Everyone in Dulwich welcomes the new Charter School East Dulwich which will occupy a large part of the Dulwich Community Hospital site and, when complete, will have 1680 pupils. It is to be a co-educational, non-selective, non-faith, inclusive 11-18 secondary school which will deliver a high quality education for young people in its immediate locality.

The school will share the site with a new health centre. Those residents who have lived in Dulwich for a while will have noted that it has taken the NHS 23 years to reach the stage of actually building something (half the old hospital was demolished in 2006 when the plan was to build a polyclinic - loved by Labour but rejected by the incoming Conservative/Liberal coalition). As yet it is not clear when the new facility will open, it was going to be 2017 but the last Dulwich Community Council it was reported that it would be 2019.

On the positive side the plans for the school are moving forward very quickly and it aims to open for the first pupils in September 2016. Perhaps this will encourage the Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group who is now in charge of medical services in the area to accelerate its own programme. The good news is that the two organisations are meeting regularly and we are told that the master plan is now fully resolved. It also appears that negotiations between the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and Prop Co, the property branch of the NHS, are complete and a recent announcement confirmed that school site has been secured.

Two series of public consultation meetings on the school’s proposals were held during June and October. These confirmed that the school will open in temporary accommodation on the site, subject to funding and planning approval. The aim is to take 120 pupils and house them in a series of temporary buildings on the south east corner of the site near the railway accessed via Jarvis Road off Melbourne Grove. At the same time the school will acquire a section of the site on the south west corner and begin construction of the first permanent facilities with the aim of completing them in 2018. Construction of the rest of the school will await the completion of the health centre, when the CCG will be able decant services from the old buildings. And here lies the problem; any delay on completion of the health facility will impact on the school’s progress.

There has also been much discussion on the school’s catchment area and it has been decided that the distances will be measured from the temporary school gate in Jarvis Road.

The school will be funded by the Government through its current school’s building programme. It has been made very clear that budgets for new schools are now of very different order from the earlier ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme which was largely funded via the previous Labour Government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Current target costs are in the order of 50% less than previously.

The preliminary layout shows the main access pretty much in the same position as now, off East Dulwich Grove, and the much loved ‘Chateau’ building is currently being kept but only as staff offices, possibly with an assembly hall behind. Unfortunately it seems that the EFA will not provide additional funding to reflect the cost of its refurbishment and this may impact on the quality of the other new buildings.

The main class room buildings will be built at the rear of the site roughly parallel with the railway. Playgrounds and sports pitches will replace the old wards to the left of the gates while the site of the old doctor’s accommodation will be a lecture hall and drama complex which will also be available for community use.

Given that the catchment area is very limited most children should cycle or walk to school and the school seems very keen to set up a positive green travel plan and reduce teacher car travel as much as possible - after all there is a train station not far away. There is also a bus route passing the front door, the oft lamented No 37, but it is clear that additional public transport provision will be needed. The long discussed extension of the No. 42 from red Post hill to East Dulwich Sainsbury’s must move ahead.

Overall this is a success story and the Charter School must be congratulated for putting forward such a positive scheme.