry secondary academy and excellent new facilities for the Heritage Medical Practice. During the remodelling process we will work closely with English Heritage to preserve the period features protected under the building’s Grade II listing.

Carillion PLC have developed a design that preserves the building’s features and provides a high quality environment for the new school. The design includes additional staircases to improve the circulation around the building at lesson changes. Renewable energy technology is proposed in the form of photo voltaic cells fitted on the flat roofs.

The medical practice will be located on the Lower Ground floor with its own separate entrance on Wakehurst Road and its own comfortable waiting room.

To share your views about the plans with the school, please send your comments to bolingbrokeinfo@arkonline.org.

Forthbridge School site : and what now?

Author: Ian Hamilton

It’s been about 6months since the last proposals for the Forthbridge School site were voted down. There have been some recent developments:

  1. We recently chased Children’s Services and we were very disappointed to discover they have made no investigations whatsoever into the local access issue (despite the clear wording of the January amendment proposed by Cllr Jonathan Cook). They have stated this is because Belleville is definitely applying to become an Academy. [See our previous article].
  2. I also spoke with Cllr Cook last night. He is very excited about a new campaign for a free school in the area, but confirmed to me that this free school campaign will be looking for a completely new site i.e. it will definitely NOT be about the Forthbridge Rd site.He thus has not been chasing Children’s Services at all on the Forthbridge issue, but said last night told me he would.
  3. At least one set of parents has lodged another formal objection via the Office of the Schools Adjudicator to this year’s admission arrangements at the Forthbridge site, ahead of the 31st July deadline. An objection we made last year was not upheld.
  4. The building work on the Forthbridge site is on schedule and nearing completion and children will start attending in September. Bring on the traffic!

Where do things stand?

We have always been aware that Belleville was considering Academy status. If granted (and there’s little reason to think it won’t be) this status means the Governors of Belleville have full control over their own admission policy and the local authority i.e. Wandsworth Council has nothing to do with admissions at Belleville. Any admission arrangements still of course have to conform to the Admissions Code (changes to which are currently being consulted on by the Dept
of Education).

Where from here?

If we do still want to campaign for at least some local access to the Forthbridge Rd site then we need to win over the staff, Governors and parents of Belleville itself. (I think this actually was always going to be where our campaign ended up) I sense there are many current parents at Belleville who sympathise with the inherent unfairness of not being able to attend a school on your doorstep.

It’s also clear to me that in the past consultations this very simple issue has
been rather muddled-up  (mainly through the council’s involvement!) with more complicated issues of sibling admission and the lack of places for would-be parents living south of Honeywell school. Often it’s been would-be parents rather than current parents who have opposed discussions on any local admission to Forthbridge.

Furthermore Belleville is a clearly an excellent school which does understand the importance the links to it’s local community and so I really do feel there is an argument to be made there.

Personally though I am quite jaded by all this and we clearly need some new blood in the campaign if it is to take this new direction. Several people emailed back in January offering more help and support and I would encourage you to email again (using the contact box for example, or in comments below), if you are interested in taking the campaign forward.

If no one responds I guess we may be dead in the water.

More local schools to become Academies

Author: Cyril Richert

Belleville Primary School to become Academy

According to a recent press report from Wandsworth Council, Belleville Primary School in Battersea has applied for academy status under the Government’s education reforms.

The governing bodies at both schools have now voted in favour of applying for academy status following consultations with staff, parents, pupils and their local communities.

f their bids are approved by the Department for Education (DfE) it would mean the schools have greater powers of independence and are funded directly by central government rather than through the council.

Bolingbroke High School converted from “free School” status to Academy

The borough’s first ‘free school’ is set to open in the former Bolingbroke Hospital building in September 2012. Local parents’ group the Neighbourhood School Campaign has successfully applied to convert the building into the new Bolingbroke Academy which would be run by education charity ARK Schools.

Bolingbroke Academy would be independent of the council and free to attend for local children.

ARK Schools that will be running the new Bolingbroke Academy free school in Battersea has appointed the head teacher who will be in charge when it opens to pupils next year.

The educational charity has appointed Claire Edis as the founding principal of the academy. Ms Edis is currently the deputy headteacher of Parliament Hill School in Camden – a girls’ comprehensive with a mixed sixth form.

Her appointment has been welcomed by the council’s spokesman on schools and education. Cllr Kathy Tracey said: “This is a top line appointment and further proof that this new free school is going to offer a very attractive choice to parents of secondary age children in this part of the borough. The day that this free school opens its gates is now drawing closer and closer…”

[By the way, I thought that the Council said that it was no longer a free school as it was converted into an Academy now… The terms are not that easy to understand as there is some confusion inside the Council itself.]

The school, which will open on the site of Battersea’s former Bolingbroke Hospital will admit its first 120 Year 7 pupils next September and will continue growing each year until full. It will have four forms of entry each academic year.

The academy will have the normal admissions rules of a state funded school with most pupils joining from five feeder primary schools – Belleville, Falconbrook, High View, Honeywell and Wix.

It is promising a “rigorous academic education” that will prepare all its pupils for university courses.

The curriculum will have excellent English and mathematics at its core, to provide the strongest possible educational platform from which all subjects can be taught effectively. The school will set very high achievement targets for all pupils and will organise its curriculum and teaching to make it possible for all pupils to reach their targets.

A full curriculum will be in place to age 14 including all current National Curriculum subjects including separate sciences, design/technology and IT, as well as music, drama, foreign languages, art and sport. The curriculum for pupils entering the school with attainment below age level will be designed to accelerate their progress so that they can participate fully in the whole curriculum.

From age 14 the school will offer a full programme of GCSEs, together with a selection of other courses to ensure a programme which challenges and meets the needs of all pupils. The expectation will be that almost all pupils should continue to study at least one humanity and a language to age 16.

From the age of 16 the school will offer a full programme of A levels, together with a selection of other courses to ensure a programme which challenges and meets the needs of all pupils. Other course options such as International Baccalaureate and Pre-U will also be considered for inclusion nearer the opening date, when the likely extent of demand for such programmes can be determined.

The idea for a new free school on the Bolingbroke site started when a group of local parents set up the Neighbourhood School Campaign (NSC) to campaign for a non-selective, socially inclusive, non-denominational secondary school in this part of Battersea.

Bolingbroke building bought by the Council

Author: Cyril Richert

Wandsworth Council has exchanged contracts to buy the former Bolingbroke Hospital in Battersea so it can be used as a new state secondary school, councillors heard tonight.

The purchase was discussed during the meeting of the finance and corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee, on January 19, 2011.

The refurbishment and future running costs of Bolingbroke Academy will be met by central government. Wandsworth Council will retain the freehold for the building.

As a consequence, the proposed planning application submitted by St George’s NHS Trust to make residential accommodation is withdrawn (you might remember that we objected HERE).

Last October, we were pointing out that the Director of Finance said that “any Priority Purchase by the Council would need to be met from government grant which is currently unconfirmed“. But we also confirmed in our analysis of the Government’s spending review that “the Free School measure being a key part of the government policy it [was] difficult to envisage that they could deny the support needed for one of the most advanced free school dossier in the country [and] further elements (including funding for Wandsworth) could be unveiled before the end of the year“.

We cannot write yet how much was paid for the purchase (the report for the Committee says: This report contains exempt information and is therefore not available to the public.)

Once the deal is complete the building will be leased to a local parents group (the current Neighbourhood School Campaign) which will turn it into a ‘free school’. You can read our analysis of the report that was presented in September before the Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The NSC has been campaigning for a non-selective, non-denominational school since 2009. In May 2010, the NSC chose ARK , to set up and operate the new school. The paper showed before the Committee explained with details (5 page report but with 17 page appendix including the proposal form) the aim and objective of the school.

Exec confirms decision for further consultation on Belleville

Author: Cyril Richert

The Council’s executive committee unanimously approved last week the Education Commitee decision on Belleville admissions policy:

to investigate other admission solutions that avoid a situation where families adjacent to the Vines have no access to the school, and that better addresses the concerns of local parents, governors and residents, and report them for consideration at a future meeting of the Education and Children’s Services OSC

This means the existing criteria will stay until 2013 because of the consultation timetables. Some roads excluded from the proposed admission zones will still have a better chance next year for Belleville’s catchement area. Roads near the Forthbridge Road site won’t get any place in 2012/13, but their chance was close to zero in the proposal anyway.

See also the comment on Cllr Cousins’ blog.

 

 

Belleville School Plan Sent Back to the Drawing Board

Author: Ian Hamilton

Wandsworth Council’s Education Committee has thrown-out a controversial new admissions scheme proposed for Belleville Primary School.

Instead the Committee has asked Wandsworth Children’s Services Department to go back and “investigate other admission solutions that avoid a situation where families adjacent to <the Forthbridge Rd school site> have no access to the school”.

This second site is to be used for expansion by the popular Belleville School (based at Webbs Rd) from 2011. Residents near Forthbridge Rd have been campaigning for almost a year for a right of access for local children to this site.

Last Wednesday evening the Committee was presented with the results of the second consultation within a year on the matter. This included a recommendation from Children’s Services for two ranked priority admission areas for the Belleville School.

Ian Hamilton was invited to address the committee on behalf of local residents and parents near the Forthbridge Rd.

Mr Hamilton reminded the committee how this latest consultation was held in response to nearly 500 objections made in a previous consultation in June 2010. Most of those objections were to admissions still being based on the distance from the Belleville main school site, 1km away from Forthbridge Rd, Even though this second site will be used to house a class of pupils per year group, the popularity of Belleville would mean children local to the Forthbridge Rd site had little chance of gaining places at it.

Mr Hamilton said that many felt the proposal for a second priority area did not adequately address these concerns even though it was approved in the recent consultation by a narrow majority (51%).

He also pointed out that the recommendations actually placed before the Committee included a new area added onto the second priority area which was not included in the most recent proposals i.e. had not actually been consulted upon, and many felt this raised serious questions about due process.

He added that, as this new area is closer to the Belleville main site (from which admission distance would still be measured), much of the area designated around Forthbridge would in effect become a third priority area.

Kate Amis the Chair of Belleville Governors also spoke to register the objections of Belleville Governing Body to the plans. She raised issues about the effect of the proposals on sibling admissions and their possible impact on the filling vacancies higher up the school.

All three Shaftesbury ward Councillors – Cllr Guy Senior, Cllr James Cousins & Cllr Jonathan Cook – were present and then spoke passionately against the “unfair” and “complicated” plans. These plans, the latest in a series of council proposals, could have seen children living over a mile away gaining places at the Forthbridge Rd site ahead of children living next door to it.

Committee member Cllr Cook noted that 301 of the 304 responses received from Shaftesbury Ward residents were against the proposals and he tabled the crucial amendment (requesting that other admissions solutions be investigated). Committee member and Parent Governor representative Jon Cox described the campaign by residents near Forthbridge as “sympathetic” and “honourable”.

All five speakers and the outcome of the vote itself (6-4) were met with applause and cheers from a packed public gallery.

Campaigner Ian Hamilton said:

Finally we have victory for common sense. Thanks to the support of our local councillors and residents we now have a chance to formulate a transparent arrangement that includes some element of local admission to the Forthbridge Rd site – the only solution most people would consider as fair

The rising demand for school places is creating some difficult situations, but it’s great to see so many residents who care about schools in their area. We really want to work openly with the council, all the local schools, residents and parents to resolve this issue in a positive way“.

————-

Addendum: Cyril Richert

The conclusion of the report (download pdf HERE) such as:

“Due to the continuing rise in birth rate it is recommended that the planned primary school expansion from 1FE to 2FE at Alderbrook is progressed and that the Belleville Primary school’s admissions criteria are amended to establish a first priority area and a second priority area, the latter in two parts as described in this report.”

was rejected by 6 votes to 4:

The Education committee amended the recommendation in paragraph 3(a), to read as follows:

ask the Children’s Services Department to investigate other admission solutions that avoid a situation where families adjacent to the Vines have no access to the school, and that better addresses the concerns of local parents, governors and residents, and report them for consideration at a future meeting of the Education and Children’s Services OSC

VOTING:
Councillor Jonathan Cook tabled amendment
Seconded by Councillor Andy Gibbons

FOR
Councillor Jonathan Cook
Councillor Andy Gibbons
Councillor Wendy Speck
Mr. Jonathan Cox (Parent Governor Rep)
Dympna Margaret Kelly (Parent Governor Rep)
Mr. John Russell (CofE Rep)

AGAINST
Councillor Peter Dawson  (Chairman)
Councillor Mrs. Tessa Strickland  (First Deputy Chairman)
Councillor Charles McNaught-Davis  (Second Deputy Chairman)
Councillor Steffi Sutters

ABSENT: Councillor Jo-Anne Nadler

In other words, all the Conservatives councillors but 1 (elected in Shaftesbury ward) supported the report. It is thank to the two parent governors, Diocesan representative and the two Labour Councillors that the report was amended, with the support of the Shaftesbury Cllr member of the committee!

You can also read the report from James Cousins on his blog, with the title: Rebellion and school admissions. He said:

Last night was the first time I’ve ever ‘rebelled’ by speaking (but not voting, as I’m not a committee member) against the proposed admissions policy for Belleville School. […] I’ve always been clear in my view that the council is not perfect, like any person or organisation it can make mistakes; what is important is that it can spot and rectify those mistakes. Last night, I was proud that the council proved it isn’t an unstoppable juggernaut, it is a mature and responsive organisation – it might not get things right first time, but it’s prepared to listen to make sure it’s gets there in the end.