Failing church secondary could re-open to new pupils in 2020

GENE BRODIE, our education correspondent, on how the council and the church are planning to re-open a Waddon secondary school – once all its current pupils have left

St Andrew’s High could re-open as a church secondary in 2020 – once all its current pupils have left the school.

That’s according to a formal response to a question by Alisa Flemming, the council cabinet member responsible for schools.

Last month, the school wrote to the parents of pupils in Years 7 and 8, and of those 11-year-olds expecting to start at the school in September, instructing them to find places elsewhere for the 2018-2019 school year. Parents were given barely six weeks’ notice of the effective closure of the struggling school, which according to recently published Department of Education league tables is the second-worst performing secondary in the borough.

Only those pupils who are midway through or about to begin their GCSE courses will continue at St Andrew’s.

There is not expected to be any immediate crisis in accommodating the displaced pupils, since Croydon has 5,000 surplus places among its (mainly academised) secondary schools. And next month, an over-subscribed, partially selective free school is opening in Portakabins on playing fields at Coombe Wood, less than a couple of miles from St Andrew’s.

Inside Croydon has seen a council response to a question posed by local ward councillor, Robert Canning, about the fate of the school and plans for the site.

In her written reply, Flemming effectively passed the buck over its future, before suggesting that St Andrew’s could be given a fresh start in two years’ time.

As one school closes, another opens: workmen preparing the Portakabins for Coombe Wood School

“The future of St Andrew’s CofE High School is a matter for the governors and Southwark Diocesan Board of Education to determine,” Flemming’s response began.

“However, it is anticipated that the school will once again be admitting pupils into Year 7 in September 2020. There is currently sufficient capacity in other local schools to accommodate Key Stage 3 pupils (those in Years 7, 8 and 9).

“The council will work closely with both the Diocesan Board of Education and the school to ensure a strong offer will be able to be delivered at St Andrew’s in the future.”

The school’s head, Kerry Targett, left at the end of the summer term, her legacy of her brief stay in the role being an expensively redesigned school badge (complete with a pompous motto in Latin, though the school long ago abandoned teaching the subject), and a reputation for calling out the police when she and her staff could not control the pupils.

Problems associated with town centre gangs, crime and violence saw the school introduce random bag searches last year. Efforts to shore-up the school, by linking it to the nearby Minster Primary, are understood to have been abandoned after Minster parents objected to the association because of St Andrew’s rapidly declining reputation.

Just 34 children had applied to join the school this September. The school would usually expect to welcome 150 11-year-olds into Year 7 each year. In total, the school was reduced to just 143 pupils across Key Stage 3 in years 7, 8 and 9.

Last night another Waddon ward councillor, Andrew Pelling, welcomed the news that St Andrew’s may re-open, but added on Twitter, “Remain concerned about over-provision of school places in Waddon and surrounding areas.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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