Solutions for Belleville extension?

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.

However, when considering all three catchments of Belleville, Honeywell and Alderbrook (with a possible Alderbrook extension to welcome more pupils from the Northcote area), it could be considered.

The “announced-consultation” is said to potentially include the 3 schools of Belleville, Honeywell and Alderbrook, therefore opening some possibilities for this solution to be explored.

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.

However it means a drastic change on the criteria of admission affecting plenty of parents (and voters!)

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

Belleville extension approved by Council

Author: Cyril Richert

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

Committee meeting

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.

The Executive Committee approved the report and said:

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?

Opposition to Belleville extension

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.

Social mixity

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.

Traffic issue

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

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

Primary school expansion in the press

Author: Cyril Richert

As we are running a series of articles over the summer on the primary school issues in the area, you will find below articles which have been published in the newspaper on the same topic (click on images to see bigger).

Wandsworth Guardian – 15 July 2010: School expansion gets green light

South London Press – 6 July 2010: Rule-change fears as school takeover looms

Wandsworth Guardian – 3 March 2010: ‘Unfair’ proposal will deny children access to popular school

Click here for link to read the article.

Daily Mail -24 October 2009

Click here for link to read the article.

Excellent Primary schools oversubscribed in nappy valley

Author: Cyril Richert

We start here a series of articles on primary schools in the Clapham Junction area, to run over the summer.

We count 57 state primary schools in Wandsworth. There are three different types of schools listed:

  1. Community schools (C), where Wandsworth Council is responsible for the arrangements for admitting children.
  2. Foundation schools (F), where the school governors are responsible for admitting children.
  3. Voluntary aided schools (V), where the school governors are responsible for admitting children. There are nine Church of England schools, nine Catholic schools and one Muslim school.

The council funds and maintains all three types of school in broadly the same way.

In the area of Northcote/Shaftesbury wards we consider 10 primary schools: the two very popular and excellent Honeywell and Belleville Primary School in Northcote ward, Wix Primary School, Shaftesbury Park Primary School and John Burns Primary School in Shaftesbury. Close to those wards you have also in the East side High View (Plough road) and in the very South, Alderbrook. The rest of the schools are faith schools with special rules for admission (Catholic school or Church of England).

All the successful schools are highly requested. According to the Timesonline this June, “a house in the catchment area of Honeywell or Belleville primary schools is the holy grail of every parent who can’t stretch to Thomas’s or Broomwood Hall prep schools”.

It can also explain why a house in between the commons is worth 50% more than elsewhere in the area.

Not surprising, the popular schools of Belleville and Honeywell are over-subscribed and have applied small catchments zones (living distance from the school).

(Source: chooseprimaryschool2010.pdf)

* Wix Primary school shares its premises with the Ecole de Wix, a school maintained by the French Government (thus with fees and specific criteria in term of nationality).
Wix provides a bilingual class with 28 pupils, split 14/14 between the two premises.
Wix English school has a Reception class of up to 30 pupils.
Catchment zone is indicated for the successful bilingual, and then for the English school.

In order to visualise the situation, we put them on a map. Belleville and Honeywell, the two schools at the top of the league, have their catchments zone represented in light purple. We added the location of Belleville extension in the Vines’ site:

Primary school inspection reports and plans for Wandsworth are available on the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) web site.

The league table for primary schools is available at the DCSF website.

When considering the 5 schools around (we drop faith schools) around Forthbridge road, we get the following data:


You can visualise 2 excellent schools for Northcote Ward in 2009, with 3 average (although John Burns is performing much better than Wandsworth average) schools for Shaftesbury.

Next week: The need to extend Belleville school

At least 14 school expansions in Wandsworth stopped

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

Author: Cyril Richert

Hundreds of school building projects are being scrapped as England’s national school redevelopment scheme is axed by the government.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said on Monday that 715 school revamps already signed up to Labour’s Building Schools for the Future scheme will not now go ahead.

It includes 14 schools in Wandsworth being stopped and 2 further schools under review:

Battersea Park = Stopped
Bradstow = Stopped
Chestnut Grove = Stopped
Elliott = Stopped
Ernest Bevin = Stopped
Francis Barber = Stopped
Garratt Park = Stopped
Graveney = Stopped
Linden Lodge = Stopped
Nightingale = Stopped
Oak Lodge = Stopped
Paddock = Stopped
Saint John Bosco = Stopped
St Cecilia = Stopped
Burntwood = Sample – for discussion (considered on a ‘case by case basis’ as part of the national review)
Southfields = Sample – for discussion

Originally all of England’s 3,500 schools were to be revamped by 2023. The plan was to replace out-dated buildings with facilities that suit modern education. But the new government said the scheme had  “massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy” and Mr Gove said it was responsible for one thirds of his department’s capital spending (£55 billion programme is to be abandoned).

Furthermore Michael Gove admitted in Thursday 25 errors in the list, where several schools which thought their building projects were safe have now been told they will not go ahead. The Education Secretary apologised to the Commons chamber but Labour has since claimed the revised list still contains inaccuracies.

In Thursday’s press release, Wandsworth Council said that he was still hoping to persuade Department for Education officials that advanced plans to redevelop four Wandsworth secondary schools should be allowed to go ahead.

Detailed designs have already been prepared for Burntwood and Southfields. The council also wants the ‘case by case’ review to include plans for the remodelling of Elliott School in Putney and the construction of Saint John Bosco – a new Catholic secondary school in Battersea. Both are also at an advanced stage.

Last week the council made a decision to appoint Bovis Lend Lease Ltd as preferred bidder for the borough’s BSF programme. The appointment came ahead of schedule and marked the conclusion of an 11-month selection process which began in July 2009.

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

469 objections now but Wandsworth still won’t see the unfairness

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

Author: Ian Hamilton

Two days ago we had a “private meeting” with Kathy Tracey the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Peter Dawson the Chair of the Education Overview Committee. Adrian Butler from Children’s Services also attended.

We sadly learned very little at this meeting that we did not already know from the two-page Paper 10-54A put out on after the consult closed on Fri25th.

– The Council defended their consultation: they believe it was fair, despite our complaints about omitting the admission criteria in the initial consultation and that many locally were not consulted.

– They re-iterated the demand they see for places at Belleville but they see no such unmet demand in this area (because by “this area” they mean the huge Planning Area between here and the river encompassing four council wards: St Mary’s Park, Latchmere, Shaftesbury and Queenstown).

They would not really engage with our argument that our more recent FOI data shows demand for school places actually near the Forthbridge site is growing and is actually now stronger than for those at Belleville.

Adrian Butler did helpfully offer to let us have more data and we are requesting this.

The Council cite a vague future consultation

More importantly the Council feel that their already-suggested recommendation for a future consultation on admissions across several schools is an adequate response to our 469 objections. They say it is “too soon” to agree now on the wording of this. We re-iterated time and again that we felt this 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.

We fear a vague future consultation will do nothing to address the very specific issues about this site.

Admission must be changed for local children to attend

In the meeting we made it very clear that we did not wish to disrupt any children already-promised places or any work on keeping the site in school-use, (what the vast majority of local people want), but we felt they had not really responded to us. We continue to push for the admission to be changed in future so that local children have a chance of access.

The Council is rushing decision

We are still forming a deputation to the Education committee this Thurs 1st July, please continue to let councillors and media know if you object (contact the councillors on the committee if you agree this plan is unfair).

The huge local objection to this only became clear on the very last day of the consultation 24th June, while the Education committee tomorrow is only a week on from that. The Executive committee is then 5th July, so this feels all quite rushed through by the council.

To deny access to the school to local children is just wrong

There’s a clear, growing need for more primary places so suitable school sites in the Borough are difficult to come by.

Belleville is the largest “Outstanding” School in the Borough, (soon to be the country) so of course it is oversubscribed and sadly that’s a problem it wasn’t able or willing to solve itself on-site.

To simply land grab a site in a different area while excluding children who live in that area is just grossly unfair. Especially when demand for school places in that very area is actually greater (and we can prove it!) than for Belleville.

This plan sets a very dangerous precedent that goes against the very simple idea of local schools for local children (see our previous article).

Read also our previous article on the Forthbridge school issue here, including information and data on the demand for a school site near Forthbridge and the issue on consultation.

Belleville school extension: Forthbridge Road site issues

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

Author: Ian Hamilton

The council proposes to use the school site on Forthbridge Road as overflow for Belleville Primary School from Sep 2011, but intend to deny local children access.

The second consultation on the plan has received over 456 objections vs just 33 supportive responses but the Children’s Services Dept. is still recommending that it should go-ahead!

1) Many local residents would like to see the site continue in school-use when it comes free this year but they have overwhelmingly rejected this proposal because:

(i) admission will still only be based on distance from the original Belleville site. This means any children living near the Forthbridge site will have no chance to attend.

(ii) there will be much more traffic from 120 non-local children and 12months of building work but no local benefit.

(iii) Belleville parents actually rejected an earlier plan for a purely on-site expansion at the school back in 2009.

(iv) there are concerns about council discussions to sell-off land adjacent to the site to property developers.

2) The plan would make Belleville the largest primary in the country, but a “Superschool” split over two sites nearly 1km apart is in no-one’s interest for parents, staff or most importantly the pupils. Many Belleville parents themselves are not keen on this latest expansion proposal! With just 33 positive responses – nobody really wants this and nobody thinks it’s a good idea. Moreover simply “stealing” a site from another ward doesn’t even begin to address the underlying reasons for growing demand such as the rising birth rate in the Borough, the movement of people to be near very successful schools, the council’s previous closures of primary schools and selling-off their sites and so on.

3) There are serious concerns about how the consultation process has been conducted:

(i) February’s initial consultation omitted any mention of the admission criteria! It received small support overall in-favour, but was therefore a misleading exercise. It’s results have been completely discredited by those of the second consultation (after campaigners requested that it’s notification should include a clarification on the admissions)

(ii) Many local residents tell us they did not even receive any communications from the council about either consultation and this includes two local nursery schools (despite the council saying they would consult with them). A supplementary report (Paper No.10-540Aa much-easier two pages) has now been issued acknowledging some, but not all of these points. It still recommends the proposal. Whatever it grudgingly says, we would point out that 456 people clearly didn’t think the initial consultation “was very clear” at all!

4) The council’s argument behind this ridiculous plan is there is “significant unmet demand” for the Honeywell and Belleville school so they must offer more places there, while saying there is “no such demand” on here on the northside. Of course the “Outstanding” schools of Belleville and Honeywell are oversubscribed but to say there is no such demand near the Forthbridge site is simply not true. Through a Freedom Of Information request we have evidence to show that there were actually more applications per place for the Wix school here on the northside (even to it’s normal intake English language stream) for 2010 reception places than there were for the reception places at Belleville. The council’s plan seems to be based on an approximate and out-of-date assessment of “demand” in this area.

5) We are asking the council to withdraw their unfair proposal. The rising birth rate in the Borough undoubtedly means more primary school places are needed. The fact that a site that could be used provide some of these places is about to become available is a good thing, provided this site can be used in fair & equitable way. We ask for further and more open consultation. 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 council’s assessment of the lack of local demand for the site looks very questionable, we would like to see this properly re-assessed and re-visited in the light of 2010 application data.

6) We also ask that greater consideration should be given to a broader range of sensible options for the Forthbridge Road site. Options such as:

(i) The Wix school on the northside is much closer to the Forthbridge site (270m walking route) and is the obvious candidate to use the Forthbridge site. Wix is local school already attended by local children so future admission criteria could be handled much more fairly as the two sites are just a few streets apart. Already-local children would mean a much lesser increase in traffic too. Wix Governors have even complained about this Belleville expansion proposal and the Wix headmaster would be keen to expand Wix to include the Forthbridge site.

OR

(ii) The Forthbridge site is large enough for a completely new primary school – 8 classrooms so “one form entry” or 30pupils per year (in fact the Belleville Governors currently intend to run it like that). The council say they only want to expand successful schools. No one would argue with wishing to leverage successful school management but this can be achieved in other ways such as mentoring, rather than a land grab.

7) The Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meets on Thurs1stJuly to make a decision and we are requesting to form a deputation to that committee. Please contact the councillors on the committee if you agree this plan is unfair.

Additional links:

  • The Education report (23Jun10) after both consultations still recommending the proposal, Paper No.10-540
  • Minutes & reports to previous committee meetings available here.