Parents in revolt at £18,000-a-year girls school over expansion plans

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Parents at an exclusive private school for girls are in revolt over “unsuitable” and “disruptive” plans for new buildings and increased pupil numbers.

Almost 100 parents at Putney High School, whose alumnae include BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth, double Oscar-winning film costume designer Jenny Beavan, and Disney acting star Sophie Simnett, have signed a petition opposing a proposed four-year development.

Headmistress Suzie Longstaff and the board of governors want to start work early next year on the first phase, which will include a new “school run” drop-off lane and temporary classrooms and labs. 

The longer-term vision features new permanent science labs and music rooms, a drama and debating block and upgraded dining facilities for the £18,192-a-year school. The senior school pupil roll would rise by 84 to 1,060, guaranteeing four forms at year 7 entry.

Critics say the plans will lead to years of building work, the loss of open space and more traffic around the school.

The petition states that the first phase will see the “loss of the junior school science garden, newly installed long jump pit, a tennis court, many mature trees and 30 per cent of the girls’ astro-turf sports/play area”.

It also says the plan “seems disproportionately unfair on the school’s current population” and will create “overcrowding and closeness of groups with different social and developmental needs”.

A consultation on the plans ended yesterday after the 124-year-old school broke up for the holidays. Parents commenting on the petition agreed with its concerns. Rachel Watson said: “It would be a real shame if our girls were to lose the only small green space they have. My daughter often tells me she has spent her breaks playing there. I would also not use the drop-off area.”

Another mother, Angela Lo, said: “I am really upset with those parents who continue to drive and park irresponsibly… And I find this plan to be going backwards as other local schools are replacing drop-off areas with much-needed green space.” School leaders said consultation responses will be fully reflected in any planning application lodged with Wandsworth council. 

A spokeswoman for Putney High said: “Every comment will now be carefully considered, we will then write to parents and neighbours early next week to let them know what feedback we have received and how it informed our thinking. There will at that stage be another opportunity for parents and neighbours to have their say before formal plans are drawn up and submitted.”

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