A headteacher has described the ‘harrowing’ experience of telling her pupils their primary school must close.
Devastated parents and teachers were left reeling this week after councillors voted to close Sulivan Primary School, in Fulham, on Monday night (Jan 20).
Hammersmith and Fulham Council will now press on with plans to relocate its pupils within a £2 million refurbished New King’s Primary School, freeing up the site in Peterborough Road to become the permanent home for new free school Fulham Boys.
The controversial decision was made amid cries of ‘shame on you’ from Sulivan supporters who turned up for one last protest at the cabinet meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall, following a passionate six-month campaign.
The school will close permanently in July 2015, despite being ranked as one of the 250 top performing primaries in the country this winter, following last year's SAT results, and receiving a letter of congratulations from schools' minister David Laws.
Sulivan headteacher Wendy Aldridge said: “I had to tell the parents and children on Tuesday morning which was a harrowing experience.
“This is a difficult job as it is and after having worked for the local authority for 25 years and now facing being out of job come September I feel horrendously undervalued.
“The council have ignored the parents, teachers and residents and the fact that a land grab is clearly at the bottom of this just makes it harder to bear. The fight for this school and its children has taken over my life and has been incredibly emotionally scarring for all involved.”
The council said the decision to close the school was based on low admissions at both Sulivan and New King’s.
Andrew Christie, Tri-Borough executive director for children’s services, said: “For a number of years, to include the current school year, there have been surplus places at both schools. The council is therefore able to make proposals to discontinue Sulivan Primary School and enlarge New King’s Primary School on this basis.”
But Ms Aldridge strongly contested this, saying she had tried and failed to get the council to expand the nursery on two occasions, which has a waiting list.
Paul Kennedy, chairman of H&F Liberal Democrats, said it ‘beggars belief that you can close down a school that is that good’ and the council was ‘betraying the people of Fulham’ by closing Sulivan.
New King’s headteacher Miles Chester welcomed the merger. “The benefits for the pupils and staff are extremely wide ranging and positive. Specifically the benefits it brings are more teachers, a broader curriculum and a multi-million pound capital investment in the facilities of the school,” he said.
The council has said many of the existing Sulivan staff could find new jobs at the amalgamated school.
Fulham Boys School could now move into the vacated Sulivan site by September 2016. This decision lies with the Department for Education which would fund the £13.5m new secondary school.
New King’s pupils will be taught alongside pupils at Sulivan from September until July next year, while New King’s undergoes a £2m refurbishment. All children would relocate permanently to the New King’s Road site by September 2015.