Parent outrage as Bromley Council committee decision on Beckenham Harris Primary Academy leaves children without a school

Parents and their children who were hoping to attend Harris Primary Academy in Beckenham

Parents and their children who were hoping to attend Harris Primary Academy in Beckenham

First published in News
Last updated
News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , deputy news editor

Parents have been left outraged after a Bromley Council committee rejected the creation of a new primary school - leaving their children without a school just six weeks before the start of term.

Mothers and fathers say they had no idea there were issues with the proposed Beckenham Harris Primary Academy, on the site of Harris Academy in Manor Way, until they received phone calls earlier this week.

Their children had been offered places at the school - through Bromley Council school admissions - in April.

On Tuesday (July 22), The Harris Federation informed them a council planning committee had rejected a planning application to build temporary classrooms for the school, so the school could not open.

This was despite council planning professionals recommending to councillors they approve Harris' request for the small-scale structure at the site.

Committee members say they came to the decision because of fears over increased traffic in the area.

With a great demand for school places in the Beckenham area, 30 children now have no school for September.

News Shopper:

These children now have no school place for September

Alex Pope, 43, of Eden Park, and wife Jo, intended to send three-year-old daughter Esme to the school.

He told News Shopper: "We all thought this was going ahead - we were all invited to the school just 10 days ago to try on uniforms.

"The first we heard of any problems with the planning was when we got the phone call.

"The whole thing is completely farcical - if there were planning issues, how did it ever get to this stage?

"All other schools are at capacity. We don't know where our daughter will be going to school.

"We are being let down by Bromley Council and by Harris."

Polly Sell, 36, of Fairfield Road, who was planning to send four-year-old son Oscar to the school, said: "I am absolutely flabbergasted. I was upset before, now I am just angry.

"I chose this school because I thought it was the best choice for my son. We've bought his uniform.

"It seems crazy. Surely the future is everything - giving young children a good education from day one is so important.

"My faith in the council has been damaged. I even thought of moving."

News Shopper has received e-mails in which Councillor Peter Dean, who was on the committee, states he and other members of the committee were not aware school places had been offered to pupils when they made the decision.

Mrs Sell added: "Harris Academy have been working with Bromley Council education department for last two years to bring this school about, however councillors didn't realise how far the school had come.

"How they can base their decision on information they haven't received I don't know."

News Shopper:

Polly Sell (left) and Nadia O'Hare both intended to sent their children to the school

Another angry parent, Joanne Walters, 41, of Forster Road, said: "It shows incompetence through and through.

"The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

"I already have a son at Balgowan School so I could have sent my daughter there. However I believed Harris to be the better option.

"Our children's education is the most important thing to us. We all went with Harris - that is the choice we made for our children.

"Any alternative schools may not be suitable. They may not be close by.

"We may not be able to do the school run. We can't put four-year-old children on a bus."

A Harris Federation spokesman said: "Although it would theoretically be possible for us to appeal the application we have been advised that it would take at least four months for an appeal to be considered.

"We feel it would be irresponsible and unfair on the children to keep families with places holding on until then, when there is a considerable risk the school will still not be able to open.

"We have never before had to take a decision like this and to have been forced into this position now, at such short notice for families, is extremely sad and upsetting.

"We know children were looking forward to the new school, which had a great team of teachers and leaders raring to go."

News Shopper:

Councillor Richard Scoates, chairman of planning sub-committee, said: "As permission was being sought for 120 pupils and over 80 additional parking spaces, the committee noted that the application would have represented a cramped and substantial intensification of use of the site.

"The committee rejected the application because of this and the increased traffic generation and parking pressure."

Executive Member for Education Councillor Stephen Wells said: "In common with all London local authorities, Bromley is experiencing extreme pressures on the availability of primary school places at this time and has been working extensively for some time to seek the 500 plus extra places required particularly in the north of the borough.

"We have a range of contingencies in place and we are now exploring these."

UPDATE: Bromley Council says The Unicorn School, Creswell Drive, will be taking the 30 pupils affected by this in September, in addition to the pupils already allocated places at the school.

Comments (15)

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5:24pm Thu 24 Jul 14

Petras says...

Why blame the council? Harris offered places to children before they even applied for planning permission. They knew a very long time ago they needed to go through that process and didn't get their act in order. They also knew, when they offered the places that there was a risk of not getting permission. Why didn't they point that out in the offer letters? The planning, application was well publicised both at the location and by Bromley. During this period loads of people wrote to object as noted in the council report. Yet only one wrote in favour. The meeting that decided this was in public. If the parents felt strongly they could have turned up to the meeting. Harris could have encouraged that. They didn't. Frankly the way Harris have handled everything is appalling and they are at fault not Bromley. Bromley have to pick up the pieces and find other schools for the children. It is also interesting that Harris knew on 17 July that planning had been refused but couldn't get round to phoning parents until 22nd. Infact today, 24 July, the Harris website still says opening September 2014! That speaks volumes about their incompetence in my view.
Why blame the council? Harris offered places to children before they even applied for planning permission. They knew a very long time ago they needed to go through that process and didn't get their act in order. They also knew, when they offered the places that there was a risk of not getting permission. Why didn't they point that out in the offer letters? The planning, application was well publicised both at the location and by Bromley. During this period loads of people wrote to object as noted in the council report. Yet only one wrote in favour. The meeting that decided this was in public. If the parents felt strongly they could have turned up to the meeting. Harris could have encouraged that. They didn't. Frankly the way Harris have handled everything is appalling and they are at fault not Bromley. Bromley have to pick up the pieces and find other schools for the children. It is also interesting that Harris knew on 17 July that planning had been refused but couldn't get round to phoning parents until 22nd. Infact today, 24 July, the Harris website still says opening September 2014! That speaks volumes about their incompetence in my view. Petras
  • Score: 12

5:26pm Thu 24 Jul 14

Eagles_Man says...

I can understand parents blaming the council, but perhaps they should also have a word with the selfish and short-sighted local residents who, to get this refused, must have been kicking up a stink over the new school. 'Selfish' because they are denying a decent education to the next generation and 'short-sighted' because, in return for any inconvenience caused by the traffic their house prices will benefit from being near a good school.
I can understand parents blaming the council, but perhaps they should also have a word with the selfish and short-sighted local residents who, to get this refused, must have been kicking up a stink over the new school. 'Selfish' because they are denying a decent education to the next generation and 'short-sighted' because, in return for any inconvenience caused by the traffic their house prices will benefit from being near a good school. Eagles_Man
  • Score: -3

5:35pm Thu 24 Jul 14

Petras says...

Eagles_Man wrote:
I can understand parents blaming the council, but perhaps they should also have a word with the selfish and short-sighted local residents who, to get this refused, must have been kicking up a stink over the new school. 'Selfish' because they are denying a decent education to the next generation and 'short-sighted' because, in return for any inconvenience caused by the traffic their house prices will benefit from being near a good school.
A similar situation could develop in Shortlands. Harris have applied to build a primary school in Kingswood Road. It is now open for comment on the council website under ref 14/02667. The school is badly needed but like Beckenham there is much local opposition. If parents want to support this they should go the council website NOW to express their support before the closing date for comments in mid august. The opposition in gathering strength of similar grounds to Manor Way and could have the same result. Support it it makes sense.
[quote][p][bold]Eagles_Man[/bold] wrote: I can understand parents blaming the council, but perhaps they should also have a word with the selfish and short-sighted local residents who, to get this refused, must have been kicking up a stink over the new school. 'Selfish' because they are denying a decent education to the next generation and 'short-sighted' because, in return for any inconvenience caused by the traffic their house prices will benefit from being near a good school.[/p][/quote]A similar situation could develop in Shortlands. Harris have applied to build a primary school in Kingswood Road. It is now open for comment on the council website under ref 14/02667. The school is badly needed but like Beckenham there is much local opposition. If parents want to support this they should go the council website NOW to express their support before the closing date for comments in mid august. The opposition in gathering strength of similar grounds to Manor Way and could have the same result. Support it it makes sense. Petras
  • Score: -5

8:54pm Thu 24 Jul 14

Tre34vor says...

Surely its only harris to blame,if i went and bought all the materials to build an extension then didnt get planning permission i couldnt blame the council
Surely its only harris to blame,if i went and bought all the materials to build an extension then didnt get planning permission i couldnt blame the council Tre34vor
  • Score: 7

11:09pm Thu 24 Jul 14

buddy1 says...

Re: council update...The other pupils have not been allocated other school"s". I have just received an email to say that the school that my children attend is having to take 30 of these children. Terrific I cannot believe this has been allowed by the council as there is already an ongoing parking issue at the school which gets worse each year as 30 year 6 children leave and 60 reception children start. The school already has 360 pupils and certainly no more than 80 parking spaces that are shared between both staff and parents, yet the council suggest that a mere 120 pupils and 80 parking spaces would represent a cramped and substantial intensification of use of the site.
Bromley council are at fault in my opinion as they have allocated 60 children to the school. Parents cannot apply to a school directly hence school applications having to be made via the local authority school admissions department. What also makes me angry is when councils say how they are under pressure with school places. They are aware of just how many places are likely to be needed over 4 years in advance, when parents register their child's birth. I feel that to simply pile the pressure of 30 children on to another school with very little notice is not good enough and I very much hope that this does not have a detremental effect on any of the children or the schools resources.
Re: council update...The other pupils have not been allocated other school"s". I have just received an email to say that the school that my children attend is having to take 30 of these children. Terrific I cannot believe this has been allowed by the council as there is already an ongoing parking issue at the school which gets worse each year as 30 year 6 children leave and 60 reception children start. The school already has 360 pupils and certainly no more than 80 parking spaces that are shared between both staff and parents, yet the council suggest that a mere 120 pupils and 80 parking spaces would represent a cramped and substantial intensification of use of the site. Bromley council are at fault in my opinion as they have allocated 60 children to the school. Parents cannot apply to a school directly hence school applications having to be made via the local authority school admissions department. What also makes me angry is when councils say how they are under pressure with school places. They are aware of just how many places are likely to be needed over 4 years in advance, when parents register their child's birth. I feel that to simply pile the pressure of 30 children on to another school with very little notice is not good enough and I very much hope that this does not have a detremental effect on any of the children or the schools resources. buddy1
  • Score: 8

9:45am Fri 25 Jul 14

mrsbloosey says...

Harris are a nightmare and I wouldn't put it past them that this was a deliberate attempt to get around planning, by putting pressure on Bromley. For that reason alone I am delighted this has happened. They are an aggressive organisation who in my humble opinion care only about bums on seats and results rather than on the child itself and its well being. If they really cared about the 60 kids who were due to start they wouldn't have done this! I hope parents begin to see this - 100's of lovely caring teachers are leaving their jobs due to this Harris monster.
Clearly Bromley are also at fault for blindly allocating places to a non-approved school - stupid!
My children also go to Unicorn school and I am saddened that we are being instructed (forced) to take on 30 pupils. The bulge class debate was a long, controversial one and parents/staff everyone was consulted and given a say. We have not. And the cowardly, awful decision to tell us after school has closed when we could have known earlier (according to this article at least) is terrible.
The letter from the council tells us very little and caused much frustration when I read it this morning.
I am sure Unicorn will make that lucky 30 very welcome - they should bless their lucky stars to not be in a Harris.
Harris are a nightmare and I wouldn't put it past them that this was a deliberate attempt to get around planning, by putting pressure on Bromley. For that reason alone I am delighted this has happened. They are an aggressive organisation who in my humble opinion care only about bums on seats and results rather than on the child itself and its well being. If they really cared about the 60 kids who were due to start they wouldn't have done this! I hope parents begin to see this - 100's of lovely caring teachers are leaving their jobs due to this Harris monster. Clearly Bromley are also at fault for blindly allocating places to a non-approved school - stupid! My children also go to Unicorn school and I am saddened that we are being instructed (forced) to take on 30 pupils. The bulge class debate was a long, controversial one and parents/staff everyone was consulted and given a say. We have not. And the cowardly, awful decision to tell us after school has closed when we could have known earlier (according to this article at least) is terrible. The letter from the council tells us very little and caused much frustration when I read it this morning. I am sure Unicorn will make that lucky 30 very welcome - they should bless their lucky stars to not be in a Harris. mrsbloosey
  • Score: 19

9:58am Fri 25 Jul 14

Rightly so says...

Why, when living in Foster Road, with a child already at Balgowan School, would you send another of your children to a school further away?

Maybe another parent who has fallen for the Harris propaganda.
Why, when living in Foster Road, with a child already at Balgowan School, would you send another of your children to a school further away? Maybe another parent who has fallen for the Harris propaganda. Rightly so
  • Score: 22

6:13pm Sat 26 Jul 14

Sabby2 says...

Harris are a very dishonest organisation who are not interested in students, only their image and results! They falsify reports of students, their staff turnover is very high, and they are trying to monopolise the entire area with their 'sausage factories'! Their students are treated as a commodity, not as individuals with individual needs. They have already failed the beckenham community with the current Harris academy beckenham. Promised as a 'local school'! Anyone who is in beckenham high street in the morning can see that the students are not local! Let this be a lesson to them and good on the residents of Manor way! Why should they put up with more cars, more litter, more noise?
Harris are a very dishonest organisation who are not interested in students, only their image and results! They falsify reports of students, their staff turnover is very high, and they are trying to monopolise the entire area with their 'sausage factories'! Their students are treated as a commodity, not as individuals with individual needs. They have already failed the beckenham community with the current Harris academy beckenham. Promised as a 'local school'! Anyone who is in beckenham high street in the morning can see that the students are not local! Let this be a lesson to them and good on the residents of Manor way! Why should they put up with more cars, more litter, more noise? Sabby2
  • Score: 19

9:46am Sun 27 Jul 14

Sabby2 says...

Eagles_Man wrote:
I can understand parents blaming the council, but perhaps they should also have a word with the selfish and short-sighted local residents who, to get this refused, must have been kicking up a stink over the new school. 'Selfish' because they are denying a decent education to the next generation and 'short-sighted' because, in return for any inconvenience caused by the traffic their house prices will benefit from being near a good school.
I don't think the residents of Manor way need to be concerned about their house prices! Manor way homes cost at least £1 million plus! If anything, the school would devalue the cost if the homes! A primary school on that site was never a good idea. The decision to put a primary school there in the first place was not done out of concern for the children who need places! Harris have yet to even build the new building that was promised to replace the old Kelsey buildings! It would seem they can talk the talk to get what they want but they can't deliver the goods! Don't blame the local residents or the council, blame the Harris machine!
[quote][p][bold]Eagles_Man[/bold] wrote: I can understand parents blaming the council, but perhaps they should also have a word with the selfish and short-sighted local residents who, to get this refused, must have been kicking up a stink over the new school. 'Selfish' because they are denying a decent education to the next generation and 'short-sighted' because, in return for any inconvenience caused by the traffic their house prices will benefit from being near a good school.[/p][/quote]I don't think the residents of Manor way need to be concerned about their house prices! Manor way homes cost at least £1 million plus! If anything, the school would devalue the cost if the homes! A primary school on that site was never a good idea. The decision to put a primary school there in the first place was not done out of concern for the children who need places! Harris have yet to even build the new building that was promised to replace the old Kelsey buildings! It would seem they can talk the talk to get what they want but they can't deliver the goods! Don't blame the local residents or the council, blame the Harris machine! Sabby2
  • Score: 12

9:10am Tue 29 Jul 14

demo53 says...

Of course local residents are also kicking up a stink on the proposals for the Harris primary in Shortlands. Have you seen the site? How will 420 pupils get proper facilities there? And have you tried driving around the site with narrow roads, commuter parking and buses trying to contend for passing space? In addition, while Bromley needs more primary places, Shortlands is already catered for - the shortfall is in Penge, Beckenham and Bromley North. Most will have to be driven to and picked up from the site causing further congestion and safety hazards. Because of the ludicrous way in which these things are done there are now 60 children preparing to start their education in temporary accommodation in an ex DWP office at Bromley South. Not what I'd want for my kids.
Of course local residents are also kicking up a stink on the proposals for the Harris primary in Shortlands. Have you seen the site? How will 420 pupils get proper facilities there? And have you tried driving around the site with narrow roads, commuter parking and buses trying to contend for passing space? In addition, while Bromley needs more primary places, Shortlands is already catered for - the shortfall is in Penge, Beckenham and Bromley North. Most will have to be driven to and picked up from the site causing further congestion and safety hazards. Because of the ludicrous way in which these things are done there are now 60 children preparing to start their education in temporary accommodation in an ex DWP office at Bromley South. Not what I'd want for my kids. demo53
  • Score: 3

6:38pm Tue 29 Jul 14

disgruntres says...

I am so pleased that people are begining to see Harris in it's true light.
It does not put children/students first. It is too corporate; their management codes are not transferable to the education system. Hence children and staff suffer. Excellent teachers from both lower grades to higher management within their schools are leaving in drones, only to be replaced bycheaper NQT's.Cator Park was a happy, well run school. It had rising results.Suited staff , unrealistic targets did not bode well for this previously well run and had a reputation for caring for the students in an individual way. Breathe a sigh of relief, despite any temporary in convenience , that the take over of the south-east by Harris has been halted.Diversity is needed ,not one large institution.Philanth
ropic as Lord Harris is he should stick to carpets!
I am so pleased that people are begining to see Harris in it's true light. It does not put children/students first. It is too corporate; their management codes are not transferable to the education system. Hence children and staff suffer. Excellent teachers from both lower grades to higher management within their schools are leaving in drones, only to be replaced bycheaper NQT's.Cator Park was a happy, well run school. It had rising results.Suited staff , unrealistic targets did not bode well for this previously well run and had a reputation for caring for the students in an individual way. Breathe a sigh of relief, despite any temporary in convenience , that the take over of the south-east by Harris has been halted.Diversity is needed ,not one large institution.Philanth ropic as Lord Harris is he should stick to carpets! disgruntres
  • Score: 13

5:41am Wed 30 Jul 14

Petras says...

demo53 wrote:
Of course local residents are also kicking up a stink on the proposals for the Harris primary in Shortlands. Have you seen the site? How will 420 pupils get proper facilities there? And have you tried driving around the site with narrow roads, commuter parking and buses trying to contend for passing space? In addition, while Bromley needs more primary places, Shortlands is already catered for - the shortfall is in Penge, Beckenham and Bromley North. Most will have to be driven to and picked up from the site causing further congestion and safety hazards. Because of the ludicrous way in which these things are done there are now 60 children preparing to start their education in temporary accommodation in an ex DWP office at Bromley South. Not what I'd want for my kids.
Frankly that is utter rubbish. The Kingswood site and associated plans make a lot of sense. There are many two form entry primary schools on much smaller sites and with far far worse traffic issues. Just look at the Valley school nearby as an example. This is Snooty Shortlands residents with a big NIMBY attitude. It's going to happen, without a doubt, is needed as has been proved. Get over it
[quote][p][bold]demo53[/bold] wrote: Of course local residents are also kicking up a stink on the proposals for the Harris primary in Shortlands. Have you seen the site? How will 420 pupils get proper facilities there? And have you tried driving around the site with narrow roads, commuter parking and buses trying to contend for passing space? In addition, while Bromley needs more primary places, Shortlands is already catered for - the shortfall is in Penge, Beckenham and Bromley North. Most will have to be driven to and picked up from the site causing further congestion and safety hazards. Because of the ludicrous way in which these things are done there are now 60 children preparing to start their education in temporary accommodation in an ex DWP office at Bromley South. Not what I'd want for my kids.[/p][/quote]Frankly that is utter rubbish. The Kingswood site and associated plans make a lot of sense. There are many two form entry primary schools on much smaller sites and with far far worse traffic issues. Just look at the Valley school nearby as an example. This is Snooty Shortlands residents with a big NIMBY attitude. It's going to happen, without a doubt, is needed as has been proved. Get over it Petras
  • Score: -5

2:04pm Wed 30 Jul 14

reasonable75 says...

Why for a school with 120 places do they need 80 parking spaces?
Why for a school with 120 places do they need 80 parking spaces? reasonable75
  • Score: 5

6:19pm Wed 30 Jul 14

taz2553 says...

If you were to read the article correctly, you would see that it is not Bromley Council nor Harris to blame. The council planners approved of the scheme, it is the councillors on the planning committee that voted against.
Working for harris at another of their secondary schools, I feel that many of these comments are very unfair. Harris have a proved record of turning round failing schools - schools that would otherwise be forced into special measures or even closed! Yes, they work their students and staff very hard, but they also instill a great deal of pride and self worth into students that may otherwise have been failed by the education system. The house prices around many Harris Academies have risen considerably and they are always well oversubscribed.
I'd like to know where those people that opposed this so vehemently would suggest that the council build another new primary to deal with the crisis that we are now facing in Bromley for school places! A very big deal of NIMBY! Who else do you see in the local area willing to put up the money and resources to build much needed schools? The Council certainly dont have the money to do so themselves!
If you were to read the article correctly, you would see that it is not Bromley Council nor Harris to blame. The council planners approved of the scheme, it is the councillors on the planning committee that voted against. Working for harris at another of their secondary schools, I feel that many of these comments are very unfair. Harris have a proved record of turning round failing schools - schools that would otherwise be forced into special measures or even closed! Yes, they work their students and staff very hard, but they also instill a great deal of pride and self worth into students that may otherwise have been failed by the education system. The house prices around many Harris Academies have risen considerably and they are always well oversubscribed. I'd like to know where those people that opposed this so vehemently would suggest that the council build another new primary to deal with the crisis that we are now facing in Bromley for school places! A very big deal of NIMBY! Who else do you see in the local area willing to put up the money and resources to build much needed schools? The Council certainly dont have the money to do so themselves! taz2553
  • Score: -4

10:23pm Wed 30 Jul 14

Sabby2 says...

taz2553 wrote:
If you were to read the article correctly, you would see that it is not Bromley Council nor Harris to blame. The council planners approved of the scheme, it is the councillors on the planning committee that voted against.
Working for harris at another of their secondary schools, I feel that many of these comments are very unfair. Harris have a proved record of turning round failing schools - schools that would otherwise be forced into special measures or even closed! Yes, they work their students and staff very hard, but they also instill a great deal of pride and self worth into students that may otherwise have been failed by the education system. The house prices around many Harris Academies have risen considerably and they are always well oversubscribed.
I'd like to know where those people that opposed this so vehemently would suggest that the council build another new primary to deal with the crisis that we are now facing in Bromley for school places! A very big deal of NIMBY! Who else do you see in the local area willing to put up the money and resources to build much needed schools? The Council certainly dont have the money to do so themselves!
Building a primary school on the site where Harris academy Beckenham sits, was never a good idea! It would cause a lot of congestion and a parking nightmare! They should have looked elsewhere! Harris May well be used to going into areas where the schools are failing, but, there are no failing primary schools in Beckenham! Manor way is also a very affluent part of Beckenham! I don't suppose any of its residents even send their children to state schools or much less Academies! Yes, we need more schools, more choice but a Harris should not be the only choice. Harris are very cold and corporate, not nurturing or caring, and yes, maybe they should stick to carpets!
[quote][p][bold]taz2553[/bold] wrote: If you were to read the article correctly, you would see that it is not Bromley Council nor Harris to blame. The council planners approved of the scheme, it is the councillors on the planning committee that voted against. Working for harris at another of their secondary schools, I feel that many of these comments are very unfair. Harris have a proved record of turning round failing schools - schools that would otherwise be forced into special measures or even closed! Yes, they work their students and staff very hard, but they also instill a great deal of pride and self worth into students that may otherwise have been failed by the education system. The house prices around many Harris Academies have risen considerably and they are always well oversubscribed. I'd like to know where those people that opposed this so vehemently would suggest that the council build another new primary to deal with the crisis that we are now facing in Bromley for school places! A very big deal of NIMBY! Who else do you see in the local area willing to put up the money and resources to build much needed schools? The Council certainly dont have the money to do so themselves![/p][/quote]Building a primary school on the site where Harris academy Beckenham sits, was never a good idea! It would cause a lot of congestion and a parking nightmare! They should have looked elsewhere! Harris May well be used to going into areas where the schools are failing, but, there are no failing primary schools in Beckenham! Manor way is also a very affluent part of Beckenham! I don't suppose any of its residents even send their children to state schools or much less Academies! Yes, we need more schools, more choice but a Harris should not be the only choice. Harris are very cold and corporate, not nurturing or caring, and yes, maybe they should stick to carpets! Sabby2
  • Score: 9

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