PLAYING FIELDS SELL-OFF! – an absolute disgrace say GMB

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Demonstration against ARK taking over schools and turning them into academies
Demonstration against ARK taking over schools and turning them into academies

WANDSWORTH Council’s plan to sell off four acres of playing fields at Elliot Secondary School in Putney is an absolute scandal, said the GMB yesterday.

The GMB represents school support staff and is calling on residents of the south London borough to demonstrate at 7.30pm tonight outside the Tory council’s Finance, Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which is being asked to approve the sale of the playing fields to pay for the refurbishment of the school in preparation for it being turned into an academy.

Meanwhile, Carillion Construction UK Ltd commenced work in December 2011 on a £13.2 million 73 week contract to convert the old Bolingbroke Hospital site, in Battersea, into a new free school, the first phase of which is due to open in September 2012.

Wandsworth Council bought the site from the NHS for £13 million last year and has now leased it to ARK for 125 years.

Paul Maloney, GMB Senior Officer for school support staff, said yesterday: ‘Selling four acres of playing fields to fund the refurbishment of one of the council’s own secondary schools, while finding up to £30m to pay for a new Bolingbroke free school in the borough is an absolute scandal.

‘These four acres are in an area of the borough where the average household income is less than two-thirds of the London average.

‘The council was well aware last year that Elliot needed investment when a £40.3 million refurbishment was cancelled by the newly elected government.

‘Yet, a few months after that the council announced that they were spending £13 million from reserves to buy the site in Battersea for a new school in an area where the household incomes are nearly double the London average.

‘ARK is involved with both projects. ARK is a menace as far as education provision in Wandsworth is concerned.

‘They had their fingers in the plans for an elite Bolingbroke free school until GMB opposition led to changes in the planned catchment area.

‘Now they are up to their necks in these plans to sell these school playing fields.

‘They claim to be on the side of the poor and disadvantaged kids. How does getting rid of playing space do that?

‘Wandsworth Council is nothing short of a thundering disgrace in proposing the sale of these playing fields.

‘GMB is calling on the public in Wandsworth to oppose this asset-stripping of publicly owned land used as playing fields.

‘As well as sale of outdoor playing fields the plan will also lead to the knocking down of one of the largest indoor sports halls in London and the loss of this amenity to the community.’

If the Committee does as requested Wandsworth Council will sell these playing fields to fund the refurbishment of Elliot School and turn it into an academy.

ARK, which is party to these plans, will then be part of the rebranding of the school and will take over the new building and the school from September 2012.