Controversial plans to open Catholic free school in Lambeth set for heated debate


Trinity Academy is due to open in September 2014.


By Margarita Mitchel Pollock

Proposals for a controversial Catholic free school in Brixton will be debated at a meeting this week.

A consultation to discuss the new secondary school, set to be built on part of Lambeth College’s Brixton Hill campus, will take place this Wednesday evening.

The Department for Education announced last December that they had bought the Brixton campus and planned to develop the site to include Trinity Academy, which will open in September 2014.

Local residents and Lambeth Council both said they were not consulted about the plans.

Labour councillor Edward Davie has expressed his concern over the development.

“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,”  he said.

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.”

Cabinet member for children, Rachel Heywood, also made reference to concerns over the “disruptive” effect on admissions procedures in the borough.

In response, the chairman of governors at Trinity Academy, David Sewell, defended the plan for a Catholic ethos and said the school would not discriminate based on beliefs.

“We will be independent of the diocese and will not use religious criteria in admissions and there will be no discrimination on religious grounds when it comes to employing staff,” he said.

“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.”

The school would work autonomously of The Diocese of Southwark and aims for an even 50% split between Catholic and non-Catholic children.

However, critics of free schools argue that they take funding away from state schools, can employ teachers without qualified teacher status as well as deciding upon their own curriculum. Free schools do not need local authority support to open and any ‘suitable sponsors’ can apply to the Secretary of State for Education for approval in opening a free school.

A 1,000 strong petition was handed into Lambeth Council in November vehemently opposing the free school plans.

Lambeth NUT and Save Lambeth College in Brixton are encouraging members of the public to attend the debate this Wednesday from 7-9pm at Lambeth College Clapham Site.

Meanwhile Labour MP Chuka Umunna angered colleagues by refusing to give his opinion on the school.

“I am speaking to all involved – local residents, parents, the Council etc – on the proposals for a Trinity Academy before coming to a view,” he said on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Robin Sones, with thanks.

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