Residents' Group Say School Expansion Unnecessary

Friends of Putney Common say Council exaggerating shortfall of places


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The Friends of Putney Common (FofPC) are claiming that Wandsworth Council are being alarmist over the need for new school places in the area in attempt to persuade people that a school should be built on the Putney Hospital site.

Using figures obtained by the Freedom of Information Act they say their analysis shows that the planned two form entry school would be built in the wrong place.

They claim the projected deficit of places in Thamesfield ward is falling, having peaked in 2011/12 and the shortfall in places has been consistent for several years, with no increase predicted between now and 2016/17.

Also the group says that head teachers have expressed concern at the Council’s predictions in some wards, pointing out that many parents put their children’s name down on multiple waiting lists. In addition the new housing being developed in Thamesfield is entirely in the east of the ward - at the opposite end to Putney Common.

Nicholas Evans, for FofPC says, "Not only is the Council planning to build private roads on the Common, which is protected by Act of Parliament, it is also intending to build a large primary school where one is not needed. These new figures prove that the new school should be located in SW18, where developers have built over 1,000 new homes, with more planned.”

FofPC has obtained the statistics underlying the most recent Council projections for primary school places in Thamesfield. Thamesfield is ‘Planning Area 8’ in Wandsworth and runs alongside the Thames from east of Wandsworth Park, past Putney Bridge and then as far as Putney Common. The Council has issued a series of press releases over the last two years underlining the need for new primary places in the Borough, continually citing the higher birth rate. Following the publication of new Greater London Authority population figures earlier this year they have used the following quote to illustrate the requirement for places: “the number of children being born in the Borough rose from 4,359 in 2003 to 5,477 in 2011.”

The FoPC say that this increase is driven by new residential developments, rather than a rising birth rate, although there are considerable variation across the borough in different wards. Despite this, the Council continue to justify the need for new primary places in the Thamesfield ward in Putney, and the establishment of a new 2 form entry primary on Putney Common for 420 pupils, by stressing a rise in the birth rate. The chart below shows the birth rate in the are being static.

According to the FoPC the birth rate pattern is similar in adjacent wards with with practically no rise in the birth rate between 2008/9 and 2016/17.



Source: FofPC

The starting point for making predictions is the anticipated number of births in each ward, together with a number of other factors. The most important of these is the “Housing Yield” – the number of projected places attributable to actual and future housing. In Thamesfield and the adjoining wards the impact of new residential developments is the most important element. FofPC has obtained a spreadsheet setting out where all the new developments over the next 10 years are located which is available on the Friends of Putney Common website ‘Press Releases’ page.

Source: FofPC

Source: FofPC

The chart above shows school capacity is constant, as is the deficit. Local primaries have always had high waiting lists but still managed to provide sufficient places. The Council’s Policy Paper 23-213 says
“Consultation with head teachers indicated some concern that the anticipated demand in the individual planning areas is not always borne out in practice. There is high mobility in many parts of the Borough and it is known that parents often put their children on multiple waiting lists and may opt to move schools if a vacancy at their school of choice becomes available at a later stage.”

Nicholas Evans said, "The Council is attempting to justify their actions by selectively quoting from the official statistics. Cllr Kathy Tracey condemned local residents for denying children a school they so badly needed, however the facts are clear, the demand in Wandsworth is elsewhere. Not only are Wandsworth Council proposing to encroach on Putney Common to build the school, these new figures show they’re also planning to build it at the wrong end of the ward. "

On 18th July , the cabinet member for education and children's services Cllr Kathy Tracey responded:
"Far from undermining our case - this research by the FoPC actually demonstrates the need for a new school in this part of Putney. heir own study clearly shows that in the coming years the shortage of school places for children born in Thamesfield ward fluctuates between 43 and 47. However, having correctly identified that the deficit exists, the FoPC then dismiss its relevance or importance."

She continued:
"Their press release shows that the FoPC aren't just opposed to a school on the derelict hospital site, they are now against one being built anywhere in Thamesfield. They may call themselves the Friends of Putney Common but they certainly aren't the Friends of Putney Parents."

July 18, 2013