853 exclusive: England defender Rio Ferdinand’s old secondary school is set to be closed under plans to be discussed by Greenwich councillors next week.
Blackheath Bluecoat could close its doors in summer 2013 after a steady drop in pupil numbers over recent years, with academic standards remaining below local and national averages, according to a report to be presented to cabinet members.
The school is also over £1 million in debt, the report says, with pupil numbers at the Church of England school dropping by a third over the past five years.
Education chiefs at the church’s Southwark diocese have agreed the school, whose history dates back to 1700, is “not sustainable” on current admissions.
It had been planned to move the school to the Greenwich Peninsula, although those plans fell through when the coalition government axed its predecessor’s Building Schools for the Future programme last year.
“Despite being the only C of E secondary school in Greenwich, and the efforts made by the school to promote itself to parents of children attending local C of E primary schools, it has not succeeded in securing a significant share of pupils transferring into Year 7,” the document reads.
“This contrasts with the demand for places in Church of England primary schools in Greenwich which offer 8 forms of entry in total and which are consistently full.”
Blackheath Bluecoat linked up with St Cecilia’s School in Wandsworth in 2009 and was rated “satisfactory” by Ofsted in 2010. It had also been mooted that the school would take over the nearby disused playing field at Hervey Road, Kidbrooke. But despite improving results, the school has continued to suffer from a bad reputation, especially in its immediate neighbourhood, and now only has 481 pupils outside the sixth form – when it has capacity for 900.
Neighbouring John Roan is just 10 short of being full up, while Thomas Tallis is three short of capacity.
“Although the school’s performance has improved, this has not been translated into an improvement in the perceptions of the school in the wider community or the pattern of recruitment,” the report says.
“On current trends, there is no sign that the school’s position is likely to improve substantially in the foreseeable future.”
Pupils from across south-east London have attended the school over the years, with Peckham-raised Rio Ferdinand among its most famous ex-pupils, along with brother Anton. Stephen Lawrence, killed in a racist attack in Eltham in 1993, was also a student.
Many of its pupils are from the Woolwich and Plumstead areas, but significant numbers also come from across both Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs, with some coming from as far afield as Rotherhithe and Peckham. Two-thirds are black, with 18.5% white, with slightly more boys (53%) than girls at the school.
Current pupils can easily be accommodated by other schools in Greenwich and Lewisham, the report says, although it adds a new school will be needed in Greenwich from 2016 – with the council still aiming to build one on the peninsula.
A university technical college in Charlton for 14-19 year-olds, backed by Greenwich University and Lewisham College, is also expected to fill the gap from 2013 along with an extra form at Thomas Tallis in Kidbrooke.
It is planned to accept no more new pupils to Blackheath Bluecoat, with current year 7-9 pupils transferring to new schools in 2012. The remainder are expected to finish their GCSE and A-level courses in 2013.
An 11-week consultation period is due to start on 28 September, with a final decision to be made in January.
The school’s name is derived from the Blue Coat School for Girls, which opened in Greenwich in 1700. In 1959 it became “Blackheath and Bluecoat” school after merging with the Blackheath & Kidbrook [sic] school, which had opened on Old Dover Road in 1911 on land donated by Sir Spencer Maryon Wilson. The current buildings date back to 1973.
If you know Blackheath Bluecoat well as a parent or pupil, I’d be interested to hear your views.
The full documents can be found by scrolling to the end of this page.