New free school secures permanent home

Published: Friday 24th May 13

One of the borough’s new free schools has secured a permanent home for its pupils after the council agreed to sell it a surplus building in Roehampton.

The South London Jewish Primary School, which will be known as the Mosaic Jewish Primary School (MJPS) when it opens later this year, is buying a council-owned property in Roehampton Lane.

The school, which will temporarily open its first classroom in September in a local community building, had been looking for a permanent home so that it can properly accommodate additional pupils in the years ahead.

It will initially admit 30 pupils a year and hopes to ultimately provide places for up to 420 children from the local area. Half its pupils will be Jewish while half will have other faiths and beliefs or none.

The sale is subject to planning consent being approved. If this happens the school will open permanently in Hartfield House in September 2015. The property was formerly operated by the council's adult social services department as a respite care centre but was declared surplus to requirements in June 2012 as it was no longer considered fit for purpose.

The respite care services formerly offered at Hartfield House are being transferred to a more modern property in Earlsfield which is much more suitable for the role. It will also benefit from a £280,000 refurbishment.

The decision to transfer services from Hartfield House to Earlsfield will save council tax payers £311,000 every year, while the money generated by the sale of the building will be available to fund future capital spending by the town hall.

Mosaic Jewish Primary School will be one of three new free schools that will be opening their doors to pupils in Wandsworth for the first time this autumn.

A new two form entry school will be opening at the Tooting Primary School in Franciscan Road, which is sponsored by Graveney School while another two forms will be admitted to the Rutherford House School, which is located in the former Balham Youth Court building.

The council is a strong supporter of these new free schools. As well as increasing parental choice and educational diversity, they will provide much-needed additional school places for local children.

New research shows that the borough will need around 24 additional classes by September 2020, to keep up with the rapidly expanding school-age population, according to the latest population figures.

The birth rate in Wandsworth has risen from 4,359 in 2003 to 5,477 in 2011 and is projected to continue to rise rapidly.

Pressure is also growing on school places in Wandsworth because of the growing reputation for academic excellence in the borough's schools.

According to education standards watchdog Ofsted, 92 per cent of local schools are good or outstanding. This places Wandsworth in the top eight of high performing authorities in the country.

In comparison on average only 74 per cent of schools in other parts of the country and 80 per cent in London are judged good or outstanding by Ofsted inspectors.

This growing reputation for excellence means that schools in the borough are attracting parents from neighbouring districts as well as parents who may have previously considered private education but now favour the state system.

Council leader Ravi Govindia said: "This is set to be a very satisfactory outcome not just for the Mosaic Jewish Primary School and local parents, but also for people who use respite services and also council taxpayers in the borough.

"If planning consent is granted, the school will have a permanent home and be in a much better position to plan ahead for its long term future. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement to the opening of the Mosaic School and the two other local free schools. They will offer parents vibrant new choices for the education of their children.

"The transfer of respite services from Hartfield House to a more modern building that has been fully refurbished will mean a better service and better accommodation for the people who use respite care.

"And the new arrangements will mean a saving to council tax payers of more than £300,000 a year, while the money that is likely to be generated from the sale of Hartfield House can also be ploughed into future capital improvement projects across the borough. This is a very good deal all round."

Chair of the MJPS governing body Shirley Lee added: "We are delighted with the support we have received from so many parents and look forward to joining the family of Wandsworth primary schools with our aspirations of inspiring, respecting and excelling."

For more information about the school visit www.mjps.org.uk

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Recent comments

Transferring respite services to a tiny site beside a pub and factories in Earlsfield indicates a lack of care by WBC. Seling off a pleasant site in Roehampton for a "free school" shows the council's priorities.
Celia Blair

27 May 2013