Schools are currently a hot topic of conversation in Dulwich after the recent arrival of the Judith Kerr Free School in Half Moon Lane and a contentious proposal by the Southwark Community Sports Trust (SCST) to incorporate a nursery in a new building on its site in Turney Road.
We already have a good number of high quality state and private schools in the Dulwich area but a brief on line check shows that there are also well over 40 nursery schools, nurseries, play groups and pre-school facilities.
The main foundation schools all have nursery schools, as do the private prep schools like Dulwich Prep London, Herne Hill School, Oakfield, and Rosemead on Thurlow Park Road. In the state sector, the C of E School in the Village offers one, as does Langbourne School on the Kingswood Estate – and there are others at Kingswood, the Dog Kennel Hill Estate and the Peabody Estate in Herne Hill.
Nurseries appear to be mainly commercial operations including Nelly’s, which has three sites, and is looking for a fourth, and a brand new one, ‘Under the Willow Nursery’, purpose built on former rail land off Croxted Road. There are also two in Rosendale Road and Norwood Road and one in each of Barry Road, Tell Grove, Greendale, Lancaster Road, Crystal Palace Road, Upland Road, Herne Hill, Chancellor Grove, Chatsworth Way, Lacon Road, Colby Road and Gipsy Road.
Churches like St Stephens and All Saints have nurseries in their halls, St Faiths has a German Kindergarten and the Mustard Seed Christian pre-school is in the Baptist Church in Half Moon Lane. There are also three Montessori Schools in other halls. At least two sports clubs have them, the Dulwich Village pre-school in the Edward Alleyn Sports Ground off Dulwich Common and the Little Fingers Montessori Nursery in the Edward Alleyn Club behind Burbage Road.
What does this all prove? It confirms the area’s pre-eminence as a centre of educational excellence (in 2013 speak of course) – in the old days it just had good schools. It also shows that all parts of Dulwich have become a magnet for young families and that we will soon need more primary and secondary school places – which, in fairness Southwark is trying to provide - but it now has to rely on privately promoted ‘free’ schools or ‘academies’ as current government policy precludes any more local authority run primaries.
The long term impact of school growth is of course on traffic, the numbers of cars and coaches in the mornings and afternoons in the area are already too much - and the arrival of the Judith Kerr Free School in Half Moon Lane, with its additional 350 pupils, many drawn from outside our area, will not help
We need to look urgently at alternative ways of bringing children to school. The Society supports the ‘safer routes to school’ group but it will need a real change in the parental mind set to solve this problem – perhaps the solution for older children is the suggestion from Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, that all children should be dropped off some way from the school gate, with the additional benefit that they will all get a little exercise walking to it.