Tory councillor opposes council’s plan for Arena Academy

Another split has opened among the fracturing local Conservatives group.

Councillor Adam Kellett: told his deputy leader that he is "wrong" over Arena school plans

Councillor Adam Kellett: told his deputy leader that he is “wrong” over Arena school plans

Adam Kellett, the councillor for Ashburton ward, took to the floor of a packed public meeting at South Norwood’s Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation on Wednesday night to tell the deputy leader of Croydon Tories that his plans for a large school squeezed on to two sites near the Croydon Arena was “wrong”.

Tim Pollard is the senior Conservative councillor in charge of education on Croydon Council, and he has unveiled plans to provide millions of pounds of public funds to build a 1,150-student sports and life sciences school for a private academy on two restricted sites in South Norwood.

Pollard’s proposal looks to pour a quart into a couple of half pint pots that are the sites around the edges of the Croydon Arena on Albert Road and at the now closed adult education facility in Sandown Road, but it seems likely that the scheme will,  controversially, take Metropolitan Open Land next to the South Norwood Country Park.

“He has got this one wrong,” Kellett said emphatically.Kellett was drawn into local politics through his involvement in residents’ opposition to a Labour-run council proposal to build a leisure centre on the same site. Kellett stated that he wanted to “remain consistent” in his opposition to such development of the site.

An ally of Kellett in that campaign is local resident Sue Kennett. “The Conservatives supported the residents when in opposition to Labour’s leisure centre proposal,” she said,  “but now it’s the Conservative council who are proposing taking the same Metropolitan Open Land. How times change.”

Among the many expressions of concern about the proposal was that from the headteacher of Ryelands Primary, which is next to the Arena. Carmel Dolan expressed shock that, “We learnt of the proposal by accident at a heads’ meeting”. She criticised poor communication from the council, and expressed serious concern over plans that would see a single road entrance to the proposed academy at the Arena.


All change? Busy times ahead at Croydon Arena

All change? Busy times ahead at Croydon Arena

With Croydon’s school place shortage at crisis point, Pollard and other council politicians began the meeting modestly positive about the proposal, but after testing the (gale force) wind of opposition from the 150 residents, they retreated to “we are listening mode” in the middle of the meeting.

This does not mean that the proposal will not go ahead even if local tax-payers oppose the idea, with serious implications for the existing regular sports users of the Arena, including Croydon FC and Croydon Harriers.

The council official presenting the case for the academy said that this was “not a voting situation”. All a bit like Roke Primary’s experience.

The official who appears determined to get this project delivered took the bullet of the audience’s ire for the politicians, who sheltered in safety on the edge of the stage giving occasional non-committal commentaries.

With the council needing to secure the support of the London Mayor for the use of Metropolitan Open Land, the use of the magic suggestion of “an Olympic Legacy” will be employed heavily by Croydon to secure approval – all very Twenty Twelve.

This latest piece of half-baked thinking replaces an earlier piece of education kite-flying by Pollard, who had previously floated the notion of turning the Sandown Road site into a more modest, four-form entry “satellite” grammar school. None of Sutton and Bromley’s selective schools came forward to sponsor the venture, probably because it was entirely unviable.

In all of this, the transfer of a massive amount of public cash to another private education organisation in providing the land and buildings looks as if it may pass by almost unremarked.

The council plans to rush the process forward to have a sponsor approved by themselves and Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, by April 29.

The local MP Gavin Barwell, who somehow forgot to mention that he is Gove’s Personal Private Secretary, said that, “I don’t have a formal role in the decision-making process.”

The council are desperate for more school places. In an amazing admission of an appalling breakdown in forward planning, the council official emphasised the urgency of the situation by stating that the council will be short of student places equivalent to 14 secondary schools by the autumn of 2017: that is an extraordinary shortfall of up to 12,600 school places.

The council might be exaggerating for effect but it’s little wonder that relations are strained in the Conservative council group when party colleagues are pushed into contradicting each other in public by the severity of the school place shortage crisis.

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7 Responses to Tory councillor opposes council’s plan for Arena Academy

  1. Timeo Danaos etiam dona ferentes.

    • Arfur Towcrate says:

      Beware of politicians of either major party who regard our green spaces as building sites for their pet projects.

  2. I am a local resident who attended the public meeting on Wednesday night.

    People need to be aware that the “Site Map” on the Council website under the section asking for providers to tender – is not the same map as the one on display at that meeting. The website “Site Map” shows an area behind Macclesfield Road that appears to be a sports pitch. However in the map that was being presented on Wednesday that it has changed to a block building.

    When I questioned him after the meeting, Councillor Pollard was unable to explain why that current map wasn’t available for the public to take away on Wednesday night, or where I could get hold of a copy. I have emailed Pip Hesketh ( who presented on behalf of the council, asking for a copy of the latest version of this map.

    Whilst I fully understand that at this stage all plans are fluid – it is crucially important when being asked to provide feedback, that we are able to view the plans in their most current format. I am still waiting for a reply…

    In terms of the argument for a new build six-form entry school, I would like to know what are the current statistics for the number of excess places in Croydon’s secondary schools. Jeevan Vasagar writing for the Guardian on 16 February 2011 reported that Croydon had an excess of secondary school places – 1,215 in fact – almost the same size of the school they are proposing to build.

  3. Where were the other Ashburton councillors? Well done Adam.

  4. pcgoodie00 says:

    In relation to the ‘scary’ numbers used at Wednesday’s public meeting and again repeated in the consultation document where it states that an additional 50FE of permanent secondary places will be required by 2019/20, we should let the council’s own report ‘Secondary Education Estates Strategy’ dated 23rd April 2012 speak for itself:

    The 2011 review of pupil place projections shows that a total of 22FE is required over the next 7 years for permanent secondary expansion. Of this it is necessary to add 4FE (120 places) in 2014/15 a further 6FE (180 places) by 2015/16 and the remaining 12 FE (360 places) by 2019/20

    To note that by 2019/20 an additional 12FE of permanent secondary school places will be needed. Capital funding of up to £35.5m (based on today’s costs without inflation) need to be planned for in the Council’s capital programme, if funding is not received from the DfE.

    The recent review of pupil place projections shows that an additional 12FE of permanent secondary places will be needed from 2019/20 giving a total of 22FE over the next 7 years.

    By 2019, when those currently in reception (4568) reach secondary age, there will be a shortfall of 646 Year 7 places (22FE), assuming that around 90% children in Croydon primary schools move on to Croydon secondary schools.

    Although Croydon will not have an absolute shortage of secondary places until 2015, given the current large numbers of children joining our schools mid year, and the growing popularity of Croydon schools, it would be prudent to plan for some of the additional places to be available by September 2014.

    The 2011 review of pupil place projections shows that a total of 22FE is required over the next 7 years for permanent secondary expansion. Of this it is necessary to add 4FE (120 places) in 2014/15 a further 6FE (180 places) by 2015/16 and the remaining 12 FE (360 places) by 2019/20.

    Maths is absolutely not my strong point, but I’m struggling to see how we’ve managed to jump from a need for 22FE by 21019/20 to 50FE.

    I’m still waiting for a reply from the council regarding the “site map”….

  5. So i’ve now found the council’s Education Estates Strategy report to Cabinet, dated 21 Jan 2013 and can see how the new revised projections for secondary places breakdown:

    48 additional year 7 places (mid requirement)
    52 additional year 7 places (max requirement)

    breaks down as:

    2013/14 0 0
    2014/15 0 1
    2015/16 4 6
    2016/17 9 9
    2017/18 4 4
    2018/19 13 13
    2019/20 18 19

    But there is still no reason to as alarmed as the council would like us to be. Even if these figures are taken at face-value, they are not at break-point yet – given they have already ear-marked which existing schools can be expanded and of course, the proposed 6 forms of entry school for the Croydon General Hospital Site.

    Moreover, as another member of the public commented on Wednesday the council’s efforts and budget should be focused on those secondary schools that require significant IMPROVEMENT now. That is how they can support the needs of local residents.

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