Free school in Greenwich stuck in temporary buildings reduces PAN
International Academy of Greenwich cuts number of Year 7s by fifty
The International Academy of Greenwich (IAG), an 11-19 free school, is cutting its Pupil Admission Number (PAN) from 125 to 75 because it’s stuck in temporary buildings.
Before it opened in September 2016, proposers said IAG would only be in temporary accommodation for two years. A new building on the Bowring sportsground would be ready by September 2018.
But the new building hasn’t even begun.
Concerns about permanent site raised in 2016
Concerns about IAG’s permanent location were raised in 2016 when area MP Clive Efford wrote* to schools minister Nick Gibb saying the ‘acquired’ site was on Metropolitan Open Land and a flood plain (see Guardian).
Former schools minister Lord Nash replied (letter*, 8 April 2016) saying the Education Funding Agency (now Education and Skills Funding Agency) had already ‘exchanged contracts’ but completion wouldn’t take place until planning permission was given.
Contracts, then, were exchanged two-and-a-half years ago but completion is unlikely to have happened because of serious planning issues.
Planning permission application targeted for Christmas 2017
Accounts for Greenwich Academy Trust (year ending 31 August 2017**) said the Education and Skills Funding Agency was ‘developing detailed plans’ for the new building and was ‘targeting making a full planning application’ before Christmas 2017.
This didn’t happen.
Development of Metropolitan Open Land‘inappropriate’
A pre-planning application meeting was held on 24 October 2017 and representatives of the Greater London Authority (GLA) visited the site. Advice given in a pre-application report* said it was ‘inappropriate’ and ‘wholly unacceptable’ to develop a school on Metropolitan Open Land.
The advice conceded ‘land south of the existing flood defence wall’ could be built on because it was considered ‘previously developed land’. But breaching ‘the existing flood defence wall’ would only be allowed in ‘very special circumstances’. The advisers didn’t think IAG had ‘adequately set out’ the case for these.
IAG said ‘very special circumstances’ allow development
IAG argued that one very special circumstance was the need for more school places locally. GLA advisors weren’t convinced:
‘Whilst there may be need for school places in the borough as a whole, the applicant has not demonstrated specific need for the school in this location, such as oversubscription at nearby state schools’.
IAG’s Impact Assessment listed five oversubscribed secondary schools nearby. Ten were not. And two schools were judged to be at high risk from IAG because of a high number of surplus places at point of entry.
Threat to terminate IAG’s Funding Agreement
IAG’s Supplementary Funding Agreement says:
‘If full planning permission (including where relevant listed building consent) in respect of the Land has not been obtained by 04/12/2017, the Secretary of State may serve a Termination Notice.’
Nine months have gone by and the Secretary of State has not served the threatened Termination Notice. Instead, IAG was transferred to Big Education Trust (formerly School 21) on 1 September this year.
But transferring a free school to another academy trust won’t solve the deep problems surrounding IAG’s permanent home.
*I have seen the document but cannot give a link
**Available from Companies House