During August we ran an online consultation asking residents for their views on proposals for a new secondary school to be built, following news that a feasibility study being undertaken by the Harris Academy Trust to have a secondary school site based on the Kentwood site (pictured) opposite the Moon and Stars in Penge where the adult education centre and Harris primary school are already.
Summary of consultation results
Over 250 residents completed the survey and the results were illuminating. We wanted to publish the key results and explain how we will be taking this matter forwards to represent residents. (We will be publishing a breakdown on the results separately with figures and a summary of comments)
The results showed overwhelming support for having a new secondary school, which fits with what we have heard from many parents in recent years at the lack of school choice nearby. Similarly, there was significant also support for a secondary school being built on the Kentwood site, though some alternative sites were suggested (including the old Harris Inspire site on Lennard Road) and some concerns were raised in responses due to the small size of the site.
As with any planning application in our ward, we would of course listen to views of residents living in nearby roads on any development that could impact them). At present there is also no indication of alternative sites for the primary school or the Adult Education provision if these had to move to make way for a secondary school and we think it is important these are not lost.
The London Plan, which Bromley Council drafted over the last few years, does identify Kentwood as a possible site (mainly in case Eden Park was not opened- which it was) but it has generally been regarded, including by the Portfolio Holder for Education, as being too small. However, Colin Smith, the Leader of Bromley Council has in the past suggested to make it larger they could just build higher. We do yet have details of Harris’ plans but a taller building than is currently on the site could create issues for local residents, and additional traffic and other effects have not yet been considered by the Council.
Support for a Non-Harris Secondary School in Penge
Whilst the consultation showed support for a new secondary school in Penge, most of those who responded would not support this school being run by The Harris Trust. Whilst some participants said that Harris ‘invest in students’ and are well respected, a significantly larger number of responses supported an alternative Academy trust or a new provider running a new school, with comments such as ‘There is little choice outside the area’, ‘Harris has a monopoly in Bromley already’ and ‘Harris dominate the area.’
As Councillors, we respect that local parents will not all feel a particular school or academy chain is the best place for their children to be educated. For many years the Government and Bromley Council have made their commitment to offering choices in schooling to parents. We are concerned that a large group of residents, given the number of Harris schools nearby already, feel that another Harris would be failing to give them this choice and indeed many parents were frustrated when Eden Park’s catchment area, which was intended to include Penge, was altered to exclude our ward.
Views on Feeder Schools
We also asked for resident’s views on feeder schools, which is a structure where an academy trust prioritises pupils from their primary schools when allocating students’ places for its secondary schools. Over 50% of those completing the survey either opposed or strongly opposed Feeder schools, with 25% supporting or strongly supporting and others saying they did not support or oppose them. The Harris Academy Trust have both primary and secondary schools and operating them in this way will create is a genuine fear to parents at non Harris primary school such as Alexandra Juniors will be shut out from access local secondary schools should they wish for their children to attend Harris Secondary schools.
The vast majority of residents who completed the survey have children currently at primary school or younger, and we appreciate this subject is incredibly important to them- we believe that so far as possible the views and needs of local parents and their children must be taken into account and shape decision making on any plans by Bromley Council.
Cllr Kevin Brooks raised this issue at this month’s Children’s, Families and Education PDS Committee next, we will continue to engage and listen to the views of residents and keep residents updated as events progress.