Invicta: a great school deserves a great building

Invicta signInvicta Primary School is a great local success story. It has recently expanded to two forms of entry,  and was judged as “Outstanding” by Ofsted earlier this year. It has just started supporting Bishop John Robinson School in Thamesmead – a huge vote of confidence in the head, Marie Corbett, and the other staff at Invicta. It has a thriving Children’s Centre in its grounds, offering a range of services for under-fives and their parents.

But lnvicta deserves a better building. Its current building dates back to 1952, replacing a Victorian building that was badly damaged by wartime bombing, and this 1950s reconstruction was never intended to be permanent. By and large the building (apart from the addition of some portacabins because of its recent expansion to two forms of entry) is exactly as it was when I was a pupil there in the early 1980s (I am now a governor there, as is Labour candidate Cherry Parker). Its windows and roof have reached the end of their lifespan and the building is simply not fit for purpose.

(To put this in context, earlier this month I was at a planning appeal hearing for Blackheath Nursery and Preparatory School on St German’s Place, which wants to build a large sports hall on a green area in the school grounds. Blackheath Nursery and Prep already has a dining hall and an assembly hall, and there are concerns from neighbours about the impact of the building and the five trees that will have to be felled. At Invicta – a state school with roughly the same number of pupils – there is just one medium-sized school hall used for gym lessons, assemblies and dining.)

In late 2011 Greenwich’s Labour Council put in a bid to the Government’s Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) for funds to rebuilt Invicta and three other Greenwich primary schools (Eltham C of E, and two schools not far from Blackheath: Our Lady of Grace on Charlton Road, and Wingfield in Kidbrooke). In May 2012 the council was told that the bid had been successful, although the language used (each school was told it would “have its condition needs met by the programme”) fell short of a promise of a new building.Invicta

But almost two years after the council first put in its bid, Invicta School is still waiting to hear when it will get better buildings. The Spending Review announcement in June 2013 provided no further detail over how much money schools like Invicta will get, or when: all we were promised was a further update in September, which has yet to arrive . It is galling that the Coalition Government can find the money for 180 new Free Schools before giving money to existing schools like Invicta that badly need rebuilding.

The school has  updated parents on the latest news this summer: essentially that the EFA will be telling the school this autumn whether it will be rebuilt or remodelled, and when work will start. Watch this space.

The good news is that the construction of Invicta and other schools in the programme is to be conventionally funded by the Education Finding Agency  (EFA). This should mean the process should be a lot quicker than a Private Finance Initiative (PFI). With Thomas Tallis having been rebuilt two years ago (its new buildings opened in November 2011) and rebuilding on schedule to be complete at John Roan in September 2014, the spotlight is now on primary schools like Invicta which need new buildings just as badly.

That is not to say that the rebuilding of our two local secondary schools was without hitch: both Thomas Tallis and John Roan have taken longer to be built than first expected. But there were some good reasons for this: Tallis had its buildings moved 200 yards northwards to its former playing fields, with a new laying field being acquired off Blackheath park, and there was a last-minute hitch with the Environment Agency about how the land would be protected from flooding if the Kid brook ever burst its banks.

At John Roan, the school was to be moved to a new site on the Greenwich Peninsula, until this had to be abandoned because of the proximity of a gasholder, which meant the Health and Safety Executive would oppose the development (even though the new  school would not be directly next door to the gasholder). New plans had to be drawn up for John Roan to stay on its current Maze Hill site (which is being refurbished) and its Westcombe Park Road site (which is being completely rebut), with much of the school moved temporarily to a separate site on Royal Hill during building works.

However, Invicta’s large rectangular site, with roads on two sides, should allow a new school to be built alongside the old, so once resources are confirmed and the planning process gone through, hopefully building work can be started quickly.

The school and its pupils deserve that new building sooner rather than later, and I hope the EFA will soon be able to confirm how much money there is available, and when work on a new building will start.

November 7th update: The Education Funding Agency met with the school in October to confirm it is providing direct funding for the rebuild or refurbishment of 7 schools in London, including Invicta.

Currently the EFA is carrying out a feasibility study to establish a range of options for Invicta, and will decide on the preferred option by early 2014.
Following this, the EFA has told the school construction could start in late 2014. This is good news, as long as the EFA do deliver the new building – not just a refurbishment of the current building – that the school needs.

See here for the latest update given to the school’s parents on October 25th (please scroll to page three).

 

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2 Responses to Invicta: a great school deserves a great building

  1. Pingback: Congratulations to The John Roan – another good local school | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

  2. Pingback: Invicta School’s rebuilding moves a step closer | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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