A group of parents are at loggerheads with Enfield Borough Council after it was revealed a disused secondary school will become a special needs school.
The South West Enfield Action Team is furious that the former Minchenden Secondary School, in High Road, Southgate, will be turned into a school for special needs pupils as opposed to a primary school.
Owned by Barnet and Southgate College, a council report reveals that the local authority has purchased a two –year lease for the site as there is an “urgent need to develop some emergency specialist provision”.
However, this has been met with outrage by parents in Southgate who fear there is a distinct lack of primary school places in the South West part of the borough.
Gonul Daniels, leader of the group, told the Enfield Independent that the group feel let down by the latest decision.
She said: “We feel very let down by this decision as we thought this would be a perfect place for primary school provision.
“We are crying out for a primary school in this part of the borough and they needed to look no further than a site which already has classrooms built on it.
“The council has not notified us of this decision and there has been no consultation on this, we feel it has gone deliberately under the radar.”
Fears for primary provision looked to be allayed when Ashmole Academy submitted a plan to build a new primary school on its grounds.
However, the government rejected funding proposals.
Yet council insists that it has met the shortage of primary school places in that part of the borough with the expansion of Bowes and Broomfield schools, in Southgate, as well as a surplus of places in Garfield Primary, in New Southgate and De Bohun school, in Green Road, Southgate.
Mrs Daniels added: “The other alternatives are not serving this community which is in desperate need. Minchenden is well placed for everyone here but the council has decided against that.”
David Burrowes, Enfield Southgate MP said: “This is extremely disappointing because there a site ready to be used.
“The council has not made anyone aware of this and has left people fearing for school places in this part of Enfield.”
The report states that 16.8 per cent increase in special needs pupils in the borough between 2011 and 2014, with mainstream schools increasing by just under 12 per cent.
Michael Clary, of the Grovelands Resident’s association admitted the group were surprised by the council’s decision.
He said: “This is a surprising development. Many local people regard the Minchenden site as a far better option for a primary school than Grade II listed open land at Grovelands and we understand that at one stage the Council was trying to negotiate a two year lease for a temporary school.
“How has it suddenly become feasible and cost-effective to lease the site for a special needs school when it was presumably not the case for a primary school?”
Cabinet member for education, children’s services and protection, Councillor Ayfer Orhan, has dismissed that the council did not inform SWEAT that the land would not be used for primary school places.
She said:“Providing good quality school places is a top priority for Enfield Council and 93 per cent of children in our borough got their first or second choice school for September this year, that places us in the top five performing boroughs in London.
“We are committed to providing enough high quality school places for our increasing numbers of children and young people including those with special needs but because we are still in the process of acquiring the lease for Minchenden the site was not available for the start of this school term and the Council told SWEAT that Minchenden would not be used for primary places.
“Temporary primary school places are being provided for the September 14 intake while the Council continues to develop plans for a permanent two form entry primary school in this area.
“So far we have provided more than 4,400 additional primary school places in high quality buildings across the borough over the past four years – with a further 2,000 places due to follow as a result if the current expansion programme.
“These school places are being located where they are most needed so that we can continue to offer a high quality education for all our young people.”