Merton School Debate: A Letter To The Editor

Local Lib Dem leader Iain Dysart writes:

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"We welcome the long-awaited acceptance by Merton Council's Labour administration that it must publish a proper strategy for primary and secondary places. A motion was passed by councillors on September 14 committing the Council to setting out a 5-year strategy for dealing with the increases in school places.

Given the borough’s need for school places – and controversy over the expansion of Dundonald primary, not to mention the rush to sell off the derelict Wimbledon House school site – local Liberal Democrats have been disappointed that more emphasis has not already been put on education needs. Merton recently failed to even mention schools in a consultation on future developments in the borough.

The Council asked landowners, developers and other interested groups to suggest sites for potential development. A range of possible uses is listed in the consultation document, but amazingly education was not highlighted as something of interest. Perhaps now this will change.

The tragedy is that Merton sold off lots of education land since 1999; this has meant that the expansion of existing schools, at least in the short term, is pretty much the only show in town to ensure that our children have places.

Disappointingly Wimbledon's Conservatives remain obsessed with the only idea they have for a new school in Gap Road; but because of the difficulties of obtaining the site, even they failed to make any real progress on this in the four years they were in power. Yet they wonder why all the other parties refused to enshrine it as the key aspect of a new schools strategy. They have already been spinning this online as other parties "voting against a new school", but in reality Merton must channel its efforts properly.

What we need is some fresh thinking: we must protect existing school sites – not sell them off. Our good schools must be kept a good size – you can’t just keep increasing existing schools forever. And perhaps most importantly we must plan for the future; we need to be thinking now about future developments – will we need even more primary schools, what about more secondary schools?

We don’t just need warm words – we need a plan, and action."

Councillor Iain Dysart, Leader Lib Dem Group on Merton Council
Grand Drive

September 16, 2011