The union is supporting a demonstration outside Wandsworth Town Hall at 6.30pm this evening as councillors are expected to rubber stamp a recommendation to sell Elliott School’s five acres of playing fields following bids from potential developers.
The moves follows a decision last month by the Department for Education to give consent to the sale, after education secretary Michael Gove rejected the advice of the Independent Schools Playing Fields Advisory Panel.
GMB regional secretary Paul Maloney said “The council meeting this evening will rubber stamp the deal between the Tory Party in Westminster and Wandsworth who have been caught playing politics over the sale of these school playing fields in the two years since the general election.
“GMB will demonstrate yet again against that. The council will also get 55,000 signatures on petitions against the sale of the school playing fields.
“All the evidence points to cynical backroom stitch up between Gove and the Wandsworth Tories over funding the Bolingbroke free school in Battersea. It is essential that this is now investigated by either the Education Select Committee or the Public Accounts Committee.
“Parliament must investigate whether Gove agreed to allow the sale of the school playing fields in Putney as a quid pro quo for Wandsworth funding the purchase of land for the free school in Battersea.
“The catchment area of Elliot School has an average income of 68% of the London average, whereas the catchment area of Bolingbroke School will have an average income of 186% of London’s average.
“The timeline points to a stitch-up. In May 2010 Elliott was about to sign a £40m contract for much needed refurbishment under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future. This did not involve the sale of land. In July 2010 Michael Gove cancelled this funding.
“In November 2010 Wandsworth Tories and the government, knowing Elliott needed refurbishment, still found £40m to build new free schools in the borough.
In November 2011 Wandsworth Tories announced that the only way to pay for refurbishment at Elliott was the sale of the playing fields.
“In August Gove approved the sale overruling his independent Schools Playing Fields Advisory Panel who advised on 12 July 2012 that Wandsworth Council should not be given the go ahead to sell five acres of playing fields at Elliott School in Putney. Gove also ignored the law that a sale should be a last resort as the council have reserves of £200m.
“There are six tennis courts located less than two miles from where Andy Murray won an Olympic gold medal for tennis at Wimbledon. There is a football pitch in good condition where 2012 Olympian ex pupil Fara Williams learned her skills. She played for the Team GB Olympic women’s football team when they beat Brazil in front of more than 70,000 at Wembley last week.
“David Cameron must intervene to withdraw approval for this sale and instruct Gove to find other funding to enable the refurbishment to go ahead.
The parents and staff rightly want to see the refurbishment but not at the expense of the playing fields. When sold for luxury housing these much needed facilities will not be available to kids in this less well-off area. To pretend otherwise is to mislead the public.
Local MP Justine Greening has accused GMB of playing politics over school policy in Wandsworth which is the opposite of the truth. GMB opposition has been vindicated over the playing fields and the Tories changed the catchment area for the free school as GMB demanded.”
On September 1st Elliott School will become ARK Putney Academy and ARK will draw up a contract with the potential developer. The contract will be on condition that planning consent is gained. During autumn/winter there should be planning consultation on development around the school site. In July 2013 after planning consent is gained, construction/renovation work would begin and is scheduled to take two years. The playing fields will be lost forever as luxury housing.