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.
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.