The Old Ashmount Site
Below is an account of the dialogue between the interested parties. Stands have been taken, statistics produced, many of them contradictory, but opinions have been expressed and much useful and interesting information generated over the years, which we present here for your edification.
Articles from third parties are presented as received and do not necessarily reflect views held by WHPARA. They are in reverse chronological order, i.e. most recent first.
5/2/15 - The Future of the Site, from Islington Council
- Received from Cllr David Poyser 5/2/15The Future of the Former Ashmount SiteAn Update from Hillrise Ward CouncillorsAfter many years of uncertainty, there is a new Whitehall Park school underway running from Portakabins on the site of the former Ashmount school. If/when the new school reaches capacity, it will have a much smaller entry than the previous school on the site, and its use of space will be better (they hope to, for example, have an additional play area on part of a roof), so even allowing for play space above national and local guidelines, this still leaves space for much-needed housing on the rest of the site.
Islington has a huge need for more social housing – for example there are many young families desperate to move out of the ‘grandparents’ over-crowded home. Nearby residents (which could, for example, include people in overcrowded flats on the Hornsey Lane Estate) will get priority in the allocation of the social housing.
Local residents have asked us for information about the future of the site. Many decisions are yet to be made, but in answer to the questions, this is an update of the current situation. Up to around 50 new homes are likely to be built on the site, though the exact numbers and design will depend on what happens in terms of the new school.
Last year, the owners of the new school looked at the cost of retaining the old school building and, like Islington’s experts before them, the cost of doing so was so prohibitive that the only way forward was to build a new school from scratch. The good news is the much-loved cockerel sculpture on the front of the school is incorporated in the plans for the new building. New plans have been displayed by the school after in-put from the Islington Design Review Panel, a group of local architects and experts who meet regularly to advise the Council Planning Team on design questions.
Just before Christmas, the attempts to judicially review the secretary of state’s decisions for the site were finally exhausted and (separately) the Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA) were appointed by the Council to make proposals for the remainder of the site. See Islington’s Executive report (pdf, 6.3MB) or download just the section on the Ashmount site (pdf, 541kB).
Housing Plans for the site
In terms of the ‘housing mix’ (social housing / private housing) and the numbers, the above link states “The revised housing proposals that are being worked up in more detail by ISHA for the retained portion of the site suggest that up to 51 new homes could be built on the site, subject to the necessary planning and other consents. The majority of these new homes would be affordable with a mix of homes for social rent and shared ownership. The anticipated capital receipt would be apportioned from their original offer of an 80% affordable housing scheme on the whole site” (Section 3.13).
ISHA are now working on their plans for housing on the site, and will shortly be consulting locally with residents about their proposed plans. They will be keen to come to meetings. Local residents will have opportunities to get involved both directly with ISHA and through the formal planning process when their planning application goes in.
It is possible that planning constraints around the need to balance the school site with the housing site may mean there are less than the proposed 51 new homes. As Islington’s Executive said, the plan is that at least 80% of these new homes will be ‘affordable’ (the planning policy requirement is a minimum of 50% affordable housing). They will be a mix of ‘social rent’ and ‘shared ownership’ - the council’s general policy is that around 70% of the affordable housing is for social rent, with the other 30% being shared ownership. However these proportions have not yet been exactly determined as this is dependent on finances, planning, design and so on. The new homes will not all be houses – it is likely there will be some houses and some flats.
Given the planning procedure, although the school are understandably keen to create permanent buildings for their young children, ISHA have not yet got a clear planning application timetable. We will let WHPARA know when they do, but we can say that it will not be at Islington Planning Committee before May 2015 due to all the pre-application steps they need to go through (this includes the resident consultation). Whilst they are separate applications, Islington’s Planning Department are aligning the timetables of the school and the housing as far as possible.
Trees on the site
Finally, the site has a number of trees (and there is wildlife associated with the trees), and residents have mentioned this. There are some strict planning policies around tree preservation. These involve evaluating individual trees on the site as to their conservation importance. Planning consultations will make clear which trees, after the evaluation, are proposed for removal, and whether there any plans to replace them elsewhere in the site. For this reason, in the ‘pre-planning’ process for the school, maintaining trees where possible has been an important factor in the siting of the buildings. In overall terms, Islington is proud of its pioneering steps making us a ‘Green’ Borough, for example the 20 mph speed limit has now been copied by many other London Boroughs.
Ward Partnership meetings
We are very aware that the decision to move the school, and the proposals for the subsequent future of the site, have created a lot of local feeling, some of it very bitter. Whitehall Park is a wonderful area. We hope that now overall decisions are agreed by both central government and Islington, that the consultations about carrying out those decisions, will be conducted in an open, consultative and cordial way.
We will be returning to this issue in future ‘Ward Partnership’ meetings, where local residents (who have the time!) are encouraged to come and share their views on Ward issues. If you are too busy, the minutes go up on the web-site. We try to arrange speakers to help discussion. The dates (and, when they are ready, the agendas) are on the Islington web-site http://www.islington.gov.uk/involved/ward-partnerships/Pages/hillrise.aspx.
Councillor Joe Caluori, responsible for Education in Islington, came to the most recent meeting to update the people there on the plans for the site. He affirmed that although Whitehall Park, the new free school on the site, is not part of Islington Education Authority, we see it as part of the Islington ‘family of schools’ and we wish the school, and the Islington children attending it, all the best (just as a ‘by the way’, this year, Islington’s GCSE results rose to 34th in the country, compared with 2010 when the current administration took over when Islington schools ranked 143rd out of 152). ISHA will also be invited to Ward Partnerships (and will also come to local resident meetings if you invite them). If you are able to come, we also had a presentation about TfL’s proposed changes to the Archway at our recent Ward Partnership meeting.
Keep in touch
Please do not hesitate to contact us on the former school site issue or any other issue. Our surgery details and emails are below, and we look forward to meeting those of you we have not already met, over the coming years.
Cllr Michelline Safi Ngongo. First Wednesday of the month at 6-7 pm at St Mary’s Church, Ashley Road, N19. email@example.com
Cllr David Poyser. Third Saturday of the month at 11.00 am at Hornsey Lane Community Centre, Hazelville Road, N19. Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Marian Spall. Last Monday of the month at 6.00 pm at Caxton House, 129 St John’s Way, N19 3RQ. There is no surgery in August, December or on Bank Holidays. Marian.email@example.com
(No surgeries in August or on Bank Holidays)
12/1/15 - A Farewell from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 12/1/15:Farewell, and an invitation to Trattoria Terra in Hazellville Road on Monday 19 January at 7pm.This is to thank you for your support for the successful campaign to save the former Ashmount School for the education of local children.
This is also to invite you to an informal meeting of ASAG at Trattoria Terra in Hazellville Road on Monday 19 January at 7pm. We know that local people have concerns about what is to come, and this is to be an opportunity to air and discuss those concerns.
ASAG began seven years ago as a group of local residents opposed to the move of Ashmount School to Crouch Hill - to the detriment of this local area. The school moved, but we continued to campaign for the site to be kept in educational use, a case strengthened by the oddly overlooked future shortage of primary school places in the area.
That battle was won, and Whitehall Park School has successfully opened and should be able to cater for all the local children who need primary school places – all surrounding schools are at capacity or over capacity with bulge classes, an issue that is predicted to become a crisis in the near future, though perhaps less of a crisis with the new school! And having a free school to compare with the local authority schools should help to maintain standards all round.
ASAG is very pleased that the school is state-funded, free, non-selective and non-denominational - a marvellous investment in the future of this community.
Cruelly however, LB Islington last year asked the Department for Education to release the rear half of the school site for housing (essentially to gift them the entire playground), and the DfE agreed, despite reasonable arguments put forward by ASAG - such as the problem of child health and obesity when insufficient playground space is available in schools. It is sobering to think that the new purpose built Ashmount School at Crouch Hill is astonishingly short of a proper playground - parents of children at that school are far from content. LBI clearly does not prioritise school playgrounds in general.
As you know, ASAG's application for judicial review of that decision was refused last month.
The Committee has therefore decided that ASAG’s role has come to an end. Much activity will now take place on the site:
And there will be issues around the fact that this is a conservation area. The trees (the taller trees on the site are subject to preservation orders, but are now doubtless at risk), the design and height of the buildings, and not forgetting that the cockerel is nationally listed, will all be issues of great concern locally.
- The plans for the new school will be developed and consulted on, though the anticipated opening date of the new buildings - September this year - looks over-optimistic
- The housing development plans will be consulted on, though construction will have to wait until the temporary school buildings are moved off the part of the site where the housing will be going
Local people may want to get together through the Whitehall Park Area Residents Association (WHPARA) or otherwise to present views about the developments. If you have developed a mistrust of London Borough of Islington over the last few years you may wonder how best (even if it is all possible!) to engage with the process, but that will not be ASAG’s role. ASAG does not believe LBI would wish to deal with those who fought successfully to save the site for educational purposes. And of course, the local press have been, to say the least, partial in their reporting. All good reasons for ASAG to disappear gracefully.
The feedback that Committee members have received since the refusal of judicial review and the effective loss of playground space at the new school has nevertheless included a recognition that we, the local community, have done all we could to save the Ashmount site for educational use.
You are very welcome to Trattoria Terra on 19 January at 7pm, when ASAG looks forward to seeing you.
17/12/14 - ASAG Judicial Review Part 3
- Received from ASAG 17/12/14:NEWS FROM THE ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE
Before JOHN HOWELL QC
(Sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge)
Wednesday 17 December, 2014
ASAG today had its day in Court - but it is with great sadness that we now write to say that ASAG were denied the Judicial Review that was believed would have seen the Secretary of State and London Borough of Islington give proper credence to the Government’s own playground regulations and not give the playground site over to housing development.
The Secretary of State and London Borough of Islington have asked for, and been awarded, £10,000 towards their costs - a large sum that surely prevents any thought of appeal.
The judgment makes a number of points, but the main thrust of the it says that the regulations have been not breached. This is galling because of course the former school enjoyed a decent playground, but the new one will have far less. Whatever the spirit of the regulations migt be, they do not protect play space. The judgment makes clear that the absence of proper guarantees in legislation or regulation leaves the Secretary of State and London Borough of Islington free to eliminate, if needed, all and any play space.
The absurdity of this judgment is plain - but the regulations are proven to be insufficient to safeguard the playground.
Children in the future will have to make do with what is left after the developers have had their land.
Under the circumstances, ASAG is not asking for any further donations, and will now review the funds it has already gathered to see if they match current awards made by the Court. However, ASAG does not expect to have to fund raise any further, pending a further public meeting and any new resolutions that any be made by the community.
1/12/14 - ASAG Judicial Review Part 2
- Received from ASAG 1/12/14:Join the Community’s Fight!
SAVE THE SCHOOL PLAYGROUND!
The legal review of the Secretary of State’s decision to squash Whitehall Park School into half the old school site is under way. (The Secretary of State for Education gave in to LB Islington’s demand for 51% of the site to be used for housing.) Don’t let him spoil the success of keeping the site for a school, which we have all achieved.
At the hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand on 17 December ASAG will be asking for permission to challenge that decision. It’s a public hearing.
The review is expensive, and might cost us £35,000 if we lose – but we would expect to get our costs paid if we win. There is no point in asking for permission if we’re not prepared to fund the full hearing.
At the public meeting on 19 November there wasn’t a single voice raised against this legal review, and an amazing £15,000 was pledged, most of which has now been paid into the ASAG account, at £500 a time. Of course those who pay will get their money back if we win. There’s no guarantee.
You probably know from previous emails, leaflets and meetings what the issues are:
- The play space for the children will be half the recommended size in the Government’s own guidelines. The new Ashmount School site is well known to be too small, and we don’t want that mistake again
- Obesity among Islington children is a particular problem
- Islington has the smallest amount of public open space of any London borough
- Whitehall Park School would like the whole space for the school
- The full site provides flexibility for the school to grow
- The 50 housing units, without parking provision, would seriously aggravate local parking problems
Please read the attached note (click here, 220Kb) about contributing to the fund and give what you think this is worth, but £500 would be excellent!
If you would like to find out more about any of these issues or about the court hearing, or you just want to drop in and give your views, you will be welcome:
84 Whitehall Park
7 December 2014, between 10.30 and 12.30
Whitehall Park School Site - Public Consultation 13/11/14
- Received from Whitehall Park School 7/11/14:“Whitehall Park School and Bellevue Place Education Trust would like to invite you to our Public Consultation Drop-In Session to learn more about our proposals for the development of Whitehall Park School over the coming months. This will give you an opportunity to take a look at our ideas and hear about our suggestions for the future of Whitehall Park School and to share with us your views about the site. The Public Consultation Drop-In Session will take place on:
Thursday 13th November 2014 from 4-7pm at Whitehall Park School, Ashmount Road, London, N19 3BH.
Over the last few months, a great deal of work has been going on behind the scenes to determine what may be the most effective solution for the permanent school site for Whitehall Park School. Various forms of professional surveys and investigations have been taking place to help our architects and surveyors as we work together as team to find a way to ensure that we can retain the natural beauty and environment of the old Ashmount School site and grounds. Many ideas have been explored and considered in great depth, including the possibility of refurbishing or developing parts or all of the existing buildings.
We look forward to welcoming you to Whitehall Park School and hope you are able to drop in at some point between 4pm and 7pm next Thursday.
Reply to: Office@whitehallparkschool.org.uk
22/9/14 - ASAG Judicial Review Part 1
- Received from ASAG 22/9/14:Judicial Review of decision to dispose of the school playground
“It was agreed at the public meeting in March that if the Department for Education approved the 49/51% split of the Ashmount site, so that the school loses the whole of its playground area, then we would apply for the decision to be judicially reviewed, as the small amount of outside space remaining would be contrary to the Government’s own guidelines on the amount of play space that primary school children need.
As you probably know, the Department for Education did agree to allow Islington’s plans for the playground to built on. So we have followed your views as expressed at the public meeting and applied for judicial review.
Judicial review is a two-stage process, the first stage being to apply for permission, and we shall let you know when a date for the permission hearing has been set. At that time another public meeting will be arranged so that we can let you know what the next steps are, and can make sure that those steps have your full support.
It has come to ASAG's attention that some people are claiming that the Ashmount site is to be transferred without charge to private ownership, specifically Bellevue Education Ltd, a commercial (for-profit) company.
This is both untrue and misleading. The site will be leased to Bellevue Place Education Trust, a non-profit-making charitable trust, for the purpose of running a state primary school for all local children, financed by central government, as stated on the school's web site, http://www.islingtonfreeprimary.co.uk/about-us/.
In common with all free school and academy trusts, the trust will only be able to use the land for the school. If the trust were wound up, the property would pass back to the Department for Education. Furthermore, the trust will be strictly non-profit-making. It can neither make profits itself, nor are the promoters allowed to charge services to it at a profit.”
7/8/14 - Statement from Councillors
- Our three Hillrise Ward councillors provided the following joint statement:“At last the Coalition government have finally made a decision, and the local people know the future of the derelict site of the former Ashmount school. We look forward to working with local residents as plans for the new school and the much-needed social housing go ahead. We wish the new school every success as it joins the Islington family of schools.
We are very pleased that the Islington residents crammed into social housing in the Hornsey Lane Estate, and other social housing in the area, will be top of the priority list for rehousing when the new social housing is built.
It’s unfortunate for the local residents that the government’s EFA has taken so long to make a decision on this site, but now we have a decision, the planning process first for building a new two form entry school, and then for a mix of social housing and private housing on the remainder of the site, can get under way.
We can now go ahead with ‘Ward Partnerships’ (public meetings) to listen to the views of local residents about the proposals for the site in the autumn. We talked with many hundreds of local residents in the run up to the Election. The people in the area gave overwhelming support for Islington Labour’s policies, supporting public housing, when we were elected in the Election on May 22nd with an overwhelming majority.”
Councillors Dave Poyser, Michelline Ngongo and Marian Spall, 7/8/14
1/7/14 - Planning Approved
- Press release received from Whitehall Park School 1/7/14:Planning permission approved for Whitehall Park School
Planning permission has been approved for the establishment of Whitehall Park School’s temporary classrooms on the former Ashmount School site on the Islington/ Haringey border on Hornsey Lane, N19.
The primary school is on track to open at the site with two Reception classes this September. Whitehall Park School’s Headteacher, Laura Birkett, says: “We had every confidence that the plans would be approved and have been working hard in the background finalising the detail of the high quality temporary buildings and outdoor learning area which will accommodate our Reception pupils during our opening year. We will have everything in place to provide our pupils with a stimulating, safe and welcoming environment from Wednesday 3rd September and we look forward to sharing more details with everyone shortly.
“We are also currently developing our draft travel plan into a fully working and operational one. As part of this we will be actively encouraging parents to use sustainable transport methods to travel to and from school. This will not only minimise the environmental impact of car travel but also that on our neighbours living in the adjacent streets.”
A planning application will be submitted this autumn for the school’s permanent building. Phase One of the permanent structure, scheduled to open in September 2015, will accommodate children from Reception to Year 2. Phase Two is due to be handed over a couple of months later, although this area of the building will not be required until the school’s first pupils reach Year 3 (Key Stage 2) in September 2017. Outdoor space will include hard and soft play areas, a rooftop play area and a multi-use games area, providing Whitehall Park School with more outdoor play area than was available to the school that was previously located at the site.
As the appeals process draws to a close, those considering one of the limited number of Reception places available at Whitehall Park School for their child for this September are invited to contact the Headteacher, Laura Birkett, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a message on 0845 459 0113.
3/6/14 - Project plan finalised
- Received from Whitehall Park School 3/6/14:
Further to our latest site update, we are delighted to announce that the project plan for the construction of Whitehall Park School’s permanent building on the former Ashmount School site on Hornsey Lane has now been finalised.
A planning application will be submitted this autumn. The project plan, which has been produced by building professionals with a wealth of experience, predicts that the contractor will start on site in January 2015. As Whitehall Park School will only require space for a maximum of 116 pupils in September 2015, an achievable two-phase construction handover is planned.
Phase One of the new building, which will accommodate Reception and Key Stage 1 classes (Years 1 and 2), is scheduled for completion for September 2015. Phase Two is due to be handed over just two months later, although this area of the building will not be required until our first pupils reach Year 3 (Key Stage 2) in September 2017.
A building contractor will be appointed following a strict procurement process. The construction works will be funded by the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency will be involved every step of the way to ensure that the project is delivered on time and to budget.
The proposals for the construction of high-quality temporary buildings which will accommodate the Reception pupils joining Whitehall Park School this September have been submitted to Islington council and the tenders requested from companies to supply these have now been received. We look forward to announcing the details of these shortly.
The Whitehall Park School Team
8/5/14 - WPS a “Popular Choice”
- Received from Whitehall Park School 16/5/14:
Whitehall Park School proves a popular choice for local families
We are delighted to confirm that Whitehall Park School has surpassed the number of acceptances that our Funding Agreement required to open. 40 families have already accepted the offer of a Reception place for their child for this September, with further families on the school’s waiting list, or due to respond to their offer.
Laura Birkett, Headteacher, says: “I’m thrilled that we have reached such a high number of acceptances so early on in the admissions process. We are still receiving a steady stream of applications to join our waiting list, some from families who have only recently heard of our school.”
This time last year, the Trust’s first primary free school, Rutherford House School in Balham, had received similar levels of acceptances, yet the school opened successfully and was at full capacity (bar one) by the time of the Autumn Census and full with a waiting list by Christmas. Rutherford House has received over 300 applications for its 60 Reception places available for this September.
Laura adds: “As Cllr Joe Caluori recently explained in the Islington Gazette, we are expecting some movement in primary admissions which will help the one in four children in Islington who were not allocated a place at their first choice primary last month and the 144 children who were not offered a place at any of their six chosen schools. We will open with two Reception classes, and encourage parents and carers to join our waiting list. For the first year we are able to accommodate up to 28 pupils in each class, which is still a smaller class size than at many state primaries.”
Laura is planning on visiting all the local nurseries, children’s centres, and playgroups over the next few weeks to see our children in their current learning environment and to answer any questions that other parents/carers may have about Whitehall Park School.
Laura takes up her post at Whitehall Park School on Monday 19th May from St John the Baptist C of E Primary School in Hoxton where, as Head of School, she led the transformation of the school from challenging circumstances to a much improved Ofsted rating last April of ‘Good, with Outstanding Features’. Pupils will also benefit from being taught by highly qualified and experienced teachers who have now been appointed to the school.
As Whitehall Park School is running its own admissions for the first year of opening, parents are invited to join the waiting list by completing the short online application form at www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk/apply.
Those interested in finding out more about Whitehall Park School are invited to contact Laura Birkett at email@example.com or by leaving a message on 0845 459 0113.
8/5/14 - Update from WPS
- Received from Whitehall Park School 8/5/14:
Whitehall Park School reaches another milestone
We are thrilled to announce that Whitehall Park School has already comfortably surpassed the 24 acceptances that our Funding Agreement, signed last month by the Secretary of State, stipulates that our school must reach.
With nearly 40 applicants having already accepted their offer of a place and with 22 families currently on our waiting list, or due to respond to our offer, Whitehall Park School is set to open on the former site of Ashmount School with two Reception classes this September. It is still very early days in the admissions process and we are still receiving a steady stream of applications to join our waiting list, some from families who have only recently heard of our school.
Although we already have enough children to open our school, we are confident that we will reach our full capacity of 56: this time last year, the Trust’s first primary free school, Rutherford House School in Balham, had received fewer acceptances, yet the school opened successfully and was at full capacity (bar one) by the time of the Autumn census. You may also be interested to know that Rutherford House has received over 300 applications for the 60 Reception places available for this September, and we are sure that Whitehall Park will follow suit when parents can make our school one of their six choices when our admissions are run through LBI next year.
Our ambition is to be nothing less than excellent in all that we do and our first Reception intake will benefit from being taught by our exceptional Headteacher and Assistant Heads. If you have any questions or wish to find out more about our school, please do not hesitate to contact our Headteacher, Laura Birkett, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In further news we can confirm that tenders have been requested from companies to supply the temporary classrooms for September. Tenders are due back in the next few weeks and we hope to be able to shortly announce the details of the temporary classrooms and hall.
To add your child to our waiting list for a 2014 Reception place, simply complete the short online application form at www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk/apply. As soon as a place becomes available, an offer will be made in accordance with our admissions policy.
Whitehall Park School
30/4/14 - Playground Update from WPS
- Posted on April 30, 2014 by Team Media
There appears to be some confusion and mis-information around the site so we thought it worthwhile addressing some of these points in order that you have the information directly from us and the Department for Education:
- Representatives of the Department for Education have confirmed that the Funding Agreement between the Secretary of State for Education is in place and as such Whitehall Park School will open in September 2014 on the former Ashmount school site.
- The minimum land available for the school on the site will be half the area of the current school site. The school could increase to the whole site should a negotiated settlement with LBI not happen. However, it will never be less than half the site. It is worth noting that the original Ashmount School was a 3FE and Whitehall Park will be a 2FE so our building footprint will be significantly smaller than the building that you see on the site currently.
- Half the site represents just over 4,000 square metres. This is larger than many LBI school sites and bigger than the minimum DfE building regulations for a 2FE school in an urban environment.
- Representatives of the Department for Education confirm that there will be as much outdoor play area on the site as there was before for the previous school. This will include a multi-use games area and rooftop outdoor area for use by the pupils.
- If the school is only sited on half the site, we understand the other half of the site will be used for up to 50 housing units.
- It is proposed (if it goes ahead) that demolition of the housing side of the site will take place before September 2014.
- The temporary accommodation for September 2014 will be at the far end of the site, away from the road, leaving the remainder of the new/remodelled building to be developed.
- We are advised that the building of the housing (if it happens) will not commence until the school is out of the temporary accommodation in September 2015.
- The new school will be built/remodelled while both of our Reception classes are in the temporary accommodation. We will move into the new/remodelled building in September 2015.
Subscribe to our email newsletter here to be the first to know about the latest developments, news and events.
The Whitehall Park School Team
7/3/14 - Public Meeting Feedback
- It was a packed house at last night's public meeting, organised by ASAG to discuss the LBI plan to retain half of the Ashmount site for housing. It was standing room only as some 70 people crammed into Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre to make their feelings known. The overwhelming majority of those present was in favour of retaining the site for educational use (though not necessarily supportive of free schools per se) and against dividing the site, and many shared their personal experiences of seeking primary school places for their children. Francis Wilkinson gave us the background and other speakers included Lib Dem campaigner Carl Quilliam and a spokesman from Bellevue, as well as the many local residents.
Click here for ASAG’s feedback from the meeting../../../resources/The-School/Ashmount/ASAG-Public-Meeting-Feedback.pdf,[iframe]
27/2/14 - From ASAG: Notice of Public Meeting
- Received from ASAG 27/2/14:
ASAG PUBLIC MEETING
Wednesday, 5th March 2014 at 7.30pm
Venue: Community Centre on Hornsey Lane Estate
Entrance to the estate is off Ashmount Road, to the left of number 28
Express Your Views on London Borough of Islington’s LAND GRAB of the ‘OLD’ ASHMOUNT SCHOOL PLAYGROUND
The proposed Whitehall Park School on the former Ashmount School site is set to open in September 2014. But London Borough of Islington propose to sell off 51% of the site to a housing developer, losing the whole of the existing playground. An illustration of the LBI plan appears above.
And yet the site should be 95% of its current size to meet national guidelines for space for primary school children. Should the playground be built on? Does housing always trump child health and educational needs? Salami slicing kids’ play space is London Borough of Islington’s proposal. Their division of the site would also mean losing trees – the school site enjoys many listed trees. They will go.
- Hearing local views
- Briefings on the latest LBI proposals and current situation with Department for Education
- Briefing on health implications for children: inadequate play space is a proven contributor to obesity among children
- Proposing a fighting fund
22 May local elections
Local Lib Dems have come out in support of saving 100% of the site for the new school. LBI don’t make the decisions about this, central Government does and ASAG has helped win a great victory by keeping the site as a school. The Government needs to know what local people think about this public resource - are education and child health negotiable?
10/2/14 - LBI Executive Approves Playground Plans - feedback from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 9/2/14
LBI Executive rubber-stamp their plan to seize new Whitehall Park School playground - despite soaring obesity among school children
At a more than usually choreographed meeting on Thursday 6 February the Executive of the London Borough of Islington approved the proposals put before them to take 51% of the Ashmount site - the school playgrounds - for a housing development. Councillors made supportive noises to each other when trying to answer
- How it was that they were being asked to make a decision when they had no information whatever in the paper as to what central government (the Education Funding Agency) might pay for the site if Islington were to agree to its transfer to Whitehall Park School
- How Islington’s high level of childhood obesity would be addressed without adequate playspace - Councillor Janet Burgess praised a school with minimal playspace for having ‘only’ 21% obesity among 10-year-olds. Is a fifth of 10-year-olds being obese regarded by anyone else as acceptable?!
- Whether putting housing on the thin Southern strip of the site is feasible in terms of access. Councillor Joe Caluori said that was for the later planning stage, but that is obvious nonsense - whether the Executive’s plan is feasible at all had to be considered at this stage. There was no mention of that in the paper anywhere.
- How halving the size of the site could be justified when the national BB99 standard for space per child at primary schools requires 95% of the site. Councillor Caluori said that standard is obsolete, but it is not: it is the current standard used now by the Department for Education. It is under review, but nothing has replaced it. Councillor Caluori did not venture to say what he thinks the right amount of space per child is.
The supportive noises were not heard from any other part of the meeting room. ASAG’s contribution was strictly time-limited (3 minutes). The opportunity for other people to speak was offered for perhaps 2 seconds before the Leader, Richard Watts, removed the opportunity by putting the proposals to the vote. Nobody was quick enough to get in. There was not the slightest quibble about any of the above matters raised by any of the Executive (the Executive is made up entirely of councillors from the majority party, which at present is Labour).
Those who want the whole site kept for educational purposes will want to bear in mind that the decision about whether half the site - or indeed any part of it - is to be released for something other than educational use is not a decision for local councillors. It is a decision for the Secretary of State. The Education Funding Agency, who negotiate on the Secretary of State’s behalf, has proposed that the Bridge Special School also move to the Ashmount Road site from September 2015, a year after Whitehall Park School opens on the site. That school has a capacity of 25 children with special needs aged between 7 and 19: at present they have 23 children. It is also to become a free school. Moving the Bridge School will provide a site that LB Islington can (and will) then use for housing, so it ought to be an attractive option for councillors. But the Executive is apparently unable to see the benefits for everyone in the Education Funding Agency’s proposal, so have adopted a muddled, unworkable and unrealistic proposal instead.
- Muddled because it does not perceive the advantages of the central government proposal, but sticks to the old line that there should be housing on the old Ashmount site without having the information on which to base a decision
- Unworkable because it leaves a site inadequate for a school, the only plan provided being a site plan with a line drawn down the middle: no buildings or anything else appear on the site
- Unrealistic because the plan hasn’t been agreed with the EFA (and won’t be, we sincerely hope) so that the Executive’s decision is just so much hot air. Any decision as to the future use of the site should have been delayed until after the Secretary of State’s decision is known, which is expected to be next month.
This outcome of the Meeting cannot be described as good news, since the Executive might have recognised that no decision could sensibly be taken by them at this stage. On the other hand it is unlikely to have much effect on the decision to be taken by the Education Funding Agency because the proposals adopted by the LBI Executive are so unsoundly based.
ASAG will continue to campaign on your behalf for the site to be kept for educational use. We shall report to you as soon as we hear the Secretary of State’s decision.
3/2/14 - ASAG on School Playground
- Received from ASAG 3/2/14
LBI eyes up Whitehall Park School’s playground...
ASAG welcomes the Department for Education’s proposal for both Whitehall Park School and Bridge Integrated Learning Space to be housed on the Ashmount Road Site. It calls for LBI Executive to reject a proposed refusal to negotiate on this basis. (A background note can be read below).
The Ashmount Site Action Group (‘ASAG’) has campaigned for more that 5 years for the site of Ashmount School in Hornsey Lane to be retained in educational use. There is a fully researched case showing the un-met need for primary school places in the area, and the new school will be full. We have been opposed by London Borough of Islington (LBI)’s Executive all along, and are very pleased indeed that the Department for Education has overruled Islington and has decided that the site will be kept for a school. The new school is opening in September this year and will be known as Whitehall Park School. It will be a mainstream state primary school, and a Free School. LB Islington now acknowledges this.
The Department for Education proposes that Whitehall Park School share the site with the Bridge Special School, which will become a free school known as ‘Bridge Integrated Learning Space’. That school is currently in premises not far away in Elthorne Road and it is proposed that it will move in September 2015.
LBI opposes that move and instead proposes that the southern half of the old Ashmount School site be used for housing, and the Bridge School move to a site in Dowrey Street, (2.5 miles away from Elthorne Road) in the centre of the Borough. A paper making that proposal is being presented to the LB Islington Executive Committee this Thursday 6 February (see here). The public and press may or may not be admitted to this meeting.
ASAG is completely opposed to the splitting of the site as proposed to the LBI Executive. There are a number of excellent reasons why LB Islington should not approve any such plan, and indeed is not in a position to be able to do so. The reasons are:
- The existing grounds of the new Whitehall Park School are the right size for a primary school of the size it will be (2-form entry) using the national guidelines – obviously taking half the site for housing would mean the grounds would be half the correct size.
- There is good evidence that opportunities for exercise, which would be much reduced with half the grounds, are a significant positive contributor to child health. That subject is not considered in the paper presented to the LBI Executive (although the paper is presented by the Executive Member for Children and Families, who has responsibility for child health).
- There is no consideration at all of how practical the housing proposal would be. No consideration is given to how access would be provided to fire and refuse services, for example, or what provision there would be for disabled parking. The proposed housing site is a long thin one with very short road access.
- There is no information about what the Department for Education would pay to LBI if they agreed to the whole site being used for education. There have been extensive negotiations about the future of this site between LBI and DfE (through the Education Funding Agency). It is essential for members to know the financial consequences of the position that they are being invited to take. That financial information might be said to be exempt information, but there is no indication that the information is available to members at all.
The paper being presented to LBI Executive gives the impression of an attempt to salvage something from the wreck of a policy to build houses on the school site. It is unlikely that the DfE would agree to any such proposal. LBI Executive should gracefully accept that fact and do the best for their council tax payers by negotiating a financial payment in return for the site being retained for educational use, as it will be, and as is demonstrably necessary. Any other decision would be not only pointless but financially irresponsible.
ASAG has provided further details about this in a paper submitted to LBI Executive, and on its website at www.asag.org.uk.
Background note: The old Ashmount school was closed by LBI and removed to a school built on land acquired free of charge, thus making the old site in effect a gift to LBI. Unfortunately demographics have caught up and there is a critical and demonstrable need for continued education on the old site (despite protestations and assurance, but no data, from LBI - check the facts here (9.8Mb) - a large but exhaustive and impartial study undertaken by ASAG). A free school, called Whitehall Park School, will now open in September 2014 - this being the only option remaining after LBI declined all efforts at persuading them to retain the school. LBI have waged a relentless campaign to dispose of the site and realise its asset value. Local parents and residents have resisted, compiling a huge petition which LBI declined to accept. The latest proposal from LBI to acquire the new school’s playground is a mark of the continuing disdain for educational provision in the area.
30/1/14 - LBI’s Playground Plans
- From LBI’s website
New housing proposal for former Ashmount School site
Date: 30 January 2014
Author: Chris Roe
Badly-needed affordable housing would be built on the site of the former Ashmount School under a new proposal from Islington Council. The site in Archway, N19, closed in December 2012 when pupils moved to a modern school on a new site at nearby Crouch Hill Park.
Islington Council wants to use the land, no longer needed by the council for educational purposes, to build much-needed affordable homes. But the Secretary of State for Education has told the council he proposes to establish a new free primary school, Whitehall Park School, at the site.
The council argues the free primary school is not needed as there is already plenty of good provision for local Islington children, so the free school is poor value for money for the taxpayer. Also the land is badly needed for local homes. Now a report to the council’s Executive proposes that half of the site is used for the new free school, and half to provide affordable homes. The report also sets out a proposal to establish the Bridge Integrated Learning Space, a mixed special school for pupils aged 7-19, in a new building at the council’s Dowrey Street site. The new building would also house the New River College Primary PRU.
Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council’s executive member for children and families, said:
“We are still firmly opposed to a free school on the old Ashmount site. We have shown we have plenty of planned primary school places in our schools, and that parents can already expect a first-rate education in Islington for their children. However, the Department for Education seem determined to proceed with a free school which is not needed, and it’s our responsibility to make sure families in the borough get the maximum benefit from the site. That’s why we are bringing a report to our Executive that sets out a plan for the future of the old Ashmount site, and also the Bridge Integrated Learning Space and our Pupil Referral Unit at Dowrey Street. Essentially we are proposing to split the Ashmount site in half, with half the site retained for approximately 50 affordable homes. This split would provide the free school with enough outside space to meet national guidance and would be comparable to other similar-sized schools in the borough, while also allowing us to build badly-needed affordable family homes. This whole process has been chaotic and opaque so we have decided to set out a clear position. The ball is now in the DfE’s court.”
The report will be considered by Islington Council’s Executive on Thursday, February 6.
26/1/14 - School Playground Update
- From ASAG’s website, 26/1/14
THREAT BY LBI TO CARVE UP THE ASHMOUNT SITE - Jan 2014 latest
After five years of campaigning to keep the Ashmount Site in educational use, the Ashmount Site Action Group (ASAG, formed on June 25, 2008), is approaching the final months before a decision is announced.
The Islington Tribune (January 10) have implied the LBI, after a rather reprehensible campaign of ignoring or distorting the stated wishes and needs of the local community, even ignoring a petition of local residents (which was, by their own admission, one of the largest they had ever received), they now accept that the proposed Whitehall Park School will occupy the site in September, 2014, providing this community with a much needed primary school.
However, the community must not be complacent. While forced into accepting this school under a warning that the site could be requisitioned by the Department for Education, which LBI, according to the Tribune, see as a ‘defeat’ for them, the latest stratagem is to try to retain as much of the site as possible for their housing projects. This would effectively turn the site from a normal size ‘unconfined’ primary school to a ‘confined’ restrictive site according to the DfE’s BB99 Briefing Framework for Primary School Projects.
In confining the site and thereby stopping the proposed school obtaining a natural and healthy growth, LBI feel they can still obtain profits from their high density housing proposals while once more ignoring the wishes of the community and, indeed, the school providers. ASAG is continuing to fight for Whitehall Park School to occupy the full, legitimate-sized site when it opens in September, 2014.
To this end we have asked the community to write to either the Department for Education and/or Bellevue Place, the school providers. We understand that many have already done so. If you have not done so, please do so at once. The clock is ticking. A decision is fairly imminent.
On this website you will see the official letter sent by ASAG’s chair, Francis Wilkinson, to the DfE and Bellevue-Place stating our position on behalf of local residents. (here)
To give you information about the size of the Ashmount Site and how it stands in relationship to the DfE’s recommendations for a size of a primary school (BB99) we provide the figures and analysis compiled from the DfE guidelines (here)
Finally, on this website you will find a letter from a consultant in Public Health in London who points out the important health issues that arise from such confined school sites, as LBI apparently proposes. It makes compelling reading. (here)
We urge the community to continue to support our campaign, as you have done during these long years. The DfE announcement is expected within the next two months.
Make sure that the Ashmount Site is kept in education in its entirety and no more high density housing is squeezed into this already highly populated area. It is a school that are needed here, rather than housing.
15/1/14 - School Playground Under Threat
- (See also the letters to Bellevue Place, received from our members, on the Forum page.)
Received by email from ASAG 15/1/13
Is a school playground important? - salami slicing kids’ health
You may have noticed from the local press that LB Islington has now accepted the inevitable, which is that the old Ashmount site will continue to be used for a primary school, which will be known as Whitehall Park School.
What Islington are now trying to do is to get the Department for Education to agree that while part of the site will be used as a school, part of it can be used for housing. We don’t have any information as to what percentage of the site they would like to be used for each, nor which parts.
At present there is a consultation going on about the new school, which is open only until 21 January, run by Bellevue Place who will operate the new school. This is an opportunity for you to let Bellevue Place know what you think about this proposal. See here (note the site asks you about cookies, which is normal)
The responses to the consultation will go to the Department for Education. Bellevue Place will set up a school on the site that they are given by the Department of Education.
While they cannot not control whether the Department agrees to the compromise that Islington is pushing for, the consultation is more or less the only opportunity for local residents to express their views, and show the strength of support for the maintenance of the whole site.
ASAG has campaigned for the site to remain in educational use, and that means all the site. Why do we say this?
- It would limit the future size of the school for any part of the site to be lost to educational use. The school will start as a 2-form entry school, but future demand might make 3-form entry or 4-form entry necessary. The site would be big enough to allow that.
- Once lost to educational use it would be almost impossible to get it back. It removes the opportunity to use the lost part of the site for a school or other community use in the future.
- There is a standard for the area of a new primary school, in order to provide children with enough playspace. A link is available on our website setting out the detail.
- It is important that a school meets that standard. A problem that was always foreseen with the new Ashmount school site on Crouch Hill was the lack of play space. Islington Council disregarded this and the school was built even though it did not meet the national standard. The children there have very limited opportunities to play outside and parents and Governors have both expressed concern about that. We must make sure that problem is not allowed to blight the new Whitehall Park School.
- Many people have expressed the view that the school should provide the opportunity for other community uses, particularly outside school hours. Several suggestions have been made (exercise groups, clubs, meeting room, adult education, etc). You may have your own ideas. There should be scope for the site to be used for that in an area which is short of public space.
- Removing part of the site from school use would be likely to create access and safety issues.
- There are a lot of protected trees on the site, some of them old and beautiful trees protected since before the current school building was built. The more densely the site is built upon the more of those trees will be lost.
- There are no plans for the new school, and no decision yet as to whether the old school will be demolished or not. In any event no decision as to taking part of the site for housing, or for anything else, should be made until those plans have been made.
- Selling off part of the land for housing will reduce the play space, and so have a potential impact on health of the children. It is a well known fact that obesity in young people is linked to lack of exercise, and if there is less space to run about, the likelihood of sedentary children increases. Not to mention mental health, as green spaces in urban areas have been proven to improve well being (read more on Exeter University’s website). Will there be space for a vegetable garden, football pitch, quiet wildflower area if part of the site is split off for housing?
You may think some of these are important, and others are not a concern for you. You may think other matters not mentioned here are more important.
We encourage you, whatever your views, to make them known in the consultation (here) by 21 January.
How people respond to this consultation will make a difference!
11/1/14 - Admissions Note From WPS
- Received from Whitehall Park School:
Apply directly to Whitehall Park School and gain an extra choice of primary school.
Closing date for applications – 15th January
We are aware that some parents have not yet heard of this new option of primary school for 2014, and will therefore not know that they are able to apply directly to Whitehall Park School in addition to the usual Local Authority process.
Are your friends aware that an application for Whitehall Park School is a risk-free choice for 2014? Don’t let them miss out!
Parents and carers who apply directly to Whitehall Park School, using the short form on our website at www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk/apply, will give themselves the chance of being offered two Reception places, one from Whitehall Park School and one through the Local Authority.
After primary allocation day (16th April 2014), when we will also be emailing all applicants and posting letters by first class post to inform them of our decision, there will be an opportunity to meet our outstanding Headmistress Designate, Laura Birkett, and find out more about our school. This event will take place before those who are offered places at Whitehall Park School and another school need to decide which place to accept.
Our latest newsletter, which can be viewed at http://createsend.com/t/y-509112C95EEE4F34, contains more information on applying for a 2014 Reception place. You can also read about Laura and find out how to apply for a role on the school’s governing body. Please forward the link to a friend!
You can sign up to receive our e-newsletter on the Register page of the website at www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk. We are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whitehallparkschool and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WhitehallPkSch.
7/1/14 - Extended Consultation
- Forwarded by David Barry, from an email replying to his query to Thanos Morphitis, Director of Strategy and Commissioning, Islington Children’s Services:
The current position with the EFA is as set out on the Free School’s Website:“The Ashmount site has been selected as the preferred site and the Education Funding Agency are looking at ways to procure the site, including by way of negotiations with the Local Authority.”
Please note that there is a further consultation being undertaken:
Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET) is entering into an additional period of consultation relating to the site of the proposed Whitehall Park School. The consultation period is open now and will run until 12 noon on Tuesday 21st January 2014.
Following discussions with the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency, BPET is now able to name the preferred site of the school as the site of the former Ashmount Primary School at Ashmount Road, Islington N19 3BH.
The Trust welcomes any comments in respect of the plan to locate the proposed school on this site. To participate in the consultation, please email any comments to email@example.com. Specifically, we would like your answer to the following questions:
- Do you think the proposed Whitehall Park School should open on the site of the former Ashmount School at Ashmount Road, Islington N19 3BH
- Please explain your reasons for your answer to question 1
- Please give any further comments that you would like to be considered in our consultation
All comments must be received by 12 noon on 21st January 2014
18/12/13 - Meet The Head
Meet The HeadParents and carers will be able to meet Whitehall Park School’s Headmistress Designate on Wednesday 8th January, 7– 8.30pm at Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre (see poster). For those unable to make it she will be hosting an informal Coffee Morning on Thursday 9th January. See the newsletter for more details.
18/12/13 Meet The Head
Meet The HeadParents and carers will be able to meet Whitehall Park School’s Headmistress Designate on Wednesday 8th January, 7– 8.30pm at Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre (see poster). For those unable to make it she will be hosting an informal Coffee Morning on Thursday 9th January. See the newsletter for more details.
21/11/13 The Squatters Leave
- Yesterday, 20th November, the squatters left. Over 100 of them had moved in when the caretakers left the school in early October. The Islington Gazette reports that “Witnesses said men, women, children and even dogs were seen peacefully leaving the old Ashmount Primary School building in Hornsey Lane, under the supervision of the police and Islington Council.” The squatters have until Wednesday November 27th to return two at a time to the building to retrieve any belongings that have been left behind. The Gazette had previously reported that it had spoken to residents living close to the building who had “expressed anger” at the squatters’ use of free electricity. The empty building is now being guarded by security personnel employed by the council.
15/11/13 from ASAG - The London School Atlas
- Greater London Authority: The London Schools Atlas
Proof that Haringey is taking the Islington overflow...
You may have heard of the London Schools Atlas which the GLA has published to help understand where the shortfalls are in primary and secondary school places in London. ASAG has analysed this in relation to the need for places in this part northerly part of Islington (see here - 300Kb) and found that Hillrise ward has two children seeking places for each place in the only Hillrise ward school. Children have to go to Haringey schools - Haringey educates 200 more Islington children than Islington does Haringey’s, partly as a result of this shortfall of places locally.
The conclusion is clear. Owing to increasing demand, Islington already needs a 2-form entry school in the north or north-east of the borough and the Ashmount site is the only place with sufficient capacity.
- ASAG - Ashmount Site Action Group was formed to save the site of the old Ashmount School for educational use.
- ASAG believes that schools are quite as important as houses.
- ASAG campaigns with great support locally - a petition of 1,121 was easily gathered and presented to LBI.
- ASAG has campaigned for a free access, comprehensive state-funded school.
- ASAG supports the free school option since no other option is open.
- ASAG campaign is described in detail here.
Note about detailed information on the school place shortage in North Islington
The Council has consistently maintained that there is no need for a school in north Islington or in the neighbouring part of Haringey and, were there to be a shortage of places, existing schools could readily be expanded to meet demand. On 17 June 2013 an independent planning inspector’s report endorsed the Council’s position. Executive members of the Council have claimed this on the record. However...
ASAG’s researches tell a different story and support the DfE’s decision to approve the free school opening on the Ashmount site. See here - 9.8Mb
Unlike the surrounding councils, which publish a comprehensive annual school places planning report, Islington publishes no detailed information for the general public. Indeed, they recently blocked access to the one document that was available by search. Information requested under Freedom of Information (such as a breakdown of a published table) has sometimes been unavailable. Figures supplied under FOI after more than one request have in more than one case conflicted with data published elsewhere.
In this context, we have had to come to some conclusions indirectly, by combining information from a number of sources, rather than by having the data we need – and that undoubtedly exists – in front of us.
But the conclusion is clear. Owing to increasing demand, Islington needs a 2-form entry school in the north or north-east of the borough and the Ashmount site is the only place with sufficient capacity.
15/11/13 from ASAG - Message from Whitehall Park School
- Message from Whitehall Park School
Dear ASAG Supporter,
Thank you on behalf of the Trustees of Whitehall Park School for all the support you have shown for the plans for our school thus far.
As you will know, we are planning to open in Islington next September with two Reception classes of 28 pupils. The school will be run on a not-for-profit basis by Bellevue Place Education Trust.
First Open Event next Thursday
Our Open Events for children starting school next September will take place at Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre, Hazellville Road, London N19 3YJ on:
Thursday 21st November, 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Thursday 5th December, 7.00pm – 8.30pm
(Presentation at 7.30pm on both days.)
We would be grateful if you could confirm your attendance to help us plan each session. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 0845 459 0113 stating: *your name *contact number *the number of people in your party *the session you wish to attend.
Thank you to all of those who have already confirmed their attendance. We look forward to meeting many of you at our first Open Event next Thursday!
Join us on Facebook
If you do not have children starting school next year but simply wish to support our school, we would be delighted if you would join us on Facebook. Please Like our page at www.facebook.com/whitehallparkschool.
To receive information about future events and be kept up-to-date with the school’s progress, you can also sign up to receive our e-newsletter on the Register page of our website at www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk.
We look forward to keeping you updated with our progress.
The Whitehall Park School Team
84 Whitehall Park
London, N19 3TN
1/11/13 from ASAG - Admission Process Begins
WHITEHALL PARK SCHOOL STARTS ADMISSIONS PROCESS
Today, November 1, the admission process for the reception classes for September, 2014, and those interested in reception classes for 2015, has been opened for the Whitehall Park School, the primary school that is badly needed in this community. Ms Sam Habgood BA, PGCE, will be Founding Head Teacher until the permanent Head Teacher is announced.
A leaflet about Whitehall Park School open days and application process can be seen here (1.1MB).
After five years of campaigning to keep the Ashmount Site in educational use, a happy outcome seems in sight. The local community continues to be firmly supportive of keeping the site as their local primary and an integral part of this community, in spite of recent efforts of the Anti Academies Alliance, under the misleading name of ‘Support Our Local Schools’, to claim to speak for this community. This group, in spite of its name, supports London Borough of Islington (LBI) in their attempt to sell off the site for housing development.
Our community last year presented a petition of 1,121 signatures of local residents to LBI to keep Ashmount in education. They clearly foresaw that this area would descend into a primary school ‘black-hole’ with the removal of the local school to Crouch Hill. This has been shown by many local parents’ reporting difficulties in placing their children. Parents know there will be more than enough school children for this and other schools.
Yet at the end of 2012 LBI asked the Department of Education to agree that Ashmount ‘was surplus to educational needs’ so they could sell it off for a housing development. It was obvious from projected ‘baby boom’ figures that it remains badly needed. With LBI abrogating its responsibilities, the only alternative is a Primary Free School, which will be not-for-profit, run by a charity, and with open access and non-denominational.
24/10/13 from PC Mick Murray, Hillrise SNT
- 24/10/13 from an email to WHPARA from PC Mick Murray
Squatters in Empty Ashmount School Site
I have just been in communication with the council re squatters at the above. It seems as though there are about 100 persons living on the site. The council office served official notice to quit today, telling them to leave by next Wednesday. The squatters seem organised and are unlikely to leave, therefore a legal process will have to be gone through which could take some months.
I have looked at the crime figures for the Whitehall Park area and I cannot see any marked change in the usual patterns. The area was suffering from a spate of thefts from motor vehicles and there have been a further 3 last week but likely this is not linked to the squatters.
PC 547NI Mick Murray
Hillrise Safer Neighbourhood Team
24/10/13 from ASAG - Time Bomb
- Time Bomb
Some Islington officials and some local authority schools dislike the idea of a school on the Ashmount site, despite clear and objective proof that it is needed to meet the demographic time bomb we all know about - acknowledged by leaders of all parties at the national level, but dogmatically denied locally.
There are some who have spread misinformation that ill serves local parents – such as “the site is to be transferred without charge to private ownership” (it won’t), or “from 2014 there will be an additional 58 places at reception in this area” (which is misleading).
The truth of the situation on the other hand can be found in a large, exhaustively researched document on the ASAG web site here (this is a necessarily large file of 9.5Mb).
The facts are important. Bland generalisations won't do.
Act now to retain the school
If you want to retain a much needed school on the Ashmount site, and have not responded to the consultation launched by Bellevue-Place Education Trust then now is the time to act. The anti-school lobby have urged parents and others to register hostile attitudes, and so some balance is needed. This option is the only way to preserve the site for education. Every adult in the area should make their submission to the consultation. We know how popular the new school will be – because ASAG easily gathered a 1,121 name petition, but London Borough of Islington waved this aside as irrelevant.
The Consultation deadline is Monday 28th October.
Respond on-line here.
Key facts about the new school
1. Whitehall Park School will be not-for-profit charity. It will be non-denominational and non-selective, unlike the 15 faith primary schools in the Borough, that LBI apparently have no complaint about.
2. All Free Schools are run by what is known as an Academy Trust. An Academy Trust is a private Company limited by guarantee. All Academy Trusts are exempt charities which mean that they have Charitable status but are not registered with or regulated by the Charities Commission and do not therefore have a Charity number. Academy Trusts are regulated by the Education Funding Agency.
3. An Academy Trust may become the owner of a Freehold site from which they are to occupy and run the Free School. This freehold land will be protected by what is known as a legal charge in favour of the Secretary of State for Education. Under the Funding Agreement, the Academy Trust promises to enter this restriction on to the freehold title. This means that a Free School could not sell the land without the Secretary of State's consent. There are further restrictions within the Funding Agreement that prevent an Academy Trust from disposing of Assets which include the land.
This arrangement is exactly analogous to how Faith Schools are set up – (according to the LBI web site), “School buildings are usually owned by a charitable foundation and/or religious organisation”.
21/10/13 from David Barry
- What you should know about the proposal to establish a Free School on the old Ashmount site
This is a copy of an email sent out to all Chairs of Governors of Islington Schools.
I am writing to you as a fellow Chair of Governors at an Islington school.
You may be aware that there is a proposal to establish a new "Free School" using the Old Ashmount primary school site and building on Hornsey Lane to the North of the Borough. I happen to be well briefed on this project and the adverse consequences of it for every other Islington school. It may well also have a direct adverse impact on at least some of the children attending your school. (it is for these reasons that Islington Schools' Forum, a non political body, objects to this particular proposal) In any case I think we should all be opposing this particular project as a misguided use of public money, and in this note I will explain why.
First the Consequences
1. Mr Gove proposes, using recently acquired legal powers, to take the old Ashmount site and use it for a Free School. He can take it without paying compensation to Islington. As it is former council school land the loss of at least three million pounds funding falls on the schools capital account. This means that for every school in Islington in need of building repairs and improvements there will be less money.
2. The Council want the site to be used for social housing, with a particular aim to build housing that will free up family council social housing and would therefore mean that some of our currently over crowded children, which every school has would have better accommodation
3. Building housing itself attracts government grants, some of which is spent on school improvement. Again another loss to all schools.
4. Of course if the extra school places were needed then there would be a case to try and use the site for a new school, even though that would be very expensive. However as you know Islington is very unusual amongst London boroughs in not having a demand for school places greater than can be met using current schools. It is expected that over this year some of Islington's schools, reduced in size in the past will be able to expand again and so draw in extra resources for the additional pupils. (And even this is mostly in the south of the borough while the old Ashmount site is in the extreme North). Given that Ashmount school has not moved far, and given that Hargrave Park has capacity. what this means is that the new Free School will add an extra 58 places which will be surplus. So as a matter of arithmetic there will be 58 places vacant somewhere. It is difficult to say where they would be, but each vacant place will mean a loss of funding for the school with it. The potential for expensive disruption is obvious.
if you agree with me that this is a really bad idea, then I would ask you to:-
NOTE that there is a public meeting on 7pm Thursday 24th October Church Hall, Christ Church, Crouch End Hill, N8. It has been convened by our Local MP Jeremy Corbin. Programme details on the flyer attached as a pdf to this email. Please come if you can.
SIGN the Change.Org petition at
if you want to know more, and have the time READ (and by all means comment on) these web postings on the Local Schools Network
(a post by the chair of Highbury Grove)
(I wrote this one)
PASS THIS MESSAGE ON. Copy it to your fellow governors. Ask your PTA to send it out to their own email list, so that parents may know, it is their children who will feel the effects. Copy it to any local email lists you may know of.
(note. I am not inviting you to oppose Free Schools in general. Free Schools as a policy are a matter of political controversy on which Islington Governors. parents and teachers will hold differing views. It is this particular school I urge you to object to.)
21/10/13 from ASAG - Squatters move in
- 21/10/13 from ASAG
This week squatters move in to the old Ashmount buildings on Hornsey Lane
Is this a Deliberate Ploy by LBI to delay Whitehall Park Free School?
The contract with professional caretakers to look after the empty Ashmount School buildings was ended in haste at the beginning of last week. The live-in caretakers, who have been there since last December were given 3 days notice to clear out their belongings. All signs relating to the company were taken down this week also.
Council officers have a duty of care to make sure council property and assets are looked after, and so it is at best a dereliction of duty that they cancelled the contract.
Two days after the Caretakers moved out 100 squatters (according to their spokesperson) moved in, including children. They were seen to have keys to the site and came in vehicles. Were they encouraged by the council and/or given the tip off of easy access into the building? The timing certainly looks suspicious. You would hardly be considered mad if you thought it was a deliberate ploy to hinder the process of setting up the Whitehall Park Free School.
The squatters say the simply found a window left open. But the fact that were seen with keys is a caution. They arrives with large pieces of furniture such as sofas and pool tables have moved into the building through doors – not windows. There are white vans now regularly entering and leaving the site via previously locked firegates (to which they have the keys) on Ashmount Road delivering furniture to the building.
Some Good News
One Ashmount resident has spoken to a representative of the Squatters and reports back that they have stated that they support the idea of returning the buildings for use as a local school. But they need a dry place to live over the winter. The representative said they are taking pains not to damage the premises and its various outbuildings, and have a clear policy of no graffiti. Hopefully there will be no damage during their stay, that could add to the building work that will be necessary before the school opens. How ironic that the squatters recognise the need to keep this site for education, while LBI refuse to accept it!
Obviously this situation plays into the hands of LBI’s campaign to stop, and failing that, delay the setting up of the Whitehall Park Free School. The less time that WFS has to set things up, the more difficult it will be to deliver a smooth opening. Hopefully the Squatters will leave at the appropriate time to allow for the Whitehall Park school to begin the work of setting the school up. But it may take legal action to do this, and this could mean delays. If it does we know who to blame!
If you are concerned about the above we urge you to write to your councillors, MP to and the local press with your views.
Lorraine Constantinou: Lorraine.Constantinou@islington.gov.uk Jeremy Corbyn: email@example.com Islington Gazette: news editor firstname.lastname@example.org Islington Tribune: email@example.com
Remember also that the consultation on the Whitehall Park Free School has 8 more days to run, so please do go on line to offer your views if you have not done so already. http://www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk/consultation/
19/10/13 from ASAG
- 19/10/13 from ASAG
Dear ASAG supporter,
This is a long email, but please try and find the time to read it as it will equip you with facts and solid information at a time when there is far too much misinformation flying about.
A New Political Front
An attempt is being made to set up a local anti-free school campaign group to ‘protest’ against the proposals to establish a free primary school on the Ashmount Site, to be known as the Whitehall Park School. (Islington Gazette, October 3). This group is being led by Kenneth Muller, an Islington NUT official, who is a leading advocate of the Anti Academies Alliance of which this new group will be representative.
The campaign group will have the name – ‘Support Our Local Schools’, which has an ironic ring for members of ASAG which came into being in 2008 to prevent Islington Council from removing our local community school.
The campaign would appear to favour the selling of the Ashmount site by LBI for housing development as an alternative to it continuing in education for the benefit of the local community. This seems a contradictory idea.
According to Mr Muller: ‘Local people have not been asked if they want this school nor told about the enormous cost to local taxpayers of establishing an unnecessary new school.’
Mr Muller thereby shows a total lack of awareness of the long years of campaigning by the local community to keep the Ashmount Site in education and as integral part of their community. Nor does he appear aware of the detailed statistics that have been published (www.asag.org.uk/Resources/Ashmount_site_school_places_Giles_Taylor_v6.pdf) or (here), which show the growing desperate need for a primary school in this area now that the former Ashmount School has been relocated to Crouch Hill, with many local parents being informed that they are now out of its catchment area. Ashmount also used to serve children from both sides of the borough border (Islington and Haringey) on which it stood. Haringey parents’ needs are similarly affected.
Mr Muller also seems disingenuous about the ‘enormous cost to local taxpayers’ because a free school is funded from Central Government and not local taxes. If LBI engage with the DfE they can receive compensation for the site; if they do not, they the site can be requisitioned without compensation. Therefore, it is LBI who will be making local taxpayers pay those ‘enormous’ costs’.
As for the knowledge of local residents, on which he claims to speak, The Ashmount Site Action Group (ASAG) was formed on June 25, 2008, at a public meeting in St Andrews, Whitehall Park, to campaign for the retention of this local school. Although it was found LBI were obstructive in sharing information, ASAG discovered that the council had consulted architects, Purcell, Miller, Tritton (October, 2007), who had recommended refurbishment of the school as a cheaper option to relocation and building a new school on one of the only two remaining pieces of Metropolitan Open Land in Islington. Additionally, through the Freedom of Information Act, it was found that the Metropolitan Police had submitted a report which was not in favour of the new location on security grounds.
Public meetings held over the years at the Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre were ignored by local Islington councillors in spite of invitations to engage with local residents to hear their wishes. Even the local Member of Parliament did not wish to ‘engage’ with the local community on this matter. A great deal of misinformation, some bordering on the personally insulting, was spread about ASAG by vested interests. We do acknowledge that one local councillor, when in opposition, did attend one meeting during 2011.
Sadly local Islington councillors’ attitudes compared unfavourably with the support received from local Haringey councillors in wards where residents and parents were also affected. Islington councillors ignored the overwhelming wishes of local people expressed at numerous public meetings. Two unbalanced consultation documents were sent out which many local people did not receive or were unaware of. At a cross-party meeting at Caxton House on October 3, 2011, at which local councillors with LBI officers attending, sought to impose their plans for their housing scheme on local people, they found the overwhelming view of those attending was for the retention of the school.
When told by a councillor that the council would take notice of local community wishes if they received a petition of 800 signatures, ASAG raised a local petition and within two weeks gathered 1,121 signatures of local residents. This was presented to the Council Executive’s meeting on June 12, 2012, together with a reasoned argument for the necessity of retaining the school due to the growing need for primary school places in London. Not only was the petition ignored but the figures presented were misinterpreted. Famously the Council Leader lost her temper on camera and had to apologise.
Central Government become involved . . .
Against overwhelming local opinion, during the autumn of 2012, LBI asked the Department of Education to declare that the Ashmount Site was surplus to educational needs. At that stage, LBI had not followed the general guidelines of advertising the site to any other potential education providers, although half-a-dozen such providers contacted ASAG, as well as the NUT staff at St Aloysius School who supported the ASAG petition on the grounds that their school could usefully use the space. Led by their NUT representative, Denis Doherty, they petitioned that LBI allow St Aloysius the use of the site for a Sixth Form and arts and science classes. However, as the staff was not supported by the governors, LBI were able to dismiss their appeal.
ASAG took the view that its brief was from the local community to keep the school in education, not in what manner that should be achieved. ASAG did pass on to the DfE its submissions for the retention of the site in education and a copy of the petition from local residents.
As the Department for Education produced more of its own statistics, it became obvious that growing problem of primary school places was the essential concern to be dealt with. The Department of Education decided in 2013 that the site was, therefore, not surplus to education needs.
Once that decision had been made, ASAG ceased to be a campaigning group and became a conduit to the local community as to what developments were happening with the Ashmount Site.
. . . and decide on a free school
The DfE decision allowed submissions from several school providers for the use of the site. The DfE announced on May 22, 2013 that it had accepted a proposal by Bellevue-Place Educational Trust Ltd. to provide a free primary school on the site. Detailed proposals of the ‘Islington Free School’ were placed on the internet and ASAG’s role was merely to draw attention to this on its website and to its supporters, without endorsement, so that the local community could judge. ASAG, from the outset, acted only as a conduit of the local community. Without that support it would have ceased activity entirely.
Bellevue-Place Educational Trust Ltd. received overwhelming support from local parents and residents. Bellevue-Place has recently held public consultations on what they now called The Whitehall Park School. It is patently clear that the new free school is now driven by parental demand and has the support of the community. ASAG supports their decision.
Should the Anti Academies Alliance choose to make the Ashmount Site into a political battleground in pursuit of their aims, then it is their choice and right. Supporters of ASAG, who are the vast majority of the local community, however, hope they will not follow the path of distortions and misinformation previously (and still currently being) made about ASAG, which has, regretfully, been a marked feature from those wishing to see high density housing on the site of the former Ashmount School. ASAG further hopes supporters of the Anti Academies Alliance will speak for that organisation and not claim to speak for this community; a community which considers that, since 2008, they have long been ignored, marginalised and vilified by those pushing the housing project in place of a much needed local community primary school.
2/10/13 from David Barry
2/10/13 from David Barry
Final Primary School Admissions results for Autumn 2013
I have just returned from holiday, and now have the final figures, some weeks old, for school admissions in the Whitehall Park Area. This is not a projection, it is the actual outcome.
There are no children in the Whitehall Park area without a school place. There are five vacant reception class places at Hargrave Park. There are a further 22 vacant reception places in the North of the Borough (there are 53 vacant places in the South of the Borough). All late applicants in Islington also have places except the last three recently received, who have not yet been allocated a place, but they are not in the Whitehall park area anyway.
It is instructive to review this information, the actual admissions outcome this year, together with the two earlier statements by ASAG in which they made their own predictions of the admissions outcome. They never explained what their predictions were based on.
The full text is available below on this website, here are the relevant quotes.
ASAG 22 July 2013
“...there is already, this September, a shortage of places in the reception year in this school area.”
ASAG 2nd May 2013
“Reception classes in September 2013
It seems that there are likely to be more than enough children to fill a class if Ashmount School were to reopen as a free school this year, and probably enough for 2 classes. At present we understand that if enough parents express firm interest in a 2013 class, PLACE, one of the bidders to open a free school on the site in 2014, may be able to provide one.”
On the whole, not a completely accurate forecast by ASAG it seems.
22/9/13 from ASAG
- 22/9/13 from ASAG
Whitehall Park School on former Ashmount school site - consultation has begun
This is your chance to participate in the statutory consultation that must inform the Secretary of State for Education’s decision regarding the new Free School.
Whitehall Park School will be a non-fee paying, non-selective, non-denominational, co-educational school. Whitehall Park School will welcome children from all backgrounds.
Initially opening in 2014 with two classes of 28 in the Reception Year, the school will grow organically to reach its full capacity of 392 pupils in 2020.
You can respond to the consultation on line here
... or else a leaflet with attached form can be downloaded here and printed off for posting.
As you will read:
Whitehall Park School - formerly known as Islington Free Primary School
Consultation for proposed new primary school opening in September 2014
Come to one of drop-in consultation events:
Wednesday 2nd October 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Thursday 10th October 2.00pm – 4.00pm
Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre Hazellville Road London N19 3YJ
Monday 16th September – Monday 28th October 2013
2/9/13 from ASAG
- 2/9/13 from ASAG
WHITEHALL PARK SCHOOL (FORMERLY ASHMOUNT SCHOOL)
It has been announced by Bellevue Place Education Trust that the Free Primary School planned to open on the site of the former Ashmount School in September 2014, will be called Whitehall Park School. A school logo will be revealed soon. A web site already exists:
However, it will come as no surprise to those who have been involved with the Ashmount Site Action Group (ASAG) since its foundation, at a public meeting on 25 June 2008, to know that London Borough of Islington) LBI continue to prevaricate and stonewall in their dealings with the Department for Education (DfE) over the transfer of the site to an approved Free Primary School provider.
When LBI applied to the DfE for permission in 2012 to declare the site ‘surplus to LBI educational needs’, and change its status to sell it to housing development, the application was refused by DfE, thus allowing proposals for its use from other educational users. Our legal advice is that the site, therefore, remains firmly in educational use.
The latest news is that the negotiations between the Education Funding Agency (EFA) at the DfE and LBI are ‘continuing’. However, it seems that EFA are still trying to pursue a ‘negotiated settlement’ over the site while having to search for alternative sites in the Borough to evidence the fact that Ashmount is the only viable site. At this stage EFA are apparently reluctant to play their trump card and go into the ‘scheming process’ and simply requisition the site.
LBI know full well that the more they stall, the more difficult it is to allow sufficient time to get the school open by September, 2014. There are still some months before the ‘critical point’ for a decision making deadline so that the school can open in 2014, but the process cannot be endless. Until the EFA gets agreement or uses its ultimate sanction, the school providers have to sit on the sidelines. Until that happens, the actual site cannot be ‘officially named’ for purposes of consultation with local people. The school providers will delay the consultation processes until they can name Ashmount as the site they are consulting on and have re-iterated that they are not interested in pursuing other site options and effectively reneging on commitments they have made to ASAG (among others). So while frustrated by the apparent lack of progress, they will allow EFA more time to negotiate with LBI.
ASAG has surely demonstrated that LBI is not up for persuasion over Ashmount. For the current administration and its officials, Ashmount has become a ‘holy grail’ in their fight, firstly against the clearly expressed wishes of the local community, and now against the Central Government free school policy.
ASAG would have thought that EFA would know that ‘negotiation’ does not exist in LBI’s vocabulary. Over the years their elected representatives have consistently refused to attend ASAG public meetings, ignored all forms of reasoned arguments, architectural reports, local petitions, consultations and protests. They have publicly tried to distort and mislead people about ASAG and its aims and arguments and whether directly or indirectly sought to mislead the public as to the situation regarding the approved provider and the ownership of the site if purchased by EFA. Today residents in this corner of the borough have found themselves in a ‘primary school black hole’; told they are out of the catchment area of the new ‘Ashmount’ (Crouch Hill) School and local children being told they could be placed in Kings Cross, Rokesly (Crouch End) or other areas or attend bulge classes and so on. It is a disgraceful position but LBI continue to be in denial. LBI now appear to be keen to enter the history books as the first Council to defy the DfE over free schools.
A significant part of the negotiations is about payment for the site. Although if compulsorily acquired there does not have to be any payment at all, LBI could (and should) negotiate to obtain some if not all of the £3 million they hoped to get for sale of the site. The council tax payers’ money that LBI are playing with is ours.
The ASAG website has published carefully researched data on local primary school provision, but just a couple of global facts:
- Islington is the most densely populated London Borough
- Islington has a lower primary school to population ratio than any of the surrounding boroughs (Hackney, Haringey and Camden)
- It has the lowest number of secondary schools of any London Borough.
More housing is not what is most urgently wanted - more schools are.
The detailed data on the sire (sic) school place shortage in North Islington can be downloaded here (warning this is a large because comprehensive document):
All we can tell you now is that meetings are on-going between LBI and EFA. The school providers are waiting, having made progress in all other necessary areas, and now ready to proceed to statutory consultation the moment agreement is reached or it is decided requisition is the only option.
No news is good news. LBI’s delaying tactics are hardly likely to put off supporters who have been campaigning for the last 5 years to keep Ashmount as a school. It may be another month or two before there are obvious developments, but the campaign is as alive as ever. We shall, as always, let you know developments.
27/8/13 from David Barry
- 27/8/13 from David Barry
Before a Free School is set up, the proposers have to hold a consultation with the community the school is supposed to serve. It is a statutory requirement. The timetable for the proposed Free School using the old Ashmount building is challenging, and it was expected that the consultation would be really soon. In fact a fortnight ago the DfE told me that the consultation was going to start last week. Which obviously it did not. It now seems there has been a change of plan. In an email sent this evening the DfE said:
“The proposer group have decided to delay the start of their statutory consultation until later in the year, on the basis that the Department’s discussions with Islington Borough Council about a potential site for the free school are still on-going and the proposers would prefer to undertake their consultation once they have a site clearly identified.
The proposers are in the process of producing a new website for the free school and a re-direct facility will be added to their existing website by early next week, details of the consultation will appear on their new website in due course.”
The phrase “once they have a site identified” would suggest that matters are not as certain as the current web site suggests. No doubt a reason for changing it.
8/7/13 from David Barry
- 8/7/13 from David Barry
I now have some rather detailed figures from Haringey.
1. In the area of Highgate, Crouch End, Hornsey, Stroud Green (served by these schools Campsbourne Infants, Coleridge Primary, Highgate Primary, Rokesly Infants, St Aidan’s, St Mary’s CE Primary, St Michael’s CE Primary N6, St Peter in Chains RC Infants, Stroud Green,Weston Park) all applicants now have a place and there are three reception places unfilled. So no shortage of places this year, now confirmed.
2. The number of applicants in each year showed a clear trend of increasing each year from 625 (in 2007) to a peak of 700 in (2011) and has now fallen in two successive years to this year’s total of 629.
3. During this time the supply of places increased by 90, which is why, although there was a place shortage in 2007 on 625 applicants, there is none this year on 629.
Moreover Islington now report that all applicants have a place and there are five reception places unfilled.
4/7/13 from ASAG
- 4/7/13 from ASAG
Detailed data on school place shortage in North Islington
In May 2013 Bellevue Place Education Trust won approval in the Department for Education’s free school pre-opening phase for its application to set up Islington Free Primary School on the old Ashmount site. BPET is a charitable trust and a separate legal entity from Bellevue Education Ltd, which co-administers it.
The Council has consistently maintained that there is no need for a school in North Islington or in the neighbouring part of Haringey and, were there to be a shortage of places, existing schools could readily be expanded to meet demand. On 17 June 2013 an independent planning inspector’s report endorsed the Council’s position.
ASAG’s researches over the past 18 months tell a different story and support the DfE’s decision to approve the free school opening on the Ashmount site.
Unlike the surrounding councils, which publish a comprehensive annual school places planning report, Islington publishes no detailed information for the general public. Indeed, they recently blocked access to the one document that was available by search. Information requested under Freedom of Information (such as a breakdown of a published table) has sometimes been unavailable. Figures supplied under FOI after more than one request have in more than one case conflicted with data published elsewhere.
In this context, we have had to come to some conclusions indirectly, by combining information from a number of sources, rather than by having the data we need – and which undoubtedly exists – in front of us.
But the conclusion is clear. Owing to increasing demand, Islington needs a 2-form entry school in the north or northeast of the borough and the Ashmount site is the only place with sufficient capacity. There is significantly greater basic need for a school at Ashmount Road than the Council’s preferred site for the school in Dowrey Street, N1.
The report can be downloaded from the ASAG web site or from our Downloads page.
4/7/13 David Barry’s riposte to the ASAG post below
- 4/7/13 David Barry’s riposte to the ASAG post below
The latest from ASAG certainly demands reply. As their points are rather legalistic I am replying by repeating their post and interleaving.
It has come to ASAG’s attention that some people are claiming that the Ashmount site is to be transferred without charge to private ownership, specifically Bellevue Education Ltd, a commercial (for-profit) company.
This is both untrue and misleading. The site will be leased to Bellevue Place Education Trust, a non-profit-making charitable trust, for the purpose of running a state primary school for all local children, financed by central government, as stated on the school’s web site, http://www.islingtonfreeprimary.co.uk/about-us/.
The technicality, it turns out is that the land will be leased to a special purpose vehicle set up by Bellevue Ltd, the “Bellevue Trust”, which (Oh joy!) is a tax exempt charity. The lease is for 125 years at a “peppercorn” rent. Bellvue Ltd will be able to use the land without owning it, providing the Bellevue Trust, which they control, agrees to let them. That way the claim can be made that Bellevue Ltd are not getting the land, and also they will not have to pay business rates on the site. Also should the enterprise fail, then the costs of failure do not fall on Bellevue but on the trust they control. Special Purpose Vehicles of this sort are commonly used by property developers, although they are not usually allowed to be tax exempt. This one is allowed to be tax exempt due to the rules surrounding Free Schools. All quite clever, and of course the majority shareholder in Bellevue is outside the UK tax jurisdiction, so it is all quite well worked out.
In common with all free school and academy trusts, the trust will only be able to use the land for the school. If the trust were wound up, the property would pass back to the Department for Education.
Indeed, and not back to Islington, so Islington schools still lose £3m capital spending. Also if there is a business failure all the losses fall on the special purpose vehicle and Bellevue Ltd just walk away. They really cannot loose.
Furthermore, the trust will be strictly non-profit-making. It can neither make profits itself, nor are the promoters allowed to charge services to it at a profit.
Well Under the CURRENT law a “Free School” being government financed may neither charge fees nor run at a profit. But could it be that Bellevue Ltd. think this might change? After I wrote that this newspaper article appeared in The Independent. When you have read that article you can see that the deal has no downside for Bellevue, and MIGHT have a considerable upside, after the general election.
As we are being all legalistic of a sudden am I allowed to say, that at least on this point, I rest my case?
3/7/13 from ASAG
- 3/7/13 from ASAG
It has come to ASAG's attention that some people are claiming that the Ashmount site is to be transferred without charge to private ownership, specifically Bellevue Education Ltd, a commercial (for-profit) company.
This is both untrue and misleading. The site will be leased to Bellevue Place Education Trust, a non-profit-making charitable trust, for the purpose of running a state primary school for all local children, financed by central government, as stated on the school's web site, www.islingtonfreeprimary.co.uk/about-us/.
In common with all free school and academy trusts, the trust will only be able to use the land for the school. If the trust were wound up, the property would pass back to the Department for Education. Furthermore, the trust will be strictly non-profit-making. It can neither make profits itself, nor are the promoters allowed to charge services to it at a profit.
27/6/13 from David Barry
- 27/6/13 from David Barry
It has been confirmed to me (reliably) that the Education Funding Agency has chosen to requisition the old Ashmount Site from Islington Council, which they have the power to do, without paying any compensation to the Council.
The site is to be transferred without charge to private ownership; the site will be given to Bellevue Education Limited. Bellevue Education Ltd is a commercial (for profit) company, which runs a chain of nine for profit fee-paying schools here and in Switzerland (Ref 1). Bellevue made profits last year of £1.5m on a turnover of £3.7m so it’s what I believe one would call a “nice little business” (Ref 2). Although if you want to rush out and buy some shares you cannot at the moment as they are not publicly listed. Instead the investors are venture capitalists based in Switzerland using Russian money. Perhaps there will be a flotation at some point in the future. I am sure we will be all poised to add a bit of diversity to our share portfolios.
This decision will have some consequences for Ashmount, and indeed other schools in Islington.
- First the capital account for Islington schools is now short by 3 million pounds. This was the, rather conservative, figure that Islington had assumed would be available from selling the site, at a special low price, to a housing association. It might well have been more. Consequently all Islington schools will experience a further cut in capital allocations. This is, in accounting terms, a straightforward transfer of capital resources from all the community schools in Islington to Bellevue Education Ltd. Ashmount will be less affected than some of our colleagues in the short run as our building is new. So one would hope that for a few years at least our capital requirements will be low.
- From 2014 there will be an additional 58 places at reception in this area. All the indications from actual admissions figures this year is that certainly in 2014 there will be a significant surplus of places created in the immediate area. This could have the effect of intensifying competition between schools as there may not be enough school pupils to go around. The Free School website states that it will use the same admissions system and criteria as other islington Schools so the schools likely to notice this are (In order of distance from the old Ashmount site) Hargrave Park, Highgate Primary, Coleridge School and farthest away, Ashmount. (Incidentally going by the photographs on the school website they appear to expect that all their children will be white... Ref 3).
However it would be rash to jump to any conclusions about this as the Free School, at least in its first year, might have significant difficulties in recruiting pupils. We know from the experience of other Free Schools that where they have been set up in areas where there are surplus school places that, untried as they are, parents are nervous of them. By definition they have no track record of any kind, no parental opinions, Ofsteds or SATS. In this particular case there is also the issue of the building. We left it because it was terrible. We also left it because we knew that even spending millions of pounds one still ends up with a building which we thought not good enough for our children. We also know there were people in significant numbers who would not send their children to Ashmount because of the building. Our undersubscription only stopped when the move to the new building was fully confirmed. So it does seem to me, that even if they work out a way to clean the windows, that there is an issue here.
On the other hand Bellevue Education may be willing to invest some of their own resources in marketing; were they to choose to do so they could certainly outspend any community school. A reason why they might do so is related to the otherwise puzzling point as to why Bellevue Education are interested in getting involved in running a Free Primary School from which they are not allowed to make a profit. The obvious answer is that the Conservatives believe that state schools should be allowed to be owned and run by profit making companies, on a profit making basis. This is not allowed at present, because the Liberal Democrats do not agree. However Mr Gove has promised a number of times that should the Conservatives be elected to Government in the next election, fixed for the summer of 2014, when the Free School will have been open for less than a year, the law will be changed to allow Free Schools to be run at a profit. Bellevue Education could well feel that the old Ashmount Site represents a useful speculation
I would be interested in any comments, or further information, anyone might have.
Ref 1 Ref 2 Ref 3
20/6/13 from David Barry
- 20/6/13 from David Barry
But will Mr. Gove still say no?
Islington have been taking part in a process regulated by law to do with long term strategic planning of the land use in the Borough. They drew up a big plan referring to various important strategic sites, which, not surprisingly included the Ashmount site. In that bit of the plan the council said they wanted to use the site for housing. The plan had to go through stages. The first was a draft stage. It then went out to consultation. There was an exhibition about it in the Hornsey Lane Community Centre relating only to Ashmount. It was amended is some respects in light of responses, and then, last December submitted to detailed scrutiny by an Independent Inspector. The Ashmount Site Action Group, some other local residents and the Highgate Society made formal written responses to the consultation, all of them strongly opposed to the site not continuing to be used for a school, and in the case of ASAG and the Highgate Society arguing that the old school building should also be retained and refurbished to accommodate a new school. all these responses can be found below, on this web site.The Inspector’s report has now just been published and will be considered by Islington next week.
The full report itself is a really long pdf, most of it concerned with other sites but paragraph 46 is what matters so far as the future of the Ashmount site is concerned. Here it is:
“46. Having carefully considered the question of educational need, I am satisfied that the Council’s evidence on this issue is robust and clearly demonstrates that the loss of this site for educational use will not undermine the future provision of school places either in Islington or in the adjacent London Borough of Haringey. Furthermore it is clear that refurbishment of the school buildings has been thoroughly investigated and has led to the conclusion that they cannot be easily adapted to meet modern educational standards. I conclude that the allocation is supported by robust evidence on the provision of educational accommodation.”
The overall conclusion of the Inspector is that the allocation of the Ashmount site “for residential and community use, including open space” is “justified, consistent with national policy and effective...”
So it would appear that the only hurdle Council must now cross is the need for permission from Mr. Gove for a change of use. As the Inspector observes “it (the site) remains in education use until permission has been granted for a change of use by the Secretary of State for Education.”
It remains to be seen how high that hurdle turns out to be.
6/6/13 from Celia Dignan
- 6/6/13 from Celia Dignan
SUPPORT LOCAL SCHOOLS NOT FREE SCHOOLS
Islington free primary school has been approved to open in September 2014 in Hornsey Lane on the former site of Ashmount Primary school. It will be run by two private companies - Bellevue Education Group and Place Group. Bellevue, based in Surrey, runs two boarding schools in Switzerland and seven private schools in the UK. In 2011 it made profits of £1.5 million. The company’s website states that Bellevue does not have shareholders but instead enjoys “significant financial backing from a small number of British and Swiss families who are passive investors in the group and who wholeheartedly share Bellevue’s aspirations”.
Place Group is one of the DfE’s “approved providers” of education advisory and project management services to academies and free schools. It has been at the forefront of the free schools programme. The company boasts that “By September 2013, Place will have helped over 60 schools to open including 20 Free Schools.”
Bellevue and Place are working jointly on at least two further free schools - in Balham and in Windsor and Maidenhead, both due to open in September 2014. The two companies could soon be running a chain of publicly funded independent free schools. Free schools cannot currently make a profit but Education Secretary Michael Gove has made clear that if the Conservatives are reelected they will be allowed to do so. The Ashmount school site has been paid for by local taxpayers but the Education Secretary has the legal power to hand over all the land and buildings to a free school provider for a peppercorn rent on a 125-year lease.
Free Schools do not have to employ qualified teachers or teach the national curriculum and they operate their own admissions policies. They are not accountable to local people or the local authority.
Unlike many parts of London, neither Haringey nor Islington have a shortage of primary places - in fact there are surplus places. There is no need for a new primary school locally. Where there is no shortage of places, free schools can only succeed by taking pupils who would otherwise have attended established local state schools, impacting on their funding and destabilising the local family of schools. We are fortunate to have good local schools. Don’t let a free school undermine them.
c/o 106 Rathcoole Gardens, N8 9PG
You can download her petition here
3/6/13 from David Barry
- 3/6/13 from David Barry
I have been informed by Islington admissions that there are, as of 3 June, 71 vacant places across 18 Islington schools. There are 136 parents who have yet to confirm that they will accept places offered. So the number of vacant places will rise, but by how much and in which schools it is pretty impossible to say. Efforts are being made to finalise this but the process will not be complete until September. There are 63 parents across the Islington area who have not yet been offered a place, offers will now be going out to them. They will be offered a place at the highest preference possible. if no place is available at a school for which a preference was shown, then they will be offered the nearest school with a vacancy.
As of today we can see from postcodes there are six people who live in the area of the old Ashmount site, (broadly defined)who have not had their places offered yet. I do not have information as to which schools they applied for in the first place but they will be offered places at the nearest school with vacancies in due course. It is not impossible that a place or two will come up at Ashmount, but Hargrave Park may be closer.
At this point it would be reasonable to ask if ASAG are still lobbying for a reception class to be reopened at the old Ashmount Site for this Autumn, and if so where the 30 children for it would come from as they must have been identified by now.
30/5/13 from David Barry
- 30/5/13 from David Barry
In this area Islington Admissions have started to offer unfilled places at Hargrave Park School, including the 15 recently created. Offers are, for example, being made to applicants who live in Camden. Meanwhile in Crouch End there are no reports of a shortage of places probably because there are sixty more places than there used to be, with an extra form of entry at Weston Park and at Rokesley Infants (they were first added at about this time last year). The Rokesley radius of admission has gone up this year to 1.4 miles, which therefore covers the whole of Crouch End.
The situation remains fluid. What is clear however is that both Islington and Haringey admissions maintain that there is no shortage of places in the local area, and so the mystery as to where the demand reported by ASAG is coming from remains.
22/5/13 from David Barry, reporting from a full meeting of the Schools’ Forum
- 22/5/13 from David Barry, reporting from a full meeting of the Schools’ Forum
SCHOOL ADMISSIONS LATEST ISLINGTON
Islington Schools' Forum met in full session today. There was an up to the minute report on admissions, an explanation of why some extra places have been created in Islington and agreement to vote the money to pay for the extra places. The admissions position (and this is a snapshot accurate as of yesterday) is as follows.
Over three hundred families who have been offered primary school places in the reception class for their children have not yet replied to say whether they want them. Some of these will decline leaving vacancies. But how many, and in which schools will not be known for a while. There are 110 vacant places in reception classes in the Borough. There are 100 children as yet “unallocated” that is their parents were not offered a school for which they had applied but are on waiting lists for those schools. While in the end there is certain to be an offer of a place for everyone and on the one hand Islington admissions do not want to keep these parents hanging on, on the other hand they do not want to make the next round of offers until they have a better idea of how many people now holding offers will not take them up. Islington admissions have started to ring parents individually to chivvy them up, and get them to reply.
Admissions believe a significant number of the outstanding offers will be declined and so a lot of the 100 WILL get places at schools to which they have applied, and at a high preference. It is these figures which lead Islington to make the bald statement repeated below that there are enough places in the Borough for all the people applying, as this is true now. Over the next few weeks the number of vacant places will rise further, but these are needed to provide a required level of flexibility in the system. The full picture will not start to be clear until the process has been worked through. Until then then no one can know exactly what it is, and how many extra places there will be, but when I get more information I will let you have it.
All these figures include the extra places created to the south of the Borough. The Forum had it explained to them that the extra places were created in popular schools located in the areas of demand ( three fourths of them in the south of the Borough) and agreed to spend the money to implement the decision.
ABOUT THE FORUM
For those of you who have not heard of this beast, which I imagine is most people reading this, it is a statutory body and every Local Education Authority in England has one. It is important because it decides how money given to Islington for schools is spent. Councils no longer do this. (Community Schools get most of their money per pupil automatically, but there is an extra bit used for various extra things like special building repairs, to help out schools with particular needs and, indeed, paying to run the admissions system). It consists half of representatives elected by the Head Teachers of Islington and half of representatives elected by Islington School Governors. I am one of the School Governor representatives. It is not a political body; only one councillor attends representing the council and he has no vote.
22/5/13 from ASAG, in response to LBI’s statement below
- 22/5/13 from ASAG, in response to LBI’s statement below
There are a number of misleading statements in Islington's position. Point by point these are:
1. LB Islington applied for a change of use of the Ashmount School site from education to housing. That application for a change of use has been refused by the Secretary of State. The site can only be used for education.
2. The suggestion that Islington is now offering as a free school site the New River College Pupil Referral Unit, with no idea, no suggestion, where that Pupil Referral Unit would go, is very ill thought through. And the new site for that school would have to be wheelchair friendly.
3. That site is in a part of the Borough that is not (currently) short of primary school places. Unlike North Islington, where Ashmount is sited, which is short of primary school places. Surely a new primary school should be sited where it is needed.
4. To just say there are more school places than children in Islington, without specifying pupil ages and part of the Borough, is completely unhelpful. There are more school places in some years and in some parts of the Borough than children who need them, but in North Islington there is a stark shortage of reception places. And on planned admission numbers that shortage will soon apply throughout the primary school years.
5. It's the first we heard that the Mayor of London's office had sent anyone to look at the school to assess whether it can be brought up to standard. The Purcell Miller Tritton report commissioned by Islington themselves said that it could be brought up to standard, and all the interested free school providers who looked round the site were of the same opinion.
6. The local Haringey councillors are strongly and unanimously of the opinion that the Ashmount site should be used as a primary school, and would be dismayed to hear anyone suggest that they think otherwise. Haringey's primary school overcrowding locally is worse than Islington's.
Francis Wilkinson ASAG
22/5/13 from Islington Council, in reply to ASAG’s statement (below)
- 22/5/13 from Islington Council, in reply to ASAG’s statement (below)
The Government has confirmed that the Islington Free Primary School will open in the borough in September 2014. The Department for Education have not however announced the former Ashmount Primary School site as the location for this new free school. The location of the school is as yet unknown and will be decided by the Education Funding Agency and Islington Council.
Islington Council believes that the best location for this new school would be a school site on Dowrey Street N1 0HR, which is in the heart of the borough and easy for Islington families to get to. The building is already used for educational purposes and is fully accessible for disabled users. The council also believes there is local support for a new school in this area. The site is currently used by New River College Pupil Referral Unit (key stage 3). If Dowrey Street is agreed as a location for the new free school, an alternative site will be found for the Pupil Referral Unit.
The council firmly believes that the former Ashmount School site is not an appropriate site for the new free school. The building is in an extremely dilapidated state and is not accessible for disabled users. The Mayor of London's office confirmed that it would be impossible to bring the current building up to modern educational standards.
The pressure on primary school places in Islington is significantly less than in other London boroughs. Islington and Haringey councils agree that a new school is not needed in the vicinity of the former Ashmount School. There are now more school places available in the borough than children who need them.
Senior Media Officer Islington Council
22/5/13 from ASAG
- 22/5/13 from ASAG
The campaign to keep the Ashmount site as a school has been successful! The Department for Education has decided that the site can re-open as a free school, which will be a primary school. This is terrific news because, as many parents know, there is such a shortage of primary school places locally. PLACE, who will be operating the school, were planning to open in 2014, but we shall be encouraging them to provide classes from 2013 as there are enough local children to fill at least one class this year. We shall keep you in the picture about the negotiations.
A great big thank you to everyone who signed the petition and who has supported the effort to keep the school open throughout the long months and years while the campaign has been running.
ASAG will continue in existence as long as you need us, but the representation of local interests will soon be taken up by the new school governors. The school building has capacity for other activities beside its main use, and we look forward to it being an increasingly important part of the local community.
We shall give you more details just as soon as they become available.
16/5/13 from David Barry
- 16/5/13 from David Barry
I thought fellow WHPARA members might be interested in some further information relating to how things are going with primary school admissions this year. This will add some context to the Islington Education post below. I would comment on the oddity of the situation created by the contrast between what Islington are reporting and ASAG are reporting. At this stage they are so divergent as to appear to be in parallel universes. I suppose it will become plain by Autumn which world we are actually living in.
As the school admissions arrangements in use in London were set up quite recently its worth starting by summarising them. Admissions are managed on an all London basis by a special agency. Parents looking for a place in the first year of school (reception) have to apply through the Borough in which they live. In theory they may apply for schools anywhere in London. But of course they are going to apply for schools nearby unless in the midst of moving. They can apply for up to six schools in order of their preference. Offer day is the same day throughout London. On that day if they are eligible for an offer from more than one school they still only get one offer, for the higher preference choice. If they are not eligible for an offer, and so do not get one at all, they are called “unallocated” but go on the waiting list for schools they were unsuccessful for as well as for any other schools they feel like.
Parents have a period of time to reply and accept the offer. If they decide not to, and a significant number do decline, then their places are offered on. There is quite a lot of “churn” in London, after all people have had to apply by January for a place this September and things happen. People move jobs, or often enough succeed in a long term plan to move further out, perhaps to get a bigger house, or indeed get a house they can afford at all...
OK so on the 17 April 2013 the offers went out. And this is where the worlds divide. In ASAG world:
ASAG “learned of children due to start school in September this year who have been refused places at both Coleridge and the new Ashmount primary schools. One of those children, who lives very close indeed to the old Ashmount school, has been offered a place at a school in Copenhagen Street, at the other end of the Borough”.
In Islington world no child was offered a place at a school the parents had not asked for. There were nine families who were not offered a place at either Ashmount or Coleridge having applied for either or both these schools. Five of them were offered other schools that they had put on their list of preferred schools. None of them were offered Copenhagen Street. To get such an offer they would have needed to have Copenhagen Street on their list of schools. (This would, given the distance to Copenhagen Street, have been a really odd thing for them to have done.) Four remained unplaced as they had not stated a preference for any other schools. They had only applied to Ashmount and Coleridge. They go on the waiting list for Ashmount and Coleridge as do the other parents as well, should they wish. (However, for the next few weeks it is not clear how many unplaced children there really are in this area as some parents refuse the places offered and new vacancies emerge. They could all get offers at Ashmount or Coleridge in the end).
In ASAG world by by the 2nd May:
“Many parents have been offered places miles away, both in Islington and in Haringey.”
In Islington World that did not happen on the 17 April. Could it have happened since? The only offers made after that date are of places that have now become available. And they are only made to people on the waiting lists who have said they are interested in a place at that school. Have some shown an interest in a school miles away? Surely a strange thing to do, but it’s up to them.
In ASAG world it has now been discovered:
“It seems that there are likely to be more than enough children to fill a class if Ashmount School were to reopen as a free school this year, and probably enough for 2 classes.”
So that means at least thirty children living in this area without school places and probably sixty.
In Islington World there IS a shortage, but not here. When Islington saw the pattern of applications and offers on the 17 April they concluded there were fewer places than was comfortable. So they decided to create eighty additional places for the whole borough. That, they reckon, is enough to make sure everyone gets a place AND that there are a few left over to cater for people who move in to the Borough over the year. This is easily enough done as a lot of Islington schools were bigger than now a few years ago, they reduced in size due to falling school rolls. The schools the ones they have chosen to expand are also popular schools with good Ofsteds. Of the eighty places sixty have been created to the south of Seven Sisters Road. Five have been created in Tufnell Park, and of interest to us fifteen have been created at Hargrave Park School. The issue being addressed by these twenty places is pressure created by applications from Camden in the area between Hargrave Park and Tufnell Park. (This was announced after ASAG made its claims.)
It is easy to see that if ASAG are right then Islington Admissions have failed to spot a shortage of at least forty-five additional places in this area. Are there really forty- five families in the Whitehall Park area without places for their children? I would be interested to hear from others about this. Of course time will tell. And we will find out which of the two worlds was the real one.
Note on the author
David Barry, who lives two roads away from the old Ashmount Site is an elected member of the Islington Schools Forum and has based this article partly on a briefing by Islington Officers at a Forum sub group meeting today.
8/5/13 from Islington
- 8/5/13 from Islington
Reception classes 2013, update from Islington Council.
The council’s schools admissions team is currently in the process of collating all the responses to the offers made to parents on 17 April 2013 (National Offer Day).
Parents were offered places only at the schools they had selected as one of their preferences on their application form. To date, we have heard back from approximately half of parents on whether or not they wish to accept their offer and we expect a significant number of places to be released over the coming weeks as this process continues. These released places will then form part of the next round of offers.
We would urge parents to ensure they have returned their acceptance form as soon as possible to prevent any unnecessary delay in offering out places that are no longer required.
Any parents with questions about their child’s primary school offer can contact the council on 020 7527 5515.
23/4/13 from David Barry, responding to the below
- 23/4/13 from David Barry, responding to the below
The latest posting from ASAG (immediately below) was certainly alarming. But it is not true.
The key statement is: “One of those children, ... [refused by both Ashmount and Coleridge] ... who lives very close indeed to the old Ashmount school, has been offered a place at a school in Copenhagen Street”.
No, they have not. I checked with admissions in Islington. (I checked because the story seemed odd to me). The system these days is that school admissions is run on a London-wide basis. Parents can apply for up to six schools in order of their preference.
There was no case of a child who was an applicant for Ashmount and Coleridge who was offered a place at Copenhagen school. It did not happen. The records have been searched by Islington Officers. Note that the applications are processed independently of Islington.
Further ASAG say “We have produced the statistics”. But ASAG have not “produced statistics” despite being asked to many times. Yet again we have an assertion but no evidence. The Islington figures are published. Let ASAG publish theirs so we can judge for ourselves.
It is very frustrating on such an important matter not to have the information.
22/4/13 from ASAG
- 22/4/13 from ASAG
Dear ASAG Supporter
SHORTAGE OF RECEPTION PLACES
ASAG has just learned of children due to start school in September this year who have been refused places at both Coleridge and the new Ashmount primary schools. One of those children, who lives very close indeed to the old Ashmount school, has been offered a place at a school in Copenhagen Street, at the other end of the Borough and much more than 1.6 miles away, which is the maximum distance that primary school children should have to travel to school according to London Borough of Islington’s own policy.
ASAG would like to hear of any other such refusals, and any proposals for 4-year-old children to travel to schools some distance away. This is important as it makes the case for the Ashmount site to remain as a primary school even stronger. We have produced the statistics, and our prediction of a shortfall in local places is being proved accurate.
Because of the delay in Islington making their application to the Secretary of State (they decided to make the application in June but didn’t make it until 4 months later) the new school is unlikely to be able to open until next year. We are expecting the Secretary of State’s decision on LB Islington’s application to demolish the school and build flats on the site next month - and we trust he will refuse this misconceived application.
1/3/13 from David Barry
- 1/3/13 from David Barry
“Town halls to decide on sites of new free schools”
There has been an announcement from the DFE that from now on money for Free Schools is to be targeted at areas with shortages of school places. And the judge of shortages, it seems, are to be the Local Education Authorities. The headline says it all really. This suggests that ASAG, if they are to succeed in getting a Free School on the Ashmount Site really need to publish their detailed figures as a matter of urgency as their conclusions are so opposed to what Islington, relying on their published figures, say.
For more details the relevant TES story can be seen here.
27/2/13 Ashmount site could be used for St. Aloysius sixth-form
- 27/2/13 Ashmount site could be used for St. Aloysius sixth-form
As you will know, Islington Council has already applied to the Department for Education to sell the Ashmount site for housing use, bringing in about £3m, but it now fears that Michael Gove could hand over the site to a free school. Two organisations have publicised plans to open a free school on the site, one being a group of Hornsey parents called the Oak School, the other from private educational businesses Palace Group and Bellevue Education. Both groups say they are confident that the existing building can be repaired.
However, there is a recent move for Islington to consider keeping the site by creating a new sixth-form for St. Aloysius College there. At a recent strategy meeting NUT reps from St. Aloysius said they had asked the council to let them use the building for a new sixth-form college so that it would not have to hold lessons in the Archway Methodist Hall, as it does now. A new £17m block at St. Aloysius had left them with even less room and the college is about to submit plans to build a new sixth-form block in its playground.
Islington’s education chief Councillor Richard Watts last week wrote to teachers and union officials in the borough outlining the Council’s argument against a free school, saying that Islington is one of the few London boroughs to have enough school places. He maintains that the old Ashmount building is too decrepit to be repaired and says that if the Council does not receive permission to sell the site then it could enter into discussions with St. Aloysius.
Related articles in the Islington Tribune: 22nd Feb 2013 and 11th Jan 2013
25/2/13 from David Barry, replying to the letter from Francis Wilkinson (below)
- 25/2/13 from David Barry, Chair of the Ashmount Board of Governors, replying to the open letter from Francis Wilkinson (below)
I welcome Francis Wilkinson’s reply to Richard Watts. It might be the start of a proper public debate. The division of opinion is on the face of it simple. Islington Council in the person of their Executive member for education, Richard Watts, takes the view that there is not, in our area, sufficient demand to justify opening an extra, two form entry, primary school. He publishes in his letter official figures to make his case. Francis says this is not true. There will be sufficient demand in this area for a new, primary school. However unlike Richard Watts he just says this, he does not give us the figures, or their source, on which his calculation is based. This makes it difficult to judge how strong his case is. The answer is simple. Do what Richard Watts did and publish the figures. Then we can all see them. You say you have provided the detailed figures to Islington, so you should have no difficulty in publishing them to the members of WHPARA. By the way when you claim “that over the next 7 years the undersupply of primary school places in this Planning Area is almost exactly the same as the size of Ashmount School (just under 300 children)”.
This is certainly wrong, as the capacity of Ashmount is 420 children. This is the size of a “two form entry” school. Ashmount takes in two classes of 30 children into reception, that is, 60 children. And yes, children take seven years to go through Primary School, so the total is seven times sixty, which is 420. Your failure to get this bit of arithmetic right does not, I fear, help your credibility. All the more reason why, in order to evaluate your argument, we need to see the figures on which your conclusions are based. If, on the other hand you decline, as you have done before, to publish your figures, then we can draw our own conclusions.
Regarding the building little need be said; the building, due to age, and the properties of the glass and metal of which it is built, is falling apart. It is also, for today’s requirements, sub standard. Tritton Miller set out what needed to be done to stop it from falling apart, and the millions of pounds this would cost. So after spending millions on the refurb you would have a building that was not falling down, but was still substandard (and the most expensive to heat for its floor area in London, a bill that can only rise). So it is not that refurbishing is impossible, but I cannot think it wise.
David Barry Dresden Road
19/2/13 from Francis Wilkinson, Chair of ASAG
- 19/2/13 from Francis Wilkinson, Chair of ASAG , in an email to the Chair of WHPARA responding to Richard Watts’s letter (below)
I write as one Chair to another.
Thank you for forwarding the letter from Councillor Richard Watts to Islington NUT. There is some politics behind this:
- The NUT is against free schools as those schools are not part of national pay bargaining for teachers so reduce the NUT’s power, as they see it.
- The local NUT will therefore tend to support Islington’s opposition to a free school on the site.
- Councillor Watts is of course constrained in his views by the Council Executive’s decision to declare the school site surplus to educational requirements, so he has to justify that (we say perverse) decision.
As to the detail of Councillor Watts’ letter: he is using the Council’s 2011 figures as available at their “Primary and Secondary School Places statistical update - 2011”, which can be downloaded from:
The figures in Richard Watts’ letter are the totals for the entire borough. What you can see is that the surplus capacity is almost entirely in Planning Area 3 whereas Planning Area 1 (where we are) goes into deficit in 2016.
The local reception classes are already full this year. We have provided detailed figures to Islington showing that over the next 7 years the undersupply of primary school places in this Planning Area is almost exactly the same as the size of Ashmount School (just under 300 children). We chose 7 years because that is the time that a primary school would take to build up to full capacity on the basis that it would take one year of intake each year. Richard Watts has chosen to obfuscate the figures by giving them for the Borough as a whole - unless he is saying that primary school children will travel to the other side of the Borough to go to school. And the Council is certainly not saying that, which would be contrary to its policy for maximum travelling distance for such children.
As to the building, there were (you may recall a Council questionnaire about this about 4 years ago) 3 options for the school: refurbish, redevelop or remove. All 3 were the subject of cost-benefit plans and architects were commissioned to provide detailed reports (which were published and I believe are still available on the ASAG website) as to the viability and cost of refurbishing Ashmount. The refurbishment option of Purcell Miller Tritton (the architects) was in fact the cheapest of the 3 options. Certainly the organisations that have looked over the site and made bids to use it for a free school consider that the school is eminently ‘refurbishable’, if that is a word. It will be a source of embarrassment to Islington (and to David Barry, Chair of Governors at Ashmount) when the School is refurbished, since he continues to go round saying it is impossible, as does Richard Watts in his letter! Both of them know about the Purcell Miller Tritton report, so there is no real excuse.
As to the need for housing, it is unquestioned, but communities are not just made of houses and flats. There also has to be provision for education, among other things. The figures show that Ashmount really is needed for that purpose.
Like Councillor Richard Watts’ letter, this letter too is ‘for circulation as you see fit’. ASAG has no political axe to grind, and contains people of all political persuasions and of none. But we are a bit fed up with the constant misrepresentation of the facts by Islington, which seems to be to try to cope with the fact that the Executive has made such a mess of the decision-making over this school site.
ASAG hopes and believes that the Department for Education will say that a primary school can remain on the Ashmount site. We understand that the decision will not be known for a couple of months yet.
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to reply to Councillor Watts’ letter. Do get back to me if there is anything that you feel ought to be explained more fully, or if you would like to discuss the subject.
Francis Wilkinson Chair, ASAG
18/2/13 from ASAG
- 18/2/13 from ASAG
Now that Islington has declared the Ashmount site surplus to their educational requirements, the only way of keeping a school there is by Michael Gove giving the site to a free school. Two free school organisations (PLACE and The Oak School) have applied to use the site, though we understand that the Department for Education could choose some other organisation which has applied to open a free school but has not specified this site.
PLACE have asked those who would like to support their bid to say so at www.islingtonfreeprimary.co.uk. The Oak School has a demand survey at www.theoakschool.org.uk. The PLACE bid is for a primary school (as Ashmount School was) and the Oak School for a Steiner School for 4-18 year olds covering a wider catchment area. If you supported the campaign to keep the site as a school then do please visit the sites and record your support.
ASAG believes that the majority local preference is for the site to be a primary school for local children. If you think so you will probably support the PLACE bid.
In any event - and not only if you have pre-school age children - do visit the websites and register your support. It really makes a difference for these schools providers to be able to say that there are plenty of local residents supporting their bid. The process of choosing the school provider is expected to take another couple of months, and every view expressed in support of a bid is important in the decision to be made.
8/3/13 Letter from Councillor Richard Watts to the NUT
11/12/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG, 11/12/12
ASAG has learnt that there are at least two educational providers who will be making applications to the Department for Education to open schools on the Ashmount Site:
PLACE Group, in partnership with Bellevue Education Group, has announced their intention to open a Free Primary School at Ashmount in September, 2014, if they gain approval. This will be a two form entry school. It will be a non-fee paying, non-selective, non-denominational, co-educational school, welcoming children from all backgrounds. The providers expect the school to grow organically to its full capacity by 2021. Full details are on their website www.islingtonfreeprimary.co.uk. They are encouraging local parents, with children who would be of primary reception age at that time, to fill out a questionnaire on the website.
Another group have announced that they wish to open a ‘Steiner inspired’ school and their proposals can be found at www.theoakschool.org.uk. Their aim is to open a Free School for pupils aged between 4-18 years old ‘inspired by the Steiner Waldorf educational approach’. Again, the website encourages anyone interest in this concept to fill in details on their website.
ASAG is also aware of several other school providers who have announced interest in the site during the past last year.
Those providers who put in their bids for the site to the Department for Education between December 17 and January 4 will be assessed and an announcement made by the Secretary for Education in the first half of 2013.
Meanwhile, although LBI has now made their Section 77 official application to the Department for Education in October, declaring the school ‘superfluous to educational needs’, an Independent Inspector will be making a Site Allocation assessment at Islington Town Hall, on Monday and Tuesday, December 10 and 11. The Inspector’s task is to assess if Islington have followed their rules and obligations in declaring the site superfluous. The Ashmount Site is scheduled last on the agenda, so will presumably be heard on Tuesday afternoon. A helpful explanation of Section 77 can be found here:
ASAG has argued throughout LBI’s consideration of Ashmount that they have not followed their own rules, not properly consulted, and not taken notice of local opinion by dismissing an ASAG petition signed by over 1,100 local residents. ASAG has also been supported through by other local groups.
However, as ASAG has pointed out to the Inspector, LBI’s Section 77 application has only recently been submitted to the Department for Education, and is currently under consideration by the department. Whatever decision may be taken by the Independent Inspector, the time for an independent assessment should be only after the Secretary of State announces his decision.
We await, with some optimism, the decision of the Department for the Secretary of State early next year.
20/10/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG, 20/10/12
To all supporters of THE ASHMOUNT SITE ACTION GROUP (ASAG)
The London Borough of Islington have now sent to the Department of Education their application (S77) seeking approval for a change of use of the Ashmount Site from educational use to housing.
This is the next step for LBI in its attempts to sell off this site to developers for the creation of a housing estate.
The Department of Education is now considering this application. This process could take some time.
We are optimistic, in the light of the current educational site needs expound by the Secretary of State for Education and, indeed, recently echoed by the Mayor of London, that the DoE will not treat this application in a favourable light and will reject it.
In spite of the fact LBI did not advertise to educational bodies that the site and school buildings would become vacant, and, indeed, were negative in dealing with inquiries from those bodies who discovered this, we know there are now four interested bodies that have been in contact with the DoE.
However, the process of consideration is now ongoing. Now is the time for anyone who has not sent in their views to Rt. Hon. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, to do so. Many of you might wish to resend simply reiterating your views. Supporters of retaining the Ashmount site for education need to remind the Department of the overwhelming local support – some 1,200 local residents signed a petition - to retain Ashmount for education. That petition, rejected by LBI, has now been forwarded to the DoE. But individual letters also help.
We are now into the final stage of local community endeavour to keep Ashmount for education. Thank you for support.
Please write now to Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP. Secretary of State for Education, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
You may also e-mail him on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
26/7/12 from David Barry
- Received from David Barry, 26/7/12
The posting on this site, just below, of the recent letter from Eleanor Schooling and the ASAG response is welcome, because all too often discussion in the local community about Ashmount has been characterised by less than well tempered exchanges, long on assertion and short on evidence. I do have three comments on the ASAG response which I offer in a constructive spirit, and in the hope that should ASAG choose to further reply it will throw some more light on their case.
“But there is already, this September, a shortage of places in the reception year in this school area.”
This is a very definite statement. Either there is a shortage of places this year or there is not, can I ask what the evidence is for this statement? Is ASAG aware of people living in this area who have applied for places and not got them? I ask because I am not aware of any but am open to correction. More generally I was told a few weeks ago by an Officer attending the Islington Schools' Forum that all applicants for school places in Islington had been offered places for September 2012. If ASAG has better, local, information, could they please share it?
“(all local schools including Ashmount are fully subscribed for the first time anyone can remember).”
Actually Ashmount School has been fully subscribed for some years, NOT because of a shortage of school places, but because people choose to come to the school. The past period of undersubscription the school suffered from came to an end as a reflection of the school's growing reputation validated by the last two OFSTED reports. This trend (which has included children transferring in from other schools) has been accelerated by the confirmation that the school will move to the new building at Crouch Hill. Parents have been very open with us that they chose Ashmount very much despite the difficulty of the current building and the low quality environment it provides. Now of course the next intake know they will only be in the old building for a matter of months at most. So a significant constraint on recruitment has gone.
“and that shortage will be repeated for each of the next 7 years, making a total shortage by then in this North Islington school area of approximately the size of a 2-form entry primary school. These are Islington’s figures.”
Again this is a very important assertion. Could ASAG please publish the figures on which it is based? This website represents an excellent opportunity.
22/7/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 22/7/12
You may have received a letter from Eleanor Schooling, Director of Children’s Services for the London Borough of Islington, about our Petition to keep the Ashmount School site in educational use (see below).
In that letter she says that there are 1,653 unused places in Islington primary schools (an 8% vacancy rate). She says ‘schools will become fuller’ but that there will still be space. But there is already, this September, a shortage of places in the reception year in this school area (all local schools including Ashmount are fully subscribed for the first time anyone can remember) and that shortage will be repeated for each of the next 7 years, making a total shortage by then in this North Islington school area of approximately the size of a 2-form entry primary school. These are Islington’s figures.
Why is Islington’s figure in their letter different? There are two main reasons:
- They use figures for the whole Borough, and most of the spaces are at the other end of the Borough, no use to children here
- The 1,653 unused places are the current figures. We have the figures for 7 years’ time and they are very different throughout the Borough. Islington has these figures but does not supply them.
- In short, the Islington letter produces one figure that is
- Not relevant to children in this area
- Only applies to the current year, and so is short-sighted
Although ASAG’s calculations use Islington’s own figures, in fact Islington makes lower estimates of Planned Admission Numbers than the GLA. If the GLA figures are right then the shortfall of primary school places in this area in a few years’ time will be a bigger problem.
The letter refers to the cost of a new school. Academies/Free Schools are paid for by central government not from council tax.
There is nothing in Eleanor Schooling’s letter that makes ASAG doubt the need for a new primary school in this area. If there were no primary school at Ashmount there would be a numerical and geographical hole in primary school provision here. We shall continue on your behalf to make the case to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, that he should refuse a change of use of the site to housing. Do write to him – every letter counts.
Many parents of young children locally have signed to say that they would send their children to such a school in September 2013 or 2014. If you have pre-school age children and have not yet responded, please do so by email to ASAG.
The letter in question:
Friday, 6 July 2012
Thank you for signing the petition calling on the Council to keep the current Ashmount school site in educational use
Ashmount school is moving to its state-of-the-art new building in October 2012, which will leave the current site empty. If we kept the old site in educational use beyond this, it would be by opening a new school there. The debate about keeping the old site in educational use therefore rests on the question of whether we need another new school.
After listening carefully to the arguments, and investigating the matter thoroughly, we have concluded that Islington does not need a new school. As it stands there are 14,012 primary school places in Islington for 12,355 primary age children. That’s over 1,650 unused places in our primary schools. Looking into the future we predict that although our schools will become fuller, there will still be surplus places in our existing schools. If the situation changes and it turns out that we do need extra school spaces in North Islington, it will be significantly cheaper and quicker to expand some of our existing schools who have the capacity to take more children in their current buildings.
Putting a new school on the current Ashmount site would either require very major works to the current building, or a new school building on the site. The cost of this would be many millions of pounds. You and fellow taxpayers would end up paying for this very expensive work to build a school the borough doesn’t need.
Finally, we believe that creating an unnecessary new school could create problems for the existing schools in the area by taking pupils away from them. This would cut the budgets of our schools and so might affect the standard of education for other children.
In summary, keeping the current Ashmount site for education would be unnecessary, a bad use of public money, and potentially detrimental for the education of children in nearby schools. It is for these reasons that I’m afraid the council cannot support your petition.
Corporate Director Children’s Services Children’s Services Department 222 Upper Street, London N1 1XR
T 020 7527 5624
W www.islington.gov.uk E email@example.com
9/7/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 9/7/12
Dear ASAG Supporter
The Executive of London Borough of Islington (LBI) will soon apply to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, for a change of use of the Ashmount School site from education which will allow a housing estate to be built instead. It is now very timely for all ASAG supporters to write to Michael Gove to complain about LBI’s cavalier and ill-conceived closure of Ashmount School – certainly before July 17th when Parliament closes for summer.
As you know, we think this is a hopelessly short-sighted application since there is already a shortage of secondary school space in this part of Islington (St Aloysius School is having to teach in the Methodist Hall at Archway), and from this September there will also be a shortage of primary school reception places in this school area. Within 7 years a whole new primary school will be needed here, without there being a single building or space to provide one (LBI’s own prediction!)
Islington's plan, about which they have given no detail at all, is to use what they say is “under-used space” in other schools. All that means is cramming ever more children into already inadequate educational provision in this area.
Ashmount is a lovely school site and the figures show that it would be well used as a Primary School. There are people interested in putting the site to other educational uses too (secondary schooling, a free school or academy, a specialist school of some sort). Once built over for housing the site would be lost to education for ever.
The more people who write to the Department for Education about this, the more likely it is that LBI will be prevented from pursuing their mistaken plans. Islington know they are isolated and on the defensive - there is simply no local support for their plans. Their figures for how they will carry on educating the children in this part of the Borough do not stack up.
Please now make your views known to Michael Gove by sending a letter or email to the Department of Education (DfE).
For physical mail, write to:
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Education
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT
Or e-mail: Rt Hon Michael Gove MP on: firstname.lastname@example.org (with ‘Ashmount School, London Borough of Islington’ as subject).
Or: via the Department for Education website where a contact form is provided:
You may also like to write to write to one of the other Ministers. Sarah Teather MP used to be a local councillor for this Ward before she became an MP and children's minister in the DfE.
ASAG is sending the petition with over 1100 of your signatures directly to the Minister but now is the time to get your voice heard by the person who has the power to stop LBI.
YOUR LETTERS TO MICHAEL GOVE WILL COUNT!
Suggested Key points for your letter to Michael Gove:
- We want Ashmount to remain in educational use, after it becomes vacant in October 2012
- We want more time to develop a free school proposal and/or other options
- We don’t feel the residents’ voice has been heard
- Islington has begun soft-marketing the site for housing irrespective of our views, without undertaking any strategic thinking about continuing educational use, or marketing for educational use
- The site has been used as a school since 1952, and valuable open land since the 1800’s. It should not be filled up with housing
- The Ashmount Site lies directly on the border between Islington and Haringey, and Haringey is already admitting to a 15% under capacity of Primary pupil places from 2015 onwards in neighbouring Crouch End
- We believe that the new 2 form entry school building that Islington has built on the Crouch Hill site will be inadequate to meet the demand for pupil places in this northern end of the borough within a couple of years. Indeed Islington’s own sketchy figures show there is need in this ward from 2016 onwards
- The Cushman Wakefield report commissioned by LBI successfully establishes the complete lack of an alternative suitable site for a new school in the wider area. We believe the Ashmount site can accommodate a new school or educational facility and importantly, that it is the only remaining location at this end of the borough that can
- The Labour administration of Islington Council is planning on building 550 extra residential units in and around Archway. They are passionately committed to creating as much social housing as possible and their core strategy states that 50% of all social housing will be of 4 or more bedrooms, 30% will be 3 bedroom, 20% 2 Bedroom. That is a lot of extra children just down the road from the Ashmount Site. LBI state that they can accommodate all increases in the birth rate locally by expanding other local schools. They make no mention of the impact on planned admission numbers of the extra housing they are planning on building
- We applaud Michael Gove’s resistance to selling off invaluable school playing fields (Section 77) and hope very much he will apply this here
- We appreciate this is a complex decision and that the minister needs to balance different agendas and if he does not feel able to reject Islington’s application immediately, we would ask him to delay the response to the application to allow the local community time to develop a viable Free School alternative to the council’s plans to fill the site up with housing.
And finally, in order to explore whether there is any interest locally (in the absence of LBI’s proper planning for education in the area):
If you are pregnant, have toddlers or babes in arms and are interested in the possibility of a primary free school on your doorstep please fill out the attached form and email it back to us within by 12th July to email@example.com. We have been advised that a list of just 30 interested families with children who would be ready for a Reception and Yr 1 places in 2014/15 should be enough to demonstrate that sufficient potential stakeholders already exist locally for a viable Free School Application to be made later this winter. This will make it easier for Michael Gove to find in our favour, and either reject or delay Islington’s application to dispose of the school site.
Many thanks for your continuing support for the SaveAshmount4Schools campaign. Please forward this to any friends or neighbours who you think should know the above.
27/3/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 27/3/12
Dear ASAG supporter,
Good News! Despite Islington Council’s concerted attempts to give the opposite impression, the change of designation of the Ashmount School Site from educational use to housing, is still not a done deal. The official consultation period for this change of use runs until 8th May. ASAG is continuing to campaign and build the case to make it easy for Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education to turn Islington Council’s request to dispose of school land and playing fields down.
Please sign our new petition either by filling out the attached leaflet, or by signing up to our brand new e-petition at www.louder.org.uk/SaveAshmount4Schools/
Also attached is a survey – we want to find out just how serious the loss of a local junior school is going to be in the area. If you have young children- this is to ask about what school provision you would like in this area. If you do not have a printer, e-mail us and we will deliver a paper copy for you to complete.
Meanwhile please also put the following date in your diary for ASAG’s crucial next meeting Thursday 26th April 7pm at the Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre, Ashmount Road (this is where Islington voters attend for polling). The meeting is to update you as to developments and latest obfuscating undertaken by Islington Council. We need your help mounting an effective media campaign in the final run up to the 8th May consultation deadline.
Hoping very much that you will be able to attend the meeting.
Please also consider passing this mail onto anyone you know who is not aware of ASAG’s role in fighting to preserve this invaluable local amenity – and to save Ashmount School for education.
21/3/12 Site Consultation - A response from local residents
- Received 21/3/12
Ashmount School Site Consultation - A response from several local residents
1. The Council has failed to look adequately at proposals other than standard Council housing. The site should be retained for a wider community use - e.g. sheltered housing, of which there is none in the immediate neighbourhood - provided by a specialist Housing Association or e.g. an Education Club that could be used for reading groups and mentors.
2. Any housing on the vacated Ashmount School site should be on a scale and dimension that fits in with the Victorian/Edwardian terraced streets of the Conservation Area in which the school site stands.
3. The housing should be houses, with gardens, where children can play safely. Building sustainable terraced houses will make optimum use of the site, no higher than three storeys maximum. The houses should have very high insulation to make them energy efficient. They should have solar panels for heating and hot water and, with a view to projected droughts; they should have grey water recycling.
4.1 There has to be vision in the way this special site with its long-established trees and safe habitat for large numbers of wildlife species - including protected species of owls and bats - is treated. It is important for LBI councillors and officers to understand that they will be handing down a legacy for future generations and, therefore, they should avoid high-density high-rise blocks that have caused so many social and mental health problems in the borough.
4.2 The Council Core Planning Strategy states that Islington should avoid becoming a ‘dormitory borough’. Regrettably, anyone who knows Hornsey Lane well can show officers and councillors how it has already become a dormitory road with massed high-rise blocks and social isolation. We want no more of such schemes.
4.3 The Islington Core Strategy policies CS8 ‘Enhancing Islington’s Character’, and CS9 ‘Protecting and Enhancing Islington’s Built and Historic Environment’ (agreed and adopted in February 2011) argue for the human scale and preservation of Conservation Areas. The existing historical, mainly Victorian and Edwardian dwellings, give the neighbourhood its much-loved sense of place. We expect LBI to respect the Conservation Area and produce housing that is sympathetic to it.
5. The Consultation on the future of the Ashmount School site (closing date March 16 2012) states that Islington Council wishes to provide new homes with at least 50% affordable housing. We fear the actuality of this means the Council will try to railroad through a high-rise and high-density scheme with the penthouses at the top paying for the so-called affordable housing.
6. The new development will put a lot more pressure on the already over-stretched local infrastructure including primary care services, community nursing services, domiciliary care and also public transport. The new development should house a health centre with GP practices. We shall want assurances that the additional demands on sewerage and water will be met, especially in view of the collapse of the local Victorian sewer in recent years.
7. The new development will need garages, as there is already severe parking pressure in the streets surrounding the Ashmount School site. The new residents cannot be prevented from owning cars, and following a right-to-buy purchase of their homes will claim human rights discrimination if not allowed parking permits.
8. Because of the existing security risks we do not want a public open space at the back of our homes. It is impossible to police them and, regrettably, evidence from others shows that such a space will be used for drug selling and drug taking, with knife crime and attack dogs adding to the risks for local residents. The turf wars of drug pushers and estate gangs (the Conservation Area is surrounded by many estates) will add to security problems. Such a space also facilitates glue sniffing and alcohol abuse. Dog fouling is already a major problem locally. A public open space will simply be used as a handy place for dogs to do their mess. There is adequate public open space, Waterlow Park, within 10 minutes walk of the Ashmount School site, and Parkland Walk, which is 5 minutes away.
9. Perimeter fences: The existing ‘buffer zone’ between the school playground and the back fences of Gresley Road, and the fence protecting the Whitehall Park houses/flats in Kent House, and the side entrance to Ashmount Road houses, should be preserved. The police have already been consulted about security risks and have advised higher fences. The proposed development is likely, as a direct consequence for which the Council will be responsible, to lead to more break-ins unless there are higher perimeter fences.
10. High security risks and vandalism: from October 2012 when (according to the consultation document) Ashmount School leaves the site will be empty, insecure and highly vulnerable to vandalism as will local residents to increased security risks.
When vacant the Ashmount School site should be fenced off with high safety boarding (as used on properly-run construction sites). It should also have nighttime to early morning routine guard dog patrol.
11/3/12 The Highgate Society, to LBI
- From The Highgate Society 11/3/12, to LBI
THE HIGHGATE SOCIETY
10a South Grove Highgate N6 6BS
March 11, 2012
To: London Borough of Islington/LDF
Re: Comments on the Draft Planning Brief for the Ashmount Primary School Site, prepared by the LBI, dated January 2012.
We are writing on behalf of the Highgate Society concerning the Draft Planning Brief for the Ashmount site, which is intended to guide future development on the site of the Ashmount Primary School.
We consider the Draft Planning Brief to be a fundamentally flawed document and are in favour of it being either withdrawn or substantially redrafted and re-issued for future public consultation once the following comments are addressed.
1.) While noting that Islington is keen to meet and exceed targets for new housing in the Borough, the proposed change of use for the Ashmount site is contrary to several key policies and objectives in the adopted Core Strategy which are not even given cursory consideration in the Draft Planning Brief. These are policies that relate specifically to this educational site with open space, in particular Policies CS 15 Open space and green infrastructure, and CS 16 Play Space, as well as Policy CS 9 Protecting and enhancing Islington’s built and historic environment. This overwhelming deficiency is, in itself, enough to invalidate the Draft Planning Brief.
2.) It is also unacceptable that the London Borough of Islington, despite its obligation to seek the views and comments of local residents and amenity groups, should continue to ignore the overwhelming local opinion that the site should remain in educational or community use. This was clearly borne out by the great majority of responses to the Site Allocation and Future Use of the Ashmount Primary School Site (SITE OIS10) consultations in December 2011, and in meetings/correspondence with local residents, most recently in a meeting with local councillors to discuss the future of the site held on October 3, 2011.
3.) Despite widespread agreement of local views, the London Borough of Islington continues to press forward as if it is a foregone conclusion that the only suitable future use of the site will be for housing. Again this conclusion is flawed, and without consideration of other uses the Draft Planning Brief should be rejected.
4.) In the event that the Ashmount site is converted into housing, the Highgate Society’s primary concern is that it will be lost as a school site. Seen against the background of a well-documented shortage of educational spaces in Islington, in the adjacent London Borough of Haringey and in London overall, such a policy is politically and economically shortsighted, as well as being unsustainable on the community level. LBI Councillor Richard Watt’s own current roll and projections for all schools in the Tollington, Hillrise, Junction and St George’s wards shows a shortfall in primary school places from 2017 onwards (letter dated 12 January to Francis Wilkinson/ASAG). Cllrs Rachel Allison, Bob Hare and Neil Williams from the adjacent London Borough of Haringey have written the Secretary of State for Education urging retention of the Ashmount site for educational use whether it be for primary, secondary or tertiary education in the future (letter dated 14 November to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP). These pressing issues are not even mentioned in the Draft Planning Brief.
5.) In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the LBI has revealed that it has already 'soft marketed' the site to Registered Providers of Social Housing. The record shows that it has always been LBI's intention to "fund this project [the new school in Crouch Hill] from the Ashmount School site..." (report of the Executive, May 2007) . Furthermore the LBI record shows that " if Ashmount School is relocated, the school buildings and land can be sold for conversion into alternative uses to provide funding for the relocation. ... An overage condition would be applied to the sale so that the Council would benefit if the purchaser was able to increase the number of units estimated the site can accommodate." (report of Executive January 2008). In the Draft Planning Brief, it should be made clear that 1) LBI has already received bids to redevelop the site for housing, and 2) that an overage clause is being considered as part of the land sale, so that LBI will benefit financially from the greatest possible housing density on the site. The financial and other details of the site valuations are currently being withheld by the LBI as exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The Highgate Society finds it completely unacceptable that the LBI is planning to dispose of a public asset without any transparency whatsoever; these bids concern the sale of public property, and should not be exempt from disclosure. LBI clearly has a conflict of interest in acting as an ‘impartial’ arbiter preparing a Planning Brief for the site while at the same time negotiating with potential purchasers to maximise financial gain from the site. This would appear to legally invalidate the Draft Planning Brief.
Specific Issues in the Draft Planning Brief:
6.) Section 1.0.1, the Draft Planning Brief states, “The existing school building was not capable of being refurbished to meet current educational requirements”. Numerous studies have shown the opposite and the studies by PMT (October 2007) and by Barron and Smith Architects (March 2008) merely concluded that: “without any infill extension, addition of lifts and extensive works to the building fabric and services, it will not be possible to provide, the briefed areas within the existing building and a working environment that is suitable for a 21st Century Primary Education for the next thirty years.” That the Ashmount School is in a poor state of repair is due to savings on necessary maintenance over the previous decades. The School built in 1957 has served, largely unaltered, as a primary school for over 50 years. All schools of that age require periodic extensions, accessibility upgrades and improvements to the building fabric. This is not the same thing as ‘not being capable of being refurbished’. The statement in the Draft Planning Brief is purposely misleading.
7.) Section 1.0.1, the Draft Planning Brief states, “It is expected that the current school will move into their new premises in October 2012 and at that stage the Hornsey Lane site will be surplus to educational requirements.” LBI’s own assessment of primary school needs shows a shortfall of primary school places already in 2017. No assessment of secondary, tertiary or special needs education has been made. Local Councillors from Haringey have petitioned for retention of the school site due to pressing need in the adjacent borough. (see point 4 above). Lastly there is a well-documented shortage of free school and private school sites across London. Enquiries from interested parties have been made to LBI with a view to using the site for educational purposes.
8.) Section 1.2.1, the Draft Planning Brief states, “Islington Council has undertaken significant consultation with relevant stakeholders regarding the future of education provision at Ashmount School. This included a survey of local residents between December 2006 and January 2007, which received over 500 responses. Of these responses two-thirds favoured relocation of the school to the Crouch Hill site. 40% of respondents had children at the school and of these 90% favoured relocating the school.” It is important to note that for several years prior to this survey, and continuing past 2006, Ashmount School was an underperforming school that was among the lowest ranked primary schools in Islington, which had a material impact on residents’ views. Despite many claims to the contrary, there is no direct link between attainment of educational standards and the built fabric of a school. It is merely one of a number of factors. Prior to the past decade, Ashmount School was a well-performing school, so the relatively recent fall in standards probably had more to do with other factors. The January 2005 Ofsted Report mentions “pupils’ underachievement, weaknesses in teaching and assessment, pupils’ attitudes and behaviour, unsatisfactory leadership and management”. It is interesting to note that the latest Ofsted Report on the school (October 2008) shows that the school was making great progress and makes no mention of any problems or deficiencies in the built fabric of the school.
Furthermore, construction of a new primary school alluded to in the Dec 2006-Jan 2007 survey is not synonymous with decommissioning the existing school.
9.) Section 1.2.1, the Draft Planning Brief states, “In considering these studies [assessment reports by architects PMT and Barron and Smith Architects] the Council concluded that the existing locally listed school building could not be adapted to meet either current or future educational purposes.” This conclusion was made by the Council and is not the recommendation of any of the assessment studies. Several reports pointed to refurbishment of the existing school as the cheaper option, compared to building a new school (on Metropolitan Open Land) at Crouch Hill. However, refurbishment options would not provide a financial windfall produced by the sale of the Ashmount site. (see point 5 above)
10.) Section 1.2.1, the Draft Planning Brief states, “However retention of the building for other purposes was not ruled out.” This option is not given consideration as part of the Draft Planning Brief.
11.) Section 2.1.7, the Draft Planning Brief states, “This Planning Brief also takes into account, and is consistent with, emerging policies contained within the Site Allocations document and Development Management Policies (public consultations during November and December 2011). Upon submission of these DPDs to the government, emerging policies will be a material consideration in the assessment of planning applications. The adopted version of this Planning Brief will be consistent with policies contained in submission DPDs, and hence with any subsequently adopted policies.” The Draft Planning Brief does not take account of several UDP policies and Core Strategies, such as Policies CS 15 Open space and green infrastructure, and CS 16 Play Space, as well as Policy CS 9 Protecting and enhancing Islington’s built and historic environment. (see point 1 above). Nor does it mention overwhelming resistance to loss of the educational use during consultations for the Site Allocations Document. (see point 2 above)
12.) Section 3.4.3, the Draft Planning Brief states, “The topography of the site and the existing mature trees allows the opportunity to create a small residential neighbourhood of considerable character. Any buildings above three floors in height will have wide views to the south across Central London. There is an opportunity to create a small public open space on the site as part of a new pedestrian route.” Note that the surrounding neighbourhood already has considerable character, being primarily a mix of different housing types and tenures. The modern Ashmount School buildings contribute to this diversity of styles and scales, and create mixed use and employment in the local area. Reference to views above three stories seems to be justifying a particular design solution with tall buildings. Lastly the area already has ‘pedestrian routes’ called streets; it is entirely unclear why a new pedestrian route be desirable within this site. Nor are any reasons put forward in the brief that would justify the loss of the existing playing fields for local children and their substitution by ‘a small public open space’.
13.) Section 3.4.4, the Draft Planning Brief states, “In accordance with Council policy the general provision of on street car parking would be unacceptable.” Surrounding streets are already full and LBI operates a CPZ but only in the hours of 10-2 (M-F). The Draft Planning Brief mentions family housing (section 4.1.1). Is it the intention of the council to disadvantage families or workers who rely on their cars for work or transport? The PTAL rating of 3 does not justify a car-free development. This will merely allow greater residential density on the site and push the parking problem onto surrounding streets, outside of CPZ hours.
14.) Section 4.1, the Draft Planning Brief states, “A key objective of any future development of the Ashmount School site will be to provide new housing, including affordable housing and family housing, to meet housing needs in Islington.” Again, no other use (educational, healthcare, community, or cultural) to ‘meet the needs of Islington’ is being considered. Housing is merely the use that provides the greatest short-term financial gain for the Borough.
15.) Section 4.2.2, the Draft Planning Brief states, “The Council’s emerging Site Allocations document describes the site as “suitable for residential purposes, primarily family housing, community uses and the creation of a new publicly accessible open space.” This statement makes no mention of the massive local opposition to that site description in the Site Allocations document. (see point 2 above)
16.) Section 4.2.8, the Draft Planning Brief states, “any development will be expected to be car free.” (see point 14 above). This is in direct contradiction to the London Plan and is unacceptable in areas with low PTAL ratings.
17.) Section 4.2.11, the Draft Planning Brief states , the surrounding area “generally features two and three storey buildings surrounding the site to the south, east and west with buildings of larger scale on Hornsey Lane” This appears to promote the possibility of greater scale and taller building heights on Hornsey Lane. In fact most residences on the south side of Hornsey Lane are either considerably set back from the street or are two-three storey residences.
18.) Section 4.2.13, the Draft Planning Brief states, “It must be demonstrated that any development proposals would not have a significant detrimental impact to the amenity of any neighbouring properties.” If the term ‘significant detrimental impact’ is allowed to stand in the Draft Planning Brief, this would allow proposed schemes to have ‘moderate’ or even ‘considerable’ detrimental impact and still comply with the planning brief. Conservation Area planning guidance seeks to prevent any detrimental impact caused by new development and this is equally applicable to the Ashmount Site. For this reason we are copying this letter to English Heritage.
19.) Section 4.3.9, the Draft Planning Brief concerns the planning guidelines that create a presumption in favour of retaining heritage assets including locally listed buildings. The Highgate Society considers the Ashmount School to be an innovative and inspiring work by Henry Cadbury Brown, an important architect of 20th century Britain, whose works included the Royal College of Art and whose work has recently been the subject of a book and exhibition. Before the school was allowed to deteriorate through lack of maintenance and poor leadership, it was an exemplar of good design, including sensitive siting within its neighbourhood context to preserve existing trees and make optimal use of the topography of the site. The school buildings themselves are full of light and air, and have access to adequate play space, qualities often lacking in urban schools. These buildings have housed a fine community school for the past 50 years and should be easily capable, once years of neglect have been made good, to do so for the next 50 years. The school makes a positive visual, aesthetic, social and employment contribution to the Conservation Area. There are viable uses for the buildings once the primary school relocates to Crouch Hill in October 2012. In particular, several school groups have expressed a keen interest in the site.
20.) For the reasons set out above, the Highgate Society considers the Draft Planning Brief for the Ashmount School site to be fundamentally flawed. It should be withdrawn and reissued once educational and/or community uses are given due consideration. In keeping with the Whitehall Park Conservation Area guidelines, the Highgate Society strongly urges that the buildings are creatively and thoughtfully renovated. Demolishing a locally listed and functioning primary school would not only be unjustifiable but also contrary to the principals of sustainable development. The proposed brief for building housing on the site would compound the environmental damage already caused by constructing a new school on Metropolitan Open Land in a borough with an identified open space deficiency. The proposals are clearly being driven by the London Borough of Islington solely for reasons of financial gain, and therefore call into question the processes, which have led to the Draft Planning Brief.
Elspeth Clements, Chair, Highgate Society Planning Group Michael Hammerson, Chair Highgate Society Policy and Project Group Teva Hesse, Highgate Society Planning Group and Local Resident
9/3/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 9/3/12
LBI STILL TRYING KEEP FACTS FROM RESIDENTS
ASAG has learnt this week LBI’s response to three questions put to them about the Ashmount Site under the Freedom of Information Act.
How has the Ashmount School Site been valued by LBI (as an education site and/or as a potential site for housing purposes) and what are the values?
LBI replied that it was not in the public interest to give an answer but tried to obfuscate the issue by answering an entirely different question, stating the site has been valued by Cushman & Wakefield in 2007 and 2010 and by G.L. Hearn Property Consultants in 2011.
What marketing documents for the site are available?
Again there was no answer to the specific question but it was claimed the council applied `soft marketing’ (no definitions given) and referred the questioner to the Planning Brief which, of course, is no answer at all. But in other words, no marketing documents are available because we can only deduce that LBI made no effort to market the site going directly to an agreed property developer. Nor did LBI advise the availability of the Ashmount Site to other educational users. The site, of course, remains as an educational site until a final decision by central government accepts or rejects LBI’s contention that it is surplus to educational use.
Please supply a list of all enquiries about alternative educational use for the site?
This, amazingly, did bring forth an answer – LBI admit that there had been three enquiries so far. ASAG are, of course, aware of other enquiries apart from the ones listed which have obviously been diverted by the council’s attitude that the school was no longer for educational use. One local school, enquiring of LBI officers about prospects of taking on the site, was firmly told ‘not to go there’ (sic). But the LBI answer to the FOI request does indicate that, had the site been advertised in a proper manner according to the usual rules dealing with such matters, there would have been a larger amount of enquiries from educational users to purchase the site and continue it in educational use.
The Current Consultation
The Consultation that LBI must undertake to dispose of school land and also to ask about what kind of development might follow is closing on 16th March (although the LBI website mentions 8th May – see here www.islington.gov.uk/childrens-and-families/education-and-childcare/5-16/SchoolsforFuture/default.asp). In any case, respond now in writing if you can. Tell LBI that school land should not be disposed of, that continued educational use is necessary and desirable. Amenities are essential in any community.
Write to : firstname.lastname@example.org, addressing your letters to Eshwyn Prabhu.
Alternatively, there is an on-line form:
1/3/12/ from Roxane Stirling, Ashmount Resident
- Received 1/3/12/ from Roxane Stirling, Ashmount Resident
I wonder if you would circulate to members or publish on your website the following in connection with the Ashmount School Site, I think it raises some interesting issues and suggestions. Obviously time is of the essence!
Roxane Stirling, Ashmount Resident
From: Jo Pearl
Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:12 PM To: roxane stirling
Subject: Ashmount Consultation - points to consider by 16th March
Hi Roxane, I would be very grateful if you could forward this email to our neighbours in the loop, and also to the Whitehall Conservation Area group:
We are now in the countdown to the end of Islington’s Consultation on the future of the Ashmount Site, closing on 16th March. There are many problems that LBI still has not addressed in their consultation process which include:
Families Need Cars
LBI stated at last October’s public meeting that they would like to build Social Housing, specifically for FAMILIES on this site. And that they have the funds to do so. Counsellor Paul Convery has also let slip verbally that he is in favour of ‘high density housing’. The current consultation document talks of at least 50% social housing and that the site is suitable for ‘residential purposes, primarily family housing, community use and the creation of publicly accessible open space’. Don’t get lured into a false sense of security with notions of community use and public space...
Few are the families that can get by without a car: to hold down jobs, to do the weekly shop, to ferry kids around. It is not enough to simply say, as LBI does in its Consultation literature, “any development will be expected to be car free”.
Why should the residents of Ashmount Road and the Hornsey Lane Estate be allowed to buy parking permits but a family in the proposed new flats not be allowed? Sounds like a court case in the making doesn’t it? The European Court of Human Rights has made a habit of hearing cases such as these. Picture the scenario: the new resident who moves in is un-employed, and then is offered a job which requires him to drive a company car or van? And let’s say he has to work night shifts, and therefore sleep during the day when he would need to park the car/van and have access to residents’ parking rights. He could easily argue that he was not able to take up the job because of the restrictions on parking, and challenge it in Strasbourg. Once the restrictions have been overturned, the floodgates to other families wanting parking permits would open, and all platitudes about expecting the development to be car free will be in vain.
Ashmount’s Unique Parking Problem
Ashmount Road already has unique parking pressures, as we all know. We are at the boundary between Islington and Haringey, and so parking overflow to the West is not possible or at best very inconvenient. Hornsey Lane is too narrow to allow for any extra parking. Ashmount Road therefore already has to accommodate a disproportionately large number of cars compared to a normal terraced London street:
- Cars belonging to residents of Ashmount Road
- Cars of the Residents of the Hornsey Lane Estate
We have all experienced the problem of driving home after 9pm and finding the parking in Ashmount Road is choc-a-block, and then having to circle round the neighbouring streets looking for a place to park, and eventually finding one up to 3 streets away. This can only get worse if there are more family vehicles in the road. The problem will spread further than Greeley and Dresden Roads.
What will happen if we have even more family residents on the new site?
Just because these new residents will not be allowed to buy permits, does not mean that they will not have cars. They will just have to drive away before 10am in order to not get a ticket. It is still plausible that this could work for a while if they are using their cars for work during the day. Until they get sick of getting parking tickets when they are ill, or on holiday... and take their challenge to Europe.
Or LBI will have to accommodate the family cars on the Ashmount site, which will probably mean underground parking since they have agreed that the site must not be clogged up with car parking. The trees and sense of public space will need to be maintained. It is doubtful that a developer will want to pay for these extra construction costs, and push for a compromise. Green spaces are usually the first to go in any planning compromise.
Social Housing for sectors of the population that genuinely do not need cars
If Islington is determined to have social housing on this site, then they need to face up to the parking problem and create housing for people who genuinely do not need to use cars such as:
- Elderly residents of Nursing Homes/Sheltered Accommodation
- Single Nurses working at the Whittington
Trying to accommodate families will just not be workable and it is ridiculous to think that by stating “any development is expected to be car free” will be sufficient to magic away the problem.
The Case for Continued Educational Use
Islington Council state that there is no need to continue to use the site for educational purposes as they have enough school places provided in the area for the foreseeable future. According to figures published by the Dept of Education last month (see article in The Economist http://www.economist.com/node/21543532) by 2015 London needs to create 70,000 new primary school places. How come Islington is so magically exempt from this demographic tidal wave coming London’s way?
Hidden Need for School Places
Because they refuse to find out the current hidden need for school places: How many local families in the Whitehall Park area do not send their children to Ashmount or any other Islington school, choosing instead to send them to Coleridge, Highgate Primary, St Michael’s or to private schools? A lot. We believe that the dilapidated state of the buildings has been a large contributing factor in this. Many feel that it is too depressing an environment to educate kids in.
We have asked Coleridge School and they have about 5 Islington pupils per class of 4 form entry (that’s 20 kids per year, which represents nearly a whole class size).
In neighbouring, Haringey they have accepted that they will be needing to create 15% more primary school places by 2015. Highgate ward Haringey Councillor, Rachel Allison is so concerned about this acute problem on her borders that she has written to Michael Gove to urge him to not allow the Ashmount site to be changed from its designated educational use. Indeed our nearest alternative school, Coleridge Primary in Haringey has been undergoing a massive expansion from 2 to 4 form entry, and yet it is still over-subscribed. If the Haringey Schools become even more over-subscribed due to the population boom and are no longer able to accommodate Islington children – where would these Islington children go?
The Case for A New School on Ashmount Road
The new Ashmount School building on Crouch Hill will only be able to accommodate 2 form entry. The site is so tight that they have had to create a play area on the school’s roof cut into a hillside. In the future, there will be no space to extend these new school buildings to accommodate more pupils.
The other nearest alternative Islington school is Hargrave Park school, which is about 20-26 minute walk away from the Whitehall Park area down Dartmouth Park Hill.
As recently as 6 years ago, Ashmount school accommodated 3 form entry. It currently only runs a 2 form entry because many local families choose not to send their children there. With a new school building however, there could well be demand for the school on this site. The LBI has not bothered to canvas local families to find out. It is more convenient for them to remain ignorant of the statistics and claim that there is ‘no demand’.
Once the land is gone, it is gone forever
If the land is turned into social housing for families, where will these extra families educate their children? The new Ashmount School on Crouch Hill will not be able to accommodate them. And it is unlikely that the Haringey Schools will be able to either. Sounds like a problem in the making. But guess what? Once the land is built on for housing, the solution it is gone forever. Where will they find a site ample enough to create a new school in our locality? The last time they looked they had to build on the last remaining piece of open metropolitan land in the borough – the Crouch Hill site!
A Genuine and Visionary Compromise: Sheltered Housing and a small Primary School
There is space on this site to create a pioneering solution without creating parking hell: By building both a 2 form entry primary school (without a nursery) and a sheltered housing scheme. By sharing facilities and a vision there is the potential to create an amazing community. It would harness the free time and experience of the older generation to help deliver a visionary primary school education, with built-in high academic attainment. It would also prevent the isolation and depression that often occurs in the elderly when they no longer feel valued by or included in our society. It would draw the community and the generations together through shared learning, work, facilities and support. And it would be car free!
This has worked in America: Grace Living Centre/Jenks Pre-school, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
The Grace Living Retirement Centre in Tulsa, Oklahoma is situation across the road from a public pre-school. Grace Living decided to build on its ground floor, next to the canteen, a reading room suitable for pre-school children, plus a kids’ playground in the grounds of the centre. Once a day the children began crossing the road for their reading lessons. The intrigued residents quickly began volunteering to become reading buddies, and took delight in watching them play. What resulted was:
- The children’s’ reading ability levels increased significantly, and were well above those required on entering primary education.
- The wellbeing of the elderly residents increased significantly also. The amount of medication they took dropped. This has been explained by a new lease of life, as the residents felt engaged, productive, valued, and delighted to be not isolate from the younger generation and the community.
- The children also learnt important lessons about life cycles. Sometimes the residents did not return to join the reading group.
- The children’s sense of modern history was enhanced as the older people shared their experiences, answering questions like “What was it like in the olden days!”
- The children learnt to behave appropriately around the elderly people, not rushing, shouting etc.
Housing for the Elderly or Education? Why not both!
By combining a Primary School with Sheltered Housing Scheme there are:
- Shared Learning Opportunities for Young and Old:
- Intergenerational Reading Buddies system for pupils from Reception to Yr 3, to deliver guaranteed high levels of reading ability.
- Enriched academic experience: 1st Hand History Lessons – the elderly sharing their experiences and memories with the children relating to 20th Century history.
- Growing together: children joining the older people in tending an allotment. The food generated actually being used in the canteen of the Sheltered Housing or School. Plots tended during the summer holidays, not left to rack and ruin.
- Computer Skills –Yr 5-6 Pupils teaching the older people computer and internet skills. THE LEARNING GOES BOTH WAYS.
Cost Savings by Sharing Facilities:
Primary schools tend to be empty after 4.30pm, School facilities such as the Assembly Hall/Gym, library or computer rooms could be used by the centre residents after they children have gone home for things like dance, keep fit, drama, bingo etc.
Who is this good for?
Islington Residents who do not currently educated their children in Islington Schools or who may not be able to educated them in Haringey Schools in the future due to shrinking catchments caused by the growth in the birth rate. The dilapidated state of current school buildings, plus the previous management problems experienced when the infants and junior schools merged 8 years ago, have damaged the current Ashmount School’s reputation and so made it un-popular. But if Islington were able to offer a new school building with a genuinely interesting educational proposition complete with built-in academic achievement, we feel that this would be welcomed by the community and trust could be restored to Islington Educational Services.
Elderly Islington residents would also benefit from having the opportunity to choose a genuinely interesting and engaging lifestyle /home. Better than the isolation and lack of involvement that is currently the norm. In addition, the solution would free up council homes vacated by those moving into the sheltered accommodation, and needed for those families that Islington is trying to house. We are proposing it should be Sheltered Housing rather than a Nursing Homes as the residents will need to be mentally fit to create a safe environment for the children.
If you would like to join the campaign for an Intergenerational Living and Learning Centre on Ashmount Road then please contact Joanna Pearl Tel 020 7686 1182, Mobile 07957 440 889 Email email@example.com We need help mobilising local people, conducting a survey to find out how many residents do not send their children to Islington Schools, developing the proposition and lobbying local and central government. The Big Society and The Big Lottery have already expressed an interest in this idea. If we can get Central government to fund it, there is still chance to convince Islington to take up the idea.
Alternatively, if you are not interested in having a school on Ashmount Road then please do lobby Islington about the parking problem in Ashmount Road and the need for genuinely car-free residents on the site.
To remind you, all responses must be done by 16th March, by filling in the leaflet or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and questions and feedback in person at the events being held over the next few days at the Hornsey Lane Estate Community Centre.
Thursday 1 March 5 - 8pm
Friday 2 March 11am - 2pm
Saturday 3 March 11 - 2pm
Additional information about Intergenerational Learning
Sir Ken Robinson talks about the Tulsa example about 18 mins into the film.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iL4rtDnfts&feature=relmfu http://www.edutopia.org/grace-learning-center-prekindergarten-community http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/some-retirees-opting-for-campus-life/ The Centre for Intergenerational Practice. http://www.centreforip.org.uk/
Notice from LBI
- Notice from LBI:
8/2/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 8/2/12
Dear ASAG supporter,
LBI have just sent out by e-mail the attached document, to a surprisingly small number of people (they mistakenly included all addressees in the ‘to’ field!). ASAG has decided it should be seen by all of you.
The gist of this is that LBI have, despite several overt enquiries from schools and educational bodies about possible continuing education use of the school (dismissed without ceremony by the Executive Member as “non-serious”), and despite letters from Haringey Councillors to LBI and to the Minister about a growing shortage of school places in the area (not just the Islington portion of the catchment area), the Council seem determined to carry on regardless.
You will find that this document offers yet another consultative opportunity, the outcome of which will seems to be to secure your input into a proposal that has not been properly decided upon. It remains the almost unanimous local view that the school continue to be a school - so far ignored by LBI. You must decide whether to respond as requested amounts to a tacit agreement with the proposal to dispose of the site. You could alternatively write (again in many cases) to state or re-state your views, since they have been so outrageously overlooked.
It is however important that objections to the disposal of the site be registered loud and clear. Every letter is counted and may well be decisive when these matters are properly investigated. Please therefore write and register your views with the LBI planning officer.
1/2/12 Letter to Ashmount School
- Letter to Ashmount School:
29/1/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 29/1/2012
Dear ASAG supporter
The web site has been updated, with an account of recent LBI activity and ASAG representations.
In brief, the Council have carefully ignored their own rules, planning law, and local opinion. We hope you can find the time to read the account as the campaign which is now at a very important stage.
For those of you living in the Haringey half of the school catchment area, you will see that your Councillor’s representations to LBI have been dismissed as merely politically motivated.
12/1/12 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 12/1/2012
There is a meeting of the LB Islington Executive at 7.30pm on Thursday 12 January at the Town Hall. Agenda item 3D is a paper proposing that the Executive agree that the Ashmount School site is surplus to educational requirements. No assessment of educational need in relation to the site has been done. ASAG has written a letter to the members of the Executive challenging the possibility of making a decision on the basis of the inadequate (and not entirely accurate) information in the Report to be presented to the Executive on Thursday (which is available at the LBI website under democracy/meetings). ASAG's letter is available/attached (delete as appropriate) This is the one I sent you yesterday.
This is the key decision on the Council's proposals for the future use of the site, and any local residents opposed to the single-minded pursuit by the Council Executive of high density housing for the site are encouraged to attend to make their views known.
7/12/11 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG 7/12/2011
LBI’s narrowly focused and partial local consultation ends soon - Dec 12th! – please respond – details are here.
1. Highgate Ward Councillors write in October 2011 to Michael Gove (the Education Minister) demanding he take note of LBI's cavalier failure to address serious Primary School place shortages in the existing Ashmount School catchment area - the removal of the school will create serious problems now and in the future. LBI has not asked or investigated this issue at all. To see their letter, look here.
2. The Highgate Society write to Islington Councillors and Executive members to point out that the plans are a breach of LBI's own planning policies, will destroy a last bit of open land in the area, will put at risk a remarkable building by Festival of Britain architect H.T. Cadbury-Brown (if the neglected, badly mucked about eye-sore offends you, read here for another side of the story), and lastly fails to deal with on-going educational needs & possibilities in the area.
3. ASAG would like a study by architects Purcell Miller Tritton on the possibility of refurbishing the existing school building - which would not be vastly expensive, and could well be home to a school. download here (this pdf is large). This study is in-depth and detailed - it was commissioned by LBI but they do not seem to have seen fit to make it publicly available).
For background on the School site plans, on ASAG and other information, click here
14/11/11 from ASAG
- 14/11/2011 from ASAG
IMMEDIATE ATTENTION OF ALL ASAG MEMBERS
Ashmount Site Action Group
On October 31 the London Borough of Islington sent a letter to local residents asking for views on the proposed change of use of the Ashmount Site – that is the future use of the site currently occupied by the school. This is known as Site Allocation. After this consultation the proposed Site Allocations (all the sites in Islington for which development is proposed) will be approved by LB Islington before being sent to a planning inspector who will consider them in spring next year.
Both LB Islington and the planning inspector will be influenced by the number and nature of the responses to this consultation. This is the stage when future use of the site is decided. Do make your views known – it will make a difference.
If you still have the consultation letter you will see that the Ashmount Site Allocation is almost hidden among other Proposed Submissions of Development Management Policies and Site Allocations. It is all the more important that all concerned residents respond to the consultation request and ensure the council knows their views. Responses must be received by LBI Planning before 5.00 pm on December 12, 2011.
At the ASAG public meetings and at the Hillrise Ward Partnership Meeting at Caxton House, on October 3 the majority of local residents were in favour of continued educational use for the site. Not one voice in the packed meeting supported the council’s proposal to develop a housing estate on the site.
To simplify the obscure manner of the council’s request for your views on the Ashmount Site, you can:
Email your comment to: LDF@islington.gov.uk
Post it to FREEPOST: RSEA-CUHA-YYAS, Planning Policy, Islington Council, 222 Upper Street, London N1 1XR.
Please write ‘Ashmount Site 0IS10’ before your comment.
You can see the relevant documents on the proposed change of use of the Ashmount Site online at www.islington.gov.uk/LDF - you then have to find and click on Site Allocations. When you open this to reach the Ashmount Site information, you have to find Site 0IS10 on pp 162-164. In order to see what comments and answers have already been received on this matter you go back to www.islington.gov.uk/LDF and find and click on to Consultation Statements – and scroll to 4 Ongoing and additional sites consultation pp 64-74.
ASAG thinks LBI’s responses to the comments so far are feeble. While LBI have presented no alternatives to their own plan of high density housing, several educational facilities have already expressed interest in the site. In replying to the LBI consultation we suggest residents make any or all of the following points.
- The Ashmount Site should be retained in educational and community use after the current school is removed to its new site on the former Metropolitan Open Land at Crouch Hill.
- The re-use and sensitive refurbishment of the existing Ashmount School buildings as an educational facility would achieve the most sustainable outcome and be consistent with LBI policies in the CA7 Whitehall Park Design Guidelines policy 7.11.
- In the event of any proposed development of the existing open space, residents would expect that overlooking of and daylight/sunlight reduction to adjacent properties to be negligible. The scale of any new development should not exceed that of the adjacent terraced and detached houses on Hornsey Lane, Ashmount Road, Gresley Road and Whitehall Park; again in accordance with LBI design guidelines, policy 7.13.
- The existing mature trees should be retained and protected as part of any development.
- Any proposed future use of the site should retain its open character and provide public amenity space for the surrounding community.
- Any proposed future development should confine all car parking within the site, as at present. The surrounding roads should not bear any parking overflow from the site.
- Any proposal for the site should enhance the special character and appearance of the Whitehall Park Conservation Area, which is in keeping with Islington Council’s policy 7.9.
- There has been no consultation on any other option that the Council’s preferred option of housing. There has to be an open consultation considering all options before any decision is made. The consultation so far has been biased and inadequate.
Please ensure your views are sent by December 12.
A reminder from ASAG
- A reminder from ASAG (Ashmount Site Action Group)
Ashmount School site development – a meeting convened by Islington Council and Hillrise Councillors
Monday 3rd October at Caxton House on St John's Way, 6.30-7.30pm
Hillrise Councillors, and others from London Borough of Islington, including Councillor Convery, have at last called a public meeting to hear from local people concerning the fate of the Ashmount School site. This is likely to be the only public meeting that Islington Councillors are going to hold about plans for future use of the Ashmount School Site. Please make every effort to attend and hold your elected representatives to account – they should listen to local opinion – and must consider other possible uses of this site – such as continued use for education or even other community use. This is the sole local amenity in an already very densely populated part of the Borough. This goes too of course for the parts of Haringey adjoining the site. Here are some key facts, as presented at the last ASAG public meeting: Ashmount School is intended to be moved to its new site in Sept 2012. Until then it remains designated as a site for Educational purposes. After Sept 2012 Islington Council intends to make the statutory application to central government to change its use to ‘residential’. This process will take about 6 months. Therefore there are still about 18 months left to find an educational establishment that might be interested in taking the site on. ASAG has approached some local schools in the area and already have three expressions of interest. The Free Schools Network has also been contacted to make them aware of the site, in case anyone locally is trying to set up a Free School.
Paul Convery is the Islington Councillor who will preside at the 3rd Oct meeting - he is the Executive Councillor for Regeneration, Planning, Transport and Leisure. He will determine the fate of the site. He is on record as saying that the Council intends to build Affordable Housing on the site – which we understand to mean housing for rental by the Council. Indeed you may remember that this option was the (only) option mentioned on the most recent Council consultative questionnaire. That questionnaire did not offer you the choice to vote for anything else – certainly not continued use of the site for educational purposes. LBI’s official policy is that all new housing built in Islington should not carry with it entitlement to a parking permit, although obviously parking is only restricted during certain hours. Outside that time, new residents may compete freely for parking in the streets around the site. This policy, like the local listing of the School building, or tree preservation orders, or the inviolability of Metropolitan Open Land, is of course provisional cannot be relied upon indefinitely.
LBI claim that they already have the funding in place to provide for an affordable housing development on the Ashmount site. The Council are very keen to build new Council owned housing. To put this in context:
- 41 percent of all housing stock in Islington is Council owned - the highest proportion of any London Borough
- They appear to be more than fulfilling their statutory requirements to provide new housing
- This push for more council owned property is likely therefore to be politically motivated rather than based on a need that exceeds that of any other authority
The site is one of the few open spaces in the area – and yet Islington enjoys the least green space of any Borough. This is doubly true since the new school has meant the loss of the last mixed deciduous woodland in the Borough. The Borough needs green open spaces, not least where the population is already dense. This is welfare issue affecting all.
There are very few amenities in the area - more residents will put more pressure on the pitiful W5 bus service, GP services, and consequently the Whittington.
If you care about the character and quality of life in this already densely populated area – supposedly a conservation area – then the meeting this Monday is critical. The Councillors seem rather unaware of how people feel and what they think. This is a singular and short (1 hour allowed only!) opportunity for you to speak up.
Caxton house is at: 129 St John's Way, London N19 3RQ
8/9/11 from ASAG
- Received from ASAG on 8/9/11
12/6/11 from ASAG
- 12th June 2011
Hillrise Ward Councillors who are your elected representatives have not attended any ASAG meetings, but you now have a chance to meet them at a pubic meeting they have called. If you have not seen the invitation, it is available here.
This is an opportunity to make your views known to your local Councillors about what is to happen to the Ashmount School site. Whether you want it to remain in educational use, or if that cannot happen, then what sort of housing development there should be.
The current ASAG view is that alternative educational use should be explored first, which is a planning requirement in any event, and that if continued educational use is not possible then any housing development should be a mixed development with some 'affordable' housing (which could be council owned) and some private housing.
7/4/11 from ASAG
- News about Ashmount School
7th April 2011. A Contribution from local resident Romy Jenkins
Like many of the families in our area who sent their children to the local state school, I sent my daughter Ellie to Ashmount for the whole of her primary school education. And like many of my neighbours I was heavily involved for many years as a governor and as one of the team of parents who worked on the reading recovery programme. The school has come a long way. The Infants and Juniors Schools were amalgamated and after a period of uncertainty there has been seven years of stability under the headship of Pana McGee, who has successfully raised standards to the extent that they are now oversubscribed.
As I'm sure most people know, the School has been wanting to move to a modern purpose built school, designed to make learning and teaching as effective as possible. There has been a long period of consultation, research and planning and now the plans are approved. Having spoken to the Chair of Governors and others, I can pass on that the building is described as built to very high eco standards, for which it gets a special grant, and which will make it low cost to heat in winter and cool in summer.
Building will start this month (April 2011) on the site of the old Crouch Hill Community Centre and the teachers hope to start working in their new school by Autumn 2012. It is designed to be very flexible and available for community use out of school hours. And of course it is in that lovely parkland area next to the walkway with lots of green, which is so great for our city children.
Romy Jenkins Resident of Cheverton Road
- ASAG AGM
Ashmount Site Action Group convened its 3rd AGM at the Community Centre on Thursday December 9, 2010. Francis Wilkinson led, and gave us a succinct history of ASAG from its inception in 2008. At that time, when the move of the school to Crouch Hill was still to some extent open, most members were in favour of keeping the school where it is. The move will now happen (notionally in 2012), and so that phase is history. ASAG must now look to the future, and how it might influence the redevelopment of the existing school site.
It is clear that the value of the land lies in what development is to be permitted. The current LBI policy is to prioritise social housing. What then should ASAG’s position be? Are blocks of flats inevitable, and if so how high? Or is there any possibility of another kind of housing? Considerations might include space for our youngsters to play, the likely impact on the Conservation area, the environmental impact and even house prices.
What are to be the likely consequences for traffic - including parking - of new housing on the site? Is the school building of architectural value? - it had, after all, been “locally listed”. A majority seemed to think that it was. Debate was both lively and polite (a rare combination) and your correspondent was at no point in danger of nodding off.
The meeting drew up a provisional list of priorities, and received volunteers to enlarged its committee. We wish them well.
Crouch Hill Project agreed
- Crouch Hill Project agreed
Islington Council executive voted last night to continue with the Crouch Hill project.
The project had been under review since the Council election and the associated change of administration from Liberal Democrat control to Labour. The meeting was held in public. The audience included the Head of Ashmount School, the Head of Staff at Bowler's Nursery, parents and former parents of Bowler's and Ashmount, and the members of the Ashmount Site Action Group.
The Chair began by saying that the Ashmount Site Action Group had made a special representation to the executive that consideration of the Crouch Hill project at this meeting would be in breach of the law, and that further any decision to approve the project would be in breach of the Councillors' ethical code. Legal advice had been sought by the Executive which confirmed that it was lawful to consider the matter. Further advice had also confirmed that a decision on the project could be made without breaching the code of conduct.
It was noted that the project had originally been proposed five years ago, and been back to the executive three times since then. Had the original timetable been adhered to Ashmount School would have moved to Crouch Hill last month. It was felt that a final decision either way should now be made. The project was then outlined by the executive member for children and young people, Richard Watts.
Objections to the project were raised by two speakers from the Ashmount Site Action Group. One of whom spoke at some length.
Their main points were:
- That there was an acceptable option set out in the Triton Miller report for solving the problems with the school building by refurbishing it, and this would cost less than moving the school.
- That the project appeared to be driven by the prospect of being able to have social housing built on the current Ashmount site. The new site was far inferior to the current one and the welfare of the children was being ignored by the council.
- It would encroach on Metropolitan Open Land.
The Chair of the meeting asked for responses (if any) from parents.
An Ashmount parent stressed, briefly but forcefully, that the welfare of the children was uppermost in parents' minds. Parents at Ashmount supported the project because they believed it would be best for their children.
A Bowlers parent said she was speaking on behalf of Bowlers Nursery parents, and explained that Bowlers Nursery had operated at Crouch Hill with great success for 26 years (this demonstrated that the site was suitable for little children). She described how beautiful the site was, but said it had been neglected, and the nursery was enthusiastic at the prospect of Ashmount School moving to the site to be with them, as it would enable improvements over and above the needed new building.
An Ashmount governor pointed out that the school, as such, had no interest in what happened to the current site once it was vacated. Therefore the school community's support for the project was not influenced by whether the project enabled the building of housing.
Richard Watts responded to the Ashmount Site Action Group by explaining that the Tritton Miller report did not say that refurbishment would be a complete solution. Moreover the cost of carrying out a refurbishment of the school on site, plus all the other work required over at Crouch Hill would be about two million pounds higher than the cost of the Crouch Hill project now proposed.
Paul Convery, executive member for economic regeneration and planning explained that far from the MOL being degraded it would be enhanced by the project, which is why the council had been able to get special permission to use it for this purpose. He also said that consultations would begin soon on what would done with the current Ashmount site once it was vacated.
The Crouch Hill Project was then agreed by the Executive.
Latest from the Ashmount Governing Body
- Latest from the Ashmount Governing Body
We were pleased earlier this year to be able to give you the good news that both the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State had approved the plans for the proposed new school building on Crouch Hill. With all the necessary permissions in place, Islington Council started proceedings to select a preferred contractor to turn the plans into reality. Ashmount’s school council formed part of this selection process.
The first stage of the Council's tender process is now complete and Wilmott Dixon Group have been selected to develop the detailed design of the buildings. Penoyre & Prasad and the original design team will be working for them on this. We feel very optimistic about working with Wilmott Dixon Group during this next stage.
We will be arranging an open meeting for parents and others to meet the architects and the preferred contractors and learn more about the proposed new building. Watch this space for news!
Meanwhile, Ashmount has been sharing in some of the excitement about the recent elections. We congratulate Marian Spall, an Ashmount governor who has been elected as a Labour councillor for Hillrise ward, Greg Foxsmith, an Ashmount parent who has retained his Hillrise seat as a Liberal Democrat councillor, and Catherine West, an Ashmount parent and a Labour councillor in Tollington ward, who takes over as the new leader of Islington Council. We are delighted that our local councillors have all expressed their support for the school’s move to Crouch Hill and we look forward to working with them as building work commences and the pace starts to pick up.
13/10/09 from David Barry - Town Hall Meeting
- 13th October, 2009
Town Hall Meeting
On Tuesday the 13th October, 2009, seventy-one concerned residents forgathered at Islington's historic Town Hall to listen to nine representatives of our Local Authority making their minds up about the future of the school. The nine sat in the middle, six rather attractive ladies and three ageing gentlemen, all neat and well got up. The seventy-one, somewhat scruffier, sat all around and listened intently.
The acoustics in the Town Hall are the worst in Christendom, and what they listened to was a subdued murmuring and mumbling, as it were a conversation in the next room, out of which the odd locution came dimly through - “due diligence”, “amenity” and “forward planning” may have been said. Your correspondent is a bit hard of hearing anyway, and maybe none of these words were really pronounced. One of our Gresley Road members periodically asked them to please speak up, an appeal to which they seemed to pay no attention at all. Another listener pointed out that they were discussing matters which were not tabled for consideration, so she at least must have been able to hear them.
After a time, during which your correspondent nodded off briefly, some of the concerned residents got up and made contributions. These trembled on the edge of being audible, so much so that it was possible to determine what the subject matter was. Some spoke of trees, others of bats, and there may have been something about street lighting. No one appears to have mentioned children. Some of these contributions drew applause, betokening perhaps general agreement.
After that the nine decision-makers resumed their private conversation, and your correspondent, having sat through two hours of bemusement, came away to do something useful. At a guess the decision will have been to defer any decision. When and if we find out what the decision was, we will post it here.
What the decision was
Actually the acoustics were even worse at the previous meeting! Your Correspondent clearly found it a less than enthralling experience, and there is a clear issue about the acoustics in Council meetings. Given the presence of a microphone system it seems a pity that they do not provide head phones with volume controls for those who would like to use them.
However I can tell you that the decision of the committee was to grant planning permission. I can also tell you that at least one speaker mentioned children, and you can find a transcript of his remarks on the school website
Look under news on the welcome page, then go to school move, then to “latestnews” on the school move page. Or alternatively just try this link:
David Barry, Dresden Road
28/7/09 from ASAG
- 28th July 2009 ASAG (Ashmount Site Action Group)
Adam Roberts was in the Chair, and a paper was read by Fiona Merchant. Other Action Group members were present, and forty-odd residents attended in all. There are not quite seventy houses in Ashmount and Gresley, so that allowing for couples, of whom there were a number, about half of the nearest households were represented. A reporter from the Ham and High rounded off the gathering.
The matter of Ashmount School is soon stated. The building falls inside the Conservation Area but is a conservationist's nightmare. The drains and the wiring are buried in concrete, the asbestos is crumbling and a few years ago replacement of the glass alone was quoted at three and a half million pounds. Much the most feasible solution would be to put the children in aspic for a couple of years, demolish the building and put up another, state of the art school. What has been proposed is state of the art premises down the road on Crouch Hill: at which point the site on Ashmount Road will surely sprout a block of flats like a mushroom in the night. The inevitability of this outcome can hardly be questioned. It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to have more flats in London, and - one of those odd coincidences - it is the policy of the London Borough of Islington to have more flats in Islington.
Fiona Merchant very ably guided the meeting through the story so far, starting with Islington's consultation exercise of January 2007. She compared the advantages and disadvantages of the two sites, outlined the likely sources of funding, and indicated the general drift among decision-makers in favour of the move to Crouch Hill. Various points were then made from the floor: for example, for whom did ASAG speak? The police were not in favour of the move to Crouch Hill (but Mayor Boris was). If we opposed the move, what could we do now? Islington were slyly engineering a fait accompli (yet again). The move to Crouch Hill was the better solution, and what planning law allowed us to do was resist attempts to put high-density housing on the Ashmount site. And so on and so forth. Numerous points, some sensible, some heated, were made. One or two contributors had read all the documents, others had read none.
The meeting took two votes by a show of hands. There was “a clear majority” in favour of ASAG's pressing for a rigorous re-examination, by Islington, of the issues. That ASAG should meet the School Governors was then proposed, and attracted 23 votes - almost certainly a majority, since one or two people had by then left the meeting.
ASAG's website is at ashmountsiteactiongroup.org.
More documentation can be ferreted out at islington.gov.uk: you might also wish to look at what do they know.com .