(Image taken from saveshelley.co.uk)
The parents and governors at Archbishop Sumner Primary School, Kennington (the only local school to be judged by Ofsted as "Oustanding" in 2009) have been hoping for some time to expand Archbishop Sumner, converting it into a two-form entry establishment.
There is an old school building and grounds, (known locally as Shelley School Site) located nearly opposite Archbishop Sumner Primary and it is owned by Lambeth Council, so it would make good sense to refurbish the site and extend the school. Unfortunately, Lambeth Council don't see it that way. They plan to sell off the Shelley site (in the same way as they're currently doing, to the consternation of many locals, with The Beaufoy) to raise funds to plug their huge hole in funding so that they can continue to provide essential services throughout the Borough of Lambeth. Our local councillors have also provided an explanation from the Regeneration Department on why they perceive that there's "no projected demand for an educational use for the Shelley site".
On July 22nd 2010, local parents held a meeting about their struggles to get their first choice places for their own children, which was attended by Cllr Mark Harrison (Princes Ward), Cllr Pete Robbins (Lambeth Council Cabinet member for Children and Young People) and Kate Hoey MP.
Cllr Harrison noted at that meeting,
"nobody would deny there is a demand for more places at Archbishop Sumner. The council is aiming to meet that, but the issue is that there's such a pressure on places in the South [of the borough] that there's a risk of people not getting any place at all..."
Instead of expanding Archbishop Sumner, Lambeth Council prefer to expand Vauxhall School as emergency decant space (in case of arson etc.). Cllr Pete Robbins made clear at last year's meeting, that Vauxhall School has a kitchen that needs to be moved to the ground floor. As a result of the space left over from that refurbishment, he claimed it was
"incredibly cost effective to put some extra places in, some extra classrooms", but then noted it was "not the [Council's] intention to fill those places."When local residents asked Cllr Pete Robbins why the Shelley Site (at that point it was the Olive School) couldn't be converted to provide more space, he responded,
"As I understand it, the building itself would not be suitable to be converted because primary schools need specific space standards. However, there is a site without a doubt so if we had a pot of money that was entirely unlimited, it would be entirely possible to knock it down and provide a new school."But that wasn't his final word on the matter. Cllr Robbins was actually rather hopeful that the Shelley Site might be preserved...
"...there will be pressure from the government to sell sites.... I really think it wouldn't be a good idea to do that and the site needs to be preserved for educational use... these things change all the time, and it's a constant running battle to make sure we get places right. Rather than sell, we maybe look at trying to rent it on the short-term basis so that in the future, we have it as an option. Looking at the big picture, we know there will be a big big development possibly at Nine Elms and at the moment, they're not planning to build any schools as part of it so we could have families from there, and things might change again. In the past, a mistake was made when we were told we didn't need schools, so we did close them and sell off the sites and now there are very very few sites that we can use. We want to make sure we don't repeat that mistake."So the meeting ended on a somewhat hopeful note, but in the meantime, Archbishop Sumner parents and governors have been working hard behind the scenes, have set up a "Save Shelley" website. The deadline for responding to the Council's Consultation on the site is 15th July, tomorrow, and there's a leaflet that you could sign on the Save Shelley campaign to indicate that you'd like the school retained for local educational use. Additionally, the campaign have produced an incredibly thorough list of residential property that is likely to be constructed within the next 5 years which they expect to contain children who would be within their catchment area. You can make your own mind up about whether you think there will be more demand for school space within the north of the Borough of Lambeth:
(Image taken from saveshelley.co.uk/)