I've been sitting on this story for months now, but have finally got the go ahead from my source to release it. I'm afraid the story rather long and complicated, so I'm going to simplify what I've been sent as much as possible. See the sections in bold for particularly bad behaviour on the part of Lambeth Council.
Since 2000, the Beaufoy Institute building on Black Prince Road has been empty, despite a succession of proposals for use that have come to nothing.
2005 - Lambeth Council invited local groups to submit proposals for the Beaufoy Institute. Lady Margaret Hall Settlement (LMHS) and Riverside Community Development Trust (RCDT) put forward a proposal for an artisan-based vocational school to train local young people, which was rejected by the Council.
2006 - LMHS made contact with the Young Foundation who were developing the concept of studio schools across the UK and together put forward the idea of such a school at the Beaufoy Institute. The Settlement also made contact with the Prince of Wales’s private office and initial discussions were held about the concept.
2007 - LMHS then made contact with the De Morgan foundation and added the possible connection of an Arts and Crafts Museum to the Artisan School. De Morgan were introduced to Lambeth Council Regeneration Department and proceeded to negotiate a possible occupation of the Beaufoy with them. The Council Regeneration department refused to engage with the concept of the school and ideas based on an arts community.
Late 2008 - Lord Adonis, the Minister responsible for academies, approached Prince Charles seeking Royal sponsorship for an Academy. The Prince expressed interest in the Studio Schools concept and in the Beaufoy Artisan School. In December a meeting was held on site between the Prince’s Charities, The Young Foundation, LMHS, RCDT and De Morgan and it was agreed to work together to take the concept forward. It was also agreed to seek the participation of Lambeth Council. A steering committee was formed.
2009 - The Young Foundation had for some time been in negotiation with Department for Children School and Families about a national programme for studio schools, with 7 other local authorities already on board and were preparing their submission to the government. It was necessary therefore to move quickly to fit the Artisan School within the time frame. Lambeth produced a first draft which met no one’s objectives and after long discussions a new draft was agreed and submitted. Negotiations on the final draft submission were left largely between the Young Foundation and Lambeth Council. The steering committee continued to meet and two sticking points were identified: the methodology of work placement and the timetable. The Steering Committee rejected the Council’s proposed timetable.
Lambeth Council then proposed that the Studio School became a specialist in hospitality skills which the community groups found not to be an acceptable alternative to artisanship. Work continued between the Young Foundation and Lambeth Council and the difficulties were apparently cleared. The Young Foundation shared their views and experience of these negotiations with LMHS, but Lambeth Council continued to refuse to engage. (The community groups only received Lambeth’s first draft submission 10 weeks after it went to government and only after repeated demands from Sir Hayden Philips, the Steering Committee chair.) It was at this time it became clear that De Morgan had no realistic strategy for raising the money to convert the old building. De Morgan left the Steering group and the views of the government were sought on whether they would agree to the incorporation of the Institute buildings into the school instead of a new building on the site. This was accepted and a new scheme drawn up.
Lambeth Council and the Young Foundation (now called the Studio Schools Trust) continued to work on the final submission. In July 2009 the Prince’s Charities chaired the last steering group in anticipation of the final submission going to government almost immediately, to keep the Artisan School within the programme going forward for ministerial approval. At that last meeting John Wotherspoon (representing Lambeth Council), at the insistence of Sir Hayden Philips (Steering Committee Chair) agreed to send LMHS a copy of the Council proposals. In September 2009 LMHS were approached by the Young Foundation/Studio School Trust to help then get responses to key questions from Lambeth Council. However LMHS received no response and to date have still not received the promised copy of the Council’s proposals. LMHS had previously met with Cllr McGlone and received assurances that everything was going ahead. Shortly afterwards LMHS and Cllr McGlone met with Kate Hoey MP to express concern at the Council’s sudden failure to engage with the proposal.
LMHS heard from a private source that Lambeth Council had sought a meeting with the Department for Children, Family and Schools to propose that the monies be reallocated for a new Lambeth proposal which they were preparing. This was refused and Lambeth then informed the Ministry they were withdrawing from the Studio Schools’ Project which the Minister had been due to sign in two days time. At this point Lambeth Council resumed contact with the Young Foundation to advise them of their decision. LMHS / RCDT were not informed and apparently nor was Cllr McGlone. At this point LMHS / RCDT attempted to meet the leader of the Council, the Chair of Education and the Chief Executive to seek an explanation for the withdrawal, and to see if a way ahead could be found. Local councillors were asked to intervene. Only Cllr Stephen Morgan replied.
January 2010 - LMHS / RCDT met with the Young Foundation (Studio Schools Trust) to verify the timeline and reasons for Lambeth Council withdrawal from the Artisan School. It was agreed that the local friends of the Beaufoy group would now take the lead in pursuing a campaign to get an Artisan School on the site. The Studio Schools Trust agreed to continue working with this group.
February 2010 - the local groups met again with the Studio Schools Trust who confirmed that Lambeth Council had lost the £11.4 million from government. There continues to be no direct contact with Lambeth Council.
Issues regarding LBC’s claims as to why the Studio Schools proposal was unsuccessful:
* Lambeth Council claim the loss of the Museum in the project meant that the Prince’s Charities withdrew. This is not true. The Prince’s Charities agreed to host the steering committee until Lambeth Council assured us the process was almost complete.
* Lambeth Council claim that the Department for Children, Families and Schools did not agree to proceed with a solvent tenant for the old building. In fact DCFS agreed to house part of the school in the old building and Lambeth architects drew such as scheme.
* Lambeth Council claim that the DCFS did not accept the basic tenets of the Studio Schools Trust and Lambeth could not then proceed. In fact two days after Lambeth’s withdrawal, the Minister approved the other seven schools and supported the concept in a key note speech. (The DCFS website initially included Lambeth in the announcement.)
* Lambeth say the Studio Schools Trust withdrew – this is also not correct. Right up to a few days before ministerial approval the Trust was still trying to get answers from Lambeth Council. The Department response was to not answer emails, telephone calls or letters.
* Lambeth Council say they had strong educational/philosophical differences with the Studio School model, in particular citing differences on curriculum and work placement. The Studio Schools proposals were "not suitable for Lambeth Young people". At no point did the department explain to the steering committee what made the work placement impossible for Lambeth Youth but clearly acceptable to those of seven other Councils. Beyond a verbal request from John Wotherspoon on timetabling no substantive differences were ever expressed or presented.
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