London assembly for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

The Mayor of London has been accused of “hypocrisy” after he personally intervened to secure the future of a proposed free school in Hammersmith and Fulham. The Mayor previously claimed he did not have the power to intervene in disputes over the status of schools, but yesterday directly intervened to find sites for the proposed free school, in turn securing funding from the Department for Education and allowing it to open in September.

The Local Authority-controlled Sulivan Primary School was due to close, with Fulham Boys Free School set to replace it. However, the newly elected Council in Hammersmith and Fulham decided to review this decision, making the future of Fulham Boys uncertain and resulting in the Department for Education withdrawing its funding for the school.

When I asked him to intervene to save Sulivan Primary School at Mayor’s Question Time in October 2013, the Mayor refused to do so, stating: “I will not take responsibility because I do not have the statutory power to do so.” Yesterday however, the Mayor intervened to identify alternative future sites for Fulham Boys School, meaning that the Department for Education will again release funds so that the school can open as planned in September.

Yesterday’s intervention by the Mayor stinks of hypocrisy. Back in October, in front of the teachers and pupils of Sulivan School, who had come to City Hall to meet with the Mayor, he said he could not step in to save the school, but today he has directly intervened with Fulham Boys School.

The fact that he has only stepped in now also raises serious questions over the Mayor’s position on schools in our capital. He could have helped find an alternative site for Fulham Boys earlier, allowing Sulivan Primary to remain open, but it seems he was content to see Sulivan demolished so that a free school could replace it. While I welcome any move that provides security for parents and pupils of Fulham Boys School, I find it galling that the Mayor feels it is perfectly reasonable to get involved in this way when he wasn’t willing to work with me to save Sulivan Primary School last year.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Headteacher, staff and pupils at Sulivan Primary School in the London  Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham this morning.

Wendy Aldridge, the Headteacher, is fighting a battle to keep her school open, as the Council are threatening to shut it down, move the children to a neighbouring school and then build a free school on the current site. This is despite the fact that the school’s nursery and reception year groups are full and over-subscribed.

In my role as Chair of the newly-formed Education Panel on the London Assembly, I am keen to hold the Mayor to account on behalf of Londoners, and it is cases like the one at Sulivan Primary School that really bring home, to me, why it is so important to do this.

You can find out more about Sulivan Primary School’s campaign here. I wish Wendy, her staff, friends and pupils all the best with their fight.

You can follow their campaign on twitter @SaveOurSulivan