A call to action to get a better Sir Francis Drake School rebuild!

Sent in by a member of the community

Current entrance to Sir Francis Drake Primary School - 'Far and Wide'- mosaic and laser cut steel

Dear Parents/Carers/Children

You can still help get a better school built!

At a Special Evelyn Assembly meeting, called by residents of Evelyn Ward on 8 March this year, saw a number of questions raised about the proposal for our school rebuild, but as yet those questions are unanswered. A full recording of the concerns raised at that meeting can be accessed by clicking here.

A quick Summary of the meeting is available below and you can use the information to form part of your objection.

Until the questions raised at the Special Assembly Meeting are answered the community have asked that the planning process be deferred.

But it will happen on 31 March 2016 at 7.30pm in the Civic Suite Catford.

(We would urge you to attend this meeting if at all possible to show you want to have a “State of the Art School” and not an Austerity school.)

NOTE: You can still comment on the plans! Whitney Burdge from planning has asked us to pass on that “You are welcome to share with any concerned people wishing to make comments, that late comments received prior to the committee meeting on 31 March will always be fairly considered.”

So please email your concerns ASAP to whitney.burdge@lewisham.gov.uk

Please put this on your email to planning: Planning number DC/15/094990 – Sir Francis Drake School, Scawen Road, London SE8 5AE

A Summary of the Special Assembly meeting (the important bits!)

Evelyn Ward is one of the poorest areas in the Borough, and it is also witnessing the largest influx of new development. These developments will not only radically alter the demographic of the ward, but are likely to throw into stark relief big inequalities.

The residents of the Pepys Estate, for example, will soon see on the other side of Grove Street new homes arising, of which even the supposedly ‘affordable’ homes are likely to be completely out of reach. (A two-bedroom flat in ‘The Timberyard Deptford’, not yet built, is currently advertised on Zoopla for £520,000.)

Further down the road they will see a similar process happening on Convoys Wharf. It has already happened in pockets of new development across the Ward.

One result of these developments is that some Evelyn residents now find that their own family members are unable to find homes in the local area that they can afford to live in.

And this is the context in which Evelyn residents hear about the rising pressure on school places.

The fate of Sir Francis Drake Primary School brings these problems into sharp focus.  The funding for the new school will come from the Educational Funding Agency, and the terms of the agreement apparently commit Lewisham to meet the specifications of the EFA’s BB103 guidelines—one result of which is, that the classrooms of the new school will be significantly smaller than those of the existing school. At the Special Meeting of Evelyn Assembly on 8th March parents and residents were told that these specifications are being used ‘all over the country’, advice which certainly gives the impression that the school is being built to a standardised template.

However, the EFA’s own BB103 guidelines make it clear that they do not entail such a template: ‘in line with policies which seek to increase choice and opportunity in state funded education, these guidelines will not necessarily have to be met in every case and should always be applied flexibly in light of the particular circumstances’.

Among the particular circumstances of Evelyn Ward are the facts that the massive new housing developments (which will obviously contribute to the pressure on school places) will bring a large amount of Section 106 Education purpose money into the area currently this is about 1.2 million in reserves. At the Special Meeting residents made it clear that the community don’t understand why this money cannot be used to improve the specification of the School, perhaps by making temporary use of money from reserves while waiting for the remaining Education purpose Section 106 money to come in.

The example of Albion Primary School was cited, within walking distance of Sir Francis Drake in the nearby Borough of Southwark, which has recently been rebuilt, and apparently has classrooms up to 20% bigger than those planned for Sir Francis Drake.

They asked why Lewisham can’t do this kind of thing, and why Lewisham can’t find out from Southwark—another Labour Borough—how they did it. This question, which of all the questions raised is a key one, was simply not answered.

Council were asked to find out more about how it was done, since, according to London Council’s Do the Maths 2015 report, the predicted shortfall of primary places in Southwark is higher than in Lewisham (.p.11). The ‘pressure on places’ has not, it seems, prevented the building of an acceptable school there. At the end of the Special meeting, the Chair of the School Governors at Sir Francis Drake conceded that they had settled for a new school that was ‘workable’ rather than ‘state of the art’. The parents and local residents at the meeting naturally wanted to know why, given the circumstances of the Ward, their own children should not get a ‘state of the art’ school. This question has not been answered.

Everybody understands that the plans to rebuild the school are being driven to a considerable extent by the need to find new places. Between September 2013 and June 2014 a decision was taken (in the face of some opposition from parents) to turn Sir Francis Drake into a two-form entry school by September 2016. The commitment to this time-frame seems to have governed the planning process at every stage, in a way that has minimised consultation with the local community this has left parents feeling systematically excluded.

At the Special Meeting it was said that Public Consultation began as soon as there was ‘meaningful information’ to share; but this seems to mean that it began only after major decisions had already been taken. There has been consultation with the parent governors but, there has been no formal consultation between parent governors and the parents they are said to represent. It was also disclosed that none of the three local Councillors of Evelyn Ward have spoken to the governing board at all on this important community issue. There has been a display of the plans at the school, and an opportunity to drop in to discuss them with the developers, but it seems that the display was held at times that some parents found difficult to make.

At the Special Meeting parents and residents were given an opportunity to ask questions, but the meeting, left some important questions unanswered.

One of the unanswered questions was about the date when the plans would be sent to committee; parents were told that ‘no firm date’ was yet available. Now they have been told that the plans will go to the Planning Committee on Thursday 31st March—three days after Easter Monday, when many parents may well be away on holiday. This confirms parents’ suspicions that they are being deliberately excluded as much as possible from the process. The Council’s position seems to be ‘we can’t afford to let this plan be held up by the views of a group of parents, given the urgent need for more primary places; in the circumstances, building a “workable” school is very much better than doing nothing’. It’s an argument that leaves local residents doubly disadvantaged by the new developments in the Ward—in the quality of school provision, as in access to housing.

The planning portal for commenting on the Lewisham Council Website has been continually down since December 2015 to date due to “an error” so lots of people have not commented…Best to email planning directly…


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