Building work at Croydon free school brings flood of complaints

Janet Downs's picture
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Neighbours of Coombe Wood School, a secondary free school opened in September 2018, have become increasingly fed up with building work on the school’s site.

Pupils are currently housed in temporary buildings on the site until the permanent building is finished.  The completed school, estimated to cost £30m, is due to open in September providing spaces for 1,680 pupils.

But every storm causes another flood of ‘overflow water’ down nearby roads, Inside Croydon reports:

The cause of this regular overflow, apart from the unusually heavy rainfall in recent months, has not been explained. Certainly, long-standing residents in Melville Road confirm that there was never any of this kind of localised water flow before the construction work began on the site, and it was still playing fields.’

Locals met with Wates the builder and Coombe Wood’s head last November. ‘Residents voiced concerns about the detrimental effect the school was having on their quality of life. Wates management assured them then that the school’s drainage system had been stress-tested and was fit for purpose.’

Last week, Melville Avenue was closed for seven days without notice ‘while it was dug up on behalf of the builders.’

Residents also complain about congestion caused by parents delivering and collecting their children and fear this will worsen as the school grows in size.

Oddly, Inside Croydon describes Coombe Wood as a ‘selective school’.  Free schools can’t select pupils on academic ability.   But when Coombe Wood was initially proposed, it was widely reported that Folio Education Trust was planning to open a satellite annexe of Wallington Grammar School  in Croydon. 

Schools Week said the MP for Croydon South, Chris Philp, supported the plans.  In January 2017, he wrote on his website he was ‘pushing hard both publicly and privately to get this done as quickly as possible.’

The MP later claimed the planned satellite ‘never had legs’ and media coverage was ‘carried away’ and ‘fake’.

But there appears to be a perception locally that Coombe Wood, also part of Folio Education Trust, is a selective school.  Although it does not select academically, it can reserve 10% of its places for pupils with ‘Health Related Fitness Aptitude’. This is defined as:

the ability to reach your personal best in activities that will allow you to develop and enhance your well-being. This can be linked to activities such as the playing of sport and also in other essential life choices linked to health and well-being.’

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