KINGSTON Council's plans for a new secondary school in north Kingston have come under fire from councillors in Richmond.
Grey Court School in Ham accepts pupils from both Richmond and north Kingston and, after receiving damning Ofsted reports a few years ago, has recently celebrated its best ever exam results, with headteacher Maggie Bailey widely praised for turning it around.
But fellow Lib Dem and Conservative opposition councillors across the border say this work could be undermined by a new, large school opening nearby.
Richmond's cabinet member for education Malcolm Eady, said: "We understand Kingston's problem of having to plan for a growing number of school age children; this is similar to our experience in Richmond.
"They need to provide additional places across their borough. However, we believed that the case for a new eight-form entry school specifically within the north Kingston area has not been proven, especially as they already have plans to provide some extra places across the borough under the Building Schools for the Future programme.
"Currently 35 per cent of the students at Grey Court School come from Kingston, and a new eight-form entry secondary school in north Kingston will probably reduce this number significantly. This could threaten the economic viability of the school, which would be very disappointing as the school has made very good progress over the last few years and will be over-subscribed for this September."
Mr Eady said he would have preferred to have seen Grey Court expanded. He added: "I suspect that Kingston had to submit their current proposal quickly, and therefore a complex cross-borough application would have delayed the process."
Deputy leader of Richmond's Conservative party David Marlow said: "Kingston has the advantage of having sixth forms in their secondary schools that Richmond Liberals have dogmatically rule out, placing our schools as a disadvantage. There is no doubt that this new school would be a tremendous draw for Richmond parents."
Kingston's bid for funding under the government's Building Schools for the Future scheme, was recently approved. A formal consultation with nearly 20,000 local parents, residents and businesses is now under way. The £30m school for 11-18 years olds will be built on the site of the North Kingston Centre, in Richmond Road, which is currently used as an adult education centre.
The school, which will have eight forms of entry, is scheduled to open in 2015, after a long campaign by local parents who called for more space and choice for secondary pupils in the area.
Kingston Council's executive member for children and young people's services Patricia Bamford said Kingston was working closely with Richmond to ensure the school would not be affected. She said: "Kingston works closely with our neighbouring authorities regarding planning and school places. We've had a significant rise in the number of pupils in the Kingston town area, which necessitates the provision of at least eight additional classes locally.
"Richmond has experienced its own considerable rise in the local birth rate and increased pressure for the provision of school places, so we don't see that the viability of Grey Court as a local school should be under threat."