>> Your chance to contribute: tell us what your think on Clapham Junction station redevelopment
Author: Cyril Richert
A story on the Neighbourhood School Campaign for a secondary school in the area of Clapham Junction (possible site being the former Bolingbroke hospital) was published in the Evening Standard on Tuesday 4th. They said:
Firms including Cognita, set up by former Ofsted boss Chris Woodhead, have held talks with the parent campaigners about operating the school.
Shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove welcomed the news, describing the companies as “excellent education providers”. […]
Five education groups have been in contact with the Wandsworth campaign so far. Two are education charities that sponsor state-funded city academies in London, Ark and the Harris Federation. The three others are private and overseas school firms — Sweden’s International English Schools, WCL and Cognita. […]
Sources said Cognita was treating the Wandsworth project “seriously” but is waiting for the outcome of Thursday’s election before taking the plans any further.
For the Labour, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, did also promise help and support for a new school for Battersea, as reported by Martin Linton, former MP for the area. Ed Balls, wrote to Wandsworth Council in March 2010 (PDF), to let them know he would try to help the council allocate some of the £300 million pounds it has for improving education in Battersea, towards a new school.
Now with Michael Gove acting as the new Schools Secretary, taking his brief in opposition with him into government, there is a chance to see a definite move and the possibility for the Conservatives council to work with the government to select a firm to operate the school. Cognita, which was waiting for the election result to see which team was in charge, should now be in a position to go ahead with their proposal.
As per comment from Kate Williams below: Cognita are no longer in the running to run the proposed school at the Bolingbroke. The selected education provider is Ark, a not-for-profits organisation who already run eight successful academies, 6 in London. If the school goes ahead, then Ark will appoint the teaching staff and run the school as an academy with direct funding from the government.
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Whilst the idea is good, is Bolingbroke Hospital the right location? If given the go-ahead, Wakehurst Road, which is already home to two schools, would have to accommodate around 1700 school children on a daily basis. And that is with no playing field or play ground facilities being set aside for any new school. The Bolingbroke is situated in the heart of a residential area, and the local residential streets will simply not be able to accommodate the additional road and foot traffic.
David> I think location has been discussed and although we could always prefer an area with a larger open ground, the location of Bolingbroke along with the possibility of development makes it an ideal candidate.
Just to correct a couple of points in the article Cyril. Cognita are no longer in the running to run the proposed school at the Bolingbroke. The selected education provider is Ark, a not-for-profits organisation who already run eight successful academies, 6 in London. If the school goes ahead, then Ark will appoint the teaching staff and run the school as an academy with direct funding from the government.
And, yes, 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.
For more information, visit http://www.thensc.net.
I think the Bolingbroke site is a good one for a small secondary school, but I have questions about the ‘free school’ model. If a school is funded by tax-payers, we should have a say in its running. If we don’t agree with the way a local authority runs schools, we can vote them out. The approach seems to go against the policy of localism – national not local funding and (presumably) therefore national control.
It is also not clear what the rules around special educational needs and opting out of the national curriculum will be. The promoters of the south Battersea school say that their admissions policy will be open to all, but how will this be guaranteed into the future? Who will be the governors of the free schools?