Belleville School Consultation Results are out!

Author: Forthbridge School Campaign

You can read the results paper that will be presented to the Education Overview Committee on Wed 12th Jan HERE.

It’s a complicated read-through, but in essence 55% of respondents have voted FOR the first GPA and also 51% of respondents have voted FOR the second GPA.

However the Council are now planning to ALTER the area of the second GPA from that which they proposed in their consultation!

The Council now intend to create an additional zone from south of Broomwood Rd down to just north of Thurleigh Rd and include this zone in the second priority area proposed. Here is the NEW map showing the “two-part” second priority area.

Distances will still be measured from the Belleville site!

I am quite gobsmacked by this change of plan and would make several points:

(i) During the consultation the serious issue of school access for residents south of Broomwood Rd came to light. The council were seemingly not as aware of this as they might have been. They are now clearly so concerned about their statutory obligation to provide school places to these people that they have folded this in to their planned changes, in effect prioritising that statutory concern above any concerns of Northside residents.
(The Alderbrook expansion has now been approved and the council feel they cannot influence the closer Honeywell school due to its foundation status)

(ii) Addresses in the streets in this new zone south of Broomwood Rd are, in general, closer to the Belleville School main site than many properties in Northside second priority area (especially those to the east of Elspeth Rd).
As within a Priroty Area admission is still based on distance, this geography means that much demand for places from the Broomwood/Thurleigh Rd zone will likely take priority over most addresses on the Northside, especially those close to the Forthbridge school site (this is of course being the absolute intention of the new zone)
(Thus the Priority Area around the Forthbridge site will become in effect a third priority area!)

(iii) More importantly these recommendations mean the Council are now going to implement a change in admissions policy that they did NOT actually consult on!

As well as the sheer unfairness of such an action, this undoubtedly this raises a clear, serious concern about due process!

The Council’s Education Committee on Wed 12th 7.30pm is held at Wandsworth Town Hall and there is a public gallery.

Please let us know if you are able to attend the meeting – the more people we can get to attend this meeting and show our shock at these “recommendations” the better.

The Shaftesbury Ward Councillor Jonathan Cook has promised to speak against these at the meeting.

You can find the list of councillors on the Education committee on the Council’s website if you wish to contact them.

PS More detail & appendices, item 8 on the agenda HERE.

UPDATE 11/01/2011: Conservatives councillor James Cousins says:

the council has got this wrong […] If you were deliberately trying to invent a scheme that was bad for Shaftesbury residents, it would be hard to come up with something better than the council has for this. It’s a fundamentally flawed scheme. […]

My real objection is that it’s just plain wrong. Do we really want to say to a parent living next to a school, listening to the noise from the playground, seeing the traffic dropping off and collecting children each day, that their child can’t attend because someone living a mile away had a better claim? I cannot see the justice in it. The counter-argument is that it’s just the same a living next door to a private school or a faith school. But it isn’t the same, this isn’t a private or a faith school: it’s a secular, non-selective state school, funded from our taxes.

Read more on his blog: Belleville: the worst admissions policy in the country?

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Petition to object the Council’s plan for Belleville’s extension

Following the primary school consultation and the Public Meeting at Belleville School, Monday 15Nov10, a petition is available online aiming to “object to Wandsworth Council’s flawed proposals for the Forthbridge Rd school site“.

Author: Ian Hamilton

After an expansion consultation in June 2010, Belleville Primary School will use the Forthbridge Rd school site from Sep2011, but admissions will still be based on distance from the Belleville main site, over a 1km away.

Wandsworth Council passed this plan despite the 479 objections it received. These were made mostly to the admissions policy which will exclude local children from the Forthbridge Rd site.

Wandsworth Council are now holding another consultation which ends very soon (1st Dec2010).

We, the undersigned, believe that:

  • The Wandsworth Council proposals detailed in the latest consultation are flawed and do not adequately address any of the concerns of the 479 objections made in the Belleville expansion consultation (June2010).
  • These complicated proposals for two, ranked Geographical Priority Areas have conflated the sibling issue at Belleville with the Forthbridge Rd school access issue.
  • The proposal for a Second GPA which:
    a) is ranked in priority behind the First GPA;
    b) contains the Forthbridge Rd site, but is skewed to the west of it;
    c) still calculates admission distances from the main Belleville site;
    means there is little realistic chance of any child living close to the Forthbridge Rd site gaining access to it.
    (As acknowledged by the council at the public meeting on 15Nov2010).

Instead we would urge Wandsworth Council to recognise that:

  1. The Forthbridge Rd school site is an opportunity to develop a successful school site with a strong link to its local community, rather than simply an isolated annexe;
  2. This would best be achieved by a guaranteed percentage of the reception places at the Forthbridge Rd school site being reserved for local children;
  3. Admission criteria for this to be the same as any other school site BUT distance to be measured from the Forthbridge school site;
  4. These local places could be phased-in over a number of years starting from 2012 (to protect demand at other local schools north of the Clapham Common);

You can respond to the consultation before 1st Dec in writing to The Consultation Officer, Admission Consultation, Room 90, Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU

Or Email primaryexpansionconsultation@wandsworth.gov.uk

Or online www.wandsworth.gov.uk/bsf/consultations

Online petition to object to Wandsworth Council’s proposals for the Forthbridge Rd school site (CLICK HERE)

Read also:

Notes on Public Meeting at Belleville School, Monday 15Nov10

Author: Ian Hamilton

The meeting was chaired by Cllr Kathy Tracey and started with a presentation from Assistant Director of Education Sarah Harty and then Q&A from the floor.

Around 100people, chiefly from three groups – who were mostly opposed to the proposals: Belleville Governors, Northside residents and residents from south of Broomwood Rd.

Other than Parent Governors I believe a fair observation is on the low turnout of “regular” Belleville parents (though the 2017 exception means these plans will not actually affect them).

Some facts came to light from questions on the council map of 2010 reception places allocated at Belleville.

We have asked for the date of this map to be clarified and if it may be posted on the council website.

  1. 5 non-siblings inside the second GPA got reception places in 2010 at Belleville
  2. In their proposal letter the council said 25 siblings were made offers who would not have got in on distance alone, at the meeting a related point was made that 19 siblings who live outside both GPAs gained reception places in 2010 at Belleville. Not quite all siblings are marked on the map (as some are from even further than the scale of the map). Counting pink stars it seems maybe only 1 sibling place is not on the map.
  3. In addition there were 6 siblings in the second GPA

Belleville Governors said they are supportive of siblings attending the same school and were very concerned about the impact on filling in-year vacancies (they fear families won’t take an in-year place if future siblings not allowed).

They argued that Belleville tries harder than most schools to fill these vacancies (but like all schools has some e.g. in year6 the Head informed the meeting). They feel this is important way to increase the school’s diversity.

The Governors are concerned Belleville is being singled-out for sibling rule changes. Here is their newsletter.

South of Broomwood Rd residents who would now fall outside the southern boundary of the proposed first GPA argued that some places do currently go to south of this line.

Sarah Harty stated that actually no 2010 non-sibling reception places were actually offered south of Broomwood Rd but the map presented has one marked and two on Broomwood Rd itself (hence the need for clarifications above).

Under the new proposals these residents will now definitely have much less chance of getting into Belleville and they expressed doubts that the Alderbrook expansion will reach up high enough to include them.

It was clarified that Honeywell, a Foundation school is in charge of its own admission policy. It plans to consult next spring (at least two people suggested any admission changes needed to be coordinated amongst schools in the area).

Several Northside residents spoke against the current idea, stating that the new proposals do not address any of the concerns of residents near to the Forthbridge Rd site. A flyer was distributed at the start of the meeting by some (download HERE).

It was asked why the distance calculation in the second GPA was still from the Belleville main site and why the idea of a percentage local entry (as suggested by Cllr Kathy Tracy herself at the July Education Committee meeting!) was not part of the proposals. Both questions drew no response from the council.

The example of Henry Cavendish School, 2miles away in Lambeth was introduced – it recently expanded to two sites and calculates distance from either site. The Council seemed unaware of this school and declined to comment further.

Concerns about increased traffic were mentioned by one Marmion Rd resident.

The council stated there were only 9 applications to Wandsworth schools this year from the streets immediately surrounding the Forthbridge Rd site.

The council perception of future demand was attacked and someone asked about the contradiction of even designing a second GPA for an area with no alleged demand.

A questioner asked about Beatrix Potter School, the only other Wandsworth School with two ranked GPAs, pointing out that several recent years had seen no non-siblings from the second GPA gain a place there.

Bruce Glocking from the council actually agreed that the chances of any child living near Forthbridge Rd site gaining access to it were realistically very small!

Two residents spoke in support of Wix School on the Northside.

Read our article on Belleville and Alderbrook: primary school consultation

Belleville and Alderbrook: primary school consultation

Author: Cyril Richert

We have published a series of articles on the Belleville primary school extension and the choice of primary school in Clapham Junction area over this summer (read our series HERE).

As promised this summer (read the bottom of our article HERE) Wandsworth Council is now running a consultation on primary school admissions in the Northcote, Shaftesbury and Balham Wards and the expansion of Alderbrook School.

The Council is considering the establishment of a geographical priority area for admission to Belleville Primary School from September 2012 and the establishment of a secondary geographical priority area for admission to Belleville Primary School, around its satellite site in Forthbridge Road SW11 5NX, from September 2012 (similar to plan B explained in our article on Solutions for Belleville extension).

You can download the Belleville and Alderbrook Consultation document and a copy of the Proposed Priority Areas for Local Schools Map showing the proposed priority areas for admissions.

Here is the map (click on the image to see bigger) with colours for the two catchment areas (priority zones):

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. The idea to use priority areas for Belleville primary school (with extension in Forthbridge road) was raised by Councillor Kathy Tracey.

You should also see our previous articles:

Questions asked by the Council are (do you agree Yes/No):

  1. Should the Council designate a geographical priority area for admission to Belleville School?
  2. Should the Council additionally designate a second priority area for admission to Belleville school?
  3. Alternatively, should the Council make no change to the current admission arrangements for Belleville school?

Alderbrook Primary School to double form of entry

The Council is also consulting on a proposal to expand Alderbrook Primary School from one form of entry (30) to two forms of entry (60) from September 2011.

For information on pupil place projections for Balham, Bedford, Nightingale, Northcote and Shaftesbury wards download the Pupil place projections for the local area.

Question asked by the Council is (do you agree Yes/No):

  1. The Council proposes to expand Alderbrook School from one to two forms of entry from September 2011.

Consultation meetings

Two consultation meetings have been arranged to take place in November 2010 as follows:

  • 15 November 2010 at 6.30pm at Belleville Primary School, Webbs Road, SW11 6PR
  • 18 November 2010 at 6.30pm at Alderbrook Primary School, Oldridge Road, SW12 8PP

The consultation closes on 1 December 2010.

You can submit your views/comments online.

Or write to the Council (download the Belleville and Alderbrook Consultation document):

Ref: JAJ/Belleville Admission Consultation Oct10/sa

Post: The Consultation Officer, Admission Consultation, Room 90, Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU
Email: primaryexpansionconsultation@wandsworth.gov.uk

Any changes to the existing admission arrangements for Belleville Primary School (and its Forthbridge Road site) would be applied to applications for admission in September 2012 onwards.

UPDATE:

The Forthbridge school site campaign published a leaflet ahead of the consultation meeting on Monday 15th at Belleveille school (download HERE).

Concerns are:

  • The Belleville Governors are against these Council proposals, so are they even workable?
  • The proposals are very complicated. They conflate the sibling issue at Belleville with the Forthbridge school access issue.
  • The sibling issue is separate and is for Belleville parents to decide. Many people would like to see this addressed at ALL the schools in the area at the same time.
  • This “ranked GPAs proposal” is flawed because:
    – Nearly all of the reception places offered at Belleville in 2010 by distance alone were to addresses already located in the FIRST GPA (including the 30 “Forthbridge places”).
    – The distances used in the SECOND GPA will still be measured from the Belleville main site.
    – Evidence from other schools shows there’s little realistic chance that any child from the SECOND GPA would ever actually gain a place (Beatrix Potter School 2007-2009)

 

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Email:primaryexpansionconsultation@wandsworth.gov.uk

Web: http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk

Our ref: JAJ/Belleville Admission Consultation Oct10/sa

Bolingbroke planning application: submission

Author: Cyril Richert

Below is the letter I addressed to the planning application department.

Planning Application 2010/4235 – Bolingbroke site

Ref: OBJECTION

29th October 2010

Dear Sir,

We are writing in response to the application 2010/4235 for the alteration, extension and part demolition of the former hospital to provide 50 residential flats and space for some health facilities.

Some comments on the consultation responses

On the Council’s website, 421 objections have been received, compared with 2 people supporting the idea of luxury residential units in the area. Although the number of objections could be related to the successful campaign to make the site a school, those who bothered to show their interest to the council and raise their concern should be actually praised for their participation.

APPLETON is labelled wrongly as support but this is an objection.

Only WILSON  and RUSSEL-FISHER are truly supportive messages. However I was surprised (puzzled to say the least) by the argument made by one of the supporters that there is a “blatant attempt to manipulate the planning process in favour of those who would impose their somewhat absurd and ill-conceived proposition on a community that is comprised of far wider population than the self-interested short-sighted group that is promoting the “free-school” concept“.

The facts are that a lot of young parents have to move away from Clapham Junction area and Northcote where their children were attending primary schools for a simple reason: as it was demonstrated by the Neighbourhood School Campaign (NSC), there is a lack of secondary schools. The current situation often leaves the parents with no other choice but to move away.

A wide support for a secondary school, including from St George Trust itself!

As often highlighted in documents published over the past 2 years making the case for a secondary school for the area, 2,000 parents have signed the NSC’s petition supporting the creation of a new school in the Northcote ward, idea supported by the Martin Linton and Jane Ellison (former and current Battersea MPs) and the ward Councillors.

According to David Canzini[1] (a member of that team in charge of processing the application for St George’s Healthcare Trust) “the residential application does not preclude or prejudice other uses for the site, such as a school. The Trust and project team have been proactively engaged with Wandsworth Council (LBW), Partnership for Schools and the Neighbourhood School Campaign over the issue of a secondary school on the site“.

The reason behind the application

The Primary Care Trust (PCT) and SGT claim that although the Trust and project team have been proactively engaged with Wandsworth Council (LBW), Partnership for Schools and the NSC over the issue of a secondary school on the site, unfortunately to date, no financial offer has been made to buy the site within the timescale that is vital to the Trust. As they are looking to raise money to enhance services in St Georges Hospital (Tooting), they need the sale to be completed within the financial year (31 March 2011). Therefore they have put forward a plan to transform the Bolingbroke buildings into high standard residential, in order to maximise the value of the site.

David Canzini said that although Wandsworth Council made a proposal to buy the site, they have not shown any financial commitment and therefore the Trust faces the obligation to provide a plan B, should the funding promised by the Council not be existent/sufficient.

On the other side, the Council denies such claim and distributed a leaflet claiming that information in the consultation document is misleading and asked for this to be corrected.

However, on Tuesday 21st September 2010, the Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee confirmed the argument made by St George Trust: the Council would acquire the site on the basis that the costs of any Priority Purchase would be met in full by the government. Priority purchase would be undertaken on the basis that the Council would acquire the site for educational purposes and the site would continue to be used for the public benefit. Any Priority Purchase by the Council would need to be met from government grant which is currently unconfirmed, as noted by the Director of Finance[2].

In the aim to maximize the price of the site and to establish its market value, St George’s Trust (SGT) and the Wandsworth Primary Care Trust (PCT) have put forward a plan to transform the Bolingbroke buildings into high standard residential flats. Their purpose is to provide the Council with the best value of the site, while maintaining their obligation to provide a plan B should the public authority be unable to provide funding.

Objections to the application

There are a large number of issues that should prevent the planning approval such as the prime necessity to keep the building as a public site (which would be achieved with the school) and the obligation to liaise with the Council to achieve the best public usage of the site.

As highlighted by Northcote ward Councillors, the following specific issues will need to be addressed:

  • The protection of the important features that led to the Bolingbroke being designated last year as a Grade 2 listed building; in particular  the preservation of the nursery rhyme tiles
  • The proposed conversion of the listed building to mainly residential flats will require major intervention and subdivision of the building’s interior
  • The loss of significant and long established public facilities if the building is redeveloped for mainly residential flats rather than for other community usage

Beside all this debate, you may consider that the Bolingbroke site was acquired, through public subscription and charitable gifts, by John Erskine Clarke at the end of the 19th century, whose aim was to provide public health service for the residents of Battersea. It would be a shame to see the memory of the great man to be betrayed 120 years later and the site to be sold to private interests on profit consideration only.

In addition, considering that:

  • the sole purpose of the current application to provide residential flats is to raise money within the timescale that is vital to the Trust to enhance services in St Georges Hospital (Tooting);
  • it is acknowledged by all parties (including St George Trust itself) that the site could be used for a secondary school, providing that the government/the council is meeting the cost to acquire the site;
  • the need for a secondary school in the area has been demonstrated;
  • the Bolingbroke site is a public facility and considering any other use will be a considerable loss for the community

the application should be refused.

Yours faithfully

Cyril Richert

On behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group

[1] Email received on Friday 3 September from David B. Canzini

[2] Report by the Director Children’s Services on a proposal by ARK Academies with the Neighbourhood Schools Campaign (NSC) to establish a Free School on the Bolingbroke Hospital site, comment 16 page 4.

The criticism of the current school campaign

Albeit objecting to any attempt to prevent the Bolingbroke site to remain as a public facility and potentially developed as a much needed school in the area of Clapham Junction, we are aware that part of the campaign to choose a secondary school can be criticised.

On Tuesday May 4th, the Evening Standard reported that five education groups have been in contact with the Wandsworth campaign so far. Two are education charities that sponsor state-funded city academies in London, Ark and the Harris Federation. The three others are private and overseas school firms — Sweden’s International English Schools, WCL and Cognita.

We understand that in May 2010, the NSC chose ARK Academies to set up and operate the new school. It would have been interesting to have a public explanation on the choice and the possibility to compare openly the different competitors, but it seems that the decision was taken behind closed doors.

Although there is a record of achievement from ARK to achieve good results in deprived area (mainly focusing on Maths and English), it would be interesting to know the arguments behind the rejection of Harris, Cognita, or any other organisation which responded to the bid for running a Free School.

Last but not least, the Council should share a responsibility in the current situation by misleading the public on the real financial stakes.

Read also:

Bolingbroke Hospital application: the school campaign urges you to write to the Council

Author: Cyril Richert

The St George’s trust organised an exhibition in September for their pre-consultation on proposals for new flats and health facilities on the Bolingbroke site (read our previous article HERE and the report on the event THERE).

On the planning idea itself, members of the NSC raised a number of issues that could prevent the planning approval, such as the prime necessity to keep the building as a public site (which would be achieved with the school) and the obligation to liaise with the Council to achieve the best public usage of the site.

Now this has reached the planning application level with application 2010/4235 (click on the link to see the different document on the Council’s website). Wandsworth council is inviting YOUR comments before 28th October.

We received the following message from Neighbourhood School Campaign:

Dear NSC supporter

We need YOUR help today at a critical time in the school campaign. Everyone is ‘time poor’ but if you do one thing only to help the campaign then NOW is the time to do so – it will take you less than 2 minutes and involve sending a single email to Wandsworth council. Please read on.

Thank you,

The NSC Team

PS. This is YOUR campaign. Without YOUR ongoing support and help the school campaign would not have succeeded to date. Please spare us a few more mintues at this important phase of the campaign.  Together – as a community – we are winning.

THE PROBLEM

The local NHS Trust – owners of the Bolingbroke hospital – has recently submitted a ‘residential planning application’ to Wandsworth council. They want the old hospital to be converted to luxury flats. The NSC opposes this on the basis that it fails to address the needs of the local community. A new state funded secondary school, available to local children of all backgrounds and abilities, is urgently needed.

Wandsworth council is inviting YOUR comments before 28th October on the NHS plans to convert the former Bolingbroke hospital to flats. It’s vital that YOU now oppose this planning application and make clear YOUR support for the new secondary school.

Failure to act now and allow the residential application to succeed would potentially add a significant sum of money to the eventual sale price the council will have to pay to acquire the Bolingbroke site from the NHS. Remember – the council has ‘preferred bidder’ status to acquire the site. Without a ‘change of use’ to residential, the market value of the site will be less. The lower the total capital cost of the school, the more likely it is to succeed.

Want to help? Great! Here’s how…

WHAT TO DO

It’s as easy as 1-2-3:

1. Email the Wandsworth council planners at planningapplications@wandsworth.gov.uk

2. Quote planning application ref 2010/4235 in the header;

3. Confirm in your email that you favour the site to be used for our much needed secondary school and object to the NHS planning application. If you wish you can mention that you favour the school on the basis of the councils UDP policy clauses CS3 and CS4, in addition to current government policy supporting Free Schools.

That’s it. Simple. Act NOW! Only concerted action will succeed. Please do not assume someone else will take the time to email so you don’t have to. Please do it now while you can. Thank you.

Best,

The NSC Team

PS. Two minutes now to email the council will make a big difference to your child’s education. Take action together and the politicians take notice. To quote Shelley “Rise like lions. Ye are many, they are few”.

planningapplications@wandsworth.gov.uk

Read also:

Free secondary school proposal revealed, but money still unconfirmed by government

Author: Cyril Richert

The Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee met on Tuesday, 21st September, 2010 and had on its agenda to consider report by the Director Children’s Services on a proposal by ARK Academies with the Neighbourhood Schools Campaign (NSC) to establish a Free School on the Bolingbroke Hospital site.

It comes after the St George’s trust organised an exhibition for their pre-consultation on proposals for new flats and health facilities on site.

Evidence of demand for a new secondary school

In the report considered by the Committee, ARK’s proposal states that 2,000 parents have signed the NSC’s petition supporting the creation of a new school in the Northcote ward. It argues that:

  1. Wandsworth has one of the lowest proportions (48%) of parents being offered their first choice of school in London (probably not only “due to the success of local schools” as added in the Leader of the Council’s letter, although families do indeed target Wandsworth). In 2009, 27.8% of Wandsworth secondary pupils went to another authority to attend school.
  2. Seven of the Borough’s 11 secondary schools are oversubscribed. Of the four that have surplus places, two are Catholic schools (John Paul II and Salesian – where non-Catholics are not offered places on religious grounds) and the remaining have relatively low GCSE results (Elliott is currently in special measures).

Only 27% of the 500 or so 11-15 year olds resident in Northcote ward currently attend Wandsworth maintained secondary schools. Except Burntwood, a single sex girl’s school which has 44 in the Northcote ward, the nearest schools to the Bolingbroke site, Battersea Park and Chestnut Grove, only have five and six of their current pupils (May 2010 school census) living in the Northcote ward, so they do not seem significantly at risk of losing pupils. Southfields Community College has 18 pupils living in the ward but, as an outstanding school in Ofsted inspections, is again unlikely to lose many pupils. Elliott School has ten pupils living in the ward and would almost certainly lose some to the Free School. The Free School would probably take some pressure off Graveney School, which is currently heavily oversubscribed.

The Free School proposal

The paper explained with details (5 page report but with 17 page appendix including the proposal form) the aim and information of the proposal by ARK to run a Free School [1]. The NSC has been campaigning for a non-selective, non-denominational school since 2009. In May 2010, the NSC chose ARK [2], to set up and operate the new school. In the proposal form they explain the aim and objective of the school:

The NSC’s aim is to create a small, socially inclusive neighbourhood secondary school, where teaching and learning enable pupils to become knowledgeable, confident, competent and self reliant citizens, fully prepared for adult life and the world of work. The school and parents will work in partnership to ensure every child fulfils their potential.

The NSC and ARK share a belief in high aspirations, high motivation and high achievement in and for all pupils, irrespective of their start in life. In particular, we aim to ensure that every pupil makes enough progress by age 18 to have real options: to move into higher education or follow the career path of their choice.

The school will be a five form entry secondary school, ideally located on the site of the disused Bolingbroke Hospital at the edge of Wandsworth Common. It will be non-selective and non-denominational, open to all local children. After prioritising children with special educational needs and children in public care, straight-line distance will probably be the main admissions criterion.

The school will be part of the network of ARK schools sharing curriculum, teaching and learning practices, pastoral practices and administrative services. All ARK schools operate within one academy Trust, ARK Academies, with a local governing body for each school and a single ARK Academies board of trustees. To achieve our ambitious aim, ARK will bring together experienced teachers and education professionals to deliver a rigorous educational model which results in an outstanding local school. The key principles of this model are:

  1. High expectations for: -Pupil achievement and behaviour; -Staff professionalism, skill and commitment
  2. Rigorous and engaging lessons
  3. Respect for teachers and a calm, orderly environment
  4. Continuing assessment and responsive support for each pupil
  5. Depth before breadth: an emphasis on literacy and maths
  6. More time for learning
  7. Larger schools broken down into smaller units: schools-within-schools
  8. Aspirational identity
  9. Motivational culture
  10. Strong partnership with parents

The school they propose would have five forms of entry of 150 pupils and a sixth form of 200.

Choice of site and admission policy

The NSC has identified the site of the former Bolingbroke hospital as the potential site for the academy (Bolingbroke Grove, London SW11 6HN).

According to the report presented before the Committee, Partnerships for Schools (PfS – the non-departmental public body set up to deliver Building Schools for the Future – BSF) has identified the Eltrincham Street depot (Clapham Junction train depot?) as a possible option, although is not the NSC’s preferred site.

It is proposed that the school open in temporary accommodation (if this can be provided) as early as September 2011. The school would then move into its permanent buildings in September 2013.

Temporary accommodation could potentially be provided in demountables on site or through phased occupation of the Bolingbroke site. The preferred option, however, would be to open the school at the Vines School site, as suggested by PfS.

The CJAG visitor will remember that this is also this location that is proposed to welcome the extension of Belleville primary school next year. Therefore the Council said that an opening in 2012 on the Bolingbroke site as a more realistic target (in addition an opening as early as September 2011 can only be achieved by a change in legislation as currently application form must be made by 31 October 2010).

The Council also understands that the NSC is proposing straight-line distance to be the main admissions criterion. It recommends to use the shortest walking route with street lighting (as other schools in the borough) although the use of Wandsworth Common beside could be a shorter path.

Cost of refurbishment

The disused Bolingbroke hospital is owned by the NHS and located in the centre of the ‘secondary gap’ in Wandsworth. It is a listed building, which would require significant refurbishment to operate as a school.

The NSC commissioned HKS Architects to undertake some feasibility work and estimated remodelling and refurbishment costs in the region of £20m

PfS have carried out their own studies and indicated costs in the region of £11.35m for 4 form of entry (FE) with a fifth form of 150 with a total area of 7275m2 (less than the area which would be required to meet the DfE BB98 guidelines). For a 5FE school with a sixth form of 200, costs are estimated at £14.13m with a total area of 8875m2. There is some new build in both options to create an indoor sports facility and multi-purpose hall.

Therefore the Council recommends that the school should be 4FE in size with a 150 place sixth form only (but leaves the door open for the NSC to submit further specific evidence on the source and scale of demand for new places), thus reducing the cost. However further studies will have to be made to estimated properly the overall cost in any case.

Priority purchase possible but funding unconfirmed

In his letter (appendix to the report), Councillor Edward Lister said that the Borough Valuer has been progressing discussions with the NHS St George’s Trust to investigate the possibility of a ‘priority purchase’ under the provisions of the Estate Code.

The Council would acquire the site on the basis that the costs of any Priority Purchase would be met in full by the government. Priority purchase would be undertaken on the basis that the Council would acquire the site for educational purposes and the site would continue to be used for the public benefit. Any Priority Purchase by the Council would need to be met from government grant which is currently unconfirmed, as noted by the Director of Finance (comment 16 page 4).

It confirms what David Canzini said to me when we met at the exhibition on September 11th: although Wandsworth Council made a proposal to buy the site, they have not shown any money commitment and therefore the Trust faces the obligation to provide a plan B, should the funding promised by the Council not be existent/sufficient.

According to the leader of the Council, the NHS Trust has been asked to provide information on their valuer’s opinion of the open market value of the site and on the conversion design, planning and other assumptions on which that valuation is based. This information has been promised and is awaited.

In the aim to maximize the price of the site and to establish its market value, St George’s Trust (SGT) and the Wandsworth Primary Care Trust (PCT) have put forward a plan to transform the Bolingbroke buildings into high standard residential. Their purpose is to provide the Council with the best value of the site, while maintaining their obligation to provide a plan B should the public authority be unable to provide funding.

By acquiring the site for the school with a Priority Purchaser status, rather than ARK or NSC trying to acquire it themselves, the Council prevent the Trust from openly marketing the property. The transaction would be on a negotiated basis at market value, the same as if the Council were to compulsory purchase the property but without a defined Lands Tribunal procedure for resolving any disputes over the price or any binding obligation on the Trust to sell at all and just the Trust’s urgent need for capital driving the transaction. The Priority Purchaser status can therefore avoid the uncertainty of the transaction being exposed to the risks of competitive bidding in the open market but is, however, susceptible to any delays by the Trust who also may seek ways to avoid agreeing the Council’s status as Priority Purchaser if they consider this might not maximise the receipt for the Trust.

Although it is unlikely to cause extended delay as SGT needs the sale to be completed within the financial year (31 March 2011) in order to raise money to enhance services in St Georges Hospital (Tooting).

Jane Ellison and the school campaign

Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, distributed her latest leaflet this week focused on the Clapham Junction area.

Jane continues to work with the local Neighbourhood School Campaign and the Council to progress the development of a ‘free school’ on the former Bolingbroke hospital site. She has raised the issue regularly with Secretary of State Michael Gove, who visited Battersea twice during the run-up to the election.

Indeed Jane Ellison participated to a debate on Free School Policy on House of Commons debates, 21 June 2010 where she raised the attention of Michael Gove on the Neighbourhood School Campaign.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): Has the Secretary of State had a chance to meet people from the neighbourhood school campaign in my constituency, who have already made considerable progress towards the establishment of a new secondary school in Wandsworth-a campaign that I note that the shadow Secretary of State supported prior to the election?

Michael Gove: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I have had an opportunity to meet that idealistic group of parents, and others in Wandsworth. I want to pay tribute to Mr Ron Rooney, Mr Jon De Maria and the other members of the group, who have done so much. My hon. Friend is right: the right hon. Gentleman was warm towards that group when he was in government. Warmth towards the group has also been extended by the local authority-Wandsworth borough council-and its leader, Edward Lister. Like so many other local authorities, it has warmly welcomed this initiative to introduce pluralism, diversity and high quality in the state education system.

Translating Jane Ellison’s contribution in straight forward English, it means: Did you have time to meet again with the NSC since you are SoS for Education, as you showed interest during campaign for the May election (photo)? And the answer is Yes.

[1] As defined by the current government, “Free schools are all-ability schools set up in response to parental demand”. In all other respects, Free Schools are academies and they have the same statutory basis as academies. They are thus independent schools and have to comply with Independent School legislation and meet the Independent School Standards (subject to the Ofsted inspections). But Free Schools do not have to comply with National Curriculum although they are required to have a broad and balanced curriculum and to comply with any national testing regime.

The main difference between Free Schools and Academies will be in their establishment. The Academies Act allows maintained schools to convert to academy status but these schools will not be able to choose the Free School route to becoming an academy. Registered independent schools can apply to convert to free schools. The DfE envisages that most free schools will be ‘brand-new schools, set up by charities, universities, business, community or faith groups, teachers and groups of parents where there is parental demand’.

[2] It would have been interesting to have a public explanation on the choice and the possibility to compare openly the different competitors, but it seems that the decision was taken behind closed doors.