Atheldene Centre Identified As A Potential Primary School Site

Council to explore plans for new school in Earlsfield

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The council is exploring options for a new primary school in Earlsfield to accommodate the growing numbers of children living in the area who will soon need classroom places.

Education chiefs have identified the Atheldene Centre in Garratt Lane as a potential site for a new primary school once it becomes vacant following the relocation of existing social care services to a newly refurbished site in Church Lane in 2014.

Last week the council was told that its bid to the Department for Education for extra funding to provide additional places in this part of the borough had been successful.

Pressure on school places is rising steadily across Wandsworth. Between 2002 and 2011 the annual birth rate grew steadily, rising from 4,080 to 5,477.

In Earlsfield ward the number of babies born each year has grown from 225 in 2003 to 354 in 2011 – a 57 per cent increase. As well as the increased birth rate, additional pressure is also being generated by new housing developments.

Over the past three years the council has added 25 extra reception classes in schools across the borough to meet this growing demand.

Three of these classes are in Earlsfield ward providing an extra 90 places at Beatrix Potter, Swaffield and Earlsfield primary schools. However the latest projections show that further places will soon be needed.

As well as changes in the birthrate, pressure on places is also building as a result of the economic downturn, which, coupled with their firmly established reputation for academic excellence, has led to Wandsworth’s schools becoming more popular with parents who may have once considered private education but are now opting into the state system instead.

School standards watchdog Ofsted currently rates 92 per cent of Wandsworth schools as good or outstanding. In comparison only an average of 74 per cent of schools in other parts of the country, and 80 per cent in London, have been given the same quality rating by Ofsted inspectors.

In 2012 Wandsworth’s primary schools achieved the fourth best combined Key Stage 2 English and mathematics results across England and Wales.

On average, more than ninety per cent of children progress by at least two levels in English between Key Stages 1 and 2. Wandsworth is now ranked second in the country, behind only the City of London, for pupils’ progress in this vital subject.

As well as delivering crucially needed school places, the council believes a new school in Earlsfield would also offer parents greater choice and diversity for their children’s education.

AtheldeneA new school on the Atheldene site could admit 60 pupils a year, eventually providing places for upto 420 children, alongside a nursery with space for 50 toddlers.

Schools spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said:
“We believe this site in Garratt Lane could be transformed into an excellent primary school and nursery for children in the area. It has very good transport links and is in a part of the borough that will soon need additional reception places if we are to keep up with the growing demand from parents.

“It would also offer local parents more choice when it comes to selecting the type of school they want for their children.

“We will now be consulting parents and the wider community, including head teachers and governors at other schools in the area to find out their views and see if they agree that this site could be used to provide a much-needed new school.

“There is great pressure on school places locally, not only because of the high birth rate, but also as a result of their success. With 92 per cent of Wandsworth schools now rated good or outstanding their reputation goes before them in attracting high numbers of applications.”

As well as expanding existing schools in the borough, the council has also been fully supportive of new free schools that wish to open in Wandsworth. Three of these have been given the Government’s go-ahead to open this September.

They are the new Tooting primary school in Franciscan Road, sponsored by Graveney School, Rutherford House primary school which is opening in the former Balham Youth Court building, and a new one form entry school at the Mosaic Jewish primary school, which is opening in the west of the borough and will admit half of its pupils on non-religious grounds.

Nicholas Evans, spokesperson for the Friends of Putney Common who have been critical of the Council's failure to identify new school sites in the Borough said today
"Residents of Earlsfield have been saying to the Council that a number of sites "surplus to requirements" should be used for a new school. They were ignored by Kathey Tracey, and her Children's Services Department Officials. In fact there is not just Atheldene but three other properties within walking distance. Kathy Tracey's lack of foresight is becoming increasingly embarrassing. She might also notice that a school at Atheldene will be closer to the demand for new places in the Riverside Quarter in Thamesfield than the Putney Hospital site."

August 2, 2013