Council confusion over Eltham Church of England rebuild

At the September Council meeting Eltham North Councillor Spencer Drury asked a formal question to the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services about the situation with regard to the refurbishment or rebuilding of Eltham Church of England Primary School (often called Roper Street School). 

The information in the public domain prior to the meeting was that the Conservative-led government had allocated enough funds to either refurbish or rebuild the school entirely.  If the plan is to rebuild the school, the Labour Council’s Masterplan for Eltham outlines a strategy for the area where the school is moved from its current site to the Nissan dealership beside the church.  If the school is moved, the current site (opposite the Eltham Centre) will be made available for flats.

The answer to Cllr Drury’s questions (one written and one asked orally at the Council meeting) revealed that the Council has very little say in the process despite its big plans.  It appears that the Labour Council played no part is asking for funds to be allocated to Eltham Church of England Primary School and as a result, has little influence on how they will be spent.

Spencer said “The answers I received suggest that once more, unless people in Eltham look after themselves nothing happens to improve our area.  I’m really pleased that the government has allocated funds to an Eltham school, but without the Church taking matters into its own hands nothing would be happening here.”

“This Council seems to ignore Eltham and focus (not completely successfully) on Woolwich.  The Masterplan is incoherent and may drive important firms like Marks and Spencers away from our High Street – hopefully the school won’t move which will be a nail in the coffin of this ridiculous blueprint for the future.”

The written question Spencer submitted and the initial response are below:

Question from Councillor Spencer Drury to Councillor Jackie Smith, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services

I note that the Coalition Government has allocated funding for the Eltham Church of England primary school to be either rebuilt or refurbished.

Can the Cabinet Member provide an update on whether the school is to be rebuilt or refurbished and if necessary, confirm why there has been a delay in clarifying the nature of the funds allocated to the school?

Reply –

I thank Councillor Drury for his question.

Eltham C of E Primary School is one of the Greenwich schools which the

Secretary of State for Education announced in May 2012 would be rebuilt or refurbished under the Priority School Building Programme(PSBP). No specific funding level has yet been allocated for any school in the Programme.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) subsequently wrote to the Southwark

Diocesan Board of Education in July 2012 to confirm that the Board and school would be contacted in the 3rd quarter of 2013 in order “to determine the exact needs of the school”. The EFA will then engage a contractor to undertake any works agreed.

The scope of works, level of funding required and delivery programme for rebuilding or refurbishing Eltham C of E Primary School will therefore be determined by the Education Funding Agency and not the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

At the Council meeting itself Spencer then asked an oral supplementary question which is laid out below together with Cllr Smith’s answer:

Cllr Drury
Thank you Mr Mayor.

If I could thank Councillor Smith for her reply.

I’m not sure I entirely understand it.  It appears to me, according to the reply as written, that the Councillor is suggesting that she will have no input at all into the rebuilding of Eltham Church of England Primary School or the refurbishment of Eltham Primary School.

Can she just clarify for me whether that is indeed what she means or how she will be part of the process if that’s not the case?

Cllr Smith
Thank you Mr Mayor.  Thank you for your supplementary question Councillor Drury.

It’s quite difficult at this stage, given that we don’t know anything at all about how much funding is available from the EFA or when it can be used, to even speculate on how we can be involved at all.  It was actually the Diocese that put in this application for the funding for Eltham C of E and not the Council and it is a Diocese school.  So obviously there will be some involvement with the Council through the planning process and having the school built ‘fit for purpose’ but actually our role will be talking to them with, not controlling any process in the rebuild of that school.