The Olive School in Hackney opened as a free school in 2013 and Ofsted has rated it outstanding in all areas. But despite its success, it has a problem: three-and-a-half years after opening, the school remains in temporary accommodation.
The Muslim primary school, which is sponsored by the Tauheedul Education Trust, had hoped to move into the grade II listed former Hackney Police Station building, but last June councillors threw out the planning application. Many of their concerns centred on worries that the site was too small for a three-form entry primary school.
Planning officers said that the site fell short of government standards for classroom sizes and that the 710m2 of outdoor space was “considerably below” the government’s recommended 2,000m2. The council concluded that the plans would provide “substandard educational accommodation”.
Hackney Learning Trust, which is responsible for the borough’s schools, said it had “concerns for the ability of the school to provide sufficient external facilities for the health and wellbeing of the children, including social interaction”.
The school’s plans to mitigate the limitations of the site included staggering key moments throughout the day, including start, break, lunch and departure. Education minister Lord Nash was even said to be due to talk to the local vicar to ensure weddings and funerals at the neighbouring church were sandwiched between drop-off and pick-up times. But the council’s independent design-review panel, which offers advice on projects, said that managing staggered lunchtime and playtimes would be “very challenging”.
The Hackney Society also raised “considerable concern over the intensity of the use”, and urged the school to consider a smaller intake.
The school, which did not respond to requests for comment, is now awaiting the outcome of an appeal against the denial of planning permission.