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Indoors during the break: the school in an office building in London | Access to green space

Indoors during the break: the school in an office building in London |  Access to green space
Indoors during the break: the school in an office building in London |  Access to green space


Oasis Academy South Bank in Waterloo is located in a densely built-up corner of South London, so densely built that the only space found for the school was in a repurposed office building. There is no playground, no sports field, nowhere to play football during the break.

Steve Chalke is the founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, the organization that runs the school, one of 54 under their leadership across England. He admits it is a challenging environment.

We are in an old office building from the sixties. The children must be indoors during recess. We do have table tennis, but there is no room for other sports. We rent the local park, but it is difficult to rent sports fields locally. It costs a lot because we are in central London and they are not always available.

The land around the academy is hot property. Within walking distance, at Elephant & Castle station, cranes and excavators are a fixture, building thousands of expensive private homes on land that was once council-owned.

One parent, Kathy, whose 12-year-old daughter, energetic and restless, is a student at Oasis South Bank, says: The lack of outdoor space is a disadvantage, but I'm grateful we have a school in this area because up to We didn't do that 10 years ago.

The school is hugely oversubscribed. We send away many more children than we take in, says Chalke.

And Kathy and her daughter have some outdoor space, a communal garden in front of their flat and an allotment. It's not just about space, but also about greenery, she says. Not everyone around here has that.

Another parent, Sarah, says it's the wider context that matters: we're lucky to live near one of London's last adventure playgrounds, so my son can go there after school, but I walk pass through many estates here and see the 'No Ball Games' signs. everywhere. To me that is a bigger problem than what happens at school.

Chalke and his team are busy looking for land they can use as urban farms or special spaces for the children we know cannot cope in the classroom. They already have an urban farm in Waterloo.

And he's concerned about the decisions local governments make. Just down the road from us is a former primary school, a Victorian building that will outlast any school building built today. If we ran it we could have six forms of access, it had fantastic playgrounds.

Instead, the municipality sold it in the 1980s. They are now expensive apartments and those playgrounds are now private gardens and parking lots. So when we needed a new school in this area, the only thing affordable was an office building.

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He warns that London's boroughs do not own enough land for children to live and breathe.

Municipalities convert land into housing, but leave local schools with sufficient space. I see very cramped new schools where the staff tells me: you can't swing a cat here.

Local governments do not think about the next generation when they build too many homes. Once the space is gone, it's gone forever. Children need green space for their mental health and, to our long-term regret, we neglect this.




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