Wednesday 5 July 2017

Ark plan new primary school in Wembley but is it needed?

Ark appears to be about to expand its schools empire in Brent adding a new primary free school at Wembley Ark, Ark Elvin and Ark Franklin Primary.

The new school would be on a site at the corner of Empire Way/Wembley Hill Road and the Royal Route with a form entry of 90 (3 classes in each year group) making a total when it is full of 630 pupils with perhaps a 60 place nursery.

The Ark Somerville Primary School would be on a busy main road which is of concern given the impact of air pollution on children and it will be important to see how much open play space will be available to the pupils.

The most important concern though is whether a new school, and such a large one, is actually required. In the immediate vicinity of the proposed school are Elsley Primary which is currently doubling in size to four forms of entry, Park Lane Primary, Oakington Manor Primary and Wembley Primary.

An important factor is the impact of Brexit and the declining value of the pound in the number of European citizens working in Brent.  There is anecdotal evidence of a reduction in numbers which affects the number of  EU pupils in local schools. Alongside this is the continuing issue of families affected by the benefit cap being forced to move out of London.

Quintain is of course building new housing in the area but this is generally not affordable to local people and unlikely to accommodate families. Brent Council will need to provide robust projections of future demand to justify a new school.

I understand that several of the primary schools that have been expanded recently are not attracting sufficient pupils to fill the new places and that some may apply to reduce their form of entry.  I am awaiting the outcome of an FoI request to see the evidence on unfilled vacancies and waiting lists.

If there is not an overall increase in demand a new school would create a 'churn' of pupil movement as parents move their children between schools. Brent Council is committed to supporting 'parent choice' by running schools with some spare capacity but the downside of this is that pupil mobility can be disruptive to the continuity of learning and undermine pupil progress. Schools with high mobility may find it very hard to meet the target thresholds set by the government for Year 6 children when perhaps only 20% of them attended the schoool in Year 2.

Local public transport is already under strain with pupils from Ark Elvin, Wembley Ark, Michaela, Preston Manor and the Lycee converging at home time and the proposed new primary would be on the same routes although one would hope that they lived within walking distance of the school.

Ark's announcement is below.

In September 2014 Ark submitted a free school application to the Department for Education to open a new primary academy in Wembley to help meet the growing demand for school places.

Following the approval of the application, Ark is now consulting on the proposal to open Ark Somerville Primary Academy, serving 2-11 year olds in Brent. It is proposed that Ark Somerville would open in September 2019 and admit 90 Reception age children each year until it reached its full capacity of 630 in September 2025; there is the potential that the school’s 60 FTE nursery might also open at the same time.

Ark Somerville will be located on the corner of Royal Route and Empire Way, next to the London Designer Outlet and will be a newly constructed building completed ready for September 2019 opening. The building is being designed and built by Bowmer and Kirkland, who will lead on a planning consultation later in the summer.

Ark Somerville Primary will be non-denominational, non-selective and mixed, serving local children. The admissions criteria will prioritise those living closest to the school. The school will have particularly strong links with Ark Academy (an all-through school), Ark Elvin Academy (a secondary school) and Ark Franklin Primary, all located in Brent. Ark Somerville will also become part of the wider Brent family of schools.

Please let us know what you think

If you would like to hear more about the schools, please join us at one of our drop-in events which will be held at Ark Academy, Bridge Rd, Wembley, HA9 9JP
There will be two events held on 13th July at:
  •  9:30 - 11:00
  •  17:30 - 19:00
The consultation period will run from 29 June to 15 September 2017.
If you have any questions or comments, please do get in touch through our feedback form on Somerville S10 Consultation Feedback Form


Philip Grant said...

The site for the proposed school is currently the car park of the c.18-storey York House office block.

Quite apart from the other reasons (like a busy road next to the site and limited play space for the school's children), if the school were to be built here how would fire engines and escape vehicles be able to get to the York House "tower block" if there were a serious fire in that building?


Anonymous said...

Philip wrote: "The site for the proposed school is currently the car park of the c.18-storey York House office block."

I am reminded of a huge notice outside Brookfield Park School, LB Camden that I saw from the C11 bus between Parliament Hill Fields and Archway: "Kids and schools don't mix."

Now that I am living in Hereford, I have noticed that there seems to be much more communal walking of kids to school than I ever witnessed when living about 10 minutes walk radius of five schools in London.

Sure, the air is cleaner in Hereford, but the more people that walk, cycle and/or use public transport, the cleaner the air can be and less congested the roads. Potholes and traffic congestion are major problems for this largely rural and scenic county, but there are alternative means of getting out and about even while Freedom Pass restrictions are more vicious than in London boroughs.

For more about alternative ways of getting from A to B, check out "choose how you move."

Alan Wheatley

Unknown said...

Who in their right mind would approve such a scheme. Complete madness of the first order. No one of a right mind would endorse putting a school on a major transport route for Wembley Stadium. The traffic is bumper to bumper right now, everyday we have grid lock on Empire Way on a regular basis. Just imagine the kids in the playground sucking all that carbon monoxide on a daily basis, oh the parents will be ecstatic beating a path to their door of their local doctor, informing them of their childrens Asthma and breathing problems, er Yes lets put more strain on the NHS than we already have. Let's dish our more medication that is unnecessary, cos you wanna put kids in school in a really toxic environment. Wake up this is not a good idea.