MD1546 Development of Fulham Police Station for The Fulham Boys School

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Code: 
MD1546
Date signed: 
21 September 2015
Decision by: 
Boris Johnson MP (past staff), Mayor of London

Executive summary

The Mayor is committed to help the Department for Education (DfE) find sites for approved new schools in London. The Fulham Boys School was approved by DfE in 2012 and is currently occupying temporary accommodation. A site of suitable size and location has been found – Fulham Police Station – which is currently under the ownership of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).  In order to co-operate with, and facilitate, the activities of the DfE in providing premises which are suitable for The Fulham Boys School, the Mayor is willing to contribute to DfE the sum of £5m from the Greater London Authority (GLA) for the redevelopment of Fulham Police Station. In taking this decision, it is envisaged that MOPAC will sell the Fulham Police Station site to DfE at market value.  

Decision

That the Mayor contributes to the Department for Education the sum of £5m for the redevelopment of Fulham Police Station in order to provide suitable accommodation for The Fulham Boys School.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

1.1       Whilst the Mayor does not have specific statutory responsibilities in the area of education, he does have a responsibility to promote the social and economic development of Greater London, which includes educational opportunities (e.g. section 31(4A) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 permits the GLA to incur expenditure on sponsoring academies or facilitating their sponsorship). The Mayor has made a strong commitment to prioritising young people in the capital by expanding their opportunities.

1.2       The Mayor recognises the importance of providing a good school place for every child and ensuring that they have the skills, knowledge and creativity to succeed in life. Therefore, on 10 November 2011 the Mayor announced that he was establishing an Education Inquiry to explore the critical challenges facing London’s primary and secondary schools and make practical recommendations for key stakeholders, including the Government and London boroughs.

1.3       The Education Inquiry produced a final report which made several recommendations to the Mayor.  Of particular relevance to this decision is that the report examines the growing crisis in school places and the negative consequences this will have for families across the city. The final report notes that London desperately needs more good quality provision. The Mayor wants to encourage a new generation of free schools in the capital, to help address the shortage of school places and to give parents a greater choice.

1.4       One of the recommendations made by the Education Inquiry was:

Recommendation 11: The Mayor’s office should work with boroughs, London Councils and the DfE to play a more strategic role in supporting free school developments in London, by identifying sites and targeting areas of local need.

1.5       The Mayor accepted and adopted recommendation 11 and set up a unit in the GLA called New Schools for London, which works in partnership with London boroughs and DfE to help find sites for approved new schools. The Mayor also committed to auditing the GLA group estate for 10 buildings or sites for purchase by DfE for new school developments.

Objectives and expected outcomes

2.1       The Fulham Boys School is a Church of England Secondary Free School which was approved by DfE in 2012, but due to difficulties in securing a permanent site, it opened in temporary accommodation in September 2014. In accordance with his commitments following the Education Inquiry, the Mayor has assisted The Fulham Boys School in seeking a permanent site which is of suitable size and can be delivered in an appropriate period of time in the Fulham area.

2.2       The site which has been identified as being appropriate for use by The Fulham Boys School is Fulham Police Station which is currently owned by MOPAC. The GLA understands that MOPAC has agreed to dispose of the site to DfE at market value.

2.3       The Education Funding Agency (EFA), acting on DfE’s behalf, proposes to redevelop the site for occupation by The Fulham Boys School.  The EFA may also choose to develop a small number of residential units on the site. In addition, there will be provision for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to provide a police counter service to the public, as well as the potential for out of hours use for (football) match day deployment of officers. 

2.4       The Mayor is committed to ensuring that new schools are established in London and considers that Fulham Police Station is the most appropriate, and indeed the only available site in Fulham, which can permanently accommodate The Fulham Boys School. The Mayor also recognises the significant benefits arising for the local community from the establishment of this secondary school. In order to support the development of the premises for use and occupation by The Fulham Boys School, the Mayor is willing to contribute the sum of £5m for redevelopment of the site.

2.5       The Mayor’s intervention is based on a unique set of circumstances at a local level, which involve – among others – Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The critical factor underpinning the Mayor’s intervention is the fact that The Fulham Boys School has already opened (in September 2014, as noted above) and each year is enrolling a new cohort of boys. Given this reality, which is not common to other new schools, the Mayor is of the view that his intervention is not only justified but also necessary in the light of legitimate parental aspirations in the area for both existing and future pupils. Were similar issues to arise with other new schools in London with which the Mayor is associated (and they have not done so far), then they would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

2.6       The Mayor does not view the level of financial support which he is providing as disproportionate. The GLA capital budget amounts to as much as £798m in 2015-16 and is expected to be in the order of £789m in 2016-17. In this context, the Mayor views his investment of £5m as reasonable and proportionate. It should also be borne in mind that the London Schools Excellence Fund, which is taking forward the recommendations arising from the Mayor’s Education Inquiry, is expected to incur costs of £20m. While an investment in a single school is a different type of intervention, it nevertheless does not appear to be an excessive amount to be contributing.

2.7       Finally, the GLA understands that EFA will be purchasing the Fulham Police Station site from MOPAC at a market value of £20m and that EFA will be contributing £11m of the £16m redevelopment costs of the site (with the remaining £5m coming from the GLA). Again, this would appear to be a reasonable arrangement and the GLA’s financial contribution is proportionate to the role it is playing in the scheme. 

Equality comments

3.1    Section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010 provides that, in the exercise of their functions, public authorities must have due regard to the need to:
•    Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act 2010;
•    Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and
•    Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

3.2    The obligation in section 149(1) is placed upon the Mayor, as decision maker. Due regard must be had at the time a particular decision is being considered. The duty is non-delegable and must be exercised with rigour and an open mind.  

3.3    The Fulham Boys School provides much needed secondary school places in the Fulham area. The Mayor has noted that the school is restricted to boys and that under the oversubscription criteria for the school approximately half of the places will be filled by practising Christians: this may be regarded as not advancing equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it as boys and practising Christians are favoured; the latter criteria could, however, be regarded as fostering good relations between persons with a Christian belief and those without. 

3.4    The Mayor’s intervention (as noted above) is driven by a commitment to maintain the school now that it has opened. The Mayor sees the school as one of a number of schools offering educational choices to pupils and parents in that area of London. Were other new schools in London with which the Mayor has an association to find themselves in a similar position, then the Mayor would consider any request for financial support on a case-by-case basis (again, as stated above). The Mayor is committed to working with others to ensure that there is a diverse provision of schools in London. 

3.5    As a result, any consideration of the financial support being provided to The Fulham Boys School by the GLA under the Mayor’s authority needs to include:  
•    An acknowledgement of the unique circumstances arising in Fulham whereby The Fulham Boys School has already opened and parents have legitimate expectations arising from that; and 
•    The Fulham Boys’ School does not operate in a vacuum and is one of a number of secondary schools in that area providing educational options to pupils and parents.  

Financial comments

4.1       The financial support of £5m will be met from the capital financial reserves held by the GLA.

Investment and Performance Board

6.1       This approval falls outside the terms of reference of the Investment & Performance Board.