Crisis Meeting Over Hunt For Merton Secondary School Places

New school could be somewhere in South Wimbledon

The hunt for a site for a new secondary school for Merton could be turning to South Wimbledon, with the Joseph Hood Primary School in Wimbledon Chase still not being ruled out.

A special Labour party meeting was held on Saturday (July 25) to talk about the secondary school places crisis facing the borough.

Although the sites discussed are not being revealed, it is understood there is a preferred site in South Wimbledon, with Joseph Hood school in Whatley Avenue also under consideration.

Labour Councillor, and ex-Cabinet education chief, Peter Walker has claimed there are plans to hand over Joseph Hood primary over to the Harris Federation for a new free secondary school.

He has since requested has requested that Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Martin Whelton and Merton Council publish the list of sites they are considering for siting the new free school.

He said that: "When the £80m expansion of Merton’s primary schools was planned in 2011, the Council conducted one of the most extensive consultations on potential sites in public. As a result we delivered successfully the expansion of local schools.

"It is vital if we are to carry the public with us, that we now publish potential sites for the secondary expansion. In particular we must drop the madcap scheme to hand over Joseph Hood primary school to Harris, after just expanding that school to accommodate young children in Wimbledon."

But Councillor Whelton said: "Merton Council published in May their secondary school site search from an independent report we commissioned in 2013:

"This was released publicly to all Merton councillors including Cllr Walker in May and shared with the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

The report demonstrates that there is no easy solution to providing enough secondary school places. While the council is looking at all options and no decisions have yet been made, the Harris Federation has registered its interest in providing a new school in the borough. It is now the responsibility of the EFA to identify a site for a potential new school."

Councillor Whelton has previously pointed out:

  • Due to the rise in birth rate, the council has a legal duty to create 2,000 additional places in our secondary schools
  • The council has already identified three schools in Mitcham that can be expanded – Harris Merton, Harris Morden and St Marks Academy
  • However we urgently need to create more secondary places in Wimbledon, where the existing schools are not currently in a position to expand
  • Council officers have therefore identified a need for a new secondary school in the Wimbledon area
  • The government has approved Harris as the provider of the new school
  • Harris already runs two of Merton’s secondary schools and provides an excellent standard of education and late last year they expressed interest in the Whatley Avenue site for their proposed new school.
  • There is a lack of available sites for a new school – the council commissioned an independent report in 2013 which looked at all the options and has given this report to the EFA.
  • The government’s Education Funding Agency (EFA) is legally responsible for finding a site for the new school and they are carrying out their own site search.  The council has shared information on its own site searches and we expect the EFA to announce their preferred site for a new secondary school in the autumn.
  • No decisions on any sites have been made.
July 30, 2015