Charlton’s local schools – are they good enough for your kids?

There aren’t any secondary schools in Charlton – but there are plenty nearby. Are they worth sending your kids to, though? I went to one and came out alright, but that what’s it like now? With plenty of friends upping sticks and leaving town, Charlton Champion reader Paul Chapman and his wife recently thought through the dilemma, and came to a surprising conclusion.

As the Dad of two small children (Mabel, three, and Max, nearly one) I have spent a lot of time in the last year or so having a conversation with my wife about schools in and around Charlton.

The feedback we’ve had from other local parents is – rightly or wrongly – that secondary schools in the borough are poor. In fact, of the five parents of young children we have met since we’ve lived in Charlton, three have since moved out of the borough (and London) altogether and in each case I can safely say that the unwillingness to have their children educated locally was the prime motivation. Of the remaining two couples, one send their children to a local private school (which is not something my wife and I could afford to do even if we wanted to, which we wouldn’t).

Recently we were forced to make a decision. For various reasons we decided that we needed an extra room and so, in considering whether to move home, we had to decide whether to move locally (which realistically meant sending our eldest to a local secondary school) or follow a number of our friends to the ends of the earth (in most cases Kent) in search of better schools.

We decided we needed some more information so I went online. This table of 150 local authorities ranked on GCSE achievements was not promising (if you don’t have time to look for yourself, Greenwich is 18th from bottom).

But we looked around a bit more and took heart from this Department for Education site showing that from a very low standard in 2005 the borough is actually making impressive strides in improving local educational achievements.

The percentage of students gaining 5+ GCSEs including English and Maths in 2009, that made it rank 132th out of 150 in the first link was 43.4%. However, considering that in 2005 this was a dismal 34.3%, and by 2010 it had reached 50.1%, this looked to us like an impressive improvement.

Finally, we looked at a local school we had heard was quite good – John Roan – while there are no guarantees as to which school our children will get into – the fact that it looked good and would mean that our kids had the chance of a decent local education with other children they actually lived near to made us resolve to stay in Charlton, where we are all very happy, and throw in our lot with the Greenwich education system.

Of course we know it is not just the school that determines a child’s education achievements and the work we put in as parents as well as a host of other factors will ultimately decide whether Mabel and Max end up in university or borstal.

But the schools in the area will have a significant impact on the education of our two kids, time and exam results will determine whether we made the right choice.

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Jump on the free Big Red Bus – and help Charlton’s children


A group of local mums have stepped in to save a Charlton playgroup from closure.

Greenwich Council cut funding for the Charlton One O’Clock Club – next to Charlton School on Cemetery Lane – earlier this year. But it has reopened as The Big Red Bus Club, after parents stepped in to take over the running of the club.

Open Monday to Thursdays from 12:30pm-3pm, if offers a healthy eating tuck shop open to all, a large play area with climbing frames, a ball pit, and a place for parents, grandparents and carers to meet and chat.

Organisers are determined to keep the centre free – but want to get as many local people involved as possible, from parents who can join in and spend time with the children, to anyone who can help lock up at the end of the day.

Greenwich Council is allowing the group to use the building – and they are hoping to raise funds by hiring out the centre for children’s parties.

If you want to get involved, visit The Big Red Bus website to find out more.

How was the Horn Fayre for you?

So who rocked up to the Horn Fayre late and with a flat battery in his camera? Thanks to ThePirateKing for the photos above, and to Diamond Geezer for the pictures below. (He’s also posted about the fair today.)

It’s always seemed an odd event to me – it seems to pop up out of nowhere, there’s a random selection of stalls, and there wasn’t a timetable for events to take a look at. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. But the kids running around had fun, and that counts more than anything else. If you went, what did you think?

Sssshhh…. it’s Charlton’s Horn Fayre this Sunday

It’s the traditional Horn Fayre in Charlton Park this Sunday from 11am-4pm. I wish I could tell you lots of information about what’s planned, but there’s nothing at all – no mention in Greenwich Council’s Greenwich Time weekly, just a banner outside Charlton House referring you to the council website where you’ll find no editorial on it at all.

Search hard, and you’ll get this:

Horn Fayre is a lively and popular annual event attracting more than 2,000 visitors and features stalls from community groups, charities and local retailers.

There’s also music – you can hear from Drum Africa on In The Meantime – and you can find out more about the fair’s history thanks to Alan Palmer on this very site.

The rain might even ease off, too… so it looks like a good day. Shame there’s been so little publicity – if you know any more about what’s going on, please enlighten us below.

Saturday update: Thanks to Sarah for finding a flyer for the Horn Fayre… knobbly knees, eh?

Poundland arrives: Is Greenwich Shopping Park in decline?

Poundland Charlton

You may or may not be aware that the HMV in the Greenwich Shopping Park has been transformed into a Poundland. Now, HMV’s woes are well known and it was only a matter of time before it closed, but would anybody have guessed a Poundland would be its replacement? Don’t get me wrong, I do love a pound shop, but are they not reserved for crumbling high streets such as Eltham, Woolwich and Sidcup? Would an out-of-town retail park, that was only completed in August 2003, be looking for something more? A Marks & Spencer, a Game, a Vision Express or a Desire by Debenhams perhaps?

Is this just a sign of the times or a sinister slide in fortunes?

Incidentally, it opens this Thursday and there’s a family fun day on Saturday as David Platt (the Coronation Street character not the footballer) will be at the store from 10am until 1pm to sign autographs and give away vouchers.

Southeastern U-turn on Charlton station Olympic cuts

A full service will run at Charlton for the Olympics

Proposed service cuts at Charlton station during next summer’s Olympics have been scrapped, it has emerged.

The rail company planned to axe two out of the eight trains which serve the station each hour as part of a package of cuts at local stops designed to accommodate extra numbers attending events in Greenwich Park and Woolwich Barracks.

But after a meeting on Tuesday between Southeastern MD Charles Horton, Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford, and David Gardner of the Charlton Rail Users Group, it was confirmed that services between Woolwich Arsenal, Lewisham and Charing Cross would continue to stop at Charlton during the Olympics.

Furthermore, a dedicated bus service to the North Greenwich (O2) Arena will convey Olympics visitors from Charlton station.

Southeastern had originally claimed facilities did not exist at Charlton – which had a bus terminal put in as part of the Millennium Dome project – to run such a service.

The move at Charlton follows pressure from the rail users’ group, Nick Raynsford and Greenwich Council.

It is not yet known what is happening with other stations on the network that were due to face cuts, such as Woolwich Dockyard, scheduled to close altogether; and Deptford and Westcombe Park, due see services cut to two per hour.

Southeastern came under ferocious criticism from rail users and local politicians for their plans to cut services.

The company said the cancellations were needed to allow trains to spend longer picking up and dropping off passengers at Greenwich and Woolwich Dockyard stations.

Full details of the new timetables are expected to be confirmed by July.

Neville’s Island reviewed

Alexandra Players
Neville's Island 2-4 June 2011 - Left to Right: Nik Renouf (Gordon) Mark Higgins (Angus) Keith Hartley (Roy) and Roy Moore (Neville)

A review by local resident Paul Little of the latest production by Charlton’s amateur theatre group – the Alexandra Players. For more details of the group contact alexandraplayers@gmail.com.

The play Neville’s Island brings to mind the 1954 novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  In that novel, Golding uses children to show man’s capable descent into turmoil and savagery.  In his play Tim Firth chooses to use four middle aged, middle management men to do near on the same.  These men are stranded though, not on some remote exotic island, but upon the wet and cold environs of Rampsholme Island on Derwentwater in the Lake District.  However, Neville, Gordon, Angus and Roy’s descent is equally as quick as Ralph and his allies in Lord of the Flies and the play demonstrates how they are brought down by the rumours and prejudices they have cultivated in their office environment and which now bloom on the island.

If this rather quick synopsis makes the play sound overly serious, a glance at the subtitle of the play (‘A comedy in thick fog’) points out its aims towards a mixture of comedy and darkness.  This is not an easy balance to achieve and it is this tightrope that director Antonia Mochan – directing her first play for the Alexandra Players – must tread on.  She does it admirably well.  The production combines successfully almost slapstick like moments along with intimate revelations by certain characters.  This allows Mochan to position the audience in such a way that they are not tipped wholly into mirth or reflection at any one time but are still reciprocal to both.

The pace of the play was quick and this produced the one flaw of the evening and that was the clapping which happened between every scene.  This might have been due to an overzealous audience member, or maybe it was a ruse by the players to disguise the changes and accompanying noises between scenes.  Whatever the reason, this enforced clapping served to break up the flow of the play and disrupt the audience’s concentration from the stage.

This, however, is but a minor niggle and special mention must go to the very resourceful Dave Townsend.  He designed a set that uses the limited space on offer very well and gave a real sense of depth to the small stage.  Particular mention must be given to the ‘lookout tree’ which, when bathed in green light, becomes very effective in contributing to that mixture of humour and pathos.

It was Keith Hartley playing the character of Roy, a man coming apart once more at the seams, who was frequently up that tree.  Hartley played the character subtlety enough making Roy a man subject in equal measure to the annoyances and sympathy of the audience.  This is not to say the other three actors didn’t equip themselves very well, but Hartley edged ahead by being gifted those rare alone times on stage.  Even when he was stripped to just his underpants and was constantly reciting the opening line to the song ‘Oklahoma’, he commanded attention of the serious and comic kind.

The play ran for four nights and its success places one more good production under the belts of the versatile Alexandra Players.  It will be interesting to see what they tackle next.