Dulwich Hospital Site Secondary School: UPDATE

I am delighted that the Charter School has recently been announced by the Department for Education as the provider of a new secondary school to be built on the Dulwich Hospital site.  There were two competing bids to run the new school, the other being from Haberdashers' Askes Federation.  Both bids had huge support from local parents and both played a very significant role in raising the profile of the need for a new school, and I am grateful to everyone, from both bids who worked so hard.

 

It is important that the Charter School is able to deliver the best possible school for local children with a full range of facilities, but there is still a risk that the government will force a primary school for Nunhead children, run by the Harris Federation, to share the site with the Charter secondary school. If the primary school is allowed to go ahead, it will severely compromise the secondary school.  Please find below the full text of the submission which I and my Labour councillor colleagues made to the Harris Federation, calling on them to withdraw their proposal for a primary school on the Dulwich Hospital site.

Response to the Harris Federation consultation on a proposed new primary school on the Dulwich Hospital, East Dulwich Grove.

Prepared by Labour councillors representing College, Village and East Dulwich wards in Southwark

March 2015 

1.       Introduction

We have prepared this response to the Harris Federation’s consultation exercise on a proposed new primary school to be delivered on the Dulwich Hospital site.  We represent residents across the Dulwich area, and our residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the provision of a primary school on the Dulwich Hospital site.  We have set out below the reasons for this opposition.

2.       Concerns about the Harris Primary School proposal

Our concerns about the proposal for a Harris Primary School on the Dulwich Hospital site are as follows:

-          The main school place need in the Dulwich area is for secondary school places, as demonstrated by the Council’s school place planning figures which have been submitted to you separately by Cllr Victoria Mills, Southwark’s Cabinet Member for Children and Schools.  This follows a very intensive period of primary school place planning and very close working between the Council and a range of school providers including the Harris Federation, to deliver new primary school places.  There is no demonstrable further need for primary school places at present and the delivery of further primary school places does not therefore represent a good use of public money.

-          A primary school on the Dulwich Hospital site would compromise the new secondary school, to be delivered by Charter School, which has just been approved by the Secretary of State.  We note that the Secretary of State has previously referred to the delivery of two ‘constrained site’ schools on the Dulwich Hospital site and we have grave concerns that ‘constrained site’ schools will not provide a full range of facilities or adequate open space and would therefore compromise from the start the attractiveness of the school to local families and the ability of the school leadership to deliver the best possible education.  We want the new secondary school to be a first class school which will endure in the Dulwich area for many generations to come, and we should therefore be starting from the premise that sufficient land should be allocated to deliver a full range of facilities.

 -          Serious concerns have been raised about the basis of parental support on which the proposed primary school is justified.  In particular, many parents who signed a petition in support of the new Harris Primary School for East Dulwich have raised concerns that their signatures were subsequently used to support the Harris Nunhead proposal, when the Nunhead proposal was not included in this original consultation.

-          Finally, there are concerns that delivering a school for Nunhead families in East Dulwich is extremely unsustainable.  The transport links between Nunhead and East Dulwich are not strong and many families with small children would inevitably end up driving to school if they had to travel from Nunhead to the Dulwich Hospital site.  This would result in congestion and additional pollution in the East Dulwich area, and further parking problems for local residents in an area which already suffers from significant commuter parking related to East Dulwich station.  It may also contribute to further congestion in Nunhead.  In general, we believe that primary schools should be situated in the heart of the catchment area they seek to serve, to encourage walking and cycling to school and to enable a strong relationship between the school and its neighbours.

3.       Consultation responses

In order to understand the views of local residents on the proposed Harris Primary School for the Dulwich Hospital site, we undertook our own survey.  We delivered a letter and survey response form to households across East Dulwich and Village wards and in the SE22 area of College ward.  The survey sought support for the principle of a secondary school only on the Dulwich Hospital site.  We received 249 responses, of which 202 expressed support for the principle of a secondary school only on the site.  20 respondents expressed concerns about any new school on the site, largely on grounds of traffic concerns, and 27 expressed no view.

This is a high response rate for a survey of this nature and clearly demonstrates that there is no demand for a further primary school to be delivered on the Dulwich Hospital site. It also reflects the many conversations which we have with local residents on a weekly basis regarding school places in the Dulwich area.

4.       Conclusions

We believe that there is no current demand for a further primary school on the Dulwich Hospital site and no support for this proposal from Dulwich parents.  Furthermore, we believe that delivering a primary school on the Dulwich Hospital site would compromise the delivery of a much-needed and strongly supported local secondary school.  We call on the Harris Federation to withdraw the proposal for a primary school on the Dulwich Hospital site as soon as possible, to allow the Charter School to progress with firm plans for the delivery of a new secondary school with a full range of facilities.


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