Catholic school and sixth form plans get Richmond Council approval
Proposals for a new Catholic school and plans to implement sixth forms in the borough were approved by Richmond Council last night.
Cabinet approved both proposals at the meeting, which saw a high turn out to speak for and against both issues, at the Clarendon Hall at York House, Twickenham.
Both proposals were recommended by Councillor Gareth Evans on behalf of the overview and scrutiny committee, who were presented with debates from each side on Tuesday, May 15, at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting.
Long-term campaigner against the proposals from the Diocese of Westminster for the Clifden Road site, Jeremy Rodell stated after the decision to approve plans: “This has always been an unequal battle.
“Power, influence and self-interest won the vote, as everyone knew they would.
“But this may not be the end. RISC believes the council is acting unlawfully under the Education Act 2011, which says that a council that thinks it needs a new school must seek proposals for a free school, which the council has failed to do. The British Humanist Association (BHA) is also interested in this case due to its national implications. Now that the council's decision has been taken, RISC and the BHA will be meeting shortly with their lawyers to consider next steps.”
However, parents at the meeting stated a Catholic secondary school was necessary for their children and that it would “add to the choice in the borough.”
Mum of three, Patricia Howell, who has two children at a Catholic primary school, said: “As Catholics we are a minority group.
“I do not believe (bringing in a Catholic school) would disadvantage children within the borough who are not Catholic.”
The council’s director of education, children’s and cultural services, Nick Whitfield, also assured the cabinet, before they made their decision, that more community places would not be needed in the borough at the current time.
Bishop John Sherrington, Chairman of The Diocese of Westminster Education Commission, said: “The Diocese of Westminster is delighted with the approval from Richmond Council for the development of a new Catholic Secondary and Primary school at Clifden Road, Twickenham.
“We now look forward to working in partnership with the borough to establish the school at the heart of the community in Twickenham."
The council will now prepare a legal liaising agreement for the Diocese. At the same time the Diocese will work up further plans for the schools, considering issues such as staff, admissions and curriculum.
Also at the meeting, cabinet approved statutory proposals to establish school sixth forms at Grey Court in September 2013 and at Christ’s, Orleans Park, Teddington and Waldegrave in September 2014.
All proposals were approved for the £25m scheme, despite objections from Richmond upon Thames College (RUTC), Esher College and Strode’s College.
Principal of RUTC, David Ansell, said in his comments within the agenda: “The college has, I believe, played a positive role in the discussions that have preceded the plan to establish sixth forms that are now out for consultation. We hope to be able to continue to play a positive role in the future. Notwithstanding the position stated above, the college has some reservations about the school sixth form plans.”
He stated he believed, if sixth forms were introduced, “there is a serious danger that the breadth of curriculum will be restricted at the college if students from the borough come to us in smaller numbers than has long been the case.
“A second question is that of cost effectiveness. It is widely accepted that making provision for young people in a tertiary college is the most cost efficient way of providing for a wide range of needs and aspiration.”
Esher College Principal, Daniel Dean, also opposed the plans, stating there were convincing arguments against the plans.
However, many schools in the borough welcome the proposals, with Head teacher for Waldegrave School and Chairman of the secondary head teachers’ forum, Philippa Nunn, speaking on behalf of the forum.
Mrs Nunn said: “Currently we lose (students) at 16. We know our students extremely well by the time they reach 16.
“We feel able and look forward to developing a curriculum at all levels.”