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Stag Brewery proposed school development - frequently asked questions

Find answers to common queries about the Stag Brewery redevelopment and plan for a new school below.

Background information

In July 2011, the Council adopted a planning brief for the Stag Brewery site, Mortlake, which included an aspiration for a two-form entry primary school.

However, in 2013, the Council helped to enable the establishment of Thomson house School, a two-form entry primary free school, in Mortlake; and in 2014, the Council expanded Sheen Mount Primary School from two to three forms of entry. The three additional forms of entry provided by these two schools meant that by 2015 there was no longer need for a two-form entry primary school to be provided as part of the redevelopment of the Stag Brewery site. (The expansion of East Sheen Primary School in 2016 further reinforced that change in circumstances.)

A report which Cabinet approved on 15 October 2015 updated the Council's School Place Planning Strategy.

Plans for a school

How will a secondary school benefit Mortlake?

This is an exciting opportunity to create a new, outstanding high quality secondary school to complement the outstanding local primary schools. It will be a school with strong roots in the local area – providing opportunities for the whole community to benefit.

What type of school is being proposed as part of the overall development?

A six-form entry secondary school, which would grow year-group by year-group over seven years. There would be 900 pupils in total across Years 7-11, with an eventual sixth form of 250. In March 2018, the Government's Department for Education wrote to the Council to state that a secondary free school sponsored by the Aspirations Academies Trust which had been approved to open in Tower Hamlets would, instead, relocate to Mortlake and, subject to planning permission and Ministerial approval of the school’s funding agreement, open on the Stag Brewery site. The school would be known as 'Livingstone Academy West London', as it involves a partnership with Ian Livingstone, the games industry entrepreneur who founded the company Games Workshop and lives within the borough.

Who would be responsible for funding and building the proposed school?

As the school would have to be a free school, it would be the responsibility of the Government's Education and Skills Funding Agency to acquire sufficient space, assist the proposer with the planning application, and to fund and commission the building.

Are there any alternative locations for the school?

The Council firmly believes that there is no other viable site in this part of the borough within the necessary time frame. Identifying a suitable site for a secondary school is never easy. A number of sites have been suggested by the community. However, none are considered appropriate in the context of the development plan for the borough nor available or deliverable. Some of the sites suggested are protected by designations from built development, and most include sites designated as Metropolitan Open Land (which carries the same weight as Green Belt). In addition, none is as well-situated as the Stag Brewery site to meet the forecast demand from Kew/Mortlake/East Sheen/Barnes and to maximise the number of places at the proposed school for in-borough children.

More information about our considerations on alternative school sites.

What role does Richmond Council have in school place planning?

Richmond Council has a statutory duty, under Section 14 of the Education Act 1996, to ensure a sufficiency and diversity of state-funded school places within its administrative area for children of compulsory school age. That means that the Council, through Achieving for Children, undertakes regular forecasts of the numbers of children who will need school places. The Council then acts upon those forecasts in a timely manner.

How does Achieving for Children make its pupil forecasts?

Forecasts of need for school places within the borough for the primary phase are undertaken within 10 school place planning areas, each of which is coterminous with one or more electoral ward; but for the secondary phase, need is quantified firstly within each half of the borough and then across the borough as a whole. Forecasts are principally based on actual and forecast live-birth and cohort- and roll-retention rates, i.e. the percentage trends of children who enter the local state-funded schools as opposed to those who are educated in the private sector or whose families move away from the area. Those rates vary from area to area for Reception entry, but there has been a general upward trend across the borough towards the state-funded sector for Year 7 entry in recent years, explained partly by higher numbers of children leaving Year 6 and the higher number of places available.

How does the Council expand existing schools?

Periodically, the Government’s Education Funding Agency allocates capital funding to the Council for 'Basic Need', i.e. to help it support its requirement to provide a sufficiency of school places. Those allocations can only be spent on adding extra provision to state-funded schools (of any type, i.e. community, voluntary-aided, academy or free) which are already open within the borough.

Why is a secondary school needed on the Stag Brewery site?

Since July 2011, the Council has provided 13.5 extra forms of entry through its primary school expansion programme and helped to ensure the establishment of four free schools, which have provided a further eight forms of entry. A total of 21.5 additional forms of entry have therefore been provided to meet a basic need for primary places.

6.5 of those 21.5 forms are within the eastern half of the borough, through the expansions of Darell, East Sheen, Lowther, Sheen Mount and The Vineyard primary schools, and the establishment in 2013 of Thomson House, a two-form entry primary free school in Mortlake.

At this point, there is no additional requirement for further places, but as and when further primary places are needed within the area, they could be provided elsewhere, through the expansion of one or more existing primary schools.

A need for additional secondary places has grown within the eastern half of the borough to an extent which wasn’t foreseen in July 2011.

This is due to:

  • Additional pressure on secondary places shown by the number of 'preferences' for Year 7 places: for Richmond Park Academy this has grown by 120%, from 255 in 2011 to 561 in 2018; for Christ’s this has increased by 34%, from 547 to 734 and; for Grey Court by 116%, from 646 to 1,398 over the same seven years.
  • Whilst the Council has ensured extra borough-wide capacity in the secondary phase through the establishment of three new schools, one of them, St Richard Reynolds Catholic High School, was established in order to provide a need in terms of diversity rather than sufficiency, i.e. it enabled local places for Catholic children who would otherwise have been educated in Catholic schools outside the borough; and all three schools are permanently situated in the western half of the borough.
  • Within the eastern half, although the Council enabled the permanent increase of the published admission number (PAN) of Christ’s School from 120 to 150 from 2013 onwards, and Grey Court has expanded its PAN to 240 from 2016 onwards, the numbers of children attending, across all year-groups, the nine non-Catholic primary schools within Richmond Park Academy’s vicinity have grown at a greater rate.
Primary school place numbers
  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Barnes 407 409 446 447 442 444 447
Darell 224 246 268 279 291 310 307
East Sheen 417 444 438 469 493 537 560
Holy Trinity 308 354 398 407 431 446 433
Kew Riverside 196 195 201 198 202 196 190
Lowther 250 287 316 339 363 349 339
Marshgate 429 451 469 466 475 476 451
Sheen Mount 404 430 438 470 503 533 563
Thomson House     48 99 157 208 260
Total 2,635 2,816 3,022 3,174 3,357 3,499 3,550

Of the nine schools above, five have been permanently expanded since 2010, one – Thomson House – opened in 2013, and two – Barnes and Marshgate – of the other three (Kew Riverside is the exception) have admitted three 'bulge' classes between them since 2010. As a result, the numbers of Year 6 leavers in those schools who will need places in local secondary schools has grown and will continue to grow. It is forecast that the children who are at most risk of not being admitted to any of the three schools in the eastern half of the borough live in Kew, and east and north Barnes.

The current forecasts of Year 7 need have been revised to take account of the fact that in September 2018, the number of Year 7 starters at Richmond Park Academy was 210 – which is 72 more than the 138 children who were on roll at the school in autumn 2017. 

Conversion rates from Reception to Year 6 average at 100%, so Year 6 totals derive from the relevant year-groups in the Oct. 2017 census.

The take up rates used from 2019 onwards are based on the from Year 6 to Year 7 – 93.7% in the west (1,300 children in Year 7 out of 1,387 in Year 6) and 78.4% in the east (600 children in Year 7 out of 765 in Year 6).

Why can't the Council reserve places in Richmond Borough secondary schools for Richmond Borough resident children?

Parents can apply for other authorities, as well as their own borough. And, if they are living nearer to the school, than a child who lives further away but within the same borough as the school, they will take priority over them. This is because, a High Court judgement against Greenwich Council ('the Greenwich Judgement') in 1989 prevents local authorities, and schools which – like Christ's, Grey Court and Richmond Park Academy – set their own admission arrangements, from reserving places in this way.

Why can't the Council expand the three secondary schools within the eastern half of the borough?

Expanding each of Christ’s, Grey Court and Richmond Park Academy by a further form of entry would be hugely challenging from outdoor-space and planning constraints. If those constraints could be overcome, they would provide only 90 additional places per year, which would be 90 fewer than are forecast to be required. In addition, sufficient capital funding for expansion is not currently available. For those reasons, the Council believes that only a new secondary school within the eastern half of the borough would meet the short-term forecast shortfall of places.

How did the Aspirations Academies Trust get approved as the sponsor of the proposed secondary school, Livingstone Academy West London without any consultation with local people?

There are two ways in which a state-funded non-faith secondary school can be established: through the 'traditional' free school route or by the 'free school presumption' route.

The traditional route has minimal input from the Council; it involves the submission by an education provider or other group to the Department for Education in a free school application ‘wave’ and the approval by a Government Minister. The Council’s role is usually limited to supporting the provider with data and local intelligence. Four primary (Deer Park; St Mary’s Church of England Primary, Hampton; Thomson House School; and GEMS Twickenham Primary Academy) and two secondary free schools (The Richmond upon Thames School and Turing House School) have been established in the borough through that route since 2013. For any school established in that way, the Education and Skills Funding Agency is responsible for acquiring the site and for funding the design and build process, and the Council doesn’t have to make any financial contribution.

The free school presumption route is open to any council which (a) identifies the need for a new school, (b) owns a suitable site and (c) has sufficient capital funding available to pay for the design and build process. In that route, the Council runs a competition in which invites education providers to submit bids against a specification and then informs the Department for Education of its preferred bidder, which may, or may not, be agreed by the relevant Government Minister.

In this case, although Richmond Council identified a need for a new secondary school in 2015, it has never owned, and still doesn’t own, the Stag Brewery site and doesn’t have the capital funding to pay for the costs of designing and building the school. The Council has therefore not been able to use the free school presumption route to establish a secondary school on the Brewery site.

That means that the Council’s aspiration for a secondary school to be established on the Stag Brewery site could only be realised through the traditional free school route. The Council had encouraged the Stamp Education Trust, which runs Thomson House and is therefore already based in Mortlake, to submit a bid whenever the next free school application wave opened. However, the Department for Education signalled late in 2017 and confirmed in spring 2018 that the next wave of free school applications – Wave 13 – would prioritise areas of low social mobility, to the exclusion of others. That meant that if an application were to be submitted by Stamp or any other provider for a secondary school in Mortlake, it would have no chance of being approved. Given the clear and urgent need for the school to be established within the next four years, that news was very disappointing.

So when, in March 2018, the Department for Education contacted the Council with a proposal to re-locate an already approved secondary free school to Mortlake, it was naturally very interested. Aspirations Academies Trust had submitted an application in Wave 10 of the free schools programme for an all-through primary and secondary free school, named 'Livingstone Academy East London', in Tower Hamlets, which Ministers approved. But it subsequently became apparent that there was no longer a forecast 'basic need' for more secondary school places in Tower Hamlets. so the Department for Education decided to move the school elsewhere. They were aware from the Council’s annual school capacity return and lobbying of Ministers that there was a need for a new school within the east of Richmond Borough and made their re-location proposal on that basis.

The Council undertook some due diligence on the Aspirations Academies Trust by meeting with them, examining their track record as a high-quality education provider, reading Ofsted reports (e.g. of Rivers Academy in Hounslow, which Ofsted rate as ‘outstanding’ in all categories) and talking to colleagues in local authority areas where Aspirations currently run schools. On the basis of that due diligence, and because of the urgent need for the school, the Council agreed to the Department of Education’s proposal.

As the proposed school had already been approved into the pre-opening phase of the free schools programme, there was no question of a competition being run or of the sponsor being any provider other than the Aspirations Academies Trust.

In accordance with Section 10 of the Academies Act 2010, Aspirations will be required to undertake consultation with local parents/carers and other stakeholders before Ministers will decide whether or not to grant the school a funding agreement to open. 


Updated: 31 July 2020

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