Playing fields ripe for development
Story in The Guardian posted Tuesday 24 February 2015 08.00 GMT by Warwick Mansell
Finally someone in the national newpapers wakes up to what is going on…
Nearly 1,400 people have signed a petition demanding a say in whether one of England’s biggest comprehensives should be turned into an academy, under the sponsorship of an organisation which has a recent history of seeking to develop school land.
Under plans put forward by its governors, Oxted school, in the Surrey stockbroker belt, would become an academy under the Howard Partnership, which currently runs four schools and has been providing temporary management support at Oxted since 2013.
Campaigners are particularly focusing on the fact that Oxted intends to first become a “foundation school”, distancing itself from the local authority, then an academy. As the governors admit, foundation school status would give them more control over the land than they would have if the school became a conventional academy – there are large playing fields, a swimming pool and nine tennis courts which campaigners say would be of huge value to property developers.
Campaigners worry that this means part of the site could be sold off. They point to developments elsewhere in Surrey, where the Howard Partnership controversially put forward plans with a housing developer to build up to 295 homes on one of its school sites, and to erect a further education college building at another. “I don’t want the school’s land given to an independent organisation, which could then sell it – or large parts of it – as part of a wild experiment [in academies governance] by this government,” says Benedict Southworth, a former governor at Oxted.
Full article is here