While Southwark’s schools have leapt up the national Ofsted tables in 2013 with 87 per cent of primary and secondary schools getting a good or outstanding rating is excellent news, there is an acute shortages of state school places in Dulwich, Peckham and South Southwark ,especially at the primary stage. Ultimately these shortages will filter through to the secondary school system.

The Society started reporting on this in 2012 when forecasts suggested that there would be a continuing shortage of primary school places in our area rising to up to 90 primary places (equivalent of 3 forms) in Dulwich by September 2016. Now we learn that despite warnings and efforts to create new schools and “bulge classes” the proportion of Southwark children being offered a place in one of their chosen primary schools is at a five-year low, according to new figures so there is an urgent need to expand places.

Official admissions figures for the borough show that 5.8% (197) of four and five-year olds were not offered a place at any of their six preferred schools for September’s reception year intake - up from 4% last year. So there is still much work to do.

The Society is very supportive of the opening of new schools, and has helped in a number of ways relating to buildings & land for schools, and advising on traffic & transport issues.

A number of projects are in progress to address the school place shortage.

  • The Society was very pleased to see the opening of the bilingual Judith Kerr Free Primary School in Herne Hill last September with 90+ pupils which will go on to offer up to 350 primary places. The school is currently consulting on a new development within the existing building and outdoor space.
  • Plans are afoot for a new free school in Crystal Palace - “The Crystal Palace Primary School”. Over 250 local parents are supporting the proposal which has now been submitted to the Department of Education for approval.
  • A popular Dulwich primary school and nursery have announced they will be joining forces from 2014 to provide the best start in education for local children. Langbourne Primary School and Dulwich Wood Nursery has become the Dulwich Wood Federation. Colin Lavelle, who became headteacher at Langbourne in April 2013, is now the executive head at both schools. The council has set aside around £2.5m for a refurbishment project that will permanently expand the school to two forms of entry. It is anticipated that this work will begin in summer 2014.
  • Dulwich Hamlet Educational Trust and the local Peckham community are working with Southwark Council on a proposal to create a new primary school in the Old Bellenden School building, Bellenden Road, Peckham - The Belham Community Free School. If approved, the new school would be open for Reception and Year 1 pupils in September 2015. The aim would be to create a primary school with two classes per year and when full, a capacity of 420 pupils, which would help address the growing demand for primary places in the local area. The Dulwich Hamlet Educational Trust is working with members of the local community on the proposal and submitted a Free School application to the Department for Education in January 2014 to establish the new school on the site.
  • There are plans for two Harris Primary Free Schools in the East Dulwich area with one school opening Sept'14 and a second Sept'15. One of the schools will eventually be located in the former East Dulwich police station. The Society requested that the Police station be listed as a Community asset under the Localism Act.
  • A new co-ed non-faith secondary free school - a new Haberdashers’ Aske’s East Dulwich College (secondary school) modelled on the successful Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College is being planned. The school would be for around 180 pupils per year group including a sixth form and open in September 2016. A “Right to Contest” application has been submitted by local councillors to free up two-thirds of the Dulwich Hospital site for this school. Over 450 families are supporting the opening of this school.