Islington school to close down

MORELAND Primary School is to be closed down as part of a radical shake-up of education in Finsbury.

Under plans being hatched by Islington Council, the run-down school in Goswell Road is to be shut down and the pupils transferred to nearby St Luke’s Church of England Primary School.

While Moreland is only rated satisfactory by Ofsted inspectors – and regularly attracts only half the pupils it has space for – St Luke’s is rated outstanding and is three times oversubscribed.

But the news will be met with shock by Moreland parents, who only last week petitioned Islington Council to improve their school.

Councillor Richard Watts, Labour-run Islington Council’s executive member for schools, said: “We think closing Moreland and merging it with St Luke’s would solve the problems with education in the area.

“Moreland is in a completely unsuitable building. It was built in the 1960s and is well past its use-by date.

“There are lots of surplus places at the school, which creates massive problems for school finances as it gets paid per place.

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“Then we have St Luke’s, which is three times oversubscribed but cannot expand.

“Moreland’s exam results are also only at the Government’s minimum whereas at St Luke’s, they are much higher.”

But the plan has been attacked by the opposition Liberal Democrats, who in June asked for an assurance that Islington’s eight most undersubscribed primary schools would not be forced to close.

Lib-Dem leader Councillor Terry Stacy, who failed to get a clear answer from the Labour group, said: “Labour blatantly lied to the council when challenged by us on whether they had any plans to close Moreland.

“I think this plan is more about enabling Labour to sell off one of the sites than about education standards,

“They should be discussing the plans with parents and governors and not just springing it on them.

“This is going to mean upheaval and uncertainty for parents.”

Moreland is among the schools with the most vacant places in Islington – only filling 49 per cent of its 60 reception places in 2009, and just 45 per cent in 2010.

In contrast, St Luke’s regularly gets 90-plus applications for its 30 reception places.

Islington Council plans to demolish both Moreland and St Luke’s and build a new and expanded St Luke’s School on Moreland’s Goswell Road site.

St Luke’s current site in Radnor Street would then be turned over to housing – 50 per cent luxury flats and 50 per cent affordable homes – to pay for the scheme.

The �16million new St Luke’s would be large enough to take in 60 pupils every year – and although this is less than the 90 places currently available across Moreland and St Luke’s, the council is sure the number of places would be enough.

The council envisages that around half the places would be for Christian pupils, while the rest would be for children of all backgrounds.

Most Moreland staff would also be transferred to St Luke’s, but the headteacher post would go to the head of St Luke’s. The top job at St Luke’s is currently held by “superhead” Ann Dwulit – who is also responsible for having helped turn around the fortunes of once struggling Clerkenwell Parochial School in Amwell Street.

But Moreland parents believe one of the main reasons the school is so undersubscribed is because of the poor buildings.

In the petition submitted last week, they said: “Despite the appalling conditions, we applaud the efforts of the teachers, staff, head and governors. We believe the poor state of facilities, building and amenities act as a deterrent to parents and pupils, therefore reducing the number of children on the school roll and consequently the school receives less funding and is affected.”

Islington Council intends to consult on the plans over the coming year. If they are given the go ahead, the new school would open in 2013.

Under the previous council administration, two other Finsbury primary schools – Moorfields and Prior Weston – were also merged, with the pupils subsequently transferring to the new Golden Lane Campus in Whitecross Street.