Kensington Academy Frequently Asked Questions

This list below are some of the frequesntly asked questions about the Kensington Academy and leisure centre.

The need for an academy

1. Why does the Royal Borough need a new school?

As a local authority the Council has a responsibility to provide sufficient school places for residents in the Royal Borough.

Over 30 per cent of local students currently travel outside the Royal Borough for their secondary education. Demand for secondary school places is especially pressing in North Kensington and this situation is only set to increase with the growing population.

We need to address this issue to ensure that children have access to sufficient high quality education within the Royal Borough now and in the future.

2. Will every child be guaranteed a place in this academy?

Children will have to apply for a place in the academy, in the same way that they do for any other state school. Admissions are fair, and must be in accordance with the School Admissions Code.

About academies

3. What are academies?

Academies are publicly-funded independent local schools that provide a first-class free education. They are all-ability schools established by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups working with partners from the local community.

Academies provide a teaching and learning environment that is in line with the best in the maintained sector and offer a broad and balanced curriculum to pupils of all abilities, focusing especially on one or more specialism.

About the Kensington Aldridge Academy

4. Which architects were appointed to design the new academy?

The competition to design a new academy and leisure centre for North Kensington was won by a Studio E-led team. Studio E are experienced school and leisure centre designers, having worked on the City Academy Hackney, the Ark Academy Wembley, the Burgess Park Community Sports Centre and the Watford Leisure Centre Central.

The architects are also familiar with our borough having redesigned Emslie Horniman Pleasance, the classroom of the future at St Francis of Assisi primary and they completed the sports and IT extension to St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College.

5. Why is this an academy and not just a regular school?

Establishing academies is the Government’s preferred method for funding schools in the UK. To qualify for financial support from the Government for this school we needed to ensure that it was an academy.

Academies were introduced in 2000 to bring a distinctive approach to school leadership by drawing on the skills of their sponsors and supporters. They are an integral aspect of the Government’s strategy to raise education standards in disadvantaged and challenging areas.

Academy status also gives the school greater freedom to promote enterprise and innovation while offering students the opportunity to specialise.

6. Will you have to pay to send a child to this academy?


Academies are state schools and they are completely free of charge.

7. How many pupils will be admitted each year?

In total 180 pupils will be admitted each year.

8. Who are the sponsors of the academy?

The lead sponsor of the academy is the Aldridge Foundation with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as co-sponsor. The two sponsors have established a very strong and positive working relationship and have a proven track record in delivering high performing schools.

The Aldridge Foundation already sponsors academies in Darwen, Brighton, Portslade and on Portland. Darwen opened in 2008 and has achieved excellent GCSE and A level results. Brighton, which started from a challenging base in 2010 as an underperforming school, has now been transformed. Portslade is in its second year of operation whilst Portland opened in September 2012.

All academies the Aldridge Foundation sponsor are non-selective, non-denominational, community schools for local students and their families.

The Royal Borough is the co-sponsor of the Chelsea Science Academy which opened on time and to budget in September 2009. The Council will ensure that the Kensington Aldridge Academy plays a key role as a leader of teaching and learning.

9. Will the sponsors benefit financially from the academy?

No. The Aldridge Foundation is a not-for-profit charitable organisation.

10. What will the curriculum be like?

The main focus of education will be on core subjects, with an emphasis on English Baccalaureat curriculum areas.

Entrepreneurship will be used to give a context to all core subjects including mathematics, English and science, whilst also building vitally important employability skills such as team-working and determination. The academy will also specialise in performing and creative arts, enhancing creativity and confidence for students, whilst providing a route to employment in creative industries.

11. What will the academy specialise in?

Aldridge academies have a focus on entrepreneurship, developing in students a state of mind which strives to solve problems rather than accept defeat. It provides context for the learning of core subjects and is integrated into all areas of academy life. Attributes such as determination, passion, risk-taking, problem-solving, teamwork and creativity are encouraged through lessons, enrichment activities such as after school clubs, the rewards system and our work with the broader community.

In keeping with the sponsors’ commitment to developing a curriculum that makes learning relevant and provides skills for life, the academy’s specialism will be performing and creative arts. This part of the borough is rich in its vibrancy and enthusiasm for the expressive arts and the academy will contribute significantly to the cultural life of the community through this specialism.

12. How will the academy be able to deliver a full sports curriculum and would it have access to other sports facilities?

  • The academy will offer a full sports curriculum in line with other state schools. The finer details of the provision will be finalised once the principal is in post. However, the Aldridge Foundation has already begun looking at neighbouring facilities with a view to maximising opportunities.
  • The academy will benefit from a modern sports hall, a multi-use games area, and shared facilities at the leisure centre. In addition, other off-site local sports facilities will be fully utilised, further building community links.
  • The academy itself will have the facilities to offer opportunities ranging from gymnastics to basketball, and table tennis to fencing, as well as a five-a-side football pitch.

13. When will the academy open?

The academy will open in September 2014

14. Are the transport links sufficient in the area to support an academy?

The studies we have carried out so far have shown that a school can be supported on this site by the existing transport links.

The academy will be required to produce a detailed travel plan to identify staff and pupil travel patterns. In the interim, a framework travel plan has been submitted as part of the planning application and sets out the broad principles for travel and access to the site, showing strategies that will be employed to encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport.

15. What will the new academy look like?

Studio E’s designs can be viewed below.

16. How will admissions be arranged? Are they based on proximity to the academy?

Yes, admissions will be based on locality.

The academy will be a local school serving the local community and will adopt the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s admissions criteria. An admissions priority area is being proposed as part of the academy plans. This will not exclude parents outside the area but will ensure it is first and foremost a neighbourhood school. The postcodes included within the priority areas are W10, W11, W12, W14 and a small area of W2.

There will be no selection by ability, gender or religion.

17. Would there be provision for special needs education?

The academy will welcome local students, including those with special educational needs. Children of all abilities will be able to benefit from the new academy.

In addition, the academy will house a small specialist provision available for up to twenty students with a range of social and communication difficulties, including autism and Asperger syndrome. The provision will be in the form of a centre in the academy with specialist staff, including teachers and trained teaching assistants. The purpose of the provision will be to enable the students to participate, contribute and achieve, both in the centre and, where possible, alongside their peers in mainstream lessons and other activities. The centre will be funded by the Royal Borough and run by the academy.

18. What will the age range be at the academy?

The new academy will be co-educational and will grow from its initial year one intake in 2014 to eventually accommodating 900 11 to 16-year-olds. From 2016, a sixth form will also start with a single year intake and will grow to up to 240 students.

19. How would parents be involved in the academy?

We hope that all parents will want to get involved in the life of the academy and play a part in the success of the school. A principal will be appointed early in 2013 and is expected to be in post a year before the academy opens. One of their first priorities will be to define the many ways in which parents will be able to get involved.

20. Will the academy be available to the community?

The academy will play a full part in local life and facilities such as the sports hall, dance studio and theatre will also be available for students, adults and community groups to use outside of school hours.

Dedicated entrepreneurial areas or ‘pods’ will be available in the academy to help students and members of the community develop their business ideas.

Academy’s cost

21. How much will the academy cost and how will it be funded?

  • A total of £57.8 million has been agreed towards the building of the new academy and leisure centre.
  • The Council will provide £10.4 million for the academy in addition to the £17.6 million already provided for the academy by the DfE. This extra funding will ensure that the academy is built to the same high standards as Chelsea Academy.

22. Will this school cost as much as Chelsea Academy?

The costs associated with academy projects need to be considered on an individual basis.

There were specific site conditions at Chelsea Academy which meant that some £4-5 million pounds of additional funding was required and the programme was procured at the peak of the market. Building costs alone have since decreased by some nine per cent. Additionally, Chelsea Academy received £36.2 million of funding from central government whereas the Kensington Aldridge Academy was granted £17.6 million. This is a reflection of the changed economic situation that we are now in.

With this additional funding in place, better conditions on site and efficiencies from improved procurement methods, the Council is confident that a state-of-the-art academy, meeting the same high standards as Chelsea Academy can be delivered.

23. Is the Council using its reserves to fund the school?

Yes, the Royal Borough is funding £10.4 million towards the academy from its reserves with the remaining £17.6 million coming from the Government’s contribution.

24. Will the Aldridge Foundation be contributing any money towards the building of the academy?

The remit of the Aldridge Foundation as lead sponsor has never been to contribute financially to the capital cost of building the academy, although it has contributed substantially to the planning process through its expertise and experience.

The Aldridge Foundation will provide the ethos and educational direction for the school in perpetuity and deliver the high standard curriculum that we aspire to in the Royal Borough.

The leisure centre


25. How old is the leisure centre?

The leisure centre was originally built in the mid-1970s as a swimming pool.

It was further developed in 1986 to include dry-side facilities including full size and smaller sports halls and squash courts. In 2001 Kensington Leisure centre was reopened after a £3m redevelopment and upgrading which resulted in an improved swimming pool, sports hall, new café bar/reception and better facilities for disabled people.

26. Wasn’t the leisure centre recently refurbished?

The latest significant redevelopment took place more than a decade ago, in 2001. Since then no major improvement works have taken place and the facilities and the building itself have aged significantly.

27. Has the Council considered alternative sites for the leisure centre?

The Council has considered other sites that might be suitable for the construction of a new leisure centre and found no other sites in North Kensington currently available for development that could realistically be used to house a new leisure centre to the minimum specification.

Also we know that local people treasure having this facility there and we want to make sure that local communities can enjoy it for many years to come. Rebuilding it is the most effective way of ensuring that this is achieved.

28. Will the same or additional facilities be included in the new leisure centre?

The new leisure centre will have more facilities then the current one. For example, the new fitness suite will have 120 stations compared to the current one which has 55.

Our proposals for a fully accessible centre include:

  • 25-metre, eight-lane swimming pool for teaching and swimming at all levels
  • 250-seat spectator gallery
  • 20-metre teaching pool with mobile floor
  • leisure pool
  • 120-station gym
  • spin studio
  • eight-court multi-use hall
  • spectator seating
  • two fitness studios
  • two squash courts with moveable wall giving the potential for a third fitness studio
  • sauna/steam facilities with treatment rooms
  • male, female, group and family changing facilities
  • a café and meeting area


29. What is wrong with the present premises?

The current centre was built in the 1970s and just isn’t tailored to the health needs and pastimes of local people. The internal layout is sprawling and as a result makes poor use of the space. The layout also makes the building hard to maintain and oversee and therefore expensive to run. We believe by rebuilding rather than refurbishing we will significantly reduce running costs.

Environmentally speaking, the current centre is a poor building and refurbishment is unlikely to successfully address this failing. A new building would certainly be low carbon, in fact we would expect it to achieve a Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) “excellent” rating which wouldmean a significantly reduced carbon footprint and lower fuel bills.

Architecturally the current centre has little or no merit. With award-winning architects, Studio E, on board we believe we can do better. We want to design new and much-improved facilities that meet local needs and aspirations and which help people become healthier

But perhaps most importantly of all, the current centre is coming to the end of its useful life. Leisure centres built in the 70s typically have a lifespan of between 30 and 50 years. So the current centre’s time is up. As a result repair and maintenance costs are starting to mount. We think a really good refurbishment would only keep the centre in business for another decade or so and still leave fundamental shortcomings unaddressed.

Leisure Centre Cost

30. How much would it cost to put the current leisure centre right, compared with the cost of a rebuild?

The architects estimate that a full refurbishment would cost in the region of £14million, and would last around ten years, versus around £20 million lasting 50 years for a new centre.We also need to take into account that the running costs for the original building are also set to get more expensive as the building ages, so by rebuilding it now we can save money in the long-term.

Refurbishment on the scale of providing a like-for-like facility would still involve closing the leisure centre for up to a year.New build therefore provides a more cost effective construction option.

Consultation- you said, we did

31. Has the Council listened to the views of local people?

Over the past two years the Royal Borough and the Aldridge Foundation have consulted widely on the emerging proposals through a series of drop-in events,

workshops and exhibitions. The local community has also been kept informed through newsletters, a residents’ forum, the leisure centre user group and through the

Council and academy websites.

We have listened to and considered comments from the community every step of the way and below is a summary of how we have incorporated their feedback into the plans.

You said

We did

Not enough money is being invested in this project.

The Council’s Cabinet agreed funding of £40.2m in December 2011

That you were concerned about what would happen to public spaces.

We have planned significant improvements to the public realm including the redesign and improvement of Lancaster Green. We have also created a new green space to the front of the leisure centre

There should be more regular communication on the project.

We set up resident and leisure forums and communicate regularly through newsletters, websites and drop-in events and exhibitions.

As part of this development improvements should be made to the wider estate.

We looked carefully at how we could improve the estate and approved £6m of new funding to invest in Grenfell Tower.

That the leisure centre’s changing facilities needed to be improved.

We have ensured that there will be a range of changing facilities in the new leisure centre’s swimming area, including dedicated male and female changing, family changing areas and two group changing areas. The ‘dry’ activities will have male/female change areas.

To make the proposals as green as possible.

We expect to achieve a Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment (BREEAM) “excellent” rating for the development which would mean a significantly reduced carbon footprint and lower fuel bills.

That you were concerned that play areas and football pitches might be lost.

Investment to improve an underused pitch has been made five minutes away at the Westway Sports Centre. The current play area will stay on site but be enhanced significantly along with improvements to nearby green spaces.

That there are insufficient aids such as overhead tracking hoists for swimmers with disabilities and their carers.

The swimming pools will have a number of design features which will make them more accessible including hoists, shallow steps and a moveable floor in the teaching pool.

That the leisure centre’s facilities need to be better laid out

Customers of the new leisure centre will only have to travel short distances to reach the facilities and changing areas. The facilities will be fully accessible for people with disabilities and with much better external and internal signage.

Wider estate improvements

32. Will improvements such as new windows and cladding be made to the estate including Grenfell Tower?

There are plans to refurbish Grenfell Tower. Back in May 2012 the Council’s Cabinet approved £6m worth of investment for improvements to the Tower. The funds will be used to give the Tower new external cladding to provide an effective rain screen; double glazing to reduce noise, improve thermal efficiency and fuel economy; and controlled heating and water systems.

33. Is it true and new homes will be created at the base of Grenfell Tower?

By opening up the lower levels at its base, four-four bedroom and three three-bedroom new homes will be created for families on the housing waiting list. This remodelling work will also create an improved communal entrance, new office facilities and improved walkway access to the Tower.

34. What will happen to Grenfell under three’s nursery and the Dale Boxing Club?

The Grenfell under three’s nursery will move from its current location on the mezzanine level to the ground floor near a fenced play area. Currently it has no lift and the small staircase makes it difficult to access the outdoors. The space is divided into two disconnected areas which make managing the nursery difficult and the high windows block out natural light.

The Dale Boxing Club currently occupies the ground floor and is a very small facility for a vibrant and successful club which has produced several champions and a gold medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

About the Contractor

35. Which contractor has been chosen to build both the academy and leisure centre?

The Leadbitter Group has been awarded the contract for this project as they have the proven capability of delivering first-class developments.

36. How will local people find out about the works schedule?

As a considerate constructor, the Leadbitter Group will keep local people informed through newsletters and bulletins, as well as community open mornings. The dedicated community contact number is 07917 035096.

37. Will noise and dust levels be closely monitored?

During construction, noise will be strictly monitored and controlled. The construction methods used on these projects will reduce the need for noisy work, and hoardings erected around the site will provide further control.

The transmission of dust, particularly during the demolition of the existing leisure central, will be controlled by using water misting techniques.

38. How will vehicle movements be controlled on site?

Vehicle movements to and from the site will be strictly controlled, and deliveries will be required to arrive at particular times when they can be immediately directed onto site. No delivery vehicle will be allowed to park on the street. They will also not be allowed to leave the site in an uncontrolled manner – all vehicles will be released one by one to ensure local roads are not clogged.

Construction timeline

39. What is the timeline for works?

A phased construction programme is now underway and enabling works have already begun. The Silchester Road Car Park at the back of Kensington Leisure Centre and the centre’s three small artificial football pitches are now closed. The new leisure centre is scheduled to be completed by late autumn 2014 and the academy to open in September 2014.

40. What is Kensington Leisure Centre’s last day of business?

Kensington Leisure Centre’s last day of business will be Monday 24 December 2012.

41. What will happen to my Kensington Leisure Centre membership?

Current members will be able to transfer to other Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) facilities in neighbouring boroughs.

KALC Programme Board Minutes


42. What are the contact details for the project?

You can continue to email the Council with your support, questions and concerns or by writing to:

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Att: Shelley Gittens
Second Floor Town Hall
Hornton Street
W8 7NX

To contact the Leadbitter Group’s Community Engagement Team please call 07917 035096.