A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Council publishes revised proposals to transform standards in our secondary schools - Addington High to stay open
07/11/2008 12:23:00

For a long time now, standards at too many of our secondary schools have been unacceptably low - there are several where fewer than three in ten pupils got 5 A* to C grade GCSEs including Maths and English last year. As a result:

- one in three children leaving Croydon primary schools - including many of the brightest - go to secondary schools in Bromley, Surrey and Sutton or to private schools rather than Croydon secondary schools; and

- their places are taken by children from neighbouring boroughs like Lambeth.

This means many children travel miles to and from school each day, leading to congestion on our roads, overcrowding on public transport and incidents of anti-social behaviour when groups of children from different schools cross each other’s paths.

The previous Labour administration did nothing to tackle this problem of low standards in too many of our secondary schools but our current Conservative Council is determined to do so. Back in June, we consulted on radical plans to transform secondary education in the borough. Our aims were to improve:

- attainment and discipline at all schools so that parents have the confidence to send their children to their local school, reducing the number of children commuting miles to school each day and the consequent congestion, overcrowding on public transport and anti-social behaviour;

- provision for pupils with special educational needs, many of whom currently have to be educated out of borough, which isn’t best for them or the taxpayer; and

- the fabric of our schools, many of which are in need of rebuilding or significant refurbishment

We proposed to achieve this by:

- closing low-performing schools that don’t enjoy the confidence of local parents and replacing them with academies, a new type of state school with a proven record of improving standards by bringing in a sponsor, new leadership and access to funding to improve facilities;

- expanding popular schools;

- introducing sixth forms at most schools to ensure that children don’t have to change school at 16 if they don’t want to and improve discipline (there is strong evidence that the presence of older children helps to do this);

- reducing the size of some schools where discipline is an issue (there is strong evidence that a reduction in size leads to improved behaviour);

- establishing new resource bases in schools to cater for children with additional needs; and

- spending £350 million from the Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme to rebuild or refurbish our schools.

We have spent the last four months listening to what pupils, parents, teachers and governors had to say about our proposals. Most supported what we were trying to do but many had concerns about individual elements of the proposals. In particular, many people in New Addington opposed the proposal to close Addington High, arguing that a community of the size of New Addington ought to have its own secondary school.

Over the summer, I personally spoke to hundreds of New Addington residents. I have lobbied my colleagues on the Council long and hard to revise our proposals to reflect the concerns that were expressed to me and I am delighted that they have today confirmed that they have done so.

Many of the people I spoke to thought that the consultation process was a sham - that the Council would ignore what people said and go ahead with its original plans. I can’t blame them for being cynical - after all, that’s exactly what the Council used to do when Labour were in charge. But this decision shows things are different under a Conservative administration.

The key proposals affecting Croydon Central are to:

- refurbish Addington High School on its current site as an 11-16 school and, to help raise standards more quickly, make the school a London Challenge Trust school, which will give it access to extra funding;

- open a new mixed Academy for 11-19 year-olds on the sites of Selsdon High School and John Ruskin College in September 2009, following the closure of Selsdon High School and John Ruskin College in July 2009;

- open a new mixed Academy for 4-19 year-olds on the site of Ashburton Community School in September 2009, following the closure of Ashburton Community School, Ashburton Junior School and Ashburton Infant School in July 2009, with a reduced number of 11-16 year-old pupils to help improve discipline;

- agree with the Diocese of Southwark to relocate Archbishop Tenison’s to the Coombe Nursery site, expanding this popular school to 900 11-16 year-old pupils plus the existing sixth form, with at least 15 per cent community places;

- by agreement with the Sisters of the Coloma Foundation, to refurbish and expand the popular Coloma Convent Girls’ School from 750 to 900 pupils, continuing the existing sixth form provision and using the expertise of this high performing school as the catalyst for improvement at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic High School, which would also be refurbished;

- establish a sixth form at Edenham High School and refurbish the school; and

- establish a sixth form at Shirley High School and refurbish the school.

The quality of secondary education is one of the main concerns people raise with me on the doorstep. These proposals will address a long-standing problem and lead to a brighter future for children across the borough.

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