Packed Meeting Hears Case for Sulivan School

Teachers, pupils and parents continue fight to save local primary

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A public meeting this Tuesday (September 10th) at Sulivan Primary School was attended by an estimated crowd of around 300.

The panelists included the Head Teachers of both New Kings and Sulivan, the Chair and former Chair of Governors from Sulivan, Andrew Christie the Tri-Borough executive in charge of education, Cllr Georgie Cooney the Cabinet Member for Education, Ian Heggs, Commissioner for Education, and Tobyn Thomas the chairperson of Thomas’ Day Schools (the proposed New Kings Academy sponsor).

It was the second public meeting to be held since parents and local people began the fight to save the Fulham Community School.

Save Sulivan campaigners at Hammersmith Town Hall

The campaigners, who call themselves "Team Sulivan" earlier turned out in force at Hammersmith Town Hall to make their voices heard at Hammersmith and Fulham Council's Cabinet meeting on Monday September 2. You can read more about this here.

Emily, a teacher at Sulivan, explained to the meeting how passionate she is about educating children and how, as a professional, it is her ethical and moral duty to do what is best for them. She said “If I honestly thought this were the best thing for the children, I would open up the cage doors and let the little birdies fly.”

A young child currently attending the school went to the front and spoke to the panel. She expressed her sadness about the possibility of her school closing. She said her school was very nice and that she was sure New Kings was nice too, but that she loved her school and wanted to save it. She thanked her teachers and said that she and all of the children will do everything they can to save their school resulting in loud applause from the room.

Phil Cross, headteacher of Hurlingham and Chelsea School which, Hammersmith and Fulham tried to close his school a few years back told the meeting about the consultation process. He opened his remarks by saying ‘I would have thought you had learned better from last time’ – because last time, the Council lost a judicial review over its consultation process.' The Council wanted to proceed with closure despite three submissions in favour of closure with 17,000 against.

The campaign to save the Fulham school began after Hammersmith and Fulham Council asked people for their views on a proposal to amalgamate two small primary schools in Fulham - Sulivan and New King's - which the council says would "create a combined school with better facilities, offering a richer educational experience".

The council's announcement made it clear the proposal would mean using the New King's site on New King's Road, saying it would provide up to £2 million to redesign and re-equip it with the latest teaching facilities.

Sulivan School campaigners at Hammersmith Town Hall

This, says the council would have the "added benefit" of releasing the Sulivan school site to be used by Fulham Boys Free School. This school has been given the go ahead by the Government to offer 120 secondary places per year, but has been forced to postpone its proposed opening this September because it has not found a suitable site.

The council claims that both New King’s and Sulivan in Peterborough Road struggle with small pupil numbers, taking only 75 pupils per year between them, but the campaigners accuse it of using old figures and say that both nursery and reception classes are full with overall 89% of places at Sulivan taken. Donna Fine spoke at the mmeting about the DfE and NAO predictions for primary place numbers and explained how there is expected to be a 16% shortfall by 2015 in this area. Additionally, the huge development plan for Earl's Court area is expected to create further demand for places.

Campaigners also point that Sulivan has lovely grounds including large play areas and an outdoor science laboratory, while New King's has only a small tarmac playground on New King's Road.

The road to the school is a very narrow road leading up to Parson’s Green. There are several schools in the area including another very large secondary school. There were concerns about traffic, noise, ‘competitive posturing’ between schools, overrun of the green. Some of these residents included former heads of secondary schools who understood what the reality would be like for other local residents.

The campaigners are also asking local people to make their voices heard by completing the online questionnaire and attending tonight's meeting.

The detailed consultation document and the online response form is here on the council website: www.lbhf.gov.uk/fulhamschools.

September 13, 2013