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Parent power wins support for new school

from Wandsworth Guardian (online) 15 April 2010

Battersea MattersParent power has won initial political consensus on the need for a new secondary school in Battersea, which could be built on the old Bolingbroke Hospital site. (see story in the most recent edition of Battersea Matters.)

The Neighbourhood School Campaign (NSC), believed to be one of the biggest parent campaign groups in the country attracting some 1,500 members, said a new school was needed to ease pressure on the borough’s, chronic school place problem - particularly in Battersea.

Last year, less than half of children applying to Wandsworth Council got their first choice secondary school choice - the lowest in London.

Ahead of the general election, Labour and the Conservative parties both said a new school was feasible and Wandsworth Council, which previously said the scheme was a non-starter, appeared to have eased its stance.

School’s Secretary Ed Balls and Shadow School’s Secretary, Michael Gove, both visited Wandsworth recently to hear the NSC’s plans.

Mr Balls wrote to Wandsworth Council, which has the final say on any decision to build a school, to confirm his department would be warm to the idea, but said money would have to come out of existing funding.

Mr Gove and the Conservatives are calling its education plan, Free Schools - which is based on the Swedish school model - and have backed the campaign.

Wandsworth Council, which previously said it had no budget for a new school and increased demand for places could be met by expanding existing sites, softened its stance when it changed its Local Development Framework, which dictates future, to allow the Bolingbroke site to potentially be used for educational use.

Jon De Maria, one of the NSC organisers said the group was non-political but welcomed the exposure the campaign received.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a special campaign, I just think it is a good idea. The rational and logic behind why we need this local school just makes a lot of sense.”

Some 20 per cent of the Bolingbroke site, which stood as a hospital for more than 100 years and is owned by St George’s Hospital Trust, is still earmarked to be used by NHS Wandsworth, but the majority could be converted to school use, the NSC believes.

However, questions remain over how, if and when the Bolingbroke will be sold.

Under the Building Schools for the Future scheme Burntwood and Southfields schools are due to be redeveloped.

Date posted: 15 April 2010