Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Lewisham School Provision. My Question to Council

Question asked by:  Mr R Woolford (on behalf of Lewisham People Before Profit)

Member to reply:       Councillor Klier


Can the Council please state what long term plans are in place to deal with the borough’s shortage of both primary and secondary school provision that will continue to increase each year, and the real need for both Adult Education and Special Needs provision.

Does the Council agree that the demolition of  the former site of Deptford Green School was a mistake, and that this site should have been repaired and used for the long term education needs of the Borough and deal with the constant school emergencies that has seen some Lewisham Schools go back to portacabins .

Is the Council aware that in New Cross and Deptford, we have:
            Tidemill former school site sitting empty;
            Hatcham Primary, still a shell after fire last year;
            Deptford Green School being demolished;
            Charlotte Turner school also left to rot;
            Convoy Wharf expected primary still only a pipe dream.

What is the Council’s view of having a schools crises and yet having this number of School options left to waste?


Despite the increasing demand for primary school places which began to outstrip supply in 2008, over the last four years Lewisham Council has ensured that in each year there have been sufficient high quality primary places to meet the needs of its residents. Lewisham has a coherent and well considered plan to meet the demand for primary school, and primary SEN provision, to the end of this decade. However, the delivery of this plan is entirely dependent on Central Government making resources available to London and other areas which need to expand school places.

Because of the slowness of the Government to respond to the rise in population,  we have had to increase our places largely through the provision of "bulge" classes, some of which have used high quality prefabrication building methods which are very different in quality from the "portacabins" to which the question refers.  The Government grant we have received, while insufficient, has now enabled the Council to embark on a programme of permanent expansions.  Subject to the necessary funding being supplied by central Government, this programme will continue to 2016 when sufficient additional permanent places will have been established, and previously established "bulge" classrooms can be re-utilised. 

There is currently a surplus of secondary school places in the borough. However, the very significant surge in primary numbers will work its way through to secondary schools by 2017. The Council is therefore actively considering its options for meeting this anticipated increased demand in conjunction with its neighbouring local authorities, given that a large number of secondary age residents travel to school in other boroughs and Lewisham's schools also cater for non-residents. Meeting the needs of increased numbers of pupils with special needs has been an important part of the local authority's planning for both primary and secondary places, and will continue to be so, and has resulted in a significant increase in the provision of SEN resource bases in mainstream schools, as well as new provision with the establishment of the Drumbeat all-age ASD school.  

Because of our swift action in the area, the need to supply additional primary places in Deptford/New Cross is now forecast to be modest to the end of the decade, taking into account the expansion of Kender by a form of entry from September 2012, the new provision of a Haberdashers' Aske's Free School of two forms of entry from 2013, and the proposal to expand Sir Francis Drake in the next few years. The new primary school as part of a Convoy's Wharf development will become a reality when the scheme is delivered. Importantly it will aim to cater for the children from that development. In relation to the other specific sites referred to:

As well as acquiring new knowledge and skills which raise educational attainment and skill levels, many learners develop confidence, motivation and raised aspirations which increase employability, as well as gaining health and social benefits. Provision has been significantly improved in Deptford with the opening of the Deptford lounge for this academic year 2012 - 2013,  with the expectation that the range of courses will be further increased.

The former Tidemill School site
In order to enable the financial viability of the Deptford Town Centre regeneration programme, of which the new Tidemill School is an integral part along with the Deptford Lounge, the school's former site has always been planned for residential development.

Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham Temple Grove site
The fire at Haberdashers' primary phase site left a very damaged and dangerous building, requiring extensive survey work, followed by partial demolitions and other works to make the structure safe pending full reinstatement of the facilities. The surveys and works to make the structure safe have been completed and the Trustees plan is to commence the full reinstatement works in the new year. This will not provide additional places given that the children have been in alternative accommodation since the fire.

Deptford Green Amersham Vale site
Demolition of the existing building on the Amersham Vale site has always been a requirement of the scheme to reprovide compensatory Public Open Space taken up on Fordham Park by the new school.  The building was considered subsequently as a potential continuing educational site, but, in view of other options for school expansion to meet increased demand in the Deptford and New Cross locality, the case for its retention is not strong enough to outweigh the original decision to reprovide public space. 

The site of the former Charlotte Turner primary school
This is a Greenwich Council school which, given its location on the borough boundary, previously catered for Lewisham as well as Greenwich residents. The school was closed partly because of under-subscription. It is our understanding that Greenwich is considering the options for the site, which may include the reinstatement of primary provision should demand for places increase in the locality.  We continue to work closely with Greenwich and our other neighbours on all school planning issues.

Convoy Wharf
The Council continues to work with the developers on Convoys Wharf where proposals include the provision of a new Primary School.
In relation to that part of the question concerning "the real need for…Adult Education", the CEL service will cover all of its direct costs from the Skills Funding Agency Grant and fees charged to learners from 2013/14.  We do not anticipate any further cuts to this grant before 2014 and Adult Education in Lewisham will therefore continue to play an integral and very important part in our society as it is designed to welcome adults, many of whom may not otherwise take part in education or training.  Courses provide accessible entry routes for new or returning learners and good progression routes that are used by learners

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