From The Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/christopher-hope/
Michael Gove has ignored the opposition of the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel to approve sell-offs five times in the past 15 months, documents show. It has also emerged that the number of sales given the go-ahead by Mr Gove is far higher than the amount admitted by the Coalition this month.
Mr Gove apologised for publishing the wrong figures, saying he had been given incorrect information by his officials.
They show that the panel, which must by law give a recommendation on all sales before ministers make their final decision, received 35 applications to sell school playing fields between May 18, 2010 and July 22, 2012. Of these, 30 sales were approved by ministers, two were rejected, one was withdrawn and two are outstanding. The decisions were mostly taken by Lord Hill, the education minister, on behalf of Mr Gove. The documents show that Mr Gove overruled recommendations not to sell school playing fields five times between February 2011 and July this year, more than for the previous nine years.
The overruled decisions were to sell fields at Woodhouse Middle School in Staffordshire, Clarborough Primary School in Nottinghamshire, Elliott School in Wandsworth, south-west London, and Ingleton Middle School in North Yorkshire.
Full story here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/keep-the-flame-alive/9481037/Keep-The-Flame-Alive-School-playing-fields-at-risk-as-ministers-relax-building-rules.html
and more here:
Wandsworth Labour’s Rex Osborn accuses the Tory Council of neglecting Elliott School and attacks the Tory-led government for cutting Labour’s Building Schools for the Future funding.
Last night Wandsworth Labour Councillors asked the majority Tory group to support this motion:
This Council recognises that funding secured under the previous government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to refurbish Elliott School was lost when the Coalition Government abolished the scheme, leaving the long-term future of the school in peril. Wandsworth Council would have been in a better position to address the physical problems at Elliott School had it not agreed the purchase of a site for the Bolingbroke free school, at a cost of £13M.
Wandsworth Council regrets that the combination of these two factors has resulted in a two year delay in progressing the refurbishment of Elliott School, as a result of which school rolls have fallen and the school is in danger of being closed on Health and Safety grounds.
Cllr Senior, as Cabinet member, has failed to bring to committee adequately broad-ranging financial background papers to allow full discussion of a financial rescue package for Elliott School. Wandsworth Council is concerned that the continuing delays in progressing the Elliott School refurbishment scheme are putting at risk the August 2014 timeframe for the completion of Elliott School’s refurbishment.
Wandsworth Council resolves immediate action on the following:
In order to recover the situation of Elliott School, Wandsworth Council calls on Guy Senior, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Resources, to urgently bring forward proposals to a Special Meeting of the Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee to release funding for the refurbishment of Elliott School independently of the receipt of Section 77 authority and the conclusion of negotiations for the sale of part of the Elliott School site.
It calls on the Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Resources to finance the short term. Cash Flow requirements of this course of action from the £15 million surplus cash balances held by Wandsworth Council on behalf of Wandsworth Schools.
Wandsworth Council resolves that in future:
- The fabric of every school run by the Borough is reviewed annually at Finance and Corporate Resources Committee (or as relevant)
- An annual level of funding is agreed for school repairs commensurate with the need identified in the above review
- Any school so reviewed and found to be below an adequate physical standard is then placed on a ‘priority need’ list
- Schools considered as ‘priority need’ will have urgent recourse to funding for necessary repairs, from the funding pool
The motion was not supported by the Conservatives.
Labour has supported revised plans to reduce the amount land for disposal at Putney’s Elliott School.
The changes mean that more of the site can be retained for educational use and important school features like its outdoor amphitheatre can be kept.
The updated proposals follow extensive consultation and discussions with bidders for the site. For more read the link below:
Labour councillors are disappointed that only one Wandsworth School is to benefit from the Priority School Building Programme, announced today by Michael Gove.
After significant delays in announcing the chosen schools, it was today revealed that Chestnut Grove School, a local Academy, is the only school to be chosen in Wandsworth to receive funding under the new scheme, despite many remaining in desperate need of maintenance and repair work to their buildings.
This scheme replaces Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, which the Coalition quickly scrapped in its first few weeks, cancelling school building plans for more than 700 schools nationally. Now, just 261 schools are to receive support under Michael Gove’s PFI-funded plans.
Cllr Sheila Boswell, Wandsworth Labour’s spokesperson for Education said,
“Whilst I welcome this funding for Chestnut Grove, many other schools in Wandsworth are also in grave need of investment for their buildings; the kind of investment they would have received under Labour. The Elliott School is in very poor repair, as well both Graveney School and Battersea Park School who were due to be helped under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future Programme – all are now losing out under the Coalition.
“This shows the government’s lack of commitment to investing in education, leaving schools in conditions barely adequate to teach in. This despite the fact we know pressure on schools is growing, as more and more pupils each year are applying for places. Labour in Wandsworth want parents to have real choice of great Wandsworth schools, but this choice is diminished when certain schools are left in poor condition. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour would make this a priority”.