We urgently need firm plans for a new secondary school in the Dulwich area. Existing schools are heavily oversubscribed and local children are increasingly having to travel further afield to get to school. The Council’s figures show that there will be an under-supply of places from 2016, which will increase sharply by 2018.
Labour has been supporting bids from two outstanding school providers – Charter School and Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation which were submitted to the Department for Education in early October, to open a new secondary school in the Dulwich area. Both bids have very high levels of support from local parents and whichever provider the DfE chooses, we will end up with an excellent new school in Dulwich.
The Dulwich Hospital site is the only large site available in the Dulwich area with sufficient space to deliver all of the facilities which we would expect to be provided at a first class school. We were therefore astounded to hear in a recent letter from David Laws to Tessa Jowell, that the government is planning to acquire the site for both a primary school and a secondary school. This is even more surprising since the primary school proposal was originally intended to meet the needs of families in Nunhead, and in his letter, David Laws states that it may now end up meeting the need for school places in the north of Southwark.
Many more primary school places are being provided in the Dulwich area to meet demand, through the expansion of existing schools and the delivery of the new Belham Primary, a new Harris Primary school on the former police station site and the effective doubling in size of the popular Ivydale School. These in turn will free up spaces at other primary schools in Dulwich. We do not therefore need any further primary schools, and it would be a far better use of public funds if the Harris Nunhead free school could be relocated to an area of the borough where there is still a need for additional places, so that the new school serves a local catchment and minimises the need for parents to travel long distances to take their children to school.
After the NHS has built a new health centre on the Dulwich Hospital site, there will be enough space to build a secondary school. If part of the site is developed for a new primary school, the facilities which can be built for the secondary school will be compromised and the opportunity to deliver a first class, fully equipped school will be lost for a generation.
We are therefore supporting local parents in calling on new Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to ensure that the part of the Dulwich Hospital site which will remain after the health centre has been built will be secured for a secondary school only. Please join me in signing the petition here.