Five things we did in Tooting Graveney Ward in 2012…

Graveney Councillors Rex, Billi and Andy, Sadiq Khan MP and local supporters

Trident Centre, Bickersteth Road

After objections by local residents, concerns about the future of the businesses in The Trident Centre and the suitability of the site, the sponsors decided to withdraw from establishing a ‘free’ school.

New Primary School, Franciscan Road

We encouraged the establishment of a new primary school, linked to Graveney School, in the old school building on Franciscan Road. This is planned to open in September 2013.

Planning application  for the Professional Centre, Franciscan Road

We supported residents’ objections to the over-development of the playground area of what will become the new primary school on Franciscan Road. Developers plan to build a four storey building for elderly residents.

Crossing at St. Boniface Church, Mitcham Road

After a long campaign by the congregation of St. Boniface church, backed by ourselves and Sadiq Khan MP, the Council agreed to site a new pedestrian crossing by the Church. This was a great credit to the Late Fr. Bonvini, who was instrumental in the success of the petition.

Tooting Town Centre

We supported a plan by local police to curb street drinking by establishing a street drinking exclusion zone and helping people with alcohol problems through an outreach scheme. We are keen to see further development of the town centre and the market.

…… as well as attending street parties, school fetes, working with churches and community groups in Graveney and being your local voice in the Town Hall. And, of course, helping Graveney residents with individual concerns.

Cllr. Rex Osborn is a founder member of Tooting  History Group and conducts local historical walks. He is a Vice Chair of the Local Safer Neighbourhood panel.

Cllr. Billi Randall is Chair of Governors at Franciscan school. She is an active member of the Tooting Town Centre Partnership.

Cllr. Andy Gibbons is involved in organising local music events around Tooting and has close links with the Tamil Welfare Association of Wandsworth.

Let us know your priorities for 2013: or leave a comment below.

Graveney Councillors Object To ‘Overdevelopment’ at Franciscan Rd. Centre

Having listened carefully to the views of local residents and looking at the plans, Graveney Councillors  have sent in an objection to the planning application for the building of 45 housing units in the Franciscan Road Professional Centre playground.

We object on the following grounds:
• Over-development – the scale of the building is large and intrusive.
• Loss of playground space for the new primary school opening in the Professional Centre. This causes additional concerns as this is the space which would be used if the school had to be evacuated in case of emergency.
• The design includes windows and balconies which look onto the playground and into the play area of Toots nursery.
• The design will overshadow the play area and the lower storey classrooms of the new primary school as well as the play area of Toots nursery.
• Parking – the staff of the professional centre and the teachers will have to park on the surrounding streets, exacerbating existing parking problems.


Katharine Birbalsingh postpones free school opening

A free school being set up by the Tories’ star teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, will not open this year as planned. 

Birbalsingh gave a blistering speech to the Conservative party conference in 2010 in which she attacked dumbed-down standards in exams and “chaos” in classrooms.

She illustrated her speech with pictures of pupils at her then school, St Michael and All Angels C of E Academy in south London. Soon after the speech, she left the school. The school itself closed last year.

Birbalsingh had planned to open a secondary school, the Michaela community school, in Tooting, south London, this September, but she has failed to secured her preferred location.

Read the story:

Stephen Twigg writes here:

Plan for new primary free school in Tooting

Labour Councillors are backing proposals for a brand new primary school that would be run as a free school sponsored by the hugely popular and successful Graveney School.

The new school would be based in Franciscan Road and would open in September 2013. It would be located in the former school building, now known as the Professional Centre, that has been used for many years as a training centre for teachers and to house a number of educational services.

The new school would admit 60 pupils into two reception classes each year, eventually creating places for 420 children in total, covering an age range from four to 11.

The school would be run as an educational trust in partnership with Graveney School, which has for many years been one of the borough’s highest performing secondary schools and is widely recognised as one of England’s best state schools. The new school would be overseen by Graveney but would have its own headteacher and primary phase teachers

The proposals are designed to meet rising demand from parents for primary school places in Tooting.

In order for the plans to move forward and the new school to become a reality, local parents will need to show they support the idea.

Parents are now being urged to register their views by taking part in a survey of local needs organised by Graveney. The deadline for registering these views is Friday, February 24, 2012.

Parents who support the plans are being asked to complete the brief online survey at or return a copy of the questionnaire that’s contained in a leaflet outlining details of the new school that is now circulating throughout Tooting. Copies of the leaflet are available at Tooting Library and at nurseries and playgroups in the area.

Parents can also email responses to or write to Graveney School, Welham Road, Tooting, London SW17 9BU.

Read more here:

The Michaela School – Second Best For Tooting

As local councillors we have thought long and hard about the issues raised by the proposed new ‘free’ school in Tooting. Graveney councillors have been to the consultation meeting and spoken to local residents, parents and businesses in the Trident centre.

We recognise and respect the desire of local parents for more school places. Local people want more local secondary school places but the most practical way of providing such places is through expansion and increased resources at established local, successful, schools like Chestnut Grove and Graveney. Both schools lost out when the Building Schools for the Future funds were cut by the current government, calling a halt to expansion plans.

We do not want local parents left in the lurch by promises of a school that doesn’t happen. The Michaela Community School (MCS) proposal to occupy the Trident Business Centre site has not been planned or thought through. Even if it could meet its September 2012 deadline – at present the owners of the site have not  been given a realistic offer of purchase, nor has planning permission been applied for – it will offer places across a 10 mile area, selected by lottery. So local children in Tooting will have little chance of getting a place.

Even free schools have to be in the right place with the right facilities. If a free school is set up anywhere then we have a duty to make sure it has the highest possible standards and resources. The Trident Business Centre is a poor site for a school. Converting the site would be costly, would jeopardise hundreds of local jobs – over 400 – and would cause great disruption to commerce, traffic and local people in the area round Bickersteth Road.

Read more here:

Katharine Birbalsingh criticised over ‘wasteful’ free school project

By Daniel Boffey, The Observer

Trident Centre: 'preferred' free school site

Saturday 21 January 2012

Katharine Birbalsingh, the teacher described as a Tory darling for her attacks on state education standards, is at the centre of a dispute over her plans to open a free secondary school with a “private ethos” in an area of south London desperately in need of primary schools.

Birbalsingh has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money by parents and teachers in Tooting, Wandsworth, the proposed site of the Michaela community school, where Mandarin and Latin will be on the curriculum.

The new secondary school will take money away from the local authority if it attracts pupils from schools under the latter’s control. And critics say because the department for education has earmarked half of the £1.2bn it has allocated to school building on free schools, it does not have enough money to tackle the national crisis in primary schools.

Read the full story here:

Labour Debates Housing, Homelessness, and Free Schools at Council Meeting

Labour expressed concern over two key Tory policies at last week’s council meeting and drew attention to cuts in provision for single homeless people.

In the housing debate Tony Belton, Leonie Cooper and Peter Carpenter raised their concerns about the Government’s plans to move Council tenants to fixed-term tenancies, arguing that it would have little impact on the supply of affordable rented housing and would increase the ghettoization of council estates by potentially forcing out those who were working.

In the debate on Supporting People, Rex Osborn and Billi Randall challenged the Tories on cuts of £454,000, affecting up to 750 vulnerable people. Rex Osborn felt that there had not been proper consultation with all the organisations and the proposals lacked transparency in deciding which organisations would get their funding cut.

 On Academies and Free Schools, Wendy speck and Ben Johnson welcomed the setting up of a review panel to vet potential sponsors and providers, but argued that the Tories were inflexible in their approach because they did not see a role for good Education Authorities like Wandsworth to open schools. Paradoxically, the need for this committee suggested that the Council foresaw problems with the Government’s haphazard approach to providing new school places and exposed divisions in the Tory ranks.

Video of the debates can be seen here:

 Labour’s position on Free Schools

1. We have shown in government that we welcome innovation and greater involvement from outside organisations in schools. The free schools policy is not the best way to achieve this, but of course we remain supportive of those organisations who want to be more involved in our education system and bring innovation to it just as we were with academies and trust schools.

2. We’re worried that the government’s free school policy is a distraction from the vital task of improving the vast majority of schools and, as people know, we have major concerns about parts of this policy, including:

 • The schools are being funded by money taken from other schools

• There is no account of how the schools will be joined up with other local schools and services. We don’t want a free-for-all undermining other schools

• There are clearly concerns that schools might be able to open without meeting basic minimum standards like having a play ground That’s why we don’t support the Government’s free schools policy and why we have always been clear that this is not the way that we would have gone about things if we were in government now.

 3. We say that where schools that are established under the current government are successful, delivering for their pupils and communities, it is right that they continue. Labour wants to see good schools that extend opportunities, particularly in deprived areas, drive up standards in their localities, and close the attainment gap between children from rich and poor backgrounds. That is the basis on which we will assess the Government’s Free Schools policy and determine where changes are needed.


Wendy Speck, Wandsworth’s Labour Group’s new speaker on education has criticised Tory Leader Ravi Govindia’s economically unrealistic plans for “five or six” new free schools in the borough. Cllr Speck, a former headteacher, said “The Tory Council has already voted to spend £13 million for one ‘Free’ school site. This is not good value for money, particularly at a time when many of our current schools desperately need repairs.”

In July 2010 the Conservative-led government scrapped Building Schools for the Future, a programme that would have invested £300m in Wandsworth to rebuild or refurbish every state secondary school in the borough. “At a time when we are being told that the council needs to cut £70m, Cllr Govindia is committing tens of millions of pounds we simply don’t have to create schools we don’t need. Every free school that opens will take funding and pupils away from existing schools.

“There are many very good schools in Wandsworth, including in the most deprived areas. Wandsworth is one of the three best performing Local Education Authorities in the country with a proven track record of turning round schools in trouble. We should celebrate this success. “School standards across Wandsworth have doubled over the past ten years – thanks to hard work from teachers and pupils, investment from the Labour government and dedicated support from the Local Education Authority.

 “Cllr Govindia’s plan is political, not based on needs of our children. It won’t improve education and it will harm existing schools. We need policies based on fairness and compassion – this plan for encouraging ‘Free’ schools is based on neither.”

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