Scheme to secure school's future endorsed

Published: 22 August 2012

Councillors in Wandsworth last night endorsed a proposal to generate funding for the much needed renovation of Elliott School in Putney.

The proposals involve a major £30m remodelling of internal areas to create brighter and more spacious classrooms and flexible areas for small group learning.

The renovations would also give the school enhanced sports facilities, enabling it to host competitive fixtures for the first time.

Without these improvements the school does not have a viable future. The 1950s Grade II-listed 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.

Wandsworth Council has spent millions of pounds in recent years on repairs and temporary fixes to keep the school open. However, this patchwork repair approach is no longer sustainable.

The Council is contributing around £5m towards the potential cost of renovation but simply does not have the full £30m needed to bring the school up to acceptable standards in a way that protects the school's listed buildings.

Last night (Tuesday, August 21), the Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended the disposal of land to pay for the substantial upgrade of educational and sporting facilities.

The disposal of this surplus space has already been approved by ministers in the Department for Education.

None of this land in question is used for organised sport by the school. Some of it 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.

When pupils play organised team sports like football, rugby, cricket and athletics they use the sports pitches in nearby Dover House Road . This arrangement will continue.

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 would allow the school to retain more of its outdoor space for education and recreational use, including important features like its outdoor amphitheatre.

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.

Headteacher Mark Phillips, who has already overseen significant improvements in teaching, learning and pupil achievement at the school, supports the proposals as do governors and local parents who want an attractive, modern school for their children.

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.

"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."

ENDS

Notes to editors

Following consultation, the council reduced the area of potential disposal from 18,755 square metres to 15,071 - leaving 21,695 sq metres of open land left.