1. ITV Report

Playing fields sold off at London schools, despite independent advice

Students play football on a field Photo: Reuters

A school in South West London is among 30 English schools to lose their playing fields, after the Education Secretary Michael Goveoverruled advice from an independent panel.

The playing field at Elliott school in Putney is being sold off to pay for a major refurbishment. It’s understood Mr Gove was advised not to allow the sale, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Another decision to approve a sale at Netley Primary School in Camden, north London, was also approved by ministers despite the application being withdrawn after the initial reports from the independent panel indicated the bid would be rejected unanimously.

The Department for Education has apologised after releasing inaccurate information about the number of school playing fields that have been sold off across the country. It said earlier this month that 21 playing fields had been approved for sale since May 2010, but that figure was then revised up to 30.

"We are sorry to say that the Secretary of State was provided with incorrect information about how many playing fields were disposed of since May 2010,” a Department spokesman said.

"Each decision was made by a minister after careful consideration of the arguments. Ministers have sought to ensure that proceeds go to improving sports facilities for young people overall.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has said the capital's policy on school playing fields is to preserve them, unless replacements can be provided else where.

He described the protection of school playing fields as vital for the health of young people.

"We don't believe in selling off playing fields and I think if you look at what we do in London, we have very clear rules that you can't sell off green space, you can't sell off playing fields.

"What you can do if you do need to expand a school - and there's huge pressure on school places - you can do that provided you increase the availability of playing fields, so you've got to have new provision of playing fields elsewhere."