Belleville and Alderbrook: primary school consultation

Author: Cyril Richert

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

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

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

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

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

The council does use Geographical Priority Areas at some other schools in the Borough. These are a fixed catchment areas i.e. specific shaped area not just distance and one school Beatrix Potter has a first and second priority area with admission priority following that (Children living in the first priority area are given priority over those living in the second priority area. However, living in either priority area does not guarantee a place at the school. This will depend on the demand for places from people living in the priority areas in a particular year.)

The Biggest effect of GPAs however is on sibling admission. Siblings only get priority admission if they STILL live in the GPA. The idea to use priority areas for Belleville primary school (with extension in Forthbridge road) was raised by Councillor Kathy Tracey.

You should also see our previous articles:

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

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

Alderbrook Primary School to double form of entry

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

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

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

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

Consultation meetings

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

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

The consultation closes on 1 December 2010.

You can submit your views/comments online.

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

Ref: JAJ/Belleville Admission Consultation Oct10/sa

Post: The Consultation Officer, Admission Consultation, Room 90, Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU

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


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

Concerns are:

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


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Our ref: JAJ/Belleville Admission Consultation Oct10/sa

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.


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

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

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