I am pleased to report that two education charities have plans to create new schools in Merton. The Harris Federation, which successfully runs Harris Academy Merton and Harris Academy Morden, has approached Merton Council to build a third school in the area to plug the shortage of secondary school places in the borough. There is also a plan to open a primary school by charity Chapel St Community Schools – which is set to open a new school called the Park Community School in September. Both organisations successfully run other schools and this is good news for us in tackling a growing problem in Merton.
The local Council has been too slow to respond to the crisis in school places, both at primary and secondary levels. This problem arose back in 2007, the then Council correctly started to build new classrooms at existing schools and promised a new primary school plus an investigation into the site for a new secondary school. Since 2010 the Council dropped its own plans for a new school and has taken too long to find a site for a secondary school. This year over 70 children were not even initially allocated a place at a primary school and many did not get any of their first choices. I worked with many of these families to ensure they got a solution, but without more schools this is becoming an all too common problem.
This is one of the real benefits of the Government’s education reforms, faced with a local council unable or unwilling to solve a problem affecting so many families other providers are able to step in. I’m delighted that the Government’s commitment to improving education has allowed both Harris and Chapel St to propose new schools in Merton and I will be lobbying Merton Council hard to make sure they become a reality. Neighbouring Conservative-run Wandsworth has already opened five new schools since the reforms took place, in contrast to Merton where the Council has opened none. If the Chapel St plan comes together, we will have a new school in September this year and hopefully more to follow.