Anger grows over plans for Trinity Academy Catholic free school in Brixton Hill

brixton hill lambeth college
The free school will be built on the site of the college campus, above

Anger is mounting over plans for a ‘Catholic ethos’ free school, set to open in Brixton Hill in September.

The Trinity Academy, a school free from council control, will open its doors on part of Lambeth College’s Brixton Hill campus. Under plans announced earlier this month, it will accept pupils of all faiths from two catchment areas, one based on Clapham Common clock tower, and the other based on Brixton Hill.

The plans have attracted criticism from local councillors, parents and residents who say secondary school places are not needed, and that the academy will have a negative effect on other schools in Brixton and Lambeth.

In a Lambeth council cabinet meeting on Monday, cabinet member for children Rachel Heywood made reference to the “disruptive” effect of the new school plans on the boroughs admissions procedure.

Ben Thompson
The Trinity Academy has appointed Ben Thompson as headteacher

Labour Lambeth councillor Edward Davie said: ‘Trinity is not needed or wanted by the council, the Catholic diocese or existing local schools which are doing an outstanding job in educating our children of all faiths and none.

“Trinity claims to be providing a service but actually this academy would bleed resources and pupils from Lambeth’s existing schools which Ofsted rates as being the eighth best in the entire country.”

In response, Dennis Sewell, writer and a parent behind the free school plans, said: “For all Councillors Davie’s boasting, the fact is that in 2013 no fewer than 42 per cent of the first preferences for secondary school of Lambeth-resident children were for schools in other boroughs.

“When nearly half of your families would prefer to go somewhere else, there’s clearly something they want that Lambeth’s not offering. Trinity Academy plans to make the kind of academically rigorous education that parents are willing to have their kids cross London for available much closer to home.”

Despite outrage showed by some of his Labour colleagues locally, MP Chuka Umunna has refused to come out in support of, or against, the school. He told the Blog last week: “I will be meeting with those involved including to discuss the concerns that have been raised – the education of our local people is of paramount importance and we want the very best for local pupils.”

Commenting on Brixton Blog,  resident Ian Townson said: “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’.”

One comment in support of the school, by C Brown, said: “Trinity Academy gives priority to children on free school meals and pupil premium, so they’re clearly not into cherry picking socially. And they say they want to bring the best of the Catholic education tradition to the wider community – so do not discriminate on sectarian lines or indulge in cultural apartheid either.”

Trinity Academy is currently holding a consultation of local residents and parents. They will hold a drop-in consultation event at the Brix at St Matthews, Brixton Hill from 3pm until 5pm on January 27.



  1. Some of my fears were laid to rest when, unprompted, the headmaster told me he was not a Catholic.

    Which may mean staff appointments are based on merit rather than faith!

  2. what I want to know, is why did you get rid of the wonderful Lambeth College , Brixton site?????? Why did you stop teaching young people about the arts, history, politics and economics? Who decided that people from Brixton dont need to know how the world works and ticks and should only be taught the skills of work.
    Answer , a bunch of dimwits with forked tongues, wanting to make a fast buck…..they seem to have infiltrated all sectors of local government and education.

  3. “it will accept pupils of all faiths from two catchment areas, one based on Clapham Common clock tower, and the other based on Brixton Hill”

    This surely is changing a lambeth wide open college to a catholic led (imprisoned rather than free?) school for two…middle class Victorian House communities whilst taking money out of the community (Open) schools…

    If you live in Brixton road can you go there? If you live on Myatts Field? On Loughboroug? On Clapham Park? On Tulse Hill? In Streatham? In Norwood?

    Is it for the Hill and Clapham Old town only?

    Catchment…was once a dirty word but now it is a “Free ” school word meaning “us not them”

    • Trinity will not have a catchment area as such, but aims to recruit from a broad pupil recruitment area comprising Clapham, Brixton, Balham and nearby districts. These nearby districts will most likely include parts of Battersea and Wandsworth, Tooting, Stockwell, Tulse HillI etc. Trinity will absolutely not be a school with a tiny catchment measured in hundreds of yards. We expect to have a better balanced and more inclusive social profile than many schools in S London. Up to half of places art Trinity could be open to children living anywhere, though it’s unlikely many would apply from further than two miles away. These places are allocated by random lottery. Remaining places are filled according to distance from two well-spaced reference points, one near Clapham Common in the West and the the eastern one on Brixton Hill.

      • Whereas the performance of some Free Schools has been debatable it is clear that Trinity has a road map and I could not be happier to see the former heads of CC and CV on the board of governors. These two men are fine examples of how to run schools “with a Catholic ethos” and you’ll struggle to find a parent at CC unhappy with this news.

      • As noted before, the success at CC was achieved by extreme social selection (8 per cent free school meal rate).

        The results simply reflect that.

      • Why not just one place …the school?

        Because the people in Clapham want a school and they are building one in Brixton…the result will be peopel living near Clapham common will come to school in brixton when people in brixton will not get in

        One point he school would be eqitable if you want a second point then Clapham is as arbitary as Stockwell tube or Streatham or West Norwood ofr Clapham Park..apart from the Catholics have been trying to build a school in Clapham for years

  4. I think the school is a great idea. I am a parent in the area, and I am very keen to see any improvement in the schooling in the area.

    • It’s not an improvement – that’s the problem. Free schools don’t have to abide by minimum nutrition standards (nine out of 10 feed their children junk as a result) or even have qualified teachers, they leech money from existing schools and undermine sensibly planned education in the area.

      • I do not think that is a very balanced view. The school is not even open and you are making what appear to be condemnations ahead of the game. I have friends who send their children to free schools and are extremely pleased with them. A more balanced approach would accept that there are some good council run schools and some terrible ones, and the same goes for free schools. Being religious about the administration is missing the point that most parents are concerned about, the quality of education; and putting it in such a tempestuous way is not really fair or convincing, sorry.

    • It’s not an improvement – that’s the problem. Among other things free schools do not have to abide by minimum nutrition standards with the result that 90 per cent feed their children junk; they can also hire unqualified ‘teachers’ and they leech money and puils from other schools undermining the outstanding education we have in Lambeth.

      • Cllr Davie has perhaps not realized that it is all academies (not just free schools) that are exempt from compulsory nutrition regulations. The majority of secondaries in Lambeth are academies and are in exactly the same position as Trinity.

        However, Trinity Academy will be insisting on healthy eating standards that are far higher than those in maintained schools within Lambeth. Trinity is a parent-led initiative and so we do not need compulsory regulations or to make us conform to the very best nutritional practice. Parents tend to care even more about the well-being of their children than councillors and bureaucrats do. That’s why Trinity will be setting new standards, far higher than the rest of the borough.

        Trinity is hiring excellent and highly qualified teachers and will be making announcements in the coming weeks about our curriculum plans and innovations.
        Currently, we are working closely with the former head of a comprehensive school that each year sends more students to Oxford, Cambridge and the Russell Group universities than all the secondaries in the borough of Lambeth put together! Trinity will be adopting the principles and policies he used to make his school great and that will contribute to making education in Lambeth even better than it is.

    • I regret the ‘Catholic ethos’, and the dubious admissions procedures, but overall it’s a welcome development.

      Dennis Sewell is right in saying local options are limited – and too many families go outside Lambeth.

      Especially if you don’t live next to Charter school, or Dunraven or Graveney – or have the cash to send your children to Sherborne.

      So if you live on Brixton Hill you might be more positive

  5. The man behind Trinity is Dennis Sewell, a contributing editor to the right-wing Spectator magazine, where he writes: ‘At the height of empire, Britain used to send missionaries out to Africa and Asia to instruct the natives in personal hygiene, instil good table manners and preach the gospel. The occasional unlucky one found himself in a cannibal’s pot for his trouble; but mostly they won out, establishing themselves as the kindly, civilising arm of imperialism.’

    Brixton, with its proud history of people from many cultures living successfully together, does not need an academy run by a man who promotes such views.

    • Except that no views are being promoted there. Just someone writing in a snarky tone about Victorian imperialism. It could just as easily have appeared in the Guardian as the Spectator.

      It seems that Ed Davie has either had an irony bypass or isn’t the sharpest knife in the Council’s drawer.

      As for his diversity-cred, wasn’t Councillor Davie rooting for those trying to do down Adeline Aina last summer?

  6. Can’t see much evidence of ‘growing anger’ myself. The politicos and union types who are sounding off against this free school are the same ones who have ALWAYS opposed free schools, academies and whathaveyou in the past and always will ’til their union paymasters order them to stand down.

    Despite what my wife would call the Colonel Blimpish sentiment in the last para, I wouldn’t normally put much faith in the ConservativeHome website, but on one thing they may have a point. They say Councillor Rachel Heywood sends her own son to Sherborne public school, where at £32,000 per year the fees are higher than Eton’s! If true, I think it’s a bit rich of her to oppose what I’m cautiously welcoming as an attempt to some honest educational good in Brixton. (You can count me as one who’s otherwise looking at schools in other boroughs).

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