A lovely and successful community primary in Fulham is facing closure – help save Sulivan Primary School

Hammersmith and Fulham council are planning to close a lovely and highly successful community primary school in Fulham to give the site away to the planned Fulham Boys’ School, a planned Church of England Secondary Free School. Please support the campaign to save Sulivan Primary School.

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Let me give you a bit of background on the planned closure, and then I will tell you what you can do to help. Most of you will know that I am in general a supporter of free schools if they lead to increased choice and standards for local parents. If their creation requires the abrupt closure of a successful and popular community primary, however, I cannot see any benefit to local parents. According to Rosie Wait, chair of governors at Sulivan Primary School: There is no transparency. It should not be within the power of the Council to give away valuable Council land to a new business which has no record! We don’t even know the company name behind the Free School. We believe there should be a separate public consultation for the Free School”.

Officially, this closure has been advertised as an “amalgamation” of two primary schools, Sulivan Primary and New Kings Primary. However, Sulivan Primary School will be closed with all of its staff dismissed (although some will be allowed to reapply for jobs at the amalgamated school) and pupils transferred to New Kings Primary. If it is the first time you hear about this story, this is no surprise, because it seems the council has planned to push this closure through with minimum publicity. The plans were published on the council website and nowhere else a couple of days before the summer holidays and only parents at the affected schools would have heard about the story.

Why did the council single out Sulivan School for closure?

The official reason is that the school, along with New Kings Primary, is undersubscribed and is seldom listed as a first choice by parents in their state school applications. They did not disclose that the nursery and Reception classes are oversubscribed and have been gaining popularity in recent years. You should also take into account that the school is currently located right next to the French Lycee primary school Marie d’Orliac that draws hundreds of first choice applications because it feeds directly to the Lycee Charles de Gaulle, one of the top secondary schools in London. So it’s not surprising it is more often listed as a second choice.

The real reason is not public at the moment but my guess is that the school was targeted for closure because it has the loveliest grounds of any primary school in the borough – large outdoor space, big play areas, a garden, an outdoor science lab, and it is located right between South Park and Hurlingham Park, thus making it an attractive target for anyone looking to open up a new free school. Save our Sulivan campaigner Rosie Wait agrees: They want our site – simple as that”

Why should you help save Sulivan Primary School from closure?

  • It is one of the very few primary schools in Fulham that is open to children of all faiths – this is very important for international families who do not have access to local Catholic or Church of England schools
  • It is one of the highest performing community primaries in the borough with 44% of children reaching Level 5 in Maths and English in Key Stage 2 in last year’s SATS. It is also one of the community primaries with the highest value added scores in the borough, helping many children from disadvantaged backgrounds gain a very solid education in a happy environment
  • Far from being undersubscribed, the school’s roll has increased considerably, with numbers up from 300 to 325 over the last year. The council actually put outdated roll numbers into the consultation document to suggest the school is undersubscribed
  • The “amalgamation” will reduce available Reception places by 20% from 75 (45 at Sulivan and 30 at New Kings) to 60 as planned for the merged school. This comes at a time when thousands of young families are moving to the neighbourhood and the 2011 census results show the number of 0-5 year olds is double the number of 5-10 year olds in the borough!
  • Given the demographic developments in Fulham and Central London in general given above, closing a successful primary school to create a single sex secondary school that reserves 50% of places to families affiliated with the Church of England will put available state school places in the borough under massive pressure

What you can do to help save Sulivan Primary School

  • take part in the public consultation regarding the “amalgamation” of New Kings Primary and Sulivan school. You can make a short statement on why you think the school deserves to remain open
  • Like the Save Our Sulivan Facebook page to spread the message
  • Visit Save Our Sulivan campaign page
  • Follow SaveOurSulivan on twitter and RT
  • If you are a journalist, blogger or have contact to media personalities, help spread the word! The council seems to try and push this school closure through with as little publicity as possible – I myself only found out about it by coincidence, and I know mums with children due to start at the school in a couple of weeks who were completely unaware of these plans

Further information

13 comments… add one
  • Fair Admissions Campaign - Hammersmith and Fulham August 23, 2013, 10:49 PM

    It seems odd that the Council is proposing to close an excellent and popular community primary school to make way for a religiously selective secondary faith school. Sulivan and other community schools in SW6 Fulham, are providing excellent education to children, including a high number from disadvantaged backgrounds, in their local community. In contrast the local state funded faith schools to a large extent exclude pupils eligible for free school meals. Religious selection seems to be leading to socio-economic selection. We support Sulivan school and encourage the proposed Fulham Church of England Boys School to have 100% open community places. The Church of England’s London Diocesan Board for Schools has told the Fair Admissions Campaign that ‘Our policy is to encourage our Church of England Schools to have half open places and half foundation places. For the new schools we are promoting we are going for all open places’. http://fairadmissions.org.uk/fair-admissions-campaign-aims-to-end-religious-selection-by-state-schools-2/

    Reply
    • Thomas Shaw (Dr.) September 15, 2013, 3:47 PM

      I am a newcomer to this schools debate, which I have tried to understand since being lobbied at All Saints Church, Fulham, this morning. My understanding of the situation is simple, perhaps too simple – but it seems to me that ‘Fulham’ surprisingly lacks good secondary education. The apparent absence of a ‘state’ secondary education school (now being called ‘Fulham Boys School’) comes as a surprise to my wife and I as newcomers to SW6, whose family have all had the benefit of state secondary education and see no reason why the capable children of local residents should be denied the same opportunity. How that is best achieved in terms of usage of existing buildings, services and staff is not for us to specify unless invited to do so – which is not our wish. That must be for the professionals in the H&F Council to decide; all we ask is that a viable solution is worked out with the Department of Education and Treasury if necessary, surely not an excessively demanding task when the lives of residents of SW6 and its localities are on the line. Good secondary and onwards education is a national right which cannot b denied to local children because of a quirk of history which has left the local community with a dearth of convertible premises – only a matter of planning and state investment to rectify an anomaly which future generations will not thank us for failing to resolve if that is the best that we can do.
      This is surely a simple nettle-grasping matter; the pain won’t last long if a good solution in the interests of future generations is devised and implemented now. Delay and the moment may be lost; regrets when it comes to a failure of education will last for lifetimes, and none of us has call over those.
      h&f Council have a daunting responsibility to get this right without delay – the ingredients are on the table, but time is ticking away.
      Think big and play hard; the children of our community deserve no less.
      Thank you, Tom Shaw

      Reply
  • Valerie Ann turner August 26, 2013, 3:35 PM

    We are all begging you PLEASE DO NOT CLOSE THIS SCHOOL .

    Reply
  • Alexander Wade August 28, 2013, 10:48 PM

    As Chairman of Governors of The Fulham Boys School, I was disappointed to read your article. It made no effort to provide background information, but merely the one sided views of one of the parties involved in a consultation.

    Can The Fulham Boys School be allowed to put some facts straight?

    First, I wish to make clear that FBS forms no part of the Council’s primary school amalgamation proposals. This is not a matter of a new Free School at the expense of a local primary. The Council is consulting on its plans to merge two primaries. It gives its reasons for proposing this merger in its consultation document and these reasons do not include making a site free for FBS. The Fulham Boys School is named as the potential occupant of the site IF the amalgamation goes ahead. Our interest is quite simply to make sure that FBS, rather than some other development, is first in line to be considered IF a site becomes vacant.

    As a supporter of Free Schools, in general, you are doubtless aware of the various challenges free schools face in getting going – site being one of them. Over the past year FBS has explored, and is continuing to explore, various sites around Fulham – local authority, commercial and government property. Having lost out on sites previously, we wanted to make our interest known in this case at the earliest opportunity. And please note that as a free school, FBS’s permanent site – wherever it is – will be financed directly by the Department for Education – there is no ‘give away’.

    Second, to confirm that as a free school FBS has to consult publicly before the Secretary of State will sign our funding agreement. We’ll be conducting this consultation later this year.

    Third, I wish to dispel any myths about the group behind The Fulham Boys School Ltd. To meet the needs of a Free School structure we are a registered company. We are all local parents and teachers, and all dedicated to establishing an outstanding boys’ secondary C of E school open to all in the community – of all faiths and none. We’ve widespread support from across Fulham and the wider SW London community in getting to where we are now, with applications for our first year 7 entry due to open in September.

    Please see our website for more details: http://www.fulhamboysschool.org.

    Reply
    • London Preprep August 29, 2013, 9:42 PM

      Dear Alexander,

      thank you for your comment and for providing more details about the company behind the Fulham Boys’ School. It is good to hear that FBS forms no part of the Council’s proposal to close Sulivan primary school. I strongly disagree that “this is not a matter of a new Free School at the expense of a local primary” unfortunately. You may not have pushed for this as a school but the only reason the Council has to amalgamate these two primaries is to free up a site for FBS since FBS and the Council have had difficulties finding another suitable site, as you well know. This proposed closure of a successful and popular primary school has come completely out of the blue for all parents and staff and it would be a unique case of a high performing primary in an area with a sharp increase in the population of primary aged children closing, leading to a 20% reduction of primary places between the two schools.

      The problem with the counci’s approach is that it has tied three issues into one consultation – the FBS site, the Academy conversion of NKS and the closure of Sulivan. And what worries me a lot is that by linking these issues into one consultation, they essentially give a big incentive to FBS and NKS parents to support the closure of Sulivan Primary, when actually this issue should be discussed on a stand-alone basis. If you read the consultation document, NKS actually want to convert this year already but was told to hold off until after the amalgamation, which suggests its conversion depends on Sulivan Schools closure. Again, NKS may not have any part in the matter but the council has created an incentive for NKS parents and staff to support the amalgamation.

      I am happy to hear that you say FBS is not involved (although obviously you would be happy to finally have found a site), but I hope you understand that closing a community primary and using grounds that are perfect for little children who need a lot of physical activity is not an ideal solution. I wish you all the best in securing a suitable site so you can open in September 2014 but I also hope it doesn’t require the closure of a successful primary school which by the way was the only community primary I would have any realistic chance of sending my children to.

      Reply
  • Anonymous August 30, 2013, 8:48 PM

    Reply
  • Fair Admissions Campaign - Hammersmith and Fulham August 31, 2013, 3:36 PM

    Alexander – You say that Fulham Boys school will be open to all in the community – of all faiths and none.However Para 8 your admissions policy that deals with over subscription , has a 50% reservation for faith places.
    http://www.fulhamboysschool.org/admissions/how-to-apply-admissions-policy/

    Church schools should remember their responsibilities to the wider community and especially the need to break down faith barriers and to promote social justice and integration.We hope that the school will think carefully about how it can be more inclusive and community minded in their admissions policy. We wish you all the best in securing a suitable site, but not at the cost of Sulivan community primary school. l

    Reply
  • Sarah August 31, 2013, 9:24 PM

    Additionally, the front page of the website says that children of all faiths are welcome after the oversubscription criteria are met.

    Which is it? There seem to be three sets of impressions on admissions.

    And FBS is most certainly at the centre of the consultation. The consultation is to close the Sulivan school, and you are encouraging your interested parties to respond in such a way that this happens. Not particularly Christian to deny young children of many faiths, a large majority not CofE, a school – and a community that serves them getting 20% fewer places as a result – in order to allow your school to go forward ( a school which says it’s for all, but then says simultaneously that it is 50% for CofE, and then also says only if it is oversubscribed can it take those who are not CofE.

    Teaching children is about morals, community values, and also details….

    Reply
  • Sheila August 31, 2013, 11:14 PM

    “44% of children reaching Level 5 in Maths and English in Key Stage 2”
    Given that level 5 skills include: using commas, apostrophes and inverted commas; organising writing into paragraphs; beginning to speak standard English in formal settings and basic long multiplication it’s pretty appalling that 56% of kids are heading to secondary school without reaching this standard.

    Sulivan and New Kings are located very close together and essentially offer the same thing – a mediocre state education to the children from the area whose parents are not Catholic or C of E and could not get a place at All Saints, Holy Cross or Marie d’Orliac. This is in no way a reflection on the teachers or management at Sulivan or NKS who I am sure are doing a great job within a limiting system, but when the majority of middle class parents have sent their children elsewhere they are playing catch up from the start. It may not be politically correct to say it, but the reality is that the wider the spread of ability in a classroom is, the harder it is to maintain progress. Also, the more social and behavioural problems children bring to school the less classroom time is spent on teaching the curriculum.
    If parents really want access to good schools they would be far better challenging the numbers of places at state funded schools which are closed to local children on the basis of the religion of their parents. It is wrong that taxpaying parents are forced to fund schools which will not admit their children, and it is wrong that motivated middle class parents can create predominantly middle class schools by playing the game and going to church.

    Reply
    • London Preprep September 1, 2013, 9:51 PM

      Hi Sheila, it is funny you find 44% level 5 appalling because the middle class school Holy Cross that you cite as the better school only has 41% of students who reach this level! Please check the league tables linked above and you will see the level of achievement of pupils at Sulivan is higher than at Holy Cross. Even at the very pushy middle class primary All Saints, only 54% of children reach level 5, so you may want to revise your view. Here is the link to the data:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/education/school_tables/primary/12/html/l5_205.stm?compare=
      There is actually no data for Marie d’Orliac yet because they have only run the programme for three years or so, but given that they are taught at Holy Cross and dedicate half the time to the French curriculum it is very unlikely they outperform Holy Cross children, at least in English.

      But you touch on an important point – Sulivan and NKS schools do have a more challenging and mixed intake, which is also why many middle class parents avoid them even when they are lovely and high achieving schools. But I think this is changing slowly and you need a certain tipping point. I think the schools were working very hard on getting there and shutting one down despite their hard work is not fair. Plus, given that you already have religiously selective schools in the area, you can’t advocate shutting down a community primary in order to make way for another religiously selective school, where are all the non-Catholic and non-CofE children supposed to go to school? They also need to go to school somewhere!

      Reply
    • Anonymous September 3, 2013, 9:52 AM

      Sheila,

      I am so-called “middle-class parent” and I find your comments appalling and ill-informed (particularly re the test data). It is wrong to assume that a child is less-able simply because they are economically disadvantaged and the reverse is also true.

      My child attends Sulivan, and my other child hopefully starting in January. My child has made progress in leaps and bounds since transferring to Sulivan from an Independent school.

      While I agree that no state-funded schools should discriminate on the basis of religion, not all parents want to send their children to have a religious education in any case. Before we moved to the area, we were given a space at a RC school, but were appalled at the level of religion that would be forced upon our children.

      Reply
  • Fair Admissions Campaign - Hammersmith and Fulham September 1, 2013, 10:38 PM

    Shelia – It is time to re-examine whether schools that use faith to segregate children have any place in today’s state educational system.The situation is clearly unfair, and that’s what fair admissions campaign is here to challenge to open up all state funded schools to all children, without regard to religion.
    http://fairadmissions.org.uk/
    https://www.facebook.com/fairadmissionshammersmithfulham
    We have revealed this week how much faith-based admissions socio-economically segregate school intakes. The findings show that many faith schools seem to have lost their way religiously, and instead of caring especially for the more under-privileged parts of society are concentrating on children from higher socio-economic backgrounds in order to boost their league table standing.

    Reply
  • Yvonne Kierans September 2, 2013, 1:29 PM

    I worked at Sulivan school from 1962 until 2003, through several heads , and always thought it was the tops. Still is, under a dynamic head who knows the school and the area so well. It would be criminal to close it. Have the boys’ free school by all means but find another site.

    Reply
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