Free school to be built at Brixton campus of Lambeth College

Brixton Campus Lambeth College

A new free school will be built on the Brixton campus of Lambeth College in a major redevelopment announced by the Department for Education.

The DfE has bought the Brixton campus of Lambeth College and will develop the site to include several educational institutions, including the Trinity Academy free school which will open in September 2014. Lambeth College will remain on the site but will lose 4000 sq feet from its facilities.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “The Education Funding Authority has purchased the Brixton campus of Lambeth College, ensuring it will continue to be used to educate children and young people. We will redevelop the site to provide a home for the Trinity Academy free school and other institutions, including on-going provision by Lambeth College.”

Neither Lambeth council nor local Brixton residents were consulted on the decision to build a secondary school on the campus. The council only heard about it when the DfE had given the school permission to open already. Free schools are funded by the government, bypassing the local authority. A statutory consultation will take place in January 2014.

A group of parents in Clapham, Brixton and Balham started campaigning for the establishment of a free school “with a Catholic ethos” in 2012 and originally planned for it to be built in Clapham.

Now named the Trinity Academy free school, it will be based in Brixton Hill and will provide secondary education for pupils in a catchment area including Brixton, Clapham, Balham, Battersea and Tooting. One third of places will go to children who qualify for pupil premium. The curriculum will focus on the English baccalaureate and the school will follow the so-called ‘Future Curriculum‘, rather than the National Curriculum.

Rachel Heywood, cabinet member for children and families, was highly critical of the decision: “We already have enough secondary school places in Lambeth. We didn’t know anything about the Trinity Free School until we were informed that it had been given permission to open by the DfE, and had we been consulted we would have said that we did not need another secondary school in Brixton as we already have a variety of good schools with space.

“It is likely that the Trinity Free School will have a negative impact on existing provision, including Catholic secondaries like Bishop Thomas Grant and La Retraite. The Roman Catholic Diocese have not offered their support for the scheme either.”

Heywood stressed that there was one free school the council would be supporting in the area, “a new school for secondary age children with autism – a provision that we do need, and welcome.”

A report issued yesterday by the National Audit Office found that free schools will cost at least three times more than originally predicted by the government.

Dissent about the plans for the school also came from the Lambeth National Union of Teachers. Sara Tomlinson, branch secretary, said: “We deeply regret this move that will cause disruption to schools and education locally. The best way for schools to come about is for them to be planned with the local community and placed where they are needed. If schools open where places are not needed (as would be the case with the Trinity Academy free school) then that will have a negative impact on local schools.”

The Lambeth University and College Union and Unison have protested about the loss of College facilities that will result. A spokesperson said: “Staff, students and campaigners are upset and angry at this recent development in the college’s plans, which will see a reduction in the Brixton centre from 6000 to 2000 sq feet, with a loss of two thirds of the current number of classrooms…

“Unions disagree that this massive reduction of the Brixton Centre campus is “really good news for the College and the community” as has been presented by the college management in its communication to staff.” Staff have been told that redundancies cannot be ruled out and they claim they have not been consulted on what the changes will mean for the College.

Dennis Sewell, chair of governors for Trinity Academy said that many Lambeth parents currently seek education outside of the borough and that this “doesn’t hold the community together”.

“This year they managed to squeeze enough pupils in just about. In the long term there will be population growth across London. The time will come when it’s not so easy for other boroughs to afford Lambeth children coming to them. The Trinity school will use innovation in the curriculum to appeal to people who want a particular type of teaching and I don’t think it will be competition with a school down the road. Not that there is a school down the road.” He said that several governors of local primary schools, as well as many parents in the area had expressed their support for the school.

Lambeth College will also get a new building for further education as part of the redevelopment. Mark Silverman, principal of Lambeth College, said: “I am delighted that the site is going to be retained entirely for educational use, being completely redeveloped to create a modern learning campus for Brixton, including a brand new college building.”

Streatham MP and Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna praised the fact that Lambeth College will remain on the site, which will now be dedicated to educational uses only: “It is fantastic that Lambeth College will be able to continue to offer further education on their current site in Brixton and I look forward to the development of the modern learning campus. I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into securing this positive future for the Brixton site and would like to thank all those involved for their efforts in making this happen.”

It is anticipated that the Brixton phase of Lambeth College’s re-development programme will be completed by September 2015.

UPDATED: Wednesday December 18 with quotes from Lambeth UCU and Unison


  1. Free schools were set up by Gove to compete with state maintained schools. They will only entrench class divisions (schools cherry picking ‘advantaged’ pupils from affluent areas), promote cultural apartheid (faith schools) and exacerbate social disintegration (social segregation). With all its faults at least State Comprehensive education has rich and poor, Muslims, Jews and Christians etc educated in the same class hence promoting social interaction. Most state schools are judged to be either good or excellent. This can only be judged as an ideological attack by the Tories with their usual psychotic obsession with anti-statism and privatisation.

    Gove is deliberately starving state schools of resources to give to free schools leading to the the self-fulfilling prophecy that state schools will become ‘failing’ bog standard sink schools. A dumping ground for working class children and those from poverty backgrounds. The establishment of a ‘free school’ on the Brixton campus of Lambeth College must be resisted.

    The local community, parents, students, teachers, members of staff and Lambeth Council should have been consulted about the establishment of this ‘free school’. Instead the DofE issued a diktat decreeing this and completely bypassed even the semblance of democratic accountability. As a result Brixton will be deprived of a much needed FE facility catering to some of the most deprived sections of society and be replaced by classrooms for the better off and education for the elite. No doubt to rule over the plebs.

    • Good stuff.

      I’m pretty convinced this is a positive development overall.

      The choice of schools for people in Brixton Hill and around is pretty limited

      Which is why you seem to see so few families with teenage kids

      • As things stand though, it won’t be a school for Brixton Hill kids – the distance criteria are measured from the Clock Tower in Clapham, according to the admission policy on the school website.

    • Dennis, thank you for replying on this thread. Given applications to the school are now open for September 2014, it would be helpful for clarification about the point from which distances will be measured. Brixton families might wish to apply. Are you able to confirm the process and timescale for this?

      • Lowri

        Thanks for flagging this up. The matter is being dealt with and will be finally resolved within a week or so. Happy New Year.

  2. Very good news. The current secondary schools in the area do not have a great reputation nor high level of achievement. Pity about the Catholic Ethos, but if that means higher achievements, as is common with Catholic Ethos schools, then that is a good thing for the children attending. The world is becoming a very competitive place with globalization and it is critical that children educated in British schools attain the same levels or better than their foreign competitors, if they are to succeed in successful corporate careers. So glad to see that the usual local consultation was avoided to bypass the inevitable protracted arguments and protests and eventual stagnation. This is the way to make progress and get things done. Most of the people protesting anyway seem to be on the ‘inside’ anyhow, not actual parents. Sometimes people seem to forget that the schools are not for the teachers, they are for the children and their families.\

  3. From the statutory School Admissions Code:

    “Distance from the school
    1.13 Admission authorities must clearly set out how distance from home to the school will be measured, making clear how the ‘home’ address will be determined and the point in the school from which all distances are measured. This should include provision for cases where parents have shared responsibility for a child following the breakdown of their relationship and the child lives for part of the week with each parent.”

    Hard to see how “in the school” could be defined as as point outside the school.


  4. Thanks for your reply Mac

    But you cannot explain away the 8pc figure in such manner.

    Clapham, Herne Hill and Dulwich also have FSM children.

    The anomaly can only be explained by wealthy people in disproportionate numbers realising the value of religious observance in obtaining a chosen school place.

    Which is exactly the wallet and sharp elbowing you deprecate

    Two things, however, that I am quite prepared to deploy for my children.

    • James I don’t think we disagree indeed some might say we are singinging from the same hymn sheet ! I know only too well that there are people who are saving money they might otherwise spend on prep school fees by being good Catholics and getting a place at CC ps my elbows are well sharpened

  5. Giovanna and Carla – as Lowri says the reference point for the distance tie-breaker is the clock tower immediately adjacent to Clapham Common Underground Station. The distance is measured as the crow flies. So unless your children are eligible under the other admissions criteria tiebreakers (“looked-after” children, siblings of current pupils, children of the founders, children eligible for the pupil premium) children who live unto about 2.5km away from Horsford Road will have priority over children who live on that street. Parents at CC may be “ecstatic” but do they realise there is no priority for Catholics in the admissions criteria ?

  6. I’m a parent of two little girls at Corpus Christi and I haven’t met a single parent today that wasn’t completely ecstatic at the news. Many of us petitioned for the free school so anyone that says there isn’t demand is patently wrong. I can’t speak for everyone who goes to CC but all the parents I know take their children’s education and the “Catholic Ethos” incredibly seriously. Not everyone can afford the private schools that some of the people messaging above send their children to.

    Well done to all the management team at Trinity!

    • Here is the admissions policy for Corpus The parishes are Brixton Hill and Herne Hill (oversubscription criteria no 3), whereas the Trinity school’s measuring point for the distance criteria is the Clock Tower in Clapham. The Charter school (to take an example of a successful local school) says the furthest distance it has ever offered from is just under 2000 m – most children will therefore live much closer than this. On that basis, many Corpus families living in Brixton and Herne Hill will not get into the new school if it is successful unless its admission criteria are changed.

    • If anyone can afford private education it is the families at Corpus Christi, which has probably the lowest free school meal rate in Lambeth!

      • Yes, some of us at CC, including my family, can afford private school fee’s. However many of us, like my family, are fully committed to the Catholic school system because Catholicism is more than just going to Church on Sundays. I am reading negative comments from people who wouldn’t dream of sending their children to this school because of it’s Catholic Ethos, these same people do send their children to expensive Dulwich schools.

      • Understood

        The problem is that everyone has to pay for faith schools, while, in many cases, being excluded from them.

        And, as I have pointed out, CC somehow manages to have an 8 per cent free school meal ratio which is heroically at odds with the locality.

      • James denominational schools will always have a much bigger “catchment area” than ordinary primary schools and so the CC catchment area extends far more into Herne Hill and Dulwich and Clapham because the initial criteria is religious observance rather than distance so the free school meals numbers are a reflection of that. There are lots of arguments to be have about state v private schools but I like think that people are trying to do what they think is best for their own child. I hope what we can all agree on is that we want all of the children in our community to have access to a good education and that not to be dependent on the size of their wallet or the sharpness of their elbows

      • CC does have a far greater reach than say Sudbourne on the basis that it is a faith school, however is anyone paying attention to the house prices in our locality? Anyone moving onto the streets around CC now needs 700k for an ex-council house or 900k+ for what amounts to a 2 1/2 bedroom house on Torrens road. Clearly, anyone moving in now won’t qualify for free school meals, this is not the schools fault. Thankfully, because of it’s religious reach, CC will continue to serve the wider community whereas neighboring schools won’t be able to do so.

      • Giovanna, even Sudbourne has 25-30% free school meals. Lambeth average is about 1/3. The local housing stock contains a good amount of social housing as well as the high-value properties you cite. The fact that CC’s figure is so low cannot be explained by property prices. It’s because the school is socially selective.

    • This is Brixton Blog not Dulwich.

      What rubbish to say that people messaging here who oppose Catholic schools can send there children to private schools.

      You views are offensive and divisive. This country is multi faith and multicultural. What is needed are schoold that do belong to any creed.

      People like you want your religions foisted on otheres.

      • Tiger. “Trinity Academy will be open to children of all denominations and faiths and those with no religious background.” (Copied from their website home page again).

  7. According to the school’s admission policy, the distance criteria will be set from the Clock Tower in Clapham So if the school is successful, local Brixton children will still be travelling out of the area while Clapham children travel in, judging by how small the effective catchment area is for other successful schools in the area. Will the admission policy be changed and if so will there be a consultation about it?

    This announcement from the College on 6/12 does not mention Trinity. Does anyone have a link to anything official about Trinity’s involvement in this site – there is nothing on the school’s website and I can’t see anything on Dept for Education site either? When will local residents be told officially?

  8. Says on the Trinity Academy website that the school will have “Catholic ethos and character” and will be “inspired by the Gospel”.

    What Brixton does not need is religious schools.

    • “Ethos. Trinity Academy will be open to children of all denominations and faiths and those with no religious background.” (Copied from their website home page)

  9. Free schools are free to discriminate. That’s why they do well in league tables. By establishing an ‘ethos’ they effectively admit to this. Bad news for local children and not remotely inclusive.

    • Marquee

      Trinity will not discriminate either in admissions or employment of staff. The school is open to all on equal terms. The founders want to bring the benefits of the best of the Catholic education tradition to the wider community.

      (I’m one of the Trustees).

      • Personally, as long as the school will take all-comers (unlike e.g. CC which receives state funding but effectively discriminates on sectarian grounds) I have no problem with the religious character of the proposed school.

        These ‘founders’ though. Is that code for benefactors? Does this leave the door open for the right people to buy their way in, regardless of where they live?

      • whether the founders can get their kids places because of their contribution depends on Gove giving permission for this breach (derogation) of the national admissions code.

        he probably will.

        but how many founders? and who judges their contribution? other founders presumably!

      • From what I’ve seen when passing the playground during PE lessons and at the end of break, it involves a lot of shouting.

  10. This is great news. I went to an event at the Clapham Old Library and met some of the parent-group behind Trinity Academy and saw the new headmaster in action and was actually very impressed. It would be great to have a secondary school where local children could go on to together rather than scatter to the four winds after Y6. If you put the kids from Corpus Christi and Sudbourne together I reckon you’d get one of the best secondaries in London.

    • Sudbourne and Corpus Christi were second and third in Lambeth in the primary school league tables published today

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