Gordonbrock School: Decision day approaches

Lewisham Council's planning committee is due to hear the Gordonbrock School planning application this Thursday, 10th December.

Anyone interested in the details of the plans can look here; the gist is that the school wants to demolish two of the original Victorian teaching blocks, and replace them with a new building which joins all the teaching spaces together, and extends the capacity of the school from 2.5 to 3-form entry.

The Victorian Society has spoken out strongly against the demolition, calling it 'an appalling waste of structurally sound historic buildings'. The society has urged Lewisham Council to 'view the historic school buildings in its care as an asset and not a burden'.

The Brockley Society is running a petition against the changes, arguing on the basis of sustainability (refurbishment being a more appropriate option), architectural heritage and lack of public consultation.

The proposals have also been discussed at length on local councillor Sue Luxton's blog. Sue is in favour of the re-build in principle, but has expressed reservations over the extent to which sustainability has been taken into account by the architects and contractors.

What do BC readers think?


Anonymous said...

Ah notice the word demolish,were as the new building would fall down after a few years.Its just so somebody can line there pockets.

Pete said...

Without knowing a huge amount about this particular case it does seem to highlight a problem that crops up quite often:

Historical/architectural value vs practicality/suitability to the requirements of the building's function.

Anonymous said...

Dulwich College hasn't put a proposal in to demolish, they seem to make old practical and suitable. The site will need new build too the two aren't incompatible. Just keep the old as well.

Tamsin said...

I'll probably get shot down on this but how sophisticated and state of the art do premises need to be for a primary school. The lovely Arts and Crafts building of the unfortunate Hatcham Wood School on Wallbutton Road was razed to the ground - oak panelling, first ever purpose-built home economics suite and all - because building a new sixth form college they did need the IT infra-structure and drama, science, DT and sports facilities. I would not have thought that the same applied to a primary school.

It strikes me as the professionals just being arrogant and lazy. With a clean site the architects can just pull standard plans off their data-base, personalise them a bit and then get the kudos of an "iconic" building project. Up-grading an existing structure you do actually have to do some serious work on it and cannot stamp it with your practice identity.

Anonymous said...

Refurbish the old building. It CAN and SHOULD be done.

Anonymous said...

bet it costs more to refurbish - that would be a factor

Tressilliana said...

Dulwich College is (a) Grade 1 listed and (b) one of the best endowed schools in the country. Gordonbrock's buildings, as I have said before, are not good enough at the moment. It's a moot point whether new buildings would be any better but there is no doubt that something major needs to be done to improve those buildings. It would help if the whole thing was not tied up with resolving the thorny problem of the half-form entry. Going down to 2-form entry would make it easier to refurbish the existing buildings and make better use of the site, I would have thought.

Rach said...

I was given the budget figures of £1500/m2 for refurbishment and £2000/m2 for new build. This didn't allow for demolition, by an architect friend who works on similar schemes. So chosen option is unlikely to be cheaper. The future running costs of chosen option probably will be much cheaper. Especially as they are so well insulated that similar buildings are too hot for summer to use.

Anonymous said...

They had to retrofit air conditioning into the foyer at Ashmead School and I'm told (by parent with child at school) that the children using the upstairs rooms last summer had to decant into playground for lessons. Which sounds pretty good in itself, but not what the millions spent on building was supposed to achieve.

Yes, something needs doing but that doesn't mean you have to demolish. If millions is being spent then there are finally funds to make the most of what they have for once. We should n't only value listed buildings, this is intrinsic to our heritage.

The class room plans are very similar to Ashmead. It would need more ingenious architect's to look at the existing buildings, not ones who design schools in their sleep. Lewisham have a list on their books I think. So they want to keep using the same ones.

There is a massive issue that Lewisham are hell bent on making it a three form entry. If the site is n't really big enough, then it should n't be done. They are of course trying to make the other local school which will take two forms a one form entry school. So that doesn't add up.

Transpontine said...

Don't know anything about this particular project, but much as I like old buildings I wonder about the assumed priority of conservation over other considerations. There are numerous Victorian board schools, they were pretty much built to a pattern and many of them are listed so there's no danger of them vanishing from the landscape. But they can be very difficult to make accessible for disabled children. I know for a fact that at Edmund Waller in the past children in wheelchairs weren't admitted because there would be no way they could access the classrooms in the upper floors. It is sometimes possible to put in lifts, but there's more to it than that. Where old buildings can be radically refurbished let's do it, where they can't maybe we should sometimes be prepared to let them go.

Anonymous said...

Not sure that there are lifts to the second storey on the new proposals. The architecture on this school is quite different to the other Lewisham board schools. The proposals aren't great either and the other schools built on similar model are now trying to sort out their numerous problems. Sue Luxton was involved in some report to mayor about them. There was something in the local newpaper.

You can currently access on grade to most classes and there are imaginative ways to get round the few classes where there aren't. Imaginative isn't big on the architect's agenda.

There is a massive issue on the wastage of all the bricks and clay tiles, not at all sustainable. (Including lovely moulded brick details).

And if you look on the blogs they are reducing the area of their very undersize playgrounds even more. Scandalous, I'd say.

Even if architect had done a wonderfully detailed scheme, they are unlikely to have much say once the site is in the hands of the developer.

And anyway, they are planning yellow render.

Anonymous said...

Not sure that there are lifts to the second storey on the new proposals. The architecture on this school is quite different to the other Lewisham board schools. The proposals aren't great either and the other schools built on similar model are now trying to sort out their numerous problems. Sue Luxton was involved in some report to mayor about them. There was something in the local newpaper.

You can currently access on grade to most classes and there are imaginative ways to get round the few classes where there aren't. Imaginative isn't big on the architect's agenda.

There is a massive issue on the wastage of all the bricks and clay tiles, not at all sustainable. (Including lovely moulded brick details).

And if you look on the blogs they are reducing the area of their very undersize playgrounds even more. Scandalous, I'd say.

Even if architect had done a wonderfully detailed scheme, they are unlikely to have much say once the site is in the hands of the developer.

And anyway, they are planning yellow render.

Anonymous said...

I wish our local green councillor could step away from party politics for a second and represent the local people and Brockley Society who want to keep the building. Sustainability is NOT the only criteria in life. We can have the preservation of buildings and find other ways of saving the planet - they are not mutually exclusive.

I think may people voted Green in the area because they found the councillors were willing to support the residents - unlike other party's councillors. Taking a simplistic green view on something (much like the attitude to the much needed Gateway Bridge)will not get you far in the long run. People live here because they like their Victorian surroundings - work with this, not against it.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

...and why does this school HAVE to go 3 form entry, it is too large for a small site. We need more space for play time already. What has happened to notion of healthy schools?

...and another thing, it is so unsustainable to demolish and rebuild. So Green councillors aren't even managing to get that right.

Tamsin said...

Far less green to demolish (all the disposal costs) and rebuild - nasty stuff UPVC.

Quite right about over-heated modern buildings. A severe problem in the Wallbutton Road Children's Centre build only five years ago.

Rach said...

At the planning meeting the architects said the existing classrooms were too small and that if they had knocked through they would not be right for modern learning.

They aren't obviously easy to turn into the standard requirements and looking at existing plans you'd probably need to do a new build with the infants block to get enough classes for the year groups to be together and a separate block of classes and a new hall on the main road boundary or Amyruth Road. This would need to use the roof space for play or outdoor classrooms so that there isn't a big loss of playground area.The current proposals are significantly reducing the playground space.

Of course this wouldn't be such a challenge if we could go to a two form entry. Which is what all the parents I know would prefer.

Also at planning meeting we had neighbours who wanted to know what was going to be done about the noise from the children. I know, pretty bad research when buying your house. Architect started extolling virtues of his design, showing the little "cloister" the nursery children would be in on the other side of the site, and how they wouldn't be disturbing them. He didn't highlight the fact that the building adjacent to them was to be replaced with a ball court and the juniors playground. A minimum of 12 PE lessons, possibly more because the playground provision for the infants is pitiful. To top it all the ball court is used after school hours for the sports clubs. I think they'll be longing for the joyous chatter of nursery children.

Tressilliana said...

When this was first mooted 10+ years ago a big driver for going to 3-form entry from 2.5 was the massive unpopularity of Brockley and Lewisham Bridge schools. Gordonbrock was oversubscribed and they were not able to fill all their places. However, both schools have improved since then, I understand, so that seems less relevant.

Sue said...

I'm quite torn on this; I like the existing buildings, they have character, fit in well with the neighbouring streets and are unobtrusive. I'm seriously underwhelmed by the design proposed for the new building -it feels like a bog standard Bouyges off the shelf design, with only token gestures towards sustainability, and minimal effort to retrofit the remaining existing buildings with insulation etc to improve energy efficiency.

That said, the reality is that there is already valid planning permission for the plan from 5 years ago and they could go ahead and build that tomorrow if they wanted. So to that extent they have us over a barrel and frustratingly, lobbying for minor improvements might be the best we can do.

I understand the concerns of parents currently at the school that there has been little consultation and it all seems rather rushed. I’m told there was extensive consultation and involvement from parents and pupils 5 years ago when the original planning application went through (then the funding didn’t materialise), but this hasn’t happened this time and I know that many of the parents of children at the school now feel as though they have been given little say.

There have been a few improvements to the design since it was originally submitted (and passed) 5 years ago, but in my opinion it is some way off from the exemplar of sustainability I would like to see.

A number of parents are also very concerned about the reduction in outside space, and how the landscaping has been done as an afterthought, once the building plans were in place, rather than as an integral part of the plans from the beginning.

From a sustainability point of view, as others on this thread have pointed out, refurbishing and retrofitting existing buildings can often be a lower carbon option than rebuilding (though it is seriously difficult to bring Victorian buildings up to modern building regulations standards, let alone zero carbon). The question is whether the buildings are still fit for purpose/reasonably adaptable. There are a number of reasons why at least a partial demolition and rebuild might be desirable:

*getting kids to walk across the playground in all weathers to outside toilets is rather 19th century.
*the school finds the way the current buildings are laid out, with classrooms around small halls, problematic - even a slightly noisy activity by one class in the hall disturbs all the surrounding classes. They would also like a hall big enough for the whole school to have assemblies etc together in.
*the classrooms proposed in the new building are substantially bigger than those in the existing building, which should make for a less cramped learning environment and make it easier for the school to be fully inclusive and accessible for children in wheelchairs
*Having 2.5 form entry rather than 2 or 3 form entry is far from satisfactory for either pupils or staff.
It's difficult to make Gordonbrock 3-form entry while keeping all the existing buildings without further reducing the outside play space, which is already less than government guidelines recommend, and will be reduced further by the proposals.

It's a tough call - of course the idealist in me would like 1 or 2 form entry primary schools and lots of outside space, but the realist accepts that we have to work with what we’ve got. We urgently need more school places in the borough, both at primary and secondary level. Given that we are living in a built up borough with limited land available, increasing capacity at a number of existing primary schools is probably the most viable option open to the Council (along with a new school on the proposed Convoys Wharf site, and potentially another one will still be needed elsewhere).

Rob said...

The situation is pretty desperate here, for those of us looking to try and stop this.

This is a revised application of a scheme that gained approval in 2005 - so it will be very difficult to convince the Lewisham Planning Committee not to push this through. Even more worryingly - even if it is rejected on Thursday, theoretically they could demolish the buildings anyway based on the 2005 permission - or so I have been told by Lewisham Planners.

We will plough on with campaign regardless, and it is all the more reason to accumulate as many signatures as possible on the petition.

I have just set up a facebook group for those that are interested in this issue - please join and invite all your like-minded friends as well:


Tressilliana said...

Rob, do you have a child at the school? Do you know the school buildings well? I'm interested because your website says 'We love it just the way it is!' Well, I don't. My children were there from 97 to 05 and although I loved the school I didn't love the buildings just the way they were. I didn't love the fact that the toilets are grim and reached from the playground. I didn't love the fact that the school hall is only big enough for a fraction of the school community to come together at any one time. I didn't love the fact that the classrooms are cramped and energy inefficient and the halls are draughty. I didn't love the fact that the lunches have to be served in the same space that the children use for PE and music before and after lunch. I didn't love the fact that the buildings have been appallingly badly maintained over the 104 years they've been there. I didn't love the 'temporary buildings' which have been there for 60 years. I didn't love the fact that the school doesn't have room for a library or a decent music room.

I would be all for a sympathetic refurb if the money was there and if the capacity of the school was going to be reduced, not increased. However, in the current political climate that money is not forthcoming and the capacity is going to be increased, not reduced. As Sue says, there is a massive shortage of primary school places. What do you propose that Lewisham should do to address the shortage of school places?

Tamsin said...

Peter Jones and the supply teacher who signed the petition at no. 17 both sound as if they know the school and believe that the current buildings refurbished would be better than a modern replacement.

Did I read somewhere on this blog that although Gordonbrook was going up to 3 form entry one of the other local schools was being reduced - so overall numbers are something of a red herring.

rach said...

Yes, that is correct, the council are planning for Lewisham Bridge to go to a one form entry school. They have room for two form entry.

To me it seems politically driven because they want to squeeze in a secondary school on to the same site.

How come other schools got a refurbishment and the far more popular and over subscribed Ashmead weren't made to increase their roll?

Then they managed to close a relatively local school in Deptford and find places for everyone.

Anonymous said...

All the stuff that Tressilliana doesn't like about the school sounds a lot like the school I went to - and dare I say it - it didn't hurt me. Let's concentrate on educational standards - not that the kids have lunch in the same hall they have PE in, or have to cross the cold playground to go to the loo. It's not pulling my heart strings

Transpontine said...

Like Tressilliana my experience of being a school governor in a Victorian school has modified my 'save old buildings at all costs' position. Really the main issue in the debate should be how to create the best possible environment for learning and play in a limited space, with considerations of sustainability and conservation of secondary importance. Not to say they're not important at all, but when we're talking about schools they shouldn't be the first priority.

Transpontine said...

I might add Lewisham will need all the primary school places it can get in the local area if Brockley Central succeeds in its campaign to divert the overflowing East Dulwich breeder wave in a Brockley direction!

Anonymous said...

completely agree with anon above.

what matters is getting children to leave our primaries able to read and write. currently 30% cannot which is a disgrace in a supposedly first world country.

fabric of buildings is a nice to have not a prerequisite for learning.

get priorities straight.

Anonymous said...

oh and the reason children don't learn has NOTHING to do with their "learning environmemt" - does that mean class room by the way?

it has to do with:

lack of parental interest or encouragement, hideous social issues such as abuse, confusion over which damn language they are meant to be speaking (English clearly by the way for any readers equally confused), lack of stable father figures, leading to lack of consistent and patient discipline at home, lack of expectation or aspiration, lack of space and conditions to do homework, poor health etc etc.

fabric of school buildings and whether the loos are nearby - don't make me laugh. maybe in Surrey.

Brockley Nick said...

And you don't think adequate classrooms and space for other types of class are related to academic performance? You don't think design which discourages bullying and facilitates the kinds of lessons which provide the skills children need in the 21st century are important?

You are arguing for the same thing as Tressilliana - a decision based on the best interests of the children, rather than conservationists.

And the next person to say "it were alright when I were a lad" has to unplug their internet connection and get back to their black and white telly.

Anonymous said...

Nick, these issues are SO far down the list in an area like this; it is sadly simply re arranging the deckchairs.

Anonymous said...

it WAS all right when he/she was a lad/girl because the tri partite arrangement of school, parents and church all reinforced messages and discipline.

nowadays, how often do you see an adult reprimanding a child who is not his/her own? very seldom.

it certainly happened in the past when the community viewed local children as its children

Brockley Nick said...

No, they are all part of the mix and interrelated.

Of course parenting standards are more important than anything else and discipline in schools comes a close second.

But none of that is in dispute here. It's about potential loss of heritage, disruption to school life and loss of play space v new modern facilities.

You're raging at straw men.

Transpontine said...

Thanks Anon. Shame you don't put your name because I for one would be very interesting in reading your educational research which shows that there is no relationship between learning environment (not just the classroom, the outside play is just as important) and educational achievement. For a start, if a child can't even get into their local school because they are physically disabled and therefore have to travel miles to school it's hardly conducive to learning is it.

Anonymous said...

it's about use of resources that could be better spent on eg parenting classes and support

Brockley Nick said...

"nowadays, how often do you see an adult reprimanding a child who is not his/her own? very seldom."

This has absolutely nothing to do with the question of Gordonbrock school's possible redevelopment.

Anonymous said...

ok Transpontine, little correlation.

I've set out the macro issues.

your learning environment ideas ignore the reality of the lives many of these children are enduring at home.

you can give these ch the loveliest school environment ever but if you don't fix the main issues, they will continue to achieve next to nthing.

they struggle. this is not a nice little Kensington prep school where the issues are how many As they can get. and where maximising their learning environment is perhaps the last piece of the jigsaw to help them achieve 100% of their potential.

Tamsin said...

Just bumped into John Hamilton outside the Broca Foodmarket (where - incidentally to the person who asked on "suggest a topic" a while back - they do sell rye flour but haven't any at the moment) who raised another spectre in this whole debate. Can Sue confirm whether or not it is the case that the development of this new school is going to be like certain hospitals - a pfi deal where the fabric of the school and indeed the running of it, staff contracts etc, etc. will be the responsibility of the developer or a linked company with the contract to run it? John mentioned horror stories of schools under such an regime where the teachers cannot even stick drawing pins in the classroom walls because it damages the privately "owned" building. I think I would rather have the children crossing the playground to the loos.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell whether the reception class will still be crossing the playground for lunch or will it be served in the current music and staff room building. In which case the lunch will be crossing the playground.

You don't have to spend millions and get the developers to run your school for you just to sort out the loos or canopies across a playground. It should not be an either outside loo or demolition of whole building.

Plus Charlotte Turner is a lovely school building and they still struggled to get their literacy and numeracy levels up. So indeed it isn't just the building.

One of first comments was that private schools such a Dulwich, Eton, Harrow...even what's it? St Dunstans are old buildings. They invest in their buildings (I'm sure they have a small fortune, so I'm not expecting the same) Just old buildings can be made to work.

I like a bit of fresh air on my way to the loo, but the set up is very poor for small children.

Tamsin said...

And Riverston - a struggling independent with no cash to spare but a lovely atmosphere.

Robert said...

We have visted historic buildings, Edwardian, Victorian, Georgian and older, that have been refurbished in a way that creates a good clean useable modern environment.

There is no reason, in my opinion, why this approach cannot be extended to heritage schools.

Sensitive designed extensions might compliment the existing buildings, and rationalising the space made up by removing the makeshift extensions put up over the past fifty years would help.

All of this would be far less expensive than demolishing and rebuilding, both in monetary terms, and environmentally.

Gordonbrock is a single story school, so disabled access should be relatively easy to overcome.

The two schools in the borough who's building fabric is most similar to Gordonbrock, in both design and repair, are Stillness and Torridon. Both are in areas of similar socio-economic diversity. If we are concerned with academic results, then the 2009 sats results tables tell us that Stillness came 5th in the borough, and Torridon 21st out of almost seventy schools.

rach said...

Sue, there are ways to keep the existing building, build new class room blocks and a hall, and not loose too much playground space.

The school will be exchanging noisey activities in the hall for noisey activities in the playground...outside the class room windows. The playgrounds used for PE at moment are set away from most of the classes. Not so in the new build.

Lots of parents don't really know what is happening, I think they trust people to do the right thing. Two weeks after the scheme had gone into planning we were told about the plans. The developers came to the school for the two evenings and I was very explicitly told that the playground would be larger than existing. Most parents don't have a computer survey of the school to be able to check this! I thought it didn't look larger and wondered if it accounted for the extra children. I found the KS2 playground to be reduced by 17% I think and the KS1 by 55%, that means 3m2 per infant child.(The reduction in area is not accounting for the extra 100 children who will need to use it). The area which was increased was the area for reception to play out in. This is set up with activities for children and would not normally be accessed at playtime. I think they are looking to see how they can change this as there is no room for any of the equipment in the main infants playground (it was bought by the children and parents for everyone to use). The area where they will play out is now up on what can be a busy main road, which seems quite perverse to me.

The government have gone to great lengths to set out their children's plan, alarmed that we have the unhappiest children in Europe. Overcrowded urban environments, over tested in schools and playgrounds which fall short of educational guidelines. Do you make any wonder.

Transpontine said...

OK anon I think we can agree that buildings aren't a magic wand, and that other issues like what goes on at home are at least as important. On the other hand the fact that children come from challenging backgrounds makes it all the more important that we should try and make sure they have the best possible experience at school. However I have to acknowledge that I don't know enough about the Gordonbrock plan to say how much it will be improved. I just don't think its Victorianess should be the main concern.

matrowan said...

Isn't it Edwardian?

Robert said...

Gordonbrock was among the last buildings to be designed by the London School Board. The architect was T.J. Bailey, who was the chief architect at the board, then later of the London County Council when it took over the board in 1904.

It is one of the first municiple school buildings that was designed to a smaller scale, with campus buildings rather than the towering behemoths that had been built up to that point (Holbeach, Ennersdale etc.)

I see all of the buildings that were designed and built by the board as some of the most important ever to be constructed in London. They really did herald the birth of a new era. The London School Board itself was also a very progressive organisation. Anyone with 19th century working class London ancestors really does have an awful lot to be thankful to their work.

This well known literary quote placed into the mouth of Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle sums up my feelings towards these buildings:

"Look at those big, isolated clumps of buildings rising above the slates, like brick islands in a lead-colored sea. . . Lighthouses, my boy! Beacons of the future! Capsules, with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future."

The Victorianess of the building is not the issue, but it's social context and importance is. The fact that it happens to be one of the most attractive historic schools under Lewisham's wing is also a bonus.

Sue said...

@Tamsin: yes, John's right, unfortunately, all of the schools in the borough currently being built/refurbed are being done so under PFI, so the Council pays it back over 20-25 years and the facilities management is carried out by a private contractor, with varying degrees of success. There have indeed been a number of problems with this at Prendergast Ladywell Fields (Crofton), Catford High and Sedgehill. My committee (Sustainable Development) did an interim review on sustainability aspects of the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme, which you can view here.

Tamdin said...

And, without being too cynical about it, 30 years is the anticipated life-span of most modern buildings. The PFI partner is pulling out just as the whole thing starts falling apart.
What a shambles!

matrowan said...

A bit worrying Rob, but I really don't think they will demolish to build something they really know won't work. Has the school and governors got no power in this; having seen the non too brilliant new plan, they must be beginning to recognise the problems of the old plan.

They wouldn't want to decant the children to demolish and build something even more out of sync with teaching requirements.

Is it true they are planning on decanting miles away, in Sydenham? 500 children ferried up and down that busy road in rush hour? That's going to be fraught.

Is the head teacher powerless in all of this?

Robert said...

I met the head teacher this morning when I was photographing the building.

She was very keen to know what I was up to, and made it very apparent that she was in favour of the whole enterprise.

"Do you not want the children to have a nice school".

"Yes, I think they have a very nice school already".

matrowan said...

Indeed, yellow render doesn't sound a match the those lovely buildings. Just think what a few million spent on them with some new build would give us. Is anyone aware of the budget?

Not sure the head has the best aesthetic eye in the neighbourhood.

Transpontine said...

It may well be that the headteacher does not have the best aesthetic eye, as far as buildings are concerned. But I would expect them to have a pretty good grasp of the limits and possibilities of the current building for a 21st century curriculum, so would tend to give more weight to their views of the plans than to most posters here (myself included).

I stand corrected, I believe it is in fact an Edwardian school - so maybe the Victorian Society should sit on the sidelines for this one.

Unless I am mistaken I don't think anyone is proposing the total demolition of the old school buildings.

I agree that there was a progressive vision behind many on the London School Board. Tricky business trying to project views on to the dead, but I would have thought that they would have expected that progress implied continued development, rather than freezing history at some arbitrary point on the basis of aesthetic considerations.

Agree though that PFI is a concern - but so is keeping children in outdated and unsuitable buidlings.

matrowan said...

The Victorian Society also cover Edwardian buildings, I think we can rely on them knowing their stuff.

You really don't seem to think that it is possible to provide good education in an old school building do you? We could apply the same to housing of course. Especially those chilly Victorian ones with high ceilings. Rather like schools they can take some knocking about family homes to flats, back to houses..

Water tight and with electricity is what my teacher friend said she needed.

That apart, if Lewisham are going to be in need of so many school places, they need to build a new school. You can't keep squeezing children into existing schools.

Anonymous said...

Worth remembering, as Transpontine points out, that only 2 of the 4 buildings would be demolished under the plan.

Anonymous said...

Worth remembering they aren't replacing it with anything so magnificent. There won't even be real timber floors in the hall.

Worth remembering the layout would be out of date if British Education takes on board the Cambridge Primary Review Report.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that Gordonbrock's rebuild was not PFI funded. It was going to be when the plans were first accepted 5 years ago but I thought this was now Government money not PFI. If it is true I think it is very bad news indeed quite apart from all the other issues.
I am not against new buildings as a rule, but what I do object to is the rushing in to cure a problem of not enough school places and trying to squeeze pupils into a site that simply cannot hold them. Gordonbrock is not big enough for the pupils in it now and will still not be big enough after it is rebuilt (they admitted this at the planning meeting in Gordonbrock school recently). But what exactly is Lewisham's overall plan? Parents are left wondering why one school is rebuilt but left one form entry and another is not. They begin to feel they have been unfairly treated.
Incidentally, the head teacher has always fully supported the plans, she wants a 'lovely new school' but I'm sure she wouldn't want it quite so badly if the building hadn't been neglected so horrendously while we were waiting for a rebuild. It is absolutely shameful the way it was left so no wonder it got a tad leaky and draughty, but there's no reason for it having to stay that way (and indeed there were quite considerable improvements made to the toilets recently). It could be refurbished and expanded in a really wonderful and imaginative way.
Transpontine, Gordonbrock is all on one level (it's actually what makes it unusual), so no need for lifts for wheelchairs, it could be adapted.

matrowan said...

Not to forget the huge reduction in size of playground....and the neighbours getting the noisy ball court next to their house...all those after school activities and will it get used in the summer holidays too?

James said...

First thank you to the person who handed out the fact sheet today outside the school which my wife picked up - it's very reassuring to learn that other people are actively concerned about this situation!

To be blunt I am extremely upset over the way this whole proposal has been handled. As a parent of child who only started to go to gordonbrock back in September of this year, I am outraged that no real consultation with parents has taken place! It’s all well and good that the proposal was properly consulted over 5 years ago but what about the parents who have children at the school now!

All of the points made on your handout I completely agree with. The disruption to the children will be catastrophic and I cannot understand why they cannot upgrade the school without demolishing perfectly good buildings.

The schools governing bodies should be focusing all of their energy on making sure that the school provides a good level of education in a safe and welcoming environment for the local community. Their focus should the children and not their own self interests! Yes the school could definitely do with a facelift but if resources are actually secured for a rebuild they would be better spent on improving the existing school whilst providing better standards.

Unfortunately my impression so far of the head is mixed. I'm not entirely convinced she is being impartial here! The work she is doing in terms of improving teaching standards in light of the recent ofsted report is commendable and I think she is taking the school in the right direction, however, if she is under the impression that this proposal will suddenly turn gordonbrock into a top tier school she is mistaken. Again her focus should be the children who currently attend the school and not those who may attend in 10 years time!

It’s interesting to read that other people here are looking at this situation from a variety of angles, which I also agree with, however, I would really be interested in hearing the views of other parents who have children at the school as unfortunately it is the children who currently attend the school who will be most affected and it is their interests which must be put first before any decision is made.

Anonymous said...

I am a parent at the school and I was devastated when I saw the proposals. Then we got that letter which seemed out of the blue, saying they would decant this Christmas. I met a mum who has a child starting in reception in January, again a matter of fact letter turns up saying same.

It would be an act of gross vandalism to tear down the existing buildings...and to do it for a mediocre scheme?

I'd be interested to see what the overall plans are for Lewisham schools. I feel Gordonbrock is being picked on to become 3 form entry because we need investment in the buildings. There isn't space for the current numbers.

Along with my neighbours, I wanted a school closer to my home. It has now had a rebuild and remained one form entry, so you still can't get into your local school. Why can a very over subscribed school, be left to keep its cosy one form intake. It seems to have more space than Gordonbrock. There seems no justice here.

I don't think they have really thought through the decant either. 15mins to the other side of the south circular...in rush hour? Are they going to get a police escort or something? We'll be waiting for buses to return that have got held up in traffic? Again, a certain other local school got to decant into a school which was walking distance from them. So their bus system may well have worked quite smoothly.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't voiced your concerns yet, just send email to the planners. Or write to your MP. Chances are they aren't following this blog.

Seems that it isn't just the buildings that are going to have a hard time of it all.

Robert said...

It's great to have more parents of the school putting forward their views. It's just a shame that this not been allowed within the context of a structured public consultation exercise for the scheme.

The planning meeting tonight begins at 7.30pm, in rooms 1&2 of the Civic Suite - which is the old, 1960's town hall building next to Lewisham Theatre.

It would be great to see as many objectors there as possible, especially parents. After the meeting we will convene at a local inn to debrief on the results of the meetings and collaborate on the next stage of the campaign.

Robert said...

The email to send objections to is:


and you should also copy in to:

Daniel.Byrne@lewisham.gov.uk - who is the specific planning officer looking after this application.

Tressilliana said...

I can understand parents being very concerned about the rebuild and decant. It was just the same in 2001 when it was first given the go-ahead. However, there are a lot of misconceptions here, understandably enough if you are not involved in education and have no experience as governors.

Gordonbrock is a community school (New Labour re-brand of county school). Lewisham Education Authority owns the buildings, sets the admissions policy and employs the staff. The governing body has various statutory responsibilities but in the end the LEA decides what happens to the buildings and how to finance any re-build/refurb. At the moment, unless things have changed radically since I ceased to be a governor, the only way of getting a large amount of money for capital works on buildings is to go for a PFI scheme. The government is aiming to finance a rebuild/refurb for every school in the country, isn't it? The only change that may happen after the election is that the Tories will curtail that funding. They are not going to go back to the old capital funding model and scrap PFI.

The governors of Gordonbrock and all the other Lewisham schools who agreed to the LEA's plans did so because (a) they have very little real say in the matter and (b) this is the only way of getting essential work done.

Incidentally, if money is allocated for building work that is all it can be used for. The LEA and the governors can't say 'Thanks for this £x million, but we're going to use it to spend on staff rather than buildings.' It's ringfenced.

Also, the governors and the headteacher have an obligation to look after the interests of all children in the school and also to plan for the future and to consider the interests of staff. They can't put their heads in the sand and ignore problems that need to be solved now to avoid a crisis in the future.

Anon, 10/12 00:30: I assume you're talking about Ashmead. I'm not familiar with its site but it's a very small one, isn't it? The nursery is on a separate site because there isn't room on the main site.

There is a government formula for how much space a school has to have for each child, which includes specifying how much playground space there should be. If I were campaigning against these plans, that would be the first thing I would check.

rach said...

The school currently falls well short of the guidelines in the government formula. These plans make it even worse. The head was trying to get some space on the roof tops for a garden, but the developers are refusing to do this. Cost I think. The planners would support it.
The reduction of the real playground area for infants is 55%. This gives 3m2 for each child. If anyone is struggling to understand what that means, a car park bay is usually around 11.5m2. There isn't even any room in the KS1 playground to relocate the equipment that has been bought by the parents and children. Having realised this post planning...probably when they bothered to bring a landscape consultant in. They are now looking at how the dedicated area for the reception class can be used at playtime by all the infants.

I think this has all been discussed previously. The Lewisham project manager, Mark Burgess stood up at the planning meeting at Gordonbrock and proudly announced that the lack of space was not an issue in Lewisham. He admitted it wasn't ideal or something, but said that there are already many Lewisham schools falling well short of the requirement, so we are to lump it.

I think Ashmead's nursery was on a separate site because they didn't have a room in the old building. It is now on the same site and their space is very much reduced and looks grim. But they can use the rest of the playground which I suppose is a compensation. (They luckily and quite rightly have a large playground with lots of trees and I do envy them).

(Personally, I wouldn't keep a dog in a fenced off bit of tarmac or rubber for the day, so I wonder why this is what is being presented to our small children).

This seems to be a Lewisham education policy. There are other councils which seem to have healthier more rounded policy towards children's school environment.

It does seem unjust to force more children into a small site. It flies in the face of all the good words on sustainable schools and the Children's Plan.

We are of course being presented this in exchange for buildings we believe could more economically refurbished along with new build.

The option we as parents have been presented with as a done deal seems to be one of the most destructive, expensive and disruptive, not to mention that word, unsutainable.

I could cope with the thought of all the upheaval and disruption, if I thought we were coming back to a fully resolved alternative.

They even put the planning submission in without having considered the landscape and they submitted a design access statement which said the area of playground was increased. I wonder if they got confused with Ashmead, as their large playground was indeed increased with their rebuild.

I'd like to feel that the allocated money is doing the best job possible and not going against government guidelines of working with the old buildings and educational guidelines on space in school playgrounds.

It is after all compulsory education, so why isn't it compulsory to follow the guidelines where best you can?

mat said...

How come they can ignore them with such gay abondon

matrowan said...

Sorry that went too soon. Obviously I meant abandon.

Robert (a former student) said...

Gordonbrock is a S***hole badly in need of refurbishment. I went to school there 15 years ago, it needed work then and it needs it now. I'm astounded that some people would deprive children of top of the range facilities for asthetic reasons. Bottom-line; children at Gordonbrock will be better off in new facilities, at the end of the day this is all that should matter. It's like Lewisham Bridge all over again.
I wonder how long this post will last, before you decide it conflicts with your views so remove it???

Sue said...

I just wanted to correct my comment from 8th December - as the anon @1300 on 9th December says, the Gordonbrock rebuild and refurb plans aren't PFI like all the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) schools are, they are part of the primary capital programme. I blogged about this last year as well so should have remembered, sorry!

Just to confirm also that the application did get passed at planning committee last night, as expected. Some members of the committee expressed concern over the design of the new building, but given that there was still a valid planning application for an inferior scheme, their hands were pretty much tied.

mat said...

I thought the discussion wasn't about keeping it the same Robert. It is more if you spend millions on a scheme you can get it right. This can be by using the existing building properly. The school is going to have a huge investment, why do this and get so many things wrong? This is what is about to happen. The existing buildings have beautiful details and quality. This isn't found in the new builds in the area. Far from it. You can see where they cut corners on Ashmead just as you walk past. The classes which don't overheat may be fine and they seem to have got a bigger playground out of their new build...and didn't have to take in 100 new pupils. I think lots of people are saying they know that if you make the existing buildings work, they will last another hundred years. The Victorian Society have seen brilliant conversions on similar buildings.

There are obviously also people blogging who don't think that reducing the playground and limiting space for outdoor learning is a step in the right direction either.

The worry is that in another 15 years the school may be a bit like you described it now, but in a building that hasn't got quality branded all over it. The experience will be shared by 100 more children.

I don't think the school value their buildings either or they might not be letting them go so easily. Like it or not, our heritage won't be replaced, once the bulldozers move in that is that.

It some how seems we are making some of the same mistakes made in the 60s and those buildings are already on the demolition list.

Tamsin said...

Correction - spoke to John at the Brockley Xmas Market - the former plans were PFI, the current submission is just the LA, so that is one worry the less.

matrowan said...

...and if anyone is still interested about inequality of provision given to local schools. I am told Ashmead is a little over 0.5 hectares and has 235 pupils including the nursery. Gordonbrock is a little over 0.7 hectares and will ultimately have 670 children, this will include two nursery classes.

They didn't pull down the most beautiful building in the area to build Ashead either.

Julia said...

I have just read in my local Mercury newspaper that funding could now be an issue, among the "Doomed Plans" right at the top is Gordonbrock's expansion, as a parent of a child at Gordonbrock I am interested to know if anyone knows any more on this?

Anonymous said...

Well, you will have seen the Gordonbrock Weekly by now to know that according to Ms Blyth (head teacher) the article was all wrong. The sad thing about this whole problem is that if funding was removed it would mean that Gordonbrock would obviously get no rebuild and equally no improvements either and I for one certainly thinks it needs something.

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