‘Shame on you’ rang through the council chambers as Tory councillors confirmed they will continue to close a good primary school.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s education select committee, led by Labour Councillor Caroline Needham, called-in the decision by the cabinet in January to close Sulivan Primary School, in Fulham.
But at a follow-up meeting last night (Feb 11), the cabinet said that there was ‘nothing substantially new or compelling’ in the alternative proposals put forward by the education committee and voted unanimously to uphold its original decision to close the school.
“Well done, you have killed a school,” was the remark from Dennis Charman, leader of the borough’s National Union of Teachers, upon the final verdict.
Around 100 parents and teachers who attended the meeting were seen crying outside following the final decision.
The authority will now merge Sulivan pupils into nearby New King’s Primary and fund a £3.8million refurbishment there.
New King’s intends to make the amalgamated school an academy with private partner Thomas’s London Day Schools.
Meanwhile, the vacated Sulivan site can now be used for the permanent home for Fulham Boys School, a new Church of England free school.
Council leader Nicholas Botterill said: “There is nothing substantially new or compelling for us to change our decision. We still have the issue of surplus places historically and current (to deal with at both schools).”
Supporters of Sulivan school complained that the original cabinet report was bias towards creating an amalgamated school at New King’s, it ignored the results of the public consultation where 62 per cent of parents and teachers objected to the closure of Sulivan and the cabinet did not take into account that Sulivan had applied to become a community academy with the London Diocesan Board for Schools.
Mr Charman added: “This decision will impact across the borough. You have destabilised many schools and school leaders who themselves are doing a good job and think their school is viable - Sulivan is viable.
“Yet you have shown that at any moment someone can walk in and decide their school will be closed because you (the council) have another strategy. It will cause people to look at this local authority with a different perspective.”
Rosie Wait, chair of governors at Sulivan, said: “We are totally disillusioned with this administration and it’s undemocratic practices.”
Paul Kennedy, chairman of the borough’s Liberal Democrats group, said outside the meeting: “This disgraceful decision shows that however good a school is, the Conservatives still care more about its land than its children. We will do all in our power to reverse this outrage after the local elections in May.”
However, Miles Chester, headteacher of New King’s, said: “The original decision allows the combined school to build on the best of both schools.”
He added: “We should not be frightened of change. We should celebrate this opportunity in the interest of all our children.”
In trying to calm the protestations of parents and teachers during the meeting, Mr Botterill said: “There’s a process we all have to follow, a process like paying our TV licence and other unpleasant things like that.”
Councillor Georgie Cooney, cabinet member for education, failed to comment throughout the meeting. She was earlier embroiled in a row for failing to publicly declare her friendship with Arabella Northey, a leading founder of Fulham Boys School. The council said lawyers confirmed that she did not need to declare this in the council’s register of interests.