Old Palace head announced retirement days before new term

Parents are discussing potential legal and sex discrimination challenges to Whitgift Foundation’s school closure plans, reports our education correspondent, GENE BRODIE

Retirement plan: Jane Burton will be standing down as Old Palace head in 2024

Pupils at Old Palace and their parents were told just two days before the start of the new term that Jane Burton, headteacher of the £20,000 per year girls’ private school, is to retire at the end of the school year, next July.

The news came as something of a surprise, as Burton has been head at Old Palace only since 2019, although it was not as big a shock as the announcement last Thursday, reported exclusively by Inside Croydon, that the school will be forced to close in 2025.

The Whitgift Foundation, the Croydon property business which operates Old Palace and two other large independent schools in the borough, has confirmed Burton’s retirement plan, without offering any statement regarding her contribution to the school or who might be expected to replace her for what could be Old Palace’s final year. Continue reading

Posted in "Hammersfield", Business, Education, Jane Burton, Old Palace, Schools, Trinity School, Whitgift Centre, Whitgift Foundation, Whitgift School | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Assembly Member calls for reform of mortgage interest loans

Londoners are facing even more debt as a result of the crisis in interest rates and the cost of living crisis, according to a member of the London Assembly.

Since February, 65 London households in mortgage stress have been pushed into taking Support for Mortgage Interest Loans, taking the total to 1,383 – an increase of 5%.

Support for Mortgage Interest loans are payments from the Government for those on low incomes who cannot meet the interest payments on their mortgages. These loans must be repaid, with interest on them charged at 3.28%, but they are supposed to avoid the households having their homes repossessed. Continue reading

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Former roads contractor Kier sues Croydon Council for £10m

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Just a couple of weeks after they took retirement from their six-figure salaried job at Fisher’s Folly, a former exec director is back, reportedly overseeing the council’s response to a potentially costly legal case. By our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE

Road works: Kier worked for Croydon for seven years, but now have launched a £10m legal case

Katherine Kerswell, the chief executive of Croydon’s cash-strapped council, has come up with an ingenious way of dealing with the latest costly legal case to land on her desk: go and hire the person responsible for the mess to oversee the council’s response.

The Kier Group, the construction and engineering giant which carried out Croydon’s highway maintenance services in the borough from 2011 to 2018, has begun legal proceedings against the council in a contractual dispute. The claim at stake is said by sources at Fisher’s Folly to be around £10million. Continue reading

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Thousands sign petition in campaign to save Old Palace School

There were tears in the playground at the Old Palace primary on Melville Avenue last Friday, from young girls and some teachers, as the news seeped through that their school had been condemned to closure by the Whitgift Foundation.

Inside Croydon broke the news of the closure decision late last Thursday, as the Foundation wrote to parents and guardians of those attending Old Palace, whether at its Old Town senior school site, where it had been educating Croydon’s young women since 1887, or at the pre-school and primary in South Croydon.

The private schools, which charge up to £20,000 fees per year to attend, currently have around 600 pupils across the two sites. But they have been deemed to be no longer financially sustainable, according to the letter from the chair of the Foundation, Croydon’s biggest land-owners and freeholders of the troubled Whitgift Centre shopping mall.

But some parents and former pupils are already organising a campaign that is looking to save their school. Among the options being considered by the Save Old Palace campaigners is a challenge through the law courts against the Whitgift Foundation. Continue reading

Posted in "Hammersfield", Business, Community associations, Education, Old Palace, Schools, Whitgift Centre, Whitgift Foundation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

3rd class Royal Mail: readers say ‘service not fit for purpose’

The dire situation with postal deliveries in Croydon could be far worse than even the most mail-deprived residents might have feared.

Inside Croydon readers from across the borough, and even in other areas covered by one of the CR post codes, have responded to last week’s report about the struggles at the Factory Lane sorting depot to get posties out and delivering sometimes vital items, including urgent packages ahead of NHS hospital appointments.

A Royal Mail insider has come forward to suggest that the severe staff shortages at the CR0 sorting depot on Factory Lane are the latest example of crass mismanagement, as following the long-running industrial dispute posties have left their jobs en masse, leaving the office badly under-staffed.

In the digital age, and with businesses such as Amazon and DPD hoovering up massive amounts of the parcel and packet delivery work, Royal Mail is a basket case declining business, but with a legal responsibility to maintain once-a-day deliveries.

All indications suggest that in Croydon, Royal Mail is not even maintaining reliable deliveries once a week.

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Victorians’ favourite artist for capturing lines of Classic winners

SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: From his home on Warrington Road, George Paice became one of the leading Victorian and Edwardian-era artists, specialising in painting the gentry’s pets and racehorses. DAVID MORGAN traces his career, beginning from a WWI memorial in Croydon Minster

Hound portraits: George Paice was a popular choice of artist to capture favourite animals, such as ‘Deemster’

There have been many artists who lived either in Croydon or who painted its views or its people over the last 150 years. Even JMW Turner sketched a view of Croydon from Addiscombe while he was on his travels.

Sadly for us, the sketch was never turned into a Turner masterpiece on canvas and remained an unfinished pencil drawing in one of his notebooks.

One artist who moved to Croydon towards the end of the 19th century and spent his most productive years in the borough was George Paice, though today his works are largely forgotten. Continue reading

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RSPCA upgrades award to recognise Boswell’s dogged service

Tara Boswell, Croydon Council’s dog warden, has received the RSPCA PawPrint gold award for a fifth time in five years.

Pedigree chum: Tara Boswell’s hard work for the borough’s dogs has been recognised again

The RSPCA Stray Dogs PawPrints Award is based on the stray dog service that a local authority provides. Introduced in 2008, the programme sets high standards for animal welfare, with recipients needing to meet criteria well above the minimum legal requirement.

The hard work of Boswell has seen the RSPCA award a platinum-level PawPrints Award to Croydon to recognise its consistent care for dogs, one of only two dozen councils across England and Wales to achieve that standard. Continue reading

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Chase The Tail, live music at The Builders Arms, Oct 14

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MP Jones ‘gravely concerned’ over closure of her old school

Local MP claims she is ‘picking up information from a standing start’ over plans to close 600-pupil girls’ private school, but says she has obtained guarantees from the property Foundation that runs the site.

OP old girl: Labour MP Sarah Jones claims she has not seen any figures from Whitgift Foundation to justify their plan to shut Old Palace private school

Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for Croydon Central, today broke her silence over the planned closure of Old Palace School – as was revealed exclusively by Inside Croydon on Thursday.

In a tweeted statement, the MP said she was “gravely concerned” at the news. “This must not be allowed to be a time of decline,” Jones wrote.

Jones is a former pupil of Old Palace, where her mother, “Mrs ‘Geography’ Jones”, was a long-serving and much-admired teacher. Continue reading

Posted in Business, Croydon Central, Education, Old Palace, Sarah Jones MP, Schools, Whitgift Foundation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Perry’s latest money-making wheeze? Big Brother parking

Croydon’s vandal-backing Mayor, Jason Perry, who showboats his opposition to ULEZ in public, now wants to hit motorists in Croydon in the pocket with his own money-grabbing parking app.

Turned off: the South Croydon parking trial, where meters were turned off, left motorists confused and angry

Perry’s new fans from the anti-15minute city mob will be outraged.

The piss-poor Mayor wants to get rid of the borough’s parking meters.

Under Perry’s money-spinning proposals, the meters are to be replaced by a system where people are only able to use council-run car parks or parking bays if they have their personal details logged with a Town Hall version of Big Brother, and they check in and out with a mobile phone every time that they park their car.

The proposals also include a sharp reduction in the amount of time people will be able to park their vehicles without charge in certain shopping areas in the borough. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Coulsdon, Croydon Council, Mayor Jason Perry, Parking, Steve Iles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Little Belle is getting people to pony up for hospital’s charity

A tiny 12-year-old pony called Belle is the latest supporter of the Croydon Health Charity’s appeal to raise funds for two ventilators at Croydon Health Services.

Trot on: Marianne Berends and her pony Belle covered more than 20 miles in their charity trek

Last weekend Belle, and her owner, Marianne Berends, went on a long-distance trek in and around Woldingham, with their collecting tin, visiting businesses and households along the way.

Berends, who works as a CT Scanning Assistant at Croydon University Hospital, was inspired to support the Little Breaths appeal after her baby niece was cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit.

“The Little Breaths appeal is a cause close to my heart as my beautiful niece was unwell following her birth and spent quite a while in NICU,” Berends said.

“Donations from this walk will help to fund two additional ventilators to provide life-saving treatment for the sickest children fin Croydon.” Continue reading

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Loach, Doris and Johnny Moped: David Lean Cinema in Oct

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Old Palace closure brought on by shaky Foundation finances

CROYDON IN CRISIS: There’s not much that has happened in Croydon in the last dozen years or so that cannot be traced back, in some respect, to the £1billion-plus non-development of the Whitgift Centre. And as the accounts of landowners the Whitgift Foundation reveal, that is certainly the case for the closure of the town centre’s girls’ school. By STEVEN DOWNES

In all the years since 1596, when Queen Elizabeth’s favourite archbishop laid the foundation stone for his hospital and then for a school at the centre of Croydon, there can surely have been few worse days for what was to become the Whitgift Foundation than Thursday September 21, 2023.

Charity fatigue: a statue of John Whitgift in the town centre almshouses. The multi-million land-owners are hard-hit by the decline of their shopping centre

For while the Foundation was yesterday preparing to issue a letter to parents and guardians of pupils at one of its schools to advise them of its closure, up at the Appeal Court in central London, three of the country’s most senior judges were handing down a four-year jail sentence to a former teacher at another of the Foundation’s schools after he had been found guilty of child abuse from the 1980s.

The reputational damage from that scandal could last for years to come.

The damage done to the reputation of the Whitgift Foundation charity because of its decision to close Old Palace girls’ school, though, could last even longer. Continue reading

Posted in "Hammersfield", Allders, Business, CPO, Education, Jane Burton, Old Palace, Schools, Trinity School, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Whitgift Centre, Whitgift Foundation, Whitgift School | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ghost haunts ancient palace where Good Queen Bess slept

GENE BRODIE, education correspondent, speaks to Old Palace old girls about their time at the school, finds out who their favourite teachers were, what it was like to have lessons in the bedroom of Good Queen Bess, and delves into the mysterious, ghostly presence of The Green Lady

Unmentioned in the Whitgift Foundation’s announcement yesterday that they are to close Old Palace School was the likely burdensome cost of the maintenance of Grade I-listed buildings.

Mixed stock: some of Old Palace’s buildings date back more than 500 years. Others are 20th Century pastiche

Because while the school’s “Cathedral Block” was built only 20 years ago, many of OP’s other buildings date from the Tudor period, and were part of the palace of the Archbishops of Canterbury, including the eponymous John Whitgift, Elizabeth I’s favourite prelate.

There has been something on the site where Old Palace stands today, nestling alongside Croydon Minster, since the 9th Century, possibly even earlier. It wasn’t until around 1443-1452, during the time of Archbishop Stafford, that a Great Hall was constructed, and apart from some remedial work in 1741 and 20th-century fire damage, that building is still largely intact, used by the school today. Continue reading

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Falling rolls and rising fees: how Old Palace got squeezed

Ancient and modern: parts of Old Palace School were built 20 years ago, but many of its buildings are listed, some dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

Our education correspondent, GENE BRODIE, examines the likely reasons and consequences of yesterday’s announcement of the decision to close one of Croydon’s oldest and best-known girls’ schools

For the 80 or so 11-year-old girls who started their secondary school careers just a fortnight ago, most of them probably full of enthusiasm and eager anticipation for the years ahead, the announcement yesterday that all of that will be taken away from them because Old Palace School is to close must have come as a bitter blow.

For their parents, and the parents of those girls now in Year 8, the news may well be more than just disappointing, but also prompting some anger, that they had entrusted their daughter’s precious education to Old Palace and the Whitgift Foundation, yet now face uncertainty and turmoil, as they have to find another path for their child towards their public examinations. Continue reading

Posted in Education, Jane Burton, Old Palace, Schools, Trinity School, Whitgift Foundation, Whitgift School | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Former Whitgift teacher given 4-year sentence for child abuse

A former teacher at Whitgift School was yesterday given a four-year prison sentence for abusing boys at the private school in the 1980s. The school could now face a class action legal case brought on behalf of three victims because of the abuse Dodd inflicted on them.

‘Glowing reference’: child abuser Paul Dodd

At a trial at Gloucester Crown Court in July, Paul Dodd, now 64, pleaded guilty to one offence of child cruelty and two of indecent assault during the time he was a history teacher and rugby coach at the school in South Croydon.

The boys abused were aged between 10 and 12.

Dodd moved to New Zealand in around 1988. His abuse at Whitgift came to light through a TV New Zealand documentary that was broadcast in 1995.

Two months ago, the Gloucester judge gave Dodd a suspended prison sentence of two years in addition to a rehabilitation programme, unpaid work and being placed on a sexual harm prevention order for seven years. The judge took into account that Dodd is sole carer for his wife, who has a chronic medical condition, and it was “for that reason alone” that his sentence was suspended.

But yesterday the Court of Appeal deemed that the sentence was too lenient, following an appeal through the Attorney General’s Office. Continue reading

Posted in Crime, Education, Schools, South Croydon, Whitgift School | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Whitgift Foundation decides to close Old Palace School in 2025

Pupils at a £20,000 per year independent school in Old Town which is operated by the borough’s biggest land-owners will be told at assembly on Friday morning that it is to close after ‘many years’ of financial struggles

Under threat: Old Palace School includes buildings that date back to Tudor times

Old Palace School, the large, fee-paying school for girls in Croydon Old Town, is to close in August 2025, it has been decided.

The Whitgift Foundation, Croydon’s largest land-owners who run Old Palace and two other independent schools in the borough, has sent out a letter today in which they say that there is “no viable alternative” to closure as “the school has been struggling financially for many years”.

Many will see the school as a casualty of a bungled £1billion property deal over the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre, the shopping centre and office blocks that were owned by the Foundation, which they announced nearly 12 years ago was to be rebuilt by Westfield. The redevelopment has never taken place.

The announcement of the closure of Old Palace seems certain to prompt speculation over the school’s sites and buildings, which include some important historic parts of the former home of Archbishops of Canterbury dating back to Tudor times. Continue reading

Posted in "Hammersfield", Business, Charity, Education, Jane Burton, Old Palace, Schools, Whitgift Centre, Whitgift Foundation | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Police witness appeal after 90-year-old killed in Coulsdon

Police are continuing to appeal for witnesses after a 90-year-old man was killed when hit by a van while crossing the road in Coulsdon last Friday.

The victim, who has yet to be named by the police, died from his injuries on Tuesday.

Eye-witnesses to the incident reported seeing the man lying in the road for at least 10minutes after the collision, with “blood everywhere”, while other vehicles drove around and past, before police and ambulance arrived.

The van driver was seen sitting on the roadside in tears. Continue reading

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‘Cynical’ Sunak helps the pro-pollution vandals in crisis denial

Trumpian vandalism: Rishi Sunak’s announcement binned his reputation, and could set back the country’s efforts to reach Net Zero

A year since Liz Truss trashed the British economy, Rishi Sunak is setting about wrecking the environment, and the nation’s international reputation as well. ANDREW FISHER on the business backlash against the Tory Prime Minister’s ‘meat tax’ and ‘seven bins’  announcement

Our Croydon Mayor might be administering a Facebook group glorifying pro-pollution vandalism, but now Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made climate vandalism official Tory Government policy.

Speaking from behind a Downing Street lectern with the Orwellian legend “Long-Term Decisions”, Sunak scrapped long-term policies, replacing them with some hastily drawn up changes that he hoped might rescue his floundering leadership. Continue reading

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Open invitation to new singers for choir rehearsals, Sep 27

The Croydon Bach Choir is looking for new members in all voice parts, but particularly tenors.

The choir is one of Croydon’s longest standing classical choral societies. They will be holding a free open rehearsal next Wednesday, September 27, at St Matthew’s Church, Park Hill, from 7.30pm.

Anybody who attends the open rehearsal will be very warmly welcomed. The choir’s librarian will have music available to borrow for the evening, so there’s no need to bring anything.

Formed in 1960, the Croydon Bach Choir performs works from the choral repertoire under the baton of Tim Horton and with rehearsal accompanist William Munks. Apart from its own annual programme of three concerts and a Come and Sing Day, the choir is regularly invited by leading orchestras, such as the London Mozart Players and the Kensington Symphony Orchestra.

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Royal Mail struggling to deliver 3rd class service in Croydon

The cost of a first-class stamp may have recently been increased to £1.25 – or £1.95 for a “large” letter – but the service delivered by the Royal Mail for households across much of Croydon has deteriorated to the point of non-existence.

Snail mail: some Inside Croydon readers have not seen their postie for weeks

Some Inside Croydon readers have been in contact to say that they have been going for whole weeks without any reliable post deliveries. They say that the delays and missed deliveries have been going on for perhaps three months, with no explanation or apology.

And sources at Royal Mail have suggested that the major delivery office on Factory Lane which handles post for the CR0 postcode area could be close to having a delivery target imposed where they can only guarantee that your local postie will be troubling your letter box just once a week.

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Posted in Addiscombe West, Broad Green, Business, Fairfield, New Addington, Selsdon Vale and Forestdale, Thornton Heath, Waddon, Woodside | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Builders’ refurb works in Bromley house cause major blaze

Bromley blaze: around 40 firefighters attended the blaze on Springfield Road

It took six fire engines and around 40 firefighters to tackle a house fire on Springfield Road in Bromley.

A three-storey detached house under refurbishment was destroyed by fire. There were no reports of any injuries.

One of the Brigade’s 32-metre turntable ladders was used as a water tower to fight the fire from height.

The fire produced large amounts of smoke and the Brigade’s 999 Control Officers received 14 calls about the fire.

The Brigade was called at 4.37pm on Monday and the fire was brought under control by 6pm. Continue reading

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London’s capital celebration of 50 years of transport Freedom

Former GLC councillor DAVID WHITE, pictured right, looks back to a scheme that revolutionised travel for generations of Londoners and ahead to a 50th birthday event this weekend

It is 50 years since the Freedom Pass transformed getting around the capital for millions of older and disabled Londoners, and there is to be a rally this Saturday to mark the occasion where transport workers’ union leader Mick Lynch and Labour MP John McDonnell will be among the speakers.

All aboard: the Freedom Pass is 50 years old this month

The Freedom Pass allows free travel on London’s public transport for older and disabled people. It was introduced in 1973 by the then Labour-run Greater London Council.

In September 1973, I was a newly elected councillor on the GLC, representing Croydon Central. In the election earlier in the year, Labour had stood on a radical manifesto which included free travel for the elderly and a low-fare scheme for other passengers.

Labour also promised to end the previous Tory plan to build urban motorways in London which would have destroyed thousands of homes. Continue reading

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