"Free School" Vision For Wimbledon

Plans would help ease shortage of school places

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Shortage of primary school places

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Plans have been announced to create a "free school" in a derelict former school in Wimbledon.

The move would help solve the problem of shortage of primary school places in Wimbledon, with some pupils needing to live within 200 yards of a school to get a place.

There have been claims that nearly 100 Wimbledon children will have to travel two or three miles to a primary school in Mitcham or Morden.

wimbledon free shoolNow a group have announced plans to set up the New Wimbledon House Primary School in the former school building on the corner of Dorset Road and Kingston Road.

The group, which includes concerned parents, have set up a charitable organisation and are taking advice from specialists, Cambridge Education.

They are planning to acquire the former Wimbledon House School building, now owned by Merton Council, which closed in 2005. They aim to get the school up-and-running in time for the next school year.

The group, chaired by Vince Harris, say admission to their school will be non-selective and based on proximity to the area. The curriculum will to "broad-based" and include a foreign language.

Councillor Peter Walker, cabinet member for education, said the proposal was unlikely to go ahead as the building was owed by the council and they were actively exploring if it could help them meet the needs of their school expansion scheme.

He added: "People should be aware that at present as proposed by the Government, Free Schools are able to: Employ unqualified teachers; pay salaries below those paid nationally to teachers and their support staff; use sites and buildings to teach in that do not meet the standards demanded of State schools; several are already proposing to use disused shops and offices; make a profit from educating children through renting from a parent company at a profit rent."

Merton Park Councillor Karin Forbes said they were trying to get more information about the plans. She added: "We have been voicing our concerns about leaving this property vacant for many years and although we are pleased to see that it is finally properly protected to prevent further squatters from gaining access what we really want is for it speedily to be put back into use in a manner that reflects its local listing and its unique position at the entrance to the John Innes (Merton Park) Conservation Area."

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May 6, 2011