Forthbridge School site : and what now?

Author: Ian Hamilton

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

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

Where do things stand?

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

Where from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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More local schools to become Academies

Author: Cyril Richert

Belleville Primary School to become Academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exec confirms decision for further consultation on Belleville

Author: Cyril Richert

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

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

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

See also the comment on Cllr Cousins’ blog.

 

 

Belleville School Plan Sent Back to the Drawing Board

Author: Ian Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campaigner Ian Hamilton said:

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

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

————-

Addendum: Cyril Richert

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

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

was rejected by 6 votes to 4:

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

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

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

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

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

ABSENT: Councillor Jo-Anne Nadler

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

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

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

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?

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