Plans to invest around £30m in refurbishing and modernising Elliott School in Putney are set to be discussed next week. Councillors on the finance and corporate resources committee will be asked to endorse a proposal to generate funding to improve Elliott and provide its pupils with a school fit for the 21st Century.
The refurbishment plans have the full backing of Elliott's headteacher Mark Phillips, its governors and also local parents who want an attractive, modern school for their children.
The proposals involve a major remodelling of internal areas to create brighter and more spacious classrooms and flexible areas for small group learning. They would also deliver better IT systems and specialist learning facilities.
Under the proposals, the school’s sports facilities would be remodelled and the external space landscaped to provide informal play areas and new sports courts.
Elliott’s main school building is in urgent need of major investment. Without this the school faces an uncertain future.
The 1950s building and its fixtures are now well past the end of their functional life and no longer comply with modern teaching requirements or safety standards. Parts of the school are badly dilapidated and scaffolding now encases the main building to keep glass panels and cladding in place.
The council has spent significant sums in recent years on repairs and temporary fixes to keep the school open. However, this patchwork repair approach is no longer sustainable.
The cheapest and easiest solution would be to demolish the school building and rebuild from scratch. However this course of action is not available because much of the site has listed building status.
Money to upgrade classrooms, provide better educational facilities, including enhanced on-site sporting facilities, and to help protect and preserve the school’s listed buildings could be raised by selling surplus land on the site. The disposal of this surplus space has already been approved by ministers in the Department for Education.
None of this land is used as playing fields by the school. When pupils play organised team sports like football, rugby, cricket and athletics they use the sports pitches in nearby Dover House Road - just a few minutes walk away.
Some of the land in question has been concreted over and is hard-standing. It includes a car park and other parts that are occupied by redundant buildings like the vacant caretaker's cottage. There is some grassed space included but much of it is on a steep slope and is therefore not suitable for any team games or sports activities.
Space currently occupied by two tarmac-covered ball games courts would form part of the disposal. However these would be replaced by a new and improved ball games area in the south west corner of the site. The layout of this new sports facility would permit Elliott to host competitive fixtures for the first time and would also be available for hire by local sports clubs, generating regular income for the school.
The scheme to be discussed by councillors on August 21 allows the school to retain more of its outdoor space for education and recreational use, including important features like its outdoor amphitheatre.
Council education spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said:
“The school desperately needs a multi-million pound investment to provide the kind of teaching facilities that will allow its pupils to thrive. Unfortunately there is no magic pot of money available to pay for this so we are having to explore alternative ways of raising this money.
“The Elliott site is quite large and there is surplus land there that can be used to raise these desperately needed funds. Much of this land has been concreted over and none of it is used as playing fields. We are proposing to dispose of some hard court space, but this is very outdated and would be replaced with a much better and modern balls games space in a different part of the school grounds.
“Unfortunately in these very difficult economic times, there is no other way of raising enough money to transform Elliott into the high quality school that young people in the area deserve. We believe these plans offer the best chance of keeping the school viable and ensuring it remains the choice of parents in Putney for decades to come.”
From September, education charity ARK Schools will take over the running of the school and reopen it as an academy. The new ARK Putney Academy will be a non-denominational, non-selective school open to all local children. Mr Phillips, who has already overseen significant improvements in teaching, learning and pupil achievement, will continue as its principal.
The school has seen a dramatic improvement in performance over the past three years with a near 20 point cent increase in the number of pupils achieving five or more A* to C grades at GCSE, including for English and maths.
The council is currently spending many millions of pounds on improving local schools, providing extra places in some of the borough's best performing and most popular ones and also on setting up new schools to give parents even greater choice when it comes to the education of their children.
Around £10m is being spent this year alone on providing additional school places this September and also in 2013, while new primary schools are planned in Putney and Tooting. A brand new free school, the Bolingbroke Academy will be admitting its first 120 Year 7 pupils this September.
For more information about the plans for the school visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/arkputneyacademy.
August 16, 2012