March 9 2014 Latest news:
by Rory Brigstock-Barron
Thursday, February 6, 2014
A controversial free school Islington Council claim is not needed is already oversubscribed – the Department for Education (DfE) has said.
Whitehall Park Free School looks set to open at the former Ashmount Primary School site, in Hornsey Lane, after the school was rebuilt in Crouch Hill.
The town hall had planned to use the site for 82 homes, generating £3.5million to fund the new school, but these plans were rejected by Education Secretary Michael Gove after residents said they wanted another school there.
Councillors have insisted the extra school places in the area are not needed but interest in the school, which is due to open in September, appears to already be through the roof.
A DfE spokesperson said: “Whitehall Park Free School is being set up in response to significant local demand – and the school’s reception year is oversubscribed for September 2014.
“Free schools, such as Whitehall Park, are popular with parents – they provide more choice and freedom and ensure children have access to the high quality education they deserve.”
The council has drawn up a compromise for the site, which is due to go before a meeting of the executive this evening.
It suggests that the site, which the government also wishes to house the Bridge Integrated Learning Space Free School, is split between Whitehall Park and 50 new homes – in what Islington’s education chief Joe Caluori has called a “score draw”.
Under this proposal the council would instead move the Bridge School to a shared building with New River College Primary PRU in Dowry Street, Barnsbury.
Cllr Caluori said: “We’re opposed to the idea of a school at the site as we don’t need the places, but given that, we have still come up with what we think is a reasonable compromise.
“We suggest that half the site is used for the free school and the other half used for approximately 50 units of affordable housing.”
Cllr Caluori also said that one danger of putting a free school in an area where places are not needed was that other schools may become under-subscribed.
“The council has to provide school places for all of the children in the area, even if they apply for a place at the free school,” he said.
Campaigners from the Ashmount Site Action Group (ASAG) have urged the government to reject the council’s revised plan, as they do not believe it would give the children enough outside space.
A press release sent out by the group reads: “ASAG is completely opposed to the splitting of the site as proposed to the LBI [London Borough of Islington] Executive.
“In confining the site and thereby stopping the proposed school obtaining a natural and healthy growth, LBI feel they can still obtain profits from their high density housing proposals while once more ignoring the wishes of the community and, indeed, the school providers.”