Wimbledon Primary School Plan Set To Be Shelved

Seven local schools to be expanded under plan

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Plans for a new primary school in Wimbledon could be ruled out as the Council has backed a scheme to find much-needed places by expanding existing schools.

It means a £47m plan to building a new school in north Wimbledon, probably on an industrial site in Gap Road, could now be shelved.

Merton borough council's Cabinet has unanimously accepted an alternative £39.9m plan to expand seven primary schools across the borough and convert South Wimbledon Community Centre back into use as a school.

However, the expansion of Bishop Gilpin School in Lake Road - once part of the proposal package (Option A) - is not set to take place after a local campaign against the plans.

And the Conservative opposition in Merton says the Labour administration's primary schools policy is a "shambles" and is calling for the new school to be built.

The extra places are needed because of a 30% rise in the birth rate in Merton in the past six years, helping create an immediate need for places for around 300 children in the next two years. Any new school would not have been ready for at least five years.

The following schools can now expect to be expanded:

Morden Primary School

South Wimbledon Youth Centre and Community Centre (federated with All Saints Primary School)

Liberty Primary School
St Mary's RC Primary School
Gorringe Park Primary School
Dundonald Primary School
William Morris Primary School
Singlegate Primary School

The council already has £10m in a capital budget programme, which was put there for a potential new school. Councillor Peter Walker, cabinet member for education, will be seeing the minister responsible at the Department for Education in mid-January, along with Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond and Councillor Richard Hilton (Conservative Education Spokesperson) to plead the case for Government funding.

Councillor Walker (left) said that South Wimbledon Community Centre will be offered the use of Merton Hall as alternative premises and he is determined the Youth Centre will also have new and acceptable accommodation.

Council officers will also investigate ways of prioritising additional places at Wimbledon Park school so Merton residents, rather than those from neighbouring Wandsworth, can benefit.

In all the identified schools (apart from Dundonald) temporary classrooms will be put in during Spring/Summer 2011 where the existing school building doesn't have the space for an additional class. Those schools will start admitting children next Autumn and will be taking applications in January 2011. The temporary classrooms will be replaced by permanent buildings with the necessary funding.

Councillor Walker said: "With eight of the school sites identified, and all the respective head teachers and Boards of Governors supporting us, we could be able to show what a united Council has achieved. I believe if realised it could be a significant achievement

"I have said that this is the biggest expansion of our schools in a generation and feel that if realised it is something that will benefit all parts of the borough."

But Councillor Hilton said: "The setback to Labour’s school expansion programme leaves their plans in disarray. Having assured the Council at the end of November that all relevant governing bodies had been approached and agreed to expansion, we now discover this was never the case.

"Councillor Walker has presided over a consultation exercise that included schools that had never agreed to expand. The majority of those who responded to the consultation chose Option B to build a new school. The Labour administration has ignored this.

"Merton Conservatives have always maintained the most suitable option for dealing with the shortage of primary school places which is particularly acute in the north of the borough would be to build a new school. This is a policy publicly supported by Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillors on Merton Council.

"Funding for a new school was set aside before the election and agreed by full Council and negotiations with the owners of the Gap Road site were ready to get underway. Councillor Walker chose to delay. His indecision has already delayed things by six months and now with the decision at Bishop Gilpin, he is left desperately looking for an alternative school to expand. Despite stating continually during the consultation that Wimbledon Park primary could not be expanded, this is suddenly precisely what he is proposing.

“The Labour administration's primary schools policy is now a shambles and parents will be rightly worried that places might not be available when they are needed. I urge Councillor Walker to press ahead with the programme to build a new school without any further delay."

December 9, 2010