St Michael's School may get £30,000,000 of taxpayers' money to be rebuilt on its playground

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Tuesday 21 October 2008 5.12pm
The deadline to oppose St Michael's School being rebuilt on its playground is November 5th. For a fraction of 30,00,000, the teacher/pupil ratio could be vastly improved. 1,000,000 could pay the annual salaries of around 33 teachers. Just think how 33 extra teachers could help the children at St Michael's!

Government plans to give 30,000,000 of taxpayers' money to rebuild St Michael's School would be a waste of money at any time, let alone in this recession. Secondly, major works while children are at school will have an adverse effect their education and health. Thirdly, there is the matter of accountability.

St Michael's School, Bermondsey, SE16, is not increasing the school roll (c 650 pupils). The present school (in Felton Street/East Lane) was built c. 1959 and the building is structurally sound and not unattractive inside. For a fraction of 30,000,000, the school could be redecorated and even extended on existing outside space on the Chambers Street side. It's likely, in my opinion, that this redevelopment will be built to a 'lower specification' and its life span may not go beyond fifty years.

The dust and noise emanating from both projects will have a deleterious effect on the health and concentration of children who will remain on site (and families living nearby). The plan is to rebuild on the existing playground while school children go to the existing school.

As this is a public sector work under PFI (remember what happened with Metronet), this project will take far longer than an estimated time of eighteen months to two years and is likely to run concurrently with an even bigger (recently started) development on Chambers Wharf. Public sector developments are notorious for running late and, from my experience, four years is more realistic. Construction work has been on going at nearby St Joseph's School for over three years.

Very little has been said about playground facilities and sports activities during building and pupils may have to go to Southwark Park for sports. This is not ideal, as children will have to cross Jamaica Road, a busy, main road and is a health and safety issue. It would make more sense to build a new school elsewhere. I suspect that some staff may be unhappy about the upheaval, too. Furthermore, it seems to me that the future playground/sports area will be smaller.

Finally, there has been little consultation with local people. The council has appointed Sara Browning and Rachel Montgomery to oversee 'consultation' called 'Southwark Schools for the Future'.

Consultation has consisted of an article in the Southwark News presenting the project as a fait accompli (two years ago), a letter, and three opportunities to look at plans. I've heard that over a thousand letters were sent to local residents as part of the 'consultation', but hardly anyone is aware of the project. No questionnaires have been sent or handed to visitors at three so-called meetings which were small exhibitions of plans and are now down to two plans, one of which was superior in presentation to the other, giving that developer a favourable bias. Council taxpayers' money has been used to finance the 'consultation' and is, de facto, not impartial. Another issue is contravention of the Right of Light Act. To invoke this, local residents would have seek redress in the High Court. The school is surrounded by council flats. It is quite simply a case of no money, no rights.

I thought consultation consisted of a sit down meeting in a hall where the school, parents, pupils, residents and the press are invited to present their views and that minutes are taken and published in the local press. This 'consultation' is, in my opinion, an exemplar of local and central government unaccountability. We are in a recession and central and local government should not spend 30,000,000 on rebuilding this school. I understand that 200,000,000 of taxpayers' money has been allocated to schools in the borough, but this is the only one, I believe, that will be totally rebuilt.

There's still time to overturn this potential waste of our money. If people email council representatives for the school and their MP, we may be able to prevent a waste of 30,000,000 of taxpayers' money.

Sara Browning heads the department called 'Southwark Schools for the Future', 63 - 67 Newington Causeway, SE1 6BD. Her telephone number 0207 525 5224 and email

Rachel Montgomery is at the same address. Her telephone number is 0207 525 3906 and email

The local MP is Simon Hughes and his email is

Anyone, not just Southwark residents, should oppose wasting 30,000,000 of taxpayers' money on rebuilding a perfectly good school. If enough people object, this pointless exercise can remain on the drawing board. If you're a tax payer in this country you can object to this, even if you don't live in the borough.

Lobbying one's MP and councillors by email guarantees delivery.
Tuesday 21 October 2008 5.41pm
I agree.

The Norman Foster- designed, 1477-pupil Bexley Bexley Business Academy in Thamesmead cost 31m and at least that is for about 2.5x as many pupils and delivered a fantastic building in a very deprived area, without depriving anyone of light or losing sports facilities.
Tuesday 21 October 2008 7.35pm
e.peters. This has been in the pipeline for at least 2 years. What's your real interest in seeing it stopped?
Tuesday 21 October 2008 10.37pm
30,000,000 reasons.
Wednesday 22 October 2008 8.31am
Given the desperate need for more schools in the area should they not use the money to fund a further secondary school?
Wednesday 22 October 2008 9.50am
But the school is in SE16? And why shouldn't it have a revamp to improve education.
Wednesday 22 October 2008 10.22am
Many SE1 kids go there as only Catholic mixed school in the area. I don't know the condition of the school but going by what has been said why spend millions revamping a school which may need more superficial tarting up and will not give more school places when the money could be used ot build a new school to serve the North of the Borough (mainly SE1 and SE16)where there is a severe shortage-or ideally do both
Wednesday 22 October 2008 12.09pm
Absolutely. Thank you for reiterating my point.
Wednesday 22 October 2008 12.11pm
1,000,000 would pay 33 teachers' salaries for year. Schools need more teachers NOT replacement of perfectly good buildings.
Wednesday 22 October 2008 8.04pm
dee dee wrote:
Many SE1 kids go there as only Catholic mixed school in the area. I don't know the condition of the school

When i looked round it about 6 years ago the condition of the buildings were most run downand in need of repair of the schools i visited. I looked at both catholic and non catholic schools and also at schools outside the borough. If it has not had money spent on it since then and at the time most of the other schools had or were about to have quite substantial sums spent on them to bring them up to standard then it will be in a pretty poor state now. Whether it justifies that amount of money is another thing.
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