PAXTON PARENTS LETTER TO EDUCATIONAL FUNDING AGENCY
Parents and supporters of Paxton primary school have appealed to the chairman of the Educational Funding Agency not to allow the school to be used to house secondary school pupils on the site.
As previously reported, the Gipsy Hill Federation want to use Paxton primary school to house up to 480 secondary school pupils over a two-year period – a figure they now plan to reduce (see below).
The original plans came under fire at a public meeting from parents and residents which heard the proposals would see eight classes with 240 secondary school pupils in September 2017 using the existing classrooms on the top floor of the school on Woodland Road – a figure which would double to 480 in 2018.
The move, which would require temporary classrooms, was being proposed because the Federation want to open a new secondary school – somewhat confusingly called Gipsy Hill – on the site of the Glenbrook primary school in Clarence Avenue, Clapham
But the meeting heard no planning application for the new secondary school on the Glenbrook site has yet been submitted – and there have been no pre-planning discussions.
Parents and supporters, in their letter to the EFA, say the proposals:
- were presented as a fait accompli – with the school already ‘re-badged’
- prospective students have been hosted at an open day
- the area simply cannot accommodate the increase in trafficThe letter reads as follows: Copy of EFA letter 7 October 2016 to Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of the Education Funding Agency, a subsidiary of the Department for Education.Dear Mr. Peter Lauener,
We are writing to you today as concerned parents and local residents of Paxton Primary School in Lambeth. As you are no doubt aware, we were informed last week by the Gipsy Hill Federation of the decision to co-locate the interim site of the Gipsy Hill School in the new Paxton Primary School building for a period of two years.
This was presented to us as a fait accompli, with no consultation of parents or residents, without the knowledge of the school governors, and before the new school building or playground is even complete.
Three days later, the school was re-badged with signage as a secondary school and prospective students were hosted at an Open Day over the weekend.
The letter sent home to us claimed that the Department of Education and Lambeth Council had agreed in principle to this proposal.
We are therefore appealing to you today to reconsider and please not let these ill-conceived, hasty, poorly communicated and educationally destructive plans go ahead.
We understand it is your agency’s responsibility to find sites for free schools. We would like you to therefore reject this proposal.
It will put considerable unnecessary strain on a primary school already in a period of transition. It would push the site far beyond its capacity to the detriment of our children and our community.
We want to be clear that we support the creation of Gipsy Hill school, and having seen what happened to Crystal Palace primary, we understand the complexities involved in finding sites to house free schools.
All that said, we have seen the figures from Lambeth and Southwark regarding the demand for secondary school places, and given there is not a shortage of places in 2017, we feel it’s wholly unreasonable to demand such a significant sacrifice on the parts of our children and neighbours to accommodate the school on our site. We urge you to find an alternate site.
To be clear, the proposals as they currently stand would put the building at 270 children over capacity. The playground when complete will already be one of the smallest in the area and will require phased use even for the primary school students; the Federation’s (no doubt conservative) estimates are that it would be reduced by a further third with the introduction of the secondary school students to the site.
SEN (Special Educational Needs) and other specialist spaces would be severely compromised, and staggered meal times would by our calculations, mean each group would have just minutes to eat their meals.
We believe the logistical and managerial constraints on the administration and the physical constraints on a building not designed for secondary school students will lead to poorer education experiences and quality for all.
Furthermore, students, teachers and local residents around the very constrained site have just put up with a year of construction, which continues today. To ask them to endure another three years of disruption and uncertainty is unreasonable and has already severely damaged the reputation of the Federation in the area.
Parents and community members were assured of incremental growth upon the opening of the new school (a fact that still appears on the Federation’s web site) and yet this proposal would mean the number of students on the site would double in 2017.
Finally, the area simply cannot accommodate the increase in traffic – a significant source of contention in the original planning application for Paxton’s new building.
Since Wednesday’s announcement, we have assembled a growing list of parents and community members into a group called Paxton Matters. We have built a petition, which has attracted almost 700 signatures.
We held a meeting attended by over 120 people, including councillors from Southwark and Lambeth, who pledged their support, members of press, and Helen Hayes MP, who has said she will take up the issue directly with you, if she hasn’t already.
We are eager to put this issue to bed and instead focus our energies on trying to re-build our trust with the Federation to the benefit of everyone. To this end, we hope the Federation and the EFA will take this proposal off the table immediately and seek an alternate solution.
We look forward to hearing back from you quickly on this matter.
A group of concerned Paxton parents and local residents
Gipsy Hill Federation have issued the following ‘Gipsy Hill School Headteacher’s blog’
Headed ‘The Importance of Listening’ and dated October 20th it reads:
When we submitted our application to open Gipsy Hill School, our intention was always to offer the maximum number of places possible so that our school would benefit the greatest number of parents who had campaigned so hard to see the school open.
In everything that we do, our focus is on ensuring that we deliver the exceptional school that we have promised to our parents and children but we are equally committed to ensuring that our school is an asset to our local community. Having evaluated our plans to house the school at Paxton for the first two years more thoroughly, it is clear that our ability to deliver on our promise would be compromised if we were to admit 240 pupils in the first two years because the necessity to erect temporary accommodation at Paxton school would comprise the education of our children and that of the Primary pupils.
As a result, we have taken the decision to reduce the number of pupils that we will accept in the first two years. We will confirm our final pupil intake number shortly, once we have had time to develop our plans for use of the Paxton site in dialogue with the Department for Education, the Education Funding Agency, Lambeth and the Paxton parents and community.
Although we are regretful that we will not be able to offer as many places in 2017 or 2018, I am confident that this decision will enable Gipsy Hill School to have an even more successful start. In coming to it, we have found taking into account the full range of views from parents, pupils, colleagues and the local community incredibly valuable. James.
Further reading: PRIMARY SCHOOL COULD HOUSE UP TO 480 SECONDARY SCHOOL PUPILS – More than 100 at public meeting – October 14th