Wandsworth’s first free school under development


The first 120 children will enter the school, developed on the site of the disused Bolingbroke Hospital, in September.


By Joel Durston

Wandsworth’s first free school is under development on the site of the disused Bolingbroke Hospital.

The site is in South Battersea, just South of the busy Clapham Junction station, where there are many young families but no state secondary nearby.

The first 120 children will enter the school in September, and will be joined each new academic year by further cohorts of 120.

While the school is free to attend, the name refers mainly to the management and funding of it.

Free schools, influenced by the progressive Swedish education model, were brought in by the coalition government.

They are taxpayer-funded, regulated by OFSTED and non-selective, but run by individuals or trusts, free from local authority control and with the scope for broad curriculum.

Bolingbroke Academy will be run by ARK Schools – a UK education charity running a range of health, welfare and education projects in the UK and elsewhere.

But the costs of building work, undertaken by Carillon Construction UK, and day-to-day running will be directly funded by the Department for Education.

Wandsworth Council’s schools spokesman, Cllr Kathy Tracey, said: “The contracts are now signed and work can begin on this magnificent project. South Battersea will soon get the state secondary school it needs and this well loved building will be rescued from decay.

“My congratulations go to the local parents who have worked so incredibly hard to make this happen. It’s a wonderful example of a community project led project.”

She says the school will give parents a greater say over their children’s education and add a new dimension to the borough’s superb educational system, driving up standards.

It is planned that there will be a light modern teaching environment by appropriate conversion of the Grade II listed building, including sensitive preservation of the nursery rhyme tiles.

Bolingbroke Academy principal Claire Edis said: “We’ve been delighted by local parents’ enthusiasm about the school and we’re really pleased to be getting on with preparing for the arrival of our first pupils next September.”

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