Monday's Cabinet meeting will be discussing proposals to move the Islamia Primary School (IPS) from its Queens Park site to the Strathcona site in Kingsbury. The Yusuf Islam Foundation had give the school and Brent Council notice to quit the site. Strathcona had become available following Brent Council's decision to close the Roe Green primary provision there despite a spirited fight by staff and parents. It was earmarked for post-16 SEND provision but if the Islamia move is approved another site will have to be found for that provision.
Islamia parents launched a petition opposing the move to Queens Park (see this Wembley Matters article) on the grounds that it would be to the detriment of local parents and pupils in terms of travel and instead suggested the South Kilburn regeneration site earmarked for Kilburn Park Junior School and Carlton Vale Infants be allocated to Islamia Primary.
The officers' report responds:
A parent of children who attend IPS put a petition on the Council’s e-petition portal between 13 July and 18 August 2022 that called for the new school in South Kilburn that will be built as part of the South Kilburn Regeneration Scheme to be allocated to IPS. The petition had 509 signatories. The new South Kilburn School is a key part of the infrastructure of the South Kilburn Regeneration Scheme and will provide a community school that will provide primary provision for families of all faiths within the area. The school is replacing Carlton Vale Infant School and Kilburn Park Junior School and the sites of these schools will be used to provide new housing and green space, respectively. The schools have been working with a design team over the past two years to develop the project to meet the school and local community’s needs. The new South Kilburn School will not be available until September 2026, whereas the Foundation is requiring IPS to vacate its current site by the end of July 2024.
No reason is given for the Foundation's decision to issue an eviction order on the council and school and its website still boasts about the school and its achievements. However officers report that they did not engage in proposals to improve the Salusbury Road site:
The Council has undertaken significant and extensive efforts since 2015 to build a new primary school building on the existing Salusbury Road site. The Council identified capital funding to the sum of £10.01m, including ring fenced funding secured from the Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) of £2.8m, to meet the then demand for primary school places. Design development for the new-build school was completed in 2015, funded from the ESFA contribution. The Foundation decided not to proceed with these plans and for the past seven years has not responded positively to the Council’s attempts to revisit the build proposals.
The report states:
The Council has resisted the validity of the [Eviction] notices since receiving them and has repeatedly asked the Foundation to withdraw them so that the Council, the Foundation and IPS can concentrate their efforts on reaching an accommodation which suits all involved. The Foundation has agreed to withdraw the notices on the condition that the Council, the Yusuf Islam Foundation and IPS entered into an agreement to surrender and deed of surrender (sic) from the Salusbury Road site. These agreements, which are subject to final negotiations, are based on the premise that:
a) the Foundation withdraws and/or does not seek to enforce the eviction notices;
b) Providing the statutory procedures (as required by SSFA 1998) once concluded confirm it is feasible to do so, the School will be relocated to a new site;c) IPS will be able to remain in situ whilst the identified site, the Strathcona site, is prepared for the relocation;
d) IPS will vacate the Foundation’s Salusbury Road premises by 31 July 2024
e) A long-stop date of 1 January 2025 is in place should there be any unforeseen delay (for example a delay in any building works);
f) Any new site will be transferred to trustees prior to the School taking up occupation in the new site. Officers will need to negotiate and agree Heads of Terms setting out the main terms the parties agree in respect of the proposed transfer of Council owned land for any new site earmarked for the School to occupy
The Foundation has now agreed to delay the eviction until July 2024 and the council will agree a lease on the Strathcona site with the Foundation's trustees. Although voluntary religious organisations are expected by the DfE to make a contribution the officers' report notes:
The DfE expects Voluntary Aided bodies to contribute towards capital works that improve their school buildings at a rate of 10% of total costs. Conversations would need to be held with the Yusuf Islam Foundation and IPS about a contribution towards new facilities. No assumptions about a contribution have been included in the costs above.
The parents' concerns about travel to the Strathcona site are not directly addressed but officers' report:
Officers met on 5 April 2022 with Preston Ward members and the Lead Member for Schools, Employment and Skills to discuss transport options for the Strathcona site with the intention of making school related journeys (i.e. school drop off and pick up) car free. Officers met with Queens Park Ward members and the Lead Member for Children, Young People and Schools on 15 July 2022 to brief them on the proposed relocation of IPS.
After considering the options officers recommend a proposal to retain and refurbish all buildings on the Strathcona site and build a new block to meet the requirements for a 2 form entry (60 children per year group) school.
They recommend that this would meet the Council's statutory duty to provide a diversity of school places, provide a new site to enable Islamia to retain its 'Good' Ofsted rating and ensure chidren have a high quality learning environment.
£10.01m was allocated 7 years ago for a new build school and costs have of course gone up since then. The part refurbish existing buildings and part new build proposal is costed at £9.11m:
To these costs must be added the cost of the post-16 SEND provision in terms of the overall Brent Council budget. It would have been on Council owned land and may now need the purchase of a site on the open market.
The building finances are far from simple:
There is currently £2m of unallocated funding available in the Basic Need grant following Cabinet approval of the SEND Capital Programme Business Case in January 2022. Therefore, assuming project funding includes the £2.6m Targeted Capital Fund -TCF [carried over from previous proposal] from DfE and £2m basic need grant, £4.51m is required from alternative funds to deliver the preferred option. Council borrowing has been identified and subject to Cabinet approval could be used for this project. Borrowing £4.51m would result in an additional revenue cost of circa £0.3m per annum. This would need to be reflected through the budget setting process for revenue.
If the DfE do not allow the council to use the TCF funding for this project, then £7.11m would be required through Council borrowing. The additional revenue cost of borrowing £7.11m would be circa £0.45m per annum. This would need to be reflected through the budget setting process for revenue.
If Cabinet approve the Governing Board will need to manage the statutory consultation process about the move which may not be an easy task given that 509 people signed the parents' petition. There may well be representations about the issues involved at Monday's Cabinet.