Union Organises Demo Over Plans To Sell Elliot School Playing Fields

Whilst Council opens consultation with local residents over proposed "upgrades"

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Elliot School

GMB Accuses Council Of Plans To Sell Playing Fields To Fund Building Work

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The Council has informed us that residents near Putney’s Elliott School will be invited to comment on plans to upgrade the building and secure its long term future.

Proposals are being jointly worked up by the school governors, Wandsworth Council and education charity ARK Schools to remodel Elliott and convert it into an academy from September.

A multi-million pound building project will upgrade the grade II listed building and create new sports facilities. It is proposed that funding comes from disposing of part of the school grounds.

Meanwhile tomorrow the GMB , the union for school support staff, is staging a protest demonstration outside the Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the London Borough of Wandsworth, which meets at 7.30pm on Wednesday 29th February 2012.

Paul Maloney, GMB Senior Officer for school support staff said:
 “GMB is calling for a protest tomorrow evening because the Tory Council plan to transfer resources to the “well off” from the “less well off” in the borough. Selling 4 acres of playing fields to fund the refurbishment of one of the council's own secondary schools while finding up to £30m to pay for a new Bolingbroke free school in the borough is an absolute scandal."

He continued:

"These 4 acres are in an area of the borough where the average household income is less than 2/3rds of the London average. The council was well aware last year that Elliot needed investment when a £40.3 million refurbishment was cancelled by the newly elected government. Yet a few months after that the council announced that they were spending £13 million from reserves to buy the site in Battersea for a new school in an area where the household income are nearly double the London average."

Mr Maloney ended by saying:
"As well as sale of outdoor playing fields the plan will also lead to the knocking down of one of the largest indoor sports halls in London and the loss of this amenity to the community. These are listed buildings and GMB will fight their demolition. We will not be alone. 
Whatever education outcomes are agreed for Elliot, and whether or not it becomes an academy, none should involve the sale of playing fields. That should be common ground for all involved. We must unite to save these school playing fields. The Finance and Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee must scrap these plans on Wednesday.”

Previous remodelling plans had to be abandoned following the end of the last government's Building Schools for the Future project.  The Council have informed us that the Governors, the council and ARK believe that disposing of part of the playing fields is the only way to fund this vital work to the standard required by English Heritage. Without it, the building will become increasingly unusable.

The consultation will go ahead if the proposal to change the use of the playing fields is agreed by a meeting of the council's Executive on March 1. Local people will then have ten term-time weeks to have their say before an application is made to the Department for Education. The closing date of the consultation will be 24 May.

There will be a further chance to comment later this year on subsequent planning applications for the school, including the provision of temporary accommodation for the school to move into this December.

Cabinet member for Education and Children's Services, Cllr Kathy Tracey, said:
"We are delighted to be working with ARK Schools and the school governors. This is a terrific opportunity to carry out much needed improvements to this grade II listed building and secure the future of the school."

The proposal will be discussed at a meeting of the council's Finance and Corporate Resources Committee on February 29. View the agenda item at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/elliottproposal

December 27, 2011