Campaign to Save Elliott School gathers momentum
Ed Lattimore, architectural representative from the Save Elliott School Campaign writes:
On the 29th February 2012 Wandsworth Borough Council voted to condemn up to 56% of the Elliott School site as ‘surplus’ to educational requirements. This allows them to sell the majority of the school land during its conversion to an ARK academy.
The current proposals would see the majority of the site sold for private housing development and the school’s potential capacity permanently greatly reduced. This comes at a time when we know that very soon demand for secondary school places will soar. This has sparked a campaign led by staff, ex pupils and parents to oppose the plans.
Elliott School is a Grade II Listed building. These are shocking plans to sell off the majority of the site and to demolish the historic sports hall, technology wing, and main playground complete with original landscape features from 1954.
We have been inundated with people angry that the council and government are being so short-sighted and committing the boroughs architectural heritage to this end. Meanwhile people are seeing first hand millions spent on new schools. This demonstrates that, contrary to what they say, the abandonment of a sensible refurbishment programme at Elliott is not due to finances but political will. We urgently need people to visit our website and oppose the plans:
This very sad news comes after decades of sustained neglect of the iconic school buildings and in spite of repeated assurances that the school would be refurbished sensitively and the grounds protected. In 2010 the money allocated for Elliott under the BSF program was withdrawn by the government.
Under these proposals Elliott would loose the main landscaped playground - a principle stage for the school during assemblies, events and memorials. Its largest car park, its dedicated
sixth form block, 6 tennis courts, large football pitch and long jump area, the outside theatre, nature-garden (run by students with community donations), the caretakers lodge, memorials to past Elliottonians and delightful student projects like the 'Human Sundial' by Will Simpson. The land 'for sale' is Elliott’s main, green, community space. It has a rich history and significance.
Only a decade ago, Elliott was one of the most successful and diverse state schools in the country with one of the highest value added scores. It is both the building and the school that are publicly celebrated and should be preserved. They are a unique part of our architectural and cultural heritage. Elliott School is “Perhaps the finest of the large comprehensive schools built by the London County Council Architects” (Elain Harwood, English Heritage).
Two proposals for the site
The loss of the listed building and things itemised above is not properly considered in the Council’s report for public scrutiny or the schools own public consultation documents (http://tinyurl.com/7vf3c3b). But make no mistake the land ‘for sale’ is Elliott’s main, green, community space which has developed a rich history and significance since 1954.
The schools contribution to the borough (often with very little budget) and to society as a whole should not be underestimated. Even in its current state the school has seen excellent results. Somewhere along the line we must ask ourselves how a school can been so successful during such neglect? Could the nature of the schools buildings and its outside space been an important factor? The schools architecture and landscaping has a powerful spirit which comes out in its students and staff. The school was designed during the post war boom (in the same period as the Royal Festival Hall) and was championed as a centre for educational excellence. For a school ‘accessible to all’ it was a brand new thing to be at the forefront of science, the arts and sports. Progressive attitudes to social provision during the early 1950's are clearly embodied in the schools physical and experiential characteristics. The school still stands for education for all. Perhaps this has been realised in Elliott's success stories.
The proposal we see before us rip the heart out of this heritage and looses it for future generations permanently. Scandalously these plans are presented as somehow being the saviour of the school. No, I think that was the refurbishment, oh, and did I mention they are changing the name to ARK Putney Academy.
Ed Lattimore is an ex pupil of Elliott School, an architect and has been a resident of Wandsworth borough for 25 years. He is now working on behalf of the Save Elliott School Campaign to try and raise public aware of the current proposals which, unless stopped, could see the destruction of a school that is "both irreplaceable and priceless".
Register and sign the online petition:
Save Elliott School Campaign
March 22, 2012