Derelict Battersea hospital transformed into Wandsworth’s first free school


The Bolingbroke Academy will accept its first intake in September 2012.


By Amaris Cole

A derelict hospital in Battersea is transformed to become Wandsworth’s first free school when it accepts its first intake in September 2012.

The Bolingbroke Academy will fill the gap in an area which currently has no all-inclusive secondary education, despite the high proportion of young families.

The free-to-attend academy will be funded directly by government, but ARK, an education charity, will manage it.

Council Leader, Ravi Govindia, said: “This is terrific news for parents in south Battersea who have worked long and hard to make this dream a reality.”

Mr Govindia hopes this to be the first of many free schools in Wandsworth.

ARK will independently run the converted hospital outside of local authority control when it accepts its first pupils in 2012, although they will be subject to the requirements of Ofsted.

Lesley Smith, an ARK spokeswomen, said the academy is the response to a severe shortage of secondary education places the area offers.

She says ARK have been chosen to oversee it because of their successful record of running inner city schools- statistics show ARK pupils obtain above the national average in English and Maths at GCSE.

The site will also house a new GP surgery which could employ 20 staff and provide 180 patients daily with an appointment to see a doctor. This will prove invaluable to the local community.

The Conservative initiative of Free Schools is a hybrid of Swedish and American systems, and hopes to raise education standards in the Britain.

Schools like this also encourage diversity and innovation.

In addition, the system aims to further the concept of an education market, giving parents a wider choice in the education of their children.

Yet schools like Bolingbroke Academy are still a contentious topic for some- Labour have be against this form of educational institutions until recently.

Formally comments from individuals such as Andy Burnham promoted the concept negitivly.

At the 2010 party conference, he said: “They’re a reckless ideological experiment designed to break a successful school system and turn it into a free-for-all.”

However the new Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, has now given his approval to the schools.

With cross-party support and increase in their number in Britain, council’s are often keen for such schemes to go ahead, believing they offer their community better services.

Wandsworth Council is no exception. Planning chairman, Councillor Nick Cuff, said: “This scheme will rescue a prized local landmark from dereliction and create a modern, attractive teaching environment for generations of children.”

Cllr Cuff adds the location of this academy will plug a conspicuous gap in the borough’s secondary school provision.

The transformation of the old hospital will see the derelict structure turned into a ‘light, modern teaching environment’.

The building will keep its heritage features, such as the nursery rhyme tiles in the former Childrens’ ward.

ARK expect an intake of 120 students each year, until the school finally reaches full capacity in 2018.

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