Campaigners Question Council Statistics For New Primary School

Arguing "the proposed school is the wrong size in the wrong location"

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Friends of Putney Common (FoPC), the community group which opposes the proposal by Wandsworth Borough Council (WBC) to build a 2FE Primary school and 24 flats adjacent to Putney Common, has analysed the latest projections for primary school places published recently by the Council. [WBC policy paper 12-598].

The statistics presented in this article are taken directly from Wandsworth Borough Council’s Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny policy papers, or from further information provided by the department in emails to Nick Evans.

The proposed new school would be located in the Thamesfield ward, which is at the west end of the Borough. Figures for Thamesfield are therefore crucial in assessing the need for such a large primary adjacent to Putney Common for 420 pupils.

An analysis of the Wandsworth Borough Council projections for primary school places, with particular reference to Thamesfield, Roehampton and West Putney, and East Putney, Southfields, & West Hill.

• The birth rate in Thamesfield is not rising.
•The demand for new places is being generated mainly by new housing developments in the east of the ward, not the west, 1.8 miles from Putney Hospital.
• The number of extra places likely to be needed in Thamesfield is equivalent to one form entry (1FE), not two (2FE).
• There is a current shortfall in Thamesfield for reception primary places, but not in the area close to Putney Common. Demand is greater elsewhere.
• The proposed school is therefore not located in the area of greatest need in the wider local area such as Roehampton and East Putney.
• The large catchment area for the proposed school will exacerbate transport problems and other negative factors associated with the plans approved by WBC.
• The current transport plans assume most of the pupils will walk to school. This is unrealistic.

Council officials and Councillors have been responsible for a concerted publicity campaign to support the development of a 2FE school at the Putney Hospital site, giving the impression that this is the only solution to local requirements for more primary school places in the neighbourhood. The analysis of Council statistics in this paper shows clearly that while there is a need for more primary places in Wandsworth Borough overall, the proposed school is in the wrong location to meet demand and is twice as large as is needed even if pupils travel from the very far end of the ward. The proposed school also has many defects because of its sheer size, not least a playground on the roof.

Birth rate statistics
The birth rate statistics provided by WBC are based on the latest GLA figures at ward level. These will be updated in January 2013 when new Census data becomes available. The current birth data for Thamesfield (Planning Area 8) shows that despite assertions by Councillors that there has been a rapid rise in the birth rate in Thamesfield causing an upsurge in demand for primary places, this is in fact not the case.

Considering the birth rate in Thamesfield over a ten year period between 2006 and 2016 shows that there has been no rise, with 269 births in 2006 being replicated in 2016 ten years later. In contrast the birth rates in adjoining wards are rising steeply. Roehampton & West Putney (Planning Area 9) shows a projected rise of 21%. East Putney, Southfields and West Hill (Planning Area 7) shows an increase of 25%. The increases predicted for Wandsworth overall vary greatly ward by ward. See Table 1 below.

Table 1: Birth rates in PA8, PA9 and PA7

2006 births
2016 predicted births

Thamesfield PA8
Nil increase
Roehampton & West Putney PA9
East Putney, Southfields and West Hill PA7
Fairfield PA6

From the above it is clear that it is not a rising birth rate in Thamesfield that is the cause of the need for extra primary school places, unlike other parts of Wandsworth.

How are the ‘projected places’ figures calculated?

The model used by Wandsworth Council to produce the pupil place planning forecast (projected places) includes actual births, actual numbers on roll, and birth projections supplied by the Greater London Authority. The population is aged using a 3 year average retention rate for each year group. A housing yield factor is then applied to the total number on roll to provide a total forecast of pupil place requirements.

The number of places forecast to be required as a result of housing yield on a year by year level is calculated by taking the projected number on roll in each year group as a percentage of the overall roll and multiplying this by the expected housing yield to attribute the child yield across the age group on a representative basis. The total housing yield is calculated based on the Council’s own surveys supplied by the Planning Department.

The resulting projections are then compared with the published admission numbers for all primary schools to determine any surplus or deficit of primary school places on a ward, planning area and the borough level.

Retention Rates
The retention rates vary from ward to ward and are very much influenced by both the demand for places and the supply of places. The retention rate in some wards can be as high as 100%, whereas in other areas it is lower. The retention rate averaged for the last three years is 78%. The most recent year retention rate is 85%. WBC has used this one year retention rate in their predictions, despite there being quite large differences year on year. Obviously the current lack of growth in the economy may be effecting the movement of families either out of the Borough or within the Borough to larger houses. At the present time families may be unable to relocate out of the Borough and therefore a higher proportion are staying put. The rising retention rate is one factor causing the projected need for places to rise. As with interest rates, retention rates can fall as well as rise.
Projections for Primary School Places

The projection rates, as calculated using the model described above, are applied on a ward basis for each of the WBC Planning Areas. Thamesfield is Planning Area 8, or PA8. The two adjacent wards are East Putney and Southfields (PA7) and Roehampton and West Putney (PA9). Both these are on the far side of the busy Upper Richmond Road with poor transport connections to the Putney Hospital site.

Table 2: WBC Projections for Primary School Places in three Wards – PA8, PA9 and PA7

Projected Places 2011/12 Surplus/ Shortfall over existing capacity Projected Places 2013/14 Surplus/ Shortfall over existing capacity Projected Places 2015/16 Surplus/ Shortfall over existing capacity
Thamesfield PA8
Roehampton & West Putney PA9
East Putney, Southfields & West Hill PA7

What is driving the demand for new primary places in Thamesfield?

The birth rate figures indicate that the overall demand in Thamesfield is not a result of an increasing birth rate (see Table 1), and must therefore be directly caused by a) an increasing retention rate, and/or b) the impact of new housing developments which has impacted the “child yield”. The following figures (Table 3) provided by WBC bear this out

Table 3: Child Yield (all ages 0-11) 2011/12 related to new housing development in Thamesfield

  Year Child Yield 2010/11 Child Yield 2011/12 Increase in Child Yield

It becomes immediately obvious that the increased demand in Thamesfield is mainly the result of new housing in the ward, plus the effect of applying the historically high 85% retention rate. To quote from the WBC Policy Paper 12-598 “If the three rather than the one year retention rate is applied, demand shows a slightly lower deficit [in Thamesfield] of at least 1FE+ over the period.”

In 2013/14 the highest ‘projected places’ shortfall in Thamesfield is shown as 60 for 2013/14, but this assumes the higher retention rate rather than the average over the last three years. From the above it is clear that the increase in extra places needed has been the result mainly of a rising child yield, including housing development.

PA8 – Thamesfield Ward and its geographical location

Thamesfield ward is a relatively narrow area of the Borough running alongside the Thames from east of Wandsworth Park ending at Putney Common on the far west border with Barnes Common which is part of Richmond upon Thames. It is approximately 2 miles from end to end by road.

Asked to identify where the housing developments that have created a large proportion of the demand for primary places in Thamesfield were located, WBC officials confirmed that they were “in the east of the ward”. It seems they are unable to be precise on the number of children that will appear from any new housing development, but predictions are based on previous housing surveys, according to dwelling size and type. The 2011 ward level census data will not be incorporated until early 2013. It seems obvious that large new residential developments will inevitably increase the demand for school places.

It is however clear that there have been very few large residential developments in the ward apart from the riverside apartments built to the east of Wandsworth Park along the riverside. It is interesting to note that as the proposed 2FE at Putney Common will not be immediately available to meet the projected shortfall and that the Council has announced that they will be looking to expand Brandlehow and St Joseph’s primary schools to meet short-term demands. Where are these schools located? Brandlehow is on the far side of Wandsworth Park in the east of Thamesfield, and St Joseph’s in Fairfield ward (PA6).

Catchment area for the proposed school at Putney Common
Large areas of adjacent wards on the far side of the Upper Richmond Road are included in the catchment area plan provided with the Council’s own (Vectos) transport assessment. Despite this when questioned about where pupils will travel from a WBC official states: “It is not possible to be precise about the catchment area of any new school as this will vary from year-to-year, according to how many children live close to the school and place it at the top of their priority list. It is notable that the travel plan for the proposed school still assumes that many of the children who may attend the school will be arriving by foot.” Bearing in mind the fact there are four other popular primary schools nearby, this looks an increasingly unlikely assumption.

Alternative locations for a 2FE Primary School

FoPC together with the Save Elliott School campaign as well as the Putney Society believe that an alternative site to Putney Hospital already exists alongside the Ark Putney Academy (aka Elliott School) on the Westleigh Lodge care home site which is currently vacant. This location, apart from several other advantages including transport connections, is close to the area of demand.

The argument that using Council-owned land adjacent to the Putney Ark Academy for a new primary school would deprive the existing school of much-needed renovation funds would be incorrect. The sale of the Putney Hospital site for appropriate development could generate funds to contribute to the cost of building a new school away from the Common.

The area east of Wandsworth Park adjacent to Osiers Road also has several undeveloped sites suitable for school development. One of these light industrial buildings was recently occupied by squatters for a Trance party. There is a large car park area being used for contractors’ parking. Many of the unused properties have planning permission for development including yet more apartments, but others do not. This area has not been considered seriously by the Council and should be.

Friends of Putney Common (FoPC)


October 25, 2012