Big Changes For Wandsworth Children's Services

Including new school buildings, expanded youth clubs and more support for special needs

New school buildings, streamlined special needs assessments and bigger, brighter youth centres are planned for Wandsworth children’s services.

The changes are designed in part to minimise the impact of reduced spending next year, as a result of the council's overall £30million budget squeeze.

The proposals for children's services for next year and beyond were approved by councillors on the education and children's services scrutiny committee earlier this week and include:

New school buildings

  • A multi-million pound redevelopment of Elliott School, adding to the £70m building programmes already underway at Burntwood and  Southfields schools.  News of a further project to transfer the St John Bosco secondary school to new buildings on the Surrey Lane site is expected shortly.
  • Providing new accommodation for primary aged pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties at the Nightingale school site.  This school for boys aged five to 19 is judged by Ofsted to be outstanding.
  • Proposals to consult on permanently expanding six primary schools by one form of entry each and on potential expansion of five other schools.

More freedom for schools and choice for parents

  • Creating the new Bolingbroke free school, and proposals to develop another new school on the vacant Putney Hospital site.
  • Supporting Elliott to join Graveney, Belleville and Chestnut Grove schools as self-managing academies.

Bigger Brighter youth clubs

Although the youth service budget is being reduced, the council is proposing:

  • Expanding the most popular youth clubs with extra capital funding going towards developing Tooting Hub, the Training Resource Centre, and Roehampton Base and Roehampton Youth Club as part of the 'Bigger, Brighter' youth service.
  • Working with community groups interested in running Lennox, Heathbrook and Base D youth centres.
  • Introducing a new, easy-access community youth grant scheme which is open for applications from the voluntary and community groups.

Play and early years

We are exploring whether some play and early years services can be better run by new providers, giving them more freedom to manage services and to make them more responsive to local residents, including:

  • Working with Lambeth Council to continue running services on the site of Heathbrook one o'clock and children's centre.
  • Exploring the possible transfer of three other children's centres and other one o'clock clubs to alternative providers, with the Alton Morning Group in Roehampton closing.
  • Transferring the crèche budget to individual children's centres.
  • Joining up with Catch 22 to provide targeted after school services at the Alton Activity centre and closure of the less-popular Doddington Activity centre.
  • £200,000 for new play equipment in Tooting Common and Garratt Park.
  • Offering space in Eastwood Children's Centre for a small community venture to run Roehampton Community Café.

Help for families with complex needs

  • A new Family Recovery Plan will provide intensive intervention for the most troubled families in the borough.
  • Streamlining the drafting of special needs assessments will make the process easier and more supportive for families of children with special needs.
  • Appointing an entirely independent chairman for serious case reviews will bring impartial scrutiny to any case where a child dies or is seriously injured.

"As a result of the spending squeeze we face some difficult decisions on savings in all service areas," says cabinet member for education and children's services, Cllr Kathy Tracey.

"We are now talking to a number of people about how to achieve savings whist minimising the impact on local people. This includes exploring whether some services can be better run by new providers. We have a long history of finding imaginative ways to reduce costs by working creatively with private, voluntary and public sector partners.

"Ofsted rate children's services in Wandsworth as 'outstanding' and with the expansion in choice for parents and freedom for our schools to manage themselves, we are confident Ofsted will rate us 'outstanding' again next year."

Thirty out of the 80 schools in Wandsworth are rated as 'outstanding' by Ofsted, one of the highest proportions in the country.  The council's ambition is for 50 per cent of schools to be outstanding within two years.

November 16, 2011