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Merton: dumbing-down Dundonald Primary School?

(222 Posts)
page1 Fri 03-Jun-11 14:15:20

1. Merton Council's consultation process regarding the proposed expansion of Dundonald Primary School(DPS) has now commenced and information can be obtained from their website or that of DPS. The Council has distributed a leaflet to residents for feedback and is due to hold a public meeting on Wednesday 8 June.

2. Disappointingly, the Conservatives, LibDems and Independents have been very quiet on the issue. The Labour Party has given out letters supporting the proposed expansion and, to his credit, Cllr Walker has had the courage to put his personal credibility on the line given his close involvement with the campaign. However, threatening parents/carers that they will have to take their children to school in Morden if the Council doesn't get its way seems a little extreme. Frankly, parents don't care how far they travel if their children can attend an outstanding state school.

2. It seems that the governors of DPS only agreed to an expansion programme on condition that the Council provided more space. The governors knew that this was impossible for the Council to achieve because of the existence of the restrictive covenant concerning the neighbouring park (see the petition on the Council website).

3. The proposal to double the size of DPS, starting with the temporary bulge class, has caused much concern to parents of pupils at the school as witnessed by DPS being forced to issue an explanatory letter and Q&A to try and quell those fears.

4. DPS is a popular school because it had an outstanding rating from Ofsted following the last inspection and it is the ideal size. It currently has around 250 pupils which is the average number for a primary school in England. If it doubles in size, parents fear that standards may slip. Merton has 40+ primary schools of which only 6 were rated outstanding and the majority of those were 1FE schools ie similar number of pupils to DPS.

5. Parents are also worried by the disruption to their children's education that will occur once construction begins on such a small and restricted site with all the attendant health and safety issues.

6. The school currently enjoys a harmonious relationship with the neighbouring community which might not survive if the Council's plans prevail.

7. Somewhat surprisingly, the Council's consultation process takes no account of ethnic diversity.

Please feel free to forward this to and/or discuss the contents with any parents of pupils at Dundonald Primary School who may have concerns about the Council's plans and say NO to the proposal.

PAGE - Parents AGainst Expansion

Lemonsole Mon 06-Jun-11 13:32:54

How nice. Talk about pulling up the drawbridge on paradise.

There is a greater demand for school places in Merton. Many, many families having to trek across the borough and into other boroughs. Merton is acknowledging that YOUR area needs more places to enable more children to go to their LOCAL school.

What's your solution, then? Expand other schools that are already larger? Pretend that the other children in your area aren't there? This has got to be the nimby-est thread that I have ever read on Mumsnet, and the one that leaves the nastiest taste in the mouth.

Your school is Grade 1 because of its poncy intake. Its poncy intake will remain so: the catchment is bound to expand only by one or two streets at best. It is not Grade 1 because it has 30 or 60 pupils in each year group.

There are plenty of two-form entry Grade 1 schools. Get over yourselves. Schools do not "dumb-down" because they get larger. At least, they don't if they are doing their job properly and not relying on pushy parenting and Kumon to fill the cracks. If they can only do the job with one form, then they just ain't that good a school, considering the cushty catchment.

I'm sure that your H and S concerns over building works would not be there if the LEA was building you an onsite swimming pool, or improving facilities for existing children. hmm

Parp. and biscuit

Giselle99 Mon 06-Jun-11 18:26:49

Very well said Lemonsole.

I'm a Merton resident and the OP's post has convinced me to write a letter of support to Merton council FOR the expansion.

omnishambles Mon 06-Jun-11 18:30:30

So we had a few OP's last month from Merton residents who didnt get a reception place at all and now we have this. What a ridiculous world we live in.

btw my local school is 3 form entry and one of the best in its borough and has a very mixed intake. Size doesnt matter with good leadership.

Mamaz0n Mon 06-Jun-11 18:32:18

what a wanky OP

Take it your pfb already has a place? of course. and those who have to drive to the next nearest school (wimbledon chase iirc) or further still, well thats just their tough luck huh.

Mamaz0n Mon 06-Jun-11 18:35:30

I am also intrigued by the thread title, "dumbing down"

did your child take an entrance exam then? Do they give new entrants an IQ test upon application?
Will this be stopped once the expansion starts?

Your poor poor child. I hope that they expand the school, I then hope that your child mixes with lots of other children with parents who have a view further than their own colon. It will be refreshing for them

Lemonsole Mon 06-Jun-11 19:33:17

Phew! I don't live in Merton, but hoped that replying to this unpleasant OP would galvanise Merton parents into action in favour of expanding the school. There were so many sad tales from that borough of children without a place at all, anywhere, that this just made me see red.

That's without even starting on the hideous assumption that any school with more than one-form entry will be a shite-hole, as the precious offspring of those lucky enough to be able to afford to live within a 50 metre radius are diluted by scum... hmm

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Mon 06-Jun-11 20:07:00

I heartily agree, Lemonsole and others.

A well managed school will not be harmed by expansion as long as it is adequately funded. A 1 form entry school is very unusual and I would be worried about it being too small TBH.

Our local primaries have had bulge classes added in recent years - very necessary as when DD was due to start reception she was not offered a place at any local school and we had to go private. God knows what would have happened if we had not been able to scrape the money together, she would probably still be on waiting lists now!

The crucial factors for a good school seem to be an excellent head supported by enthusiastic teaching staff, together with parents committed to their DC's education.

None of these factors are affected by adding extra classes as a good school will know how to manage this.

LJBrownie Mon 06-Jun-11 21:53:55

If the school is outstanding, it seems to be a good choice for expansion - or would you suggest that the Council expands underperforming schools instead?

I am also intrigued by the 'dumbing down' title. Although I am a Wandsworth parent and so don't know all the Merton chat, that does imply your concerns are motivated by a dislike of a slightly more balanced intake.

And are you really talking about only going from 1FE to 2FE? In our area, people get upset about going from 3FE to 4FE as then it really is a big school! 2FE is really very normal for London! I hope your campaign fails - what's so wrong with sharing your school with a few more kids who'll get the benefit of the great education you've chosen for your children?

Wimbledonian Tue 07-Jun-11 14:21:00

Another person who will vote Yes based on this OP.

What does ethnic diversity have to do with this proposal, please explain.

TurnedOutNiceAgain Wed 08-Jun-11 16:03:24

I just came across this thread and am so glad to see all the posts highlighting the self-centred, ill-informed attitude of the OP. Dundonald is our nearest school but we live just outside the tiny catchment area. As things stand, many of the children living in roads nearby are unlikely to be offered a reception place at Dundonald or any of the other local schools, which are all over-subscribed. Additional school places are desperately needed in this area and the hysterical reaction to expanding the school is just unbelievable.

IsItEverEnough Sun 12-Jun-11 09:06:33

Being local, I think that for a lot of people the issue isn't expansion. MAny agree that more places are needed - this is clear. The question is whether Dundonald is the place to expand given the restriction to building on green space, the infrastructure problems that will be caused, the impact on park users who come from across the borough to use it's playing fields, playground, bowling green and pavilion. Many people would be amenable if (and it is a huge IF) the school had its own land to build on. It doesn't. If another building could be had to house the expansion without building on the park then I agree that it could, with the right amount of work and attention work.

The Council, if they go ahead, are going to remove amenity that is enjoyed by the entire community - a bowling green for the older people, tennis courts and the playground will necessarily have to go I would think for the duration of the building works - I cannot see given the plans how it could be otherwise.

It is lose, lose for everyone. The school has the smallest site in the borough. It is an old Victorian school that is frankly cramped as it is. There is barely enough space to have all the children in the hall together. Nativity plays need to be held by Key Stage Group and each done on two occasions so that all parents can come. Play time has to be split up as well.

The building that they propose to meet the expansion and an extra 210 kids is half the size of the original building. It just doesn't add up. Making it bigger is next to impossible because of further impact on the park.

So what is the outcome of an expansion - not a lot of extra for the school, a lot less for the community at large.

Whilst eventually the playground will be reinstated it cannot be feasible for it to remain due to the building site while works are still ongoing. This is the ONLY playground in Wimbledon (centre) and children come from all over the borough to use it. Only last year the council invested a huge amount of money putting in new equipment, a sand- pit, trampoline etc.

At the moment, after school on a nice day, it is borderline dangerous to play in because of the number of children. Dundonald children plus the recently expanded Wimbledon Chase School less than 350 metres away come to play as well as other children who go to other schools and younger children not yet in school.

If the school is expanded there will be an increase of at least 210 children plus younger brothers and sisters who will want to play in the playground but the size of the play ground will increase by only 18% at the most.

Look at the council's plans on their website and compare the existing to the proposed plans yourselves and do the math like I just did.

Houses in the immediate area have tiny gardens - in many cases as short as 17 -20 feet. They were likely built this way as the recreation ground had been in place at the time of construction. There are also many flats in the area - with single family homes having been turned into to flats. These people also need green space.

Before I am accused of not caring about children's education or not having a stake in it, I have been in the position of not having had a school place for my child and being on the waiting list - despite living within 200 metres of two schools. I know what it is like to have that worry.

A lot of the problem in my opinion lies in the admissions criteria which places siblings over proximity. People flaunt the rules and rent near the school to get their first child in and then move out taking two places from genuinely local children (the original child plus any following siblings). The admissions priority area at Wimbledon Chase penalises those children who live east of Dundonald School in preference of those who live up towards Wimbledon Village. Proximity is the only way to go. If, as a parent, you chose to move out of the catchment area, you should not retain the ability to send a sibling to the school. Also, if you apply late - too bad. IT is not isolated instances where this happens. The houses in question which are effectively school places for rent routinely go back on the rental market as soon as the letters allocating places come out. It is not and cannot be a coincidence.

The need for school places needs to be balanced with the needs of the community as a whole. There are several other attendant issues beyond people worrying about how the school will function which is a valid one for parents - both in terms of space, disruption during building works and administratively. Check out the plans critically if you think it is otherwise. It is not just that locals don't want an expansion. They are worried about loss of amenity and an infrastructure which is unable to cope with the extra demand on it.

I am more worried about where the hundreds of children who use the playground will play for a couple of years and whether it will ever be returned to something comparable to its current state when the works are done. Will it be a case of the council running out of money as the works finish? I don't suppose I am alone in this - but maybe I am.

This affects everyone in the community, the young, the old, the single, not just those of us with children who are afraid we won't get a place.

meditrina Sun 12-Jun-11 09:15:01

I wonder if OP will return with an account if 8th June meeting?

IsItEverEnough: I don't know the area, so don't have a view on the space for expansion. But I do agree with you about siblings of families who have moved. Preference should be given only to those who are living at the same address (or one nearer the school) as the one at time of entry (or perhaps have a permitted additional distance formula).

budgiebyrne Sun 12-Jun-11 09:46:42

Thanks to those on this thread who have taken time to support the expansion proposals for Dundonald Primary School in Wimbledon

I am the Cabinet Member in Merton with the responsibility for Education. Like many other London Boroughs we are experiencing a rapid increase in the number of 4 year olds wishing to enter our schools

In Merton we have had a 30% increase in recent years.

I took over this role a year ago and found that we were desperate for more accomodation for young children in our schools. My idea was to expand good and outstanding primary schools rather than build new schools for which we did not have the money. It means that we use our excellent existing Heads and teachers who are in place and can meet the need.

However due to a surprisingly hostile and misleading campaign there is the chance that this expansion could be lost. The anti campaign are claiming that this expansion will reduce the amount of open space and ruin the adjacent park

I live very close to the school and the park and have for a number of years with others, worked to improve the park.

The proposal is to replace the delapidated single story park pavillion and use its footprint to build a two story building for the school. This would also provide new public toilets and public changing rooms. There will be no loss of space and the park would be greatly improved.

At present children need to live within 200 metres of the school gate to get a place. If we expand it will mean we can admit children living around 700 metres away.

I do hope those who support this expansion will show theuir support by writing to me or the Council so we can defeat this misleading and dangerous local campaign to oppose the expansion of an school with an outstanding Ofsted rating

Councillor Peter Walker
Merton Civic Centre
London Road

womble007 Sun 12-Jun-11 12:58:13

To: Lemonsole:
How dare you call children who live near Dundonald “poncy”? I find this very offensive.
They could not build an onsite swimming pool at the School, because there is no space.

To: Giselle99 and Wimbledonian:
How can you justify making up your minds on such an important issue on the basis of just one Mumsnet posting?
As IsItEverEnough points out, the issue for many people is the destruction of Dundonald Recreation Ground.
Maybe you should think a little and consider all the issues before you come to a decision?

If there is a “hysterical reaction to expanding the school” it is because people want to protect their community. It does not seem unbelievable to me that people should be passionate about saving something they care for.

I wonder who exactly is leading a “misleading and dangerous local campaign”, please refer to the article in the online version of the Wimbledon Guardian:

Also, it is not Dundonald PARK, it is Dundonald RECREATION Ground; it confirms this on the entrances to the Ground.

meditrina Sun 12-Jun-11 17:17:01

I looked at the link - it seems what is misleading is whether he was writing in a Party or an official Council position. The statements he made do not seem to be challenged as being factually misleading. So the redevelopment in the park/rec is the redevelopment of an existing building, which will not increase its footprint (so none of the park/rec will be lost). If that is indeed true, then expansion, when more school spaces are so sorely needed, is a no-brainer.

womble007 Sun 12-Jun-11 17:55:18

Meditrina: I THINK YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT!!! - It is misleading to misrepresent yourself. If you misrepresent yourself, how can anything you say be trusted??? I think THIS is a no-brainer!!!
It is misleading to call the recreation ground a park. There is a legal covenant regarding the recreation ground, which says it should only be used for recreation.
It is misleading to suggest it is just rebuilding on the pavilion. This is not the case – have a look at the plans
As far as I can see, the community will not be gaining a pavilion. It will be a school pavilion, only to be used by the community at certain times. The same goes for the new tennis courts, only open to the community at certain times. The bowling green will be DESTROYED. Trees will be DESTROYED. The new playground, which the council has just spent a lot of money on, will be DESTROYED. It is not clear what the new arrangements for playground usage will be.
Where will the entrances/exits of the new enlarged School be? How much more traffic will there be? Will Dundonald Road need to be enlarged?
Once the School is expanded once and the covenant disregarded, there will be no stopping further expansion. Before we know it, the whole recreation ground, which serves the whole community and many other people for miles around, will be swallowed up.
The Council should find an alternative solution to the growing number of children (and there ARE alternatives) and Councillors who misrepresent themselves should be out of jobs – “It is the first time since 2008 that a complaint against a councillor has been deemed serious enough to be investigated externally and, if upheld, would almost certainly cost Coun Walker his post as education spokesman.”- maybe you missed this part of the article, meditrina?!

meditrina Sun 12-Jun-11 18:17:07

I was only quoting the link. And it is clear that the complaint has not yet been adjudicated.

The case for loss of amenity seems overstated. It seems to me that the community will be gaining an improved pavilion and other facilities will remain. And the idea that it somehow leads to total loss of the park/rec strikes me as scaremongering.

Given the tiny (200m) admissions area of the school, can there really be a big expected increase in traffic? Especially if IsItEverEnough's excellent suggestions to favour proximity over siblings were adopted.

omnishambles Sun 12-Jun-11 20:05:44

Womble - what are the alternatives to the expansion? If a community has to choose between a bowling green and school places then that hard choice needs to be made I think.

womble007 Sun 12-Jun-11 20:42:19

Meditrina: I was only quoting the link too, and it sounds pretty serious to me.
I don't think loss of amenity is overstated and I don't think loss of the Recreation Ground is scaremongering. From what I have heard, Dundonald School is already too small and the new planned expansion is also too small. Therefore, it is obvious that the Council will demand more land from the Recreation Ground in due course. Once the Recreation Ground has been destroyed, it can never be recovered.
I know people who have driven their children to school from just across the park by car, so I DO think there will be more traffic. There are already problems with congestion and parking, etc and Wimbledon Chase has also just been enlarged. If proximity over siblings were adopted this would be wonderful.
Omnishambles: The community does NOT need to choose between a bowling green and school places.
In my opinion, a new school needs to be built, as apparently, the previous Council administration had planned to do. The catchment area for Wimbledon Chase needs to be redrawn (its a very funny shape at present) so that those nearest the school can get places. Also, the sibling rule needs to be sorted out, as does the problem of people moving into the area just to get places and then moving out again.

budgiebyrne Sun 12-Jun-11 20:49:13

Incidentally ther are 13 members of the bowls club and 200+ children who want to go to Dundonald School in the immediate area make your choice

Peter Walker

swanker Sun 12-Jun-11 21:49:27

Merton's situation aside, I do think the idea of expanding good/outstanding schools and expecting them to remain good/outstanding is ridiculous. Putting more and more children into an overcrowded site isn't really conducive to a good education, and the whole business of having to do lunch in 7 shifts, multiple concerts and plays etc etc takes mammoth amount of organising, let alone parental juggling so that they can attend all these events.

I would like to know why councils have not managed to cater for the expansion in population- they have had 5 years to make arrangements.
Our LA has seen around 25% increase in birth rate, yet waited until the March before the first bulge year started Reception before doing anything. No new schools of course, just lots of extra classes tacked on to schools already running at capacity, some schools have seen 100% increase in numbers of admissions, there are parents expected to take children to 3 different schools because of the pressure on school places- how can this not warrant the provision of new schools?

<<rant, rant, rant>>

Lemonsole Sun 12-Jun-11 22:17:17

Womble007 "Poncy" - as offensive, more offensive, or less offensive than implying that expansion of a catchment area beyond a hugely expensive 200 metre radius is "dumbing down"? hmm I don't know whether you are connected to the OP, but my use of "poncy" was a response to her equally offensive language.

She sees the correlation between (in your case) a single form entry school and Ofsted Grade 1 status. Correlation does not equate to cause, and the existence of many, many large Ofsted Grade 1 schools shows that it is misguided to think that larger has to = worse.

However, there are rather more Ofsted Grade 1 schools serving privileged catchment areas than there are serving mixed or deprived areas. From what I know of that corner of Wimbledon, it's probably fair to suggest that the school enjoys a relatively privileged - or poncy, in Mumsnet terms - catchment. And I say that as a pretty poncy person myself.

Of course I don't think that Merton Council would ever consider building a swimming pool on your school site. Councils don't tend to do that for Primary Schools. You're putting a rather too literal interpretation onto my point that it is very convenient to play a H & S card to prop up the flimsy case against expansion. Were the Council offering to improve facilities for the existing privileged few, I suspect that you would not have the same H & S concerns. That's all.

hester Sun 12-Jun-11 22:32:51

I have no view on Dundonald, but just to say that I used to believe smaller was automatically better when it comes to primary school. I was gutted when my dd didn't get into her first choice school, and instead is at a school with over 700 pupils. But you know, it is a great school: Ofsted outstanding, very caring, my dd is thriving there.

All the primary schools in our area (not a million miles from Wimbledon) are either 2fe or 3FE. They take turns hosting a bulge year, which takes some up to 4FE (my dd is one of 120 in her year). Not ideal, but the way it is going in popular areas of London.

beachbabies Tue 14-Jun-11 06:45:30

I live local to Dundonald School and have two children that go there; I've been undecided about the expansion but am absolutely enraged by the "Save the Park" gang who feel like playground bullies, drowning out any attempt to have a reasonable debate about the issues. My elderly neighbour has been very upset by the posters put up in windows, showing a bulldozer in the rose garden and a bricking up of the park entrance; it seems a completely ludicrous over-reaction to a plan to rebuild the pavillion next to the school with new public amenities. There is no loss of space to the park itself.

I can't believe I'm a grown-up who feels so intimidated by all the frenzy whipped up by this group - but I do. It seems an odd example to be setting for our children?!

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