Two secondary school rebuilding confirmed by government

Author: Cyril Richert

According to Brightside (September edition) the rebuilding work of 2 secondary schools in Wandsworth is to go ahead, education Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed.

In July, the government scrapped funding for 14 schools in Wandsworth, and two more schools were under review: Burntwood and Southfields (read our previous article).

The attempt from Wandsworth Council to persuade Department for Education officials to go ahead with plans for the remodelling of Elliott School in Putney, the construction of Saint John Bosco – a new Catholic secondary school in Battersea and other schools to be funded by the BSF programme, is still in limbo as the final decision is expected mid-September.

But detailed designs were already prepared for Burntwood and Southfields and it seems that too much money would have been waisted should they be stopped.

Burntwood School in Earsfield will benefit from a £40m rebuild and Southfields Community College will receive £29m. Work is expecting to start in spring next year.

At the same time, the Neighbourhood School Campaign has launched an initiative to set-up a free school at the proposed site of the Bolingbroke hospital. However, setting up a free school is not that simple: from the selection of the organisation in charge of running it (ARK Schools has been short listed and should appoint the teaching staff and run the school as an academy with direct funding from the government), to the level of education provided (as a free schools, parents should make sure that the organisation selected is following their requirements in term of standard of teaching and methodology).

In parallel, the NHS is proposing an alternative plan (residential development) this autumn in order to maximise the value of the Bolingbroke site. To date, no financial offer has been made to buy the site within the timescale that is vital to the Trust. Read our article on the proposal HERE.

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NORTHCOTE WARD Special E-bulletin – September 2010

Author: Cyril Richert

I received the latest newsletter from the  Councillors of Northcote ward with article on the Bolingbroke site:

NORTHCOTE WARD Special E-bulletin

Building a new school at Bolingbroke Hospital

September 2010.

Welcome to a special Northcote e-bulletin about plans for a new school at the Bolingbroke Hospital. Please forward the bulletin to friends and neighbours.

Cllr Jenny Browne, Cllr Peter Dawson, Cllr Martin Johnson

Northcote Ward, Battersea

Email: Heretohelp@wandsworthconservatives.com

Council statement about the Bolingbroke’s future use

Our recent e-bulletin gave information about a pre-planning application exhibition at Chatham Hall that St George’s NHS Trust has arranged of its proposals for the Bolingbroke Hospital site (see details later).

Wandsworth Council has issued the following statement about the leaflet that St George’s delivered in the local area:

“The St George’s NHS Trust is consulting on proposals for new flats and health facilities on the Bolingbroke site.

The main purpose is to establish the market value of the site including the required health provision.

The Trust’s consultation document contains incorrect information regarding the Council’s proposed purchase of the site.

The Council has made the Trust an offer to buy the Bolingbroke site for the provision of both the promised health facilities and a new school.

This offer has been made in accordance with the timescale laid down by the Trust.

The Trust as a public body has a duty to deal with the Council. It cannot sell to another party at this stage.

Negotiations between the Council and the Trust for the site’s purchase have already begun. Once these are completed there will be a fresh planning application which will include the new school alongside the health facilities.

The Council has written to the Trust’s chief executive formally drawing his attention to the misleading information in the consultation document and asked for this to be corrected”.

Press release New school at Bolingbroke Hospital site

Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, and Northcote councillors will be at one of Jane’s “Street Surgeries” on Saturday 11th September between 10am and 11am, at a stall outside the Bolingbroke Bookshop, 147 Northcote Road. This is an opportunity to call by and mention any concerns, local or national, of a non-confidential nature, which you want to raise with us.

The Neighbourhood School Campaign

As we reported in the September e-bulletin Council Leader, Edward Lister has warmly welcomed and expressed support for the proposal to open a new secondary school on the Bolingbroke site that has been submitted to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education by ARK Academies and the Neighbourhood School Campaign.

St George’s NHS Trust Exhibition

The Trust has arranged a pre-planning application exhibition of its proposals for the Bolingbroke site at Chatham Hall, 152 Northcote Road on Friday 10th September (6.30pm to 9pm) and Saturday 11th September (9.30am – 12.30pm).

Read also our articles:

Pre-consultation exhibition for residential proposal on the Bolingbroke site

Author: Cyril Richert

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

The Wandsworth Primary Care Trust (PCT) announced plans to close the Bolingbroke Hospital temporarily and consult the public on moving its services to other locations in the Borough back in 2006. The Bolingbroke hospital was closed the year after, despite a campaign to prevent the closure of the healthcare facility and its services were dispersed, mostly to St John’s Therapy Centre on St John’s Hill. Since then, the PCT and St George’s NHS Trust (SGT – who owns and operated the hospital) have looked for options to sell the site. In 2009, English Heritage awarded the building Grade II listing status (which means the building may not be demolished or altered without special planning permission), due to the building’s architectural interest, a rare set of children’s tiles and its “unusually lavish” marble-clad lobby, war memorials and radiated corridors.

Although the campaign to save the Bolingbroke hospital intended initially to keep a health facility on-site, a new project led by the Neighbourhood School Campaign (NSC) hopes now to use the site to set up a much needed secondary school in Clapham Junction.

The 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 (click on the photos below to see each redevelopment current/proposed).

David Canzini (a member of that team who sent me the information I published last week) explained in more detailed their need to determine the market value of the site. In the book, the Bolingbroke site is worth £7.5m. Some developers have suggested that a residential development might generate up to £20m. Realistically SGT is looking for a value between £10m and £13.5m depending on the success of the planning proposal. He said that 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.

On the other side, the Council denies such claim and distributed a leaflet saying:

The Council has made the Trust an offer to buy the Bolingbroke site for the provision of both the promised health facilities and a new school. This offer has been made in accordance to the timescale laid by the Trust. The Trust, as a public body has a duty to deal with the Council. It cannot sell to another party at this stage.

Negotiations between the Council and the Trust for the site’s purchase have already begun. Once the are completed there will be a fresh planning application which will include the new school alongside the health facilities.

The Council has written to the Trust’s chief executive formally drawing his attention to the misleading information in the consultation document and asked for this to be corrected.

We haven’t seen the letter from the Council, therefore it is difficult to draw any line on who’s telling the truth. It could well be that, depending on each side, the views are partially correct: Wandsworth Council could have made an offer close to the book value and is looking for some additional money from the Education Secretary. As the outcome of the UK wide 2010 Spending Review is due to be announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 20 October 2010, there is currently no certainty that any more money will top-up the Council’s offer. Therefore SGT is claiming that, to date, no [reliable] financial offer has been made to buy the site.

On the planning proposal 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.

Beside all this debate, it was brought to my attention 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.

Bolingbroke hospital redeveloped as a residential site?

Author: Cyril Richert

The campaign for a secondary school

A lot of talks have been going for the past 12 months on the need to have a new secondary school in the area of Clapham Junction. The Neighbourhood School Campaign has launched an initiative to set-up a free school at the proposed site of the Bolingbroke hospital.

The “Bolingbroke team” as we could nickname it, has selected the educational specialists ARK Schools, a charity which has already set up academies across London, such as Evelyn Grace in Brixton and Ark Academy in Wembley. Setting up a free school is not that simple, from the selection of the organisation in charge of running it, to the level of education provided. If the school goes ahead, then Ark should appoint the teaching staff and run the school as an academy with direct funding from the government.

The parent promoters of the school have met with Michael Gove and even with David Cameron, but that does not mean the school will definitely go ahead. Budgets are tight and the new schools model has yet to be fully defined. The Neighbourhood Schools Campaign has an excellent case however. There are simply no state secondary schools within a 7 square mile area centred on the Bolingbroke site, and year 6 children leaving the local primaries scatter to as many as 49 different secondary schools. The Bolingbroke would make an excellent site for a 5-form entry school (i.e. around 900 students including a sixth form) and both Ark and the parent promoters are committed to working with the Council to ensure that local residents are properly consulted.

The NHS is proposing to use the old Bolingbroke site for residential

However the NHS is proposing an alternative plan this autumn in order to maximise the value of the site.

St George’s Healthcare Trust (SGHT) are looking to sell the old Bolingbroke Hospital site to raise much needed funds for healthcare in Wandsworth and South London . The sale needs to take place within the current financial year so that the vital investment that the Trust has identified from the Bolingbroke sale; including an extension to St George’s A&E department and expansion of its resuscitation department where major trauma patients are admitted; can be delivered. The Trust is mandated to achieve the best price for the disposal of its assets and is dedicated to fulfilling its promise to the local community by providing space within the new development for the PCT, (NHS Wandsworth).

The best professional advice given to the Trust has indicated that the maximum sale value for the site will be realised by achieving planning permission for a PCT/ residential development and that is what the project team will be conducting a pre-application consultation on.

The consultation exhibition will take place on Friday 10th (evening) and Saturday 11th (morning) September and a leaflet giving some details and inviting people to the exhibition has been delivered to approximately 10,000 homes around the Bolingbroke site (download HERE).

According to David Canzini (a member of that team who sent me the information) the PCT / 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. Although there has been considerable progress made, unfortunately to date, no financial offer has been made to buy the site within the timescale that is vital to the Trust.

The key issues for the Trust in selling the Bolingbroke site are:

  1. Timescale (sale completed within the financial year)
  2. Maximum value to re-invest in healthcare
  3. Provision for the PCT

The proposed development would include:

  • 1600sq m for PCT use
  • 50 apartments
  • Mix of 2, 3 and 4 bed
  • Included 30% affordable (social rented and shared)
  • 44 underground car parking spaces (no residents permits allowed)
  • 58 cycle spaces
  • Sensitive landscaping
  • Highest quality design and build
  • No increase in height or width of building
  • Traffic studies show residential and PCT use has least impact on local residents

Are we going to have a secondary school in the area? Do you want more residential in the neighbourhood? Is it going to increase the pressure on the already over-subscribed primary schools in Northcote ward?

It is important to give your opinion and attend the pre-application exhibition:
on Friday 10th September 2010
from 6.30pm – 9.00pm
and Saturday 11th September 2010
from 9.30am – 12.30pm
at Main Hall, Chatham Hall,
152 Northcote Road, SW11 6RD

Alternatively you can email bolingbroke.consult@stgeorges.nhs.uk
call on 07772 572 955 (24 hours) or visit the website
at http://www.bolingbroke-future.co.uk

Choice of school and the need in the Wix area

Author: Cyril Richert

This is our last article of our series on primary schools in the Clapham Junction area.

The borough has the obligation to provide more primary school places borough wide so it is adding extra classes to various schools. Therefore it has chosen the schools where there is the most need as that seems logical.

If opening a new school on the Vines site means that applications would be low at other schools like High View and Shaftesbury Park (all or nearly all applicants are successful), it does not make sense.

Therefore it has to be a case of some need in the area.

The Council is highlighting the birth rate in the Northcote area (apparently one of the greatest in the country) with increases pressure on Belleville; but they see no such unmet demand in the other area (because by “the other area” they mean the huge Planning Area between here and the river encompassing four council wards: St Mary’s Park, Latchmere, Shaftesbury and Queenstown).

However, as in many other cases, we could consider that offer creates demand and that the location of excellent schools attracts many new couple with projects to extend their family and therefore explain the birth rate increase in the area. As shown in the whole country: successful schools are always over-subscribed.

In addition, as the Council is keen to point out that Shaftesbury Park has got available space to welcome children from Forthbridge area, so has High View for those of Northcote ward (closer than the Vines’ site actually). However this option has not been suggested by the Council. Why?

Moreover, through a Freedom Of Information request there is evidence to show that there were actually more applications per place for the Wix school here on the northside (even to its normal intake English language stream) for 2010 reception places than there were for the reception places at Belleville.

*120 places published in Sep09 guide “Choose a Wandsworth Primary School” so that’s the number of places seen by parents when making their applications (deadline 22Jan10)

In 2010 applications for reception places Wix English stream had a higher ratio of total applications per place than Belleville and also a higher ratio of first choice applications per place than Belleville.

Even if we use just 90 places for Belleville (as 2008 admission) then although the ratio of total applications per place is then greater at Belleville, Wix English stream still has a higher ratio of 1st choice applicants per place than Belleville

On of the reason why we can see such a demand (it was not even the case a year ago) is because it reflects the fact that Wix school 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. We are not there yet as the English school is still under-performing, but the very recent 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.

Moreover – as shown with the over-demand for the bilingual school – the level of application is directly linked to the quality of the school and excellent schools attract families and very high demand, while some parents without this choice will prefer to rely on private schools.

All those arguments show that this is less an issue with over-subscription in Northcote area, than a problem of lack of good schools in Shaftesbury ward.

Choice of school – a government enforcement

The fact is that parents in Shaftesbury are offered two average/good school (sub-standard to Wandsworth average) with Wix (improving indeed, and attracting also Lambeth children – about 25%) whilst parents living in between the common have access to two excellent schools (amongst the best in the borough) with twice the same capacity and still over subscribed.

It gives two possibilities to explain the situation: either there is no children in Shaftesbury and only people in Northcote has a kid population, or that many parents of Shaftesbury are forced to go private in order to reach the standard of education their wish for their children.

Parents will tend to choose the schools offering better academic (and other) opportunities for their children.

The School Admissions Code comes into force on 28 February. 2007, and sets the duties to increase opportunities for parental choice, respond to parental representations, and improve community cohesion. Thus, you can read p17 of the code:

1.8 Following commencement of the relevant provisions of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, local authorities will be required to promote fair access to educational opportunity, promote high standards and the fulfilment by every child of his educational potential, secure choice and diversity and respond to parental representations.

1.9 Section 13A of the Education Act 1996 (as inserted by Section 1 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006) requires local authorities to exercise their functions with a view to promoting the fulfilment by every child of his educational potential, and, in the case of local education authorities in England, with a view to ensuring fair access to educational opportunity, as well as with a view to promoting high standards.

1.10 Local authorities have a new statutory duty under section 14(3A) of the Education Act 1996 (as inserted by Section 2 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006) to secure diversity and increase opportunities for parental choice when planning the provision of school places.

1.11 In addition, local authorities must consider parental representations about the provision of schools in their areas and respond setting out any action which the authority proposes to take, or where the authority believes no action is necessary, their reasons behind that opinion.

Consultation

The Council feel that their already-suggested recommendation for a future consultation on admissions across several schools is an adequate response to current objections. But they say it is “too soon” to agree now on the wording of this. Apparently they miss the point that the 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.

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 Admissions Code itself sets out the conditions for any consultations on admissions.

All admission authorities are required to complete their consultation by 1 March, and determine their arrangements by the 15 April, in each calendar year for the following school year

[page 22 of the Admissions code]

Consultations must happen for at least 8 weeks between 1Nov10 and 1Mar11 in order to effect admissions policy for 2012! The ONLY education committee before 1Nov is on 21Sep10, therefore there is a urgent need to define the consultation wording and process.

Belleville extension: Objection to the Schools Adjudicator

Author: Ian Hamilton

A group of local residents and parents decided to make an objection to the Schools Adjudicator about the future admission arrangements to Belleville School, in particular to that of the Forthbridge Road school site. We made this objection on 30th July 2010, one day before the deadline for objections to 2011 admission arrangements.

We would like to make it very clear that some residents, those who are parents of children attending Wix School and formed part of the Deputation to the Council’s committee meeting have chosen not to be included in this formal objection. Amongst their concerns they are reluctant to cause too much additional work for any council officers with whom they would like to maintain positive working relationships re the future development of Wix School.

We, the members of the objecting group, understand and respect this decision and share the concern about extra work for council officers who have indeed been very helpful and professional.

The future wide-ranging admissions consultation promised by Wandsworth council for autumn 2010 can only impact admissions from 2012. In the light of recent media discussions on possible future changes to the Admissions Code and also ongoing concerns that Belleville Primary School has registered to receive information on Academy status, we feel we had little choice but to make a formal objection to the Adjudicator.

On 4th August an Adjudicator was appointed to determine our case and they take evidence from us and Wandsworth council. The school holidays may have a slowing effect on the process which normally takes around 6weeks to yield a determination.

Above-all we are very keen to respect the process of the Office of the Adjudicator and as such we feel it would be inappropriate at this stage for us to say post our full objection letter, but will aim to do so in future.

You will find other information about the school campaigns in the area in our pages, with a series about Belleville school extension published during this summer.

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