Monday, 13 December 2010

Revealed: West London Free School comes to the Bush

I have seen confidential Council information that confirms the Askham Family Centre will house the West London Free School (led by Toby Young, pictured) for a peppercorn rent until the Palingswick Centre in Hammersmith is ready to house the school on a permanent basis.

Regular readers know I've reported rumours in the last few weeks, as the Council has remained tight lipped about the whole affair. I did send a note last week to the press office who are usually quick to respond asking for the facts but reply came there none. They really should have because it left me with no other option but to talk to other sources and without revealing them I can say that the information I have seen leaves no doubt about the Council's plans.

The Askham Centre is, according to the Council's thinking, under-utilised and the services for families who need very sensitive support, such as supervised contact for children in care, will be re-provided elsewhere in the borough. Both Askham and Palingswick are currently being valued to confirm what sort of rent the Council can levy on the West London Free School but I understand it's likely that, not wishing this process to hold the School back, they are likely to occupy the Askham site for a peppercorn rent.

So there you are. I really don't understand why the Council has been trying to keep this one under wraps but now that it isn't anymore they really should consider making their intentions public, especially the likely impact on existing schools in Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith and also the fate of the voluntary sector services currently based in Palingswick House.

I've no doubt I won't feature on any christmas card lists from the Town Hall as a result of revealing this - but the continued secrecy was leading to rumours and uncertainty among teachers and parents alike. I hope that bringing this out into the open goes some way to ending that.

1030 UPDATE: From not returning messages the Council's press office seems to have swung into action like a gazelle this morning, issuing the following statement to me:

"We are having ongoing discussions with the West London Free School about potential sites and we are keen to support them in developing their application for government approval. We haven't yet agreed any specific site but we will happily share any news as soon as we have it."

You will note that this does not address either the relocation of the Family Centre nor the fact that both sites are being actively valued and prepared for the School to move in, both of which I know are happening from the Council's own internal information. So credit to them that they've responded at least to this article but now that both of those facts are in the public domain they may wish to issue a slightly fuller statement to residents quite soon...

1300 UPDATE: understand this story is being written up in other local newsrooms ... wonder if they'll credit the blog this time ...

15th DECEMBER UPDATE: And lo, here is the story in the Fulham Chronicle. And no, they didn't.

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