The most recent public meeting on the new Charter School East Dulwich on East Dulwich Grove was held on 6 October. They will be a further meeting on Saturday 17 October (1-4 pm) at the United Reform Church, East Dulwich Grove.

The new school will occupy a large part of the Dulwich Community Hospital site and, when complete, will have 1680 pupils.  It will share the site with a new health centre. Long term residents will know that it has taken the NHS 23 years to reach the stage of actually building something (half the old hospital was demolished in 2006 when the plan was to build a polyclinic). The last Dulwich Community Council reported that it would be 2019.

The plans for the school are moving forward very quickly and it aims to open for the first pupils in September next year. It appears that negotiations between the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and Prop Co, the property branch of the NHS, are nearly complete and a spokesperson for the latter has confirmed publicly that legal exchange of the land is expected within the next two months.

The school will open in temporary accommodation, subject to funding and planning approval. The aim is to take 120 pupils and house them in a series of temporary buildings on the south east corner of the site near the railway accessed via Jarvis Road off Melbourne Grove. At the same time the school will acquire a section of the site on the south west corner and begin construction of the first permanent facilities with the aim of completing them in 2018. Construction of the rest of the school will await the completion of the health centre, when the CCG will be able decant services from the old buildings.

The school will be funded by the Government through its current school’s building programme. It has been made very clear that budgets for new schools are now of a very different order from the earlier ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme which was largely funded via the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Current target costs are in the order of 50% less than previously.

The preliminary layout shows the main access pretty much in the same positon as now, off East Dulwich Grove, and the much loved ‘Chateau’ building is currently being kept, but only as staff offices, possibly with an assembly hall behind. Unfortunately it seems that the EFA will not provide additional funding to reflect the cost of its refurbishment and this may impact on the quality of the other new buildings.

The main class room buildings will be built at the rear of the site roughly parallel with the railway. Playgrounds and sports pitches will replace the old wards to the left of the gates while the site of the old doctor’s accommodation will be a lecture hall and drama complex which will also be available for community use.

Given that the catchment area is very limited most children should cycle or walk to school and the school seems very keen to set up a positive green travel plan and reduce teacher car travel as much as possible – after all there is a train station not far away. There is also a bus route passing the front door, the oft lamented No 37, but it is clear that additional public transport provision will be needed - the long discussed extension of the No. 42 from red Post hill to East Dulwich Sainsbury’s must move ahead as part of the overall plan.

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