London Assembly member calls on elite school to share its sports field with comprehensive pupils

London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi, who lives in Marylebone and is a former Westminster Labour councillor, wants the day and boarding school to allow nearby comprehensives to make use of its playing fields in Vincent Square.

Mr Qureshi, who attended Quintin Kynaston School, St John’s Wood, said educationist Lord Adonis mentioned Westminster School on BBC Radio 4 when talking about a campaign to encourage independent fee-paying schools to open up facilities for comprehensive pupils to use.

Mr Qureshi said the fields were “possibly the best sports space in Westminster”.

He said: “The difference between me and Andrew Adonis is that where he would seek to persuade Westminster School, I would actually take away their independent status if they do not comply.

“Tax relief on social exclusion is just not on. Pimlico Academy is the nearest comprehensive and there are primary schools around there that could probably do with the facilities. Something like 37 per cent of the Olympic stars come from fee-paying independent schools. It’s about availability of facilities.”

A section of the Westminster School website describing its history tells of how its ethos “resides in the enduring values expressed in the 1560 Charter of Westminster’s Elizabethan foundation. On its re-foundation by Elizabeth I Westminster was des­cribed as a school for “˜40 poor scholars’.”

Christopher Silcock, an administrator at the school, said it was not possible for other schools to use the Vincent Square pitches as they were already “overused”. They were used by pupils in all age groups.

He said: “I’m afraid it is a hard fact of life. We just can’t.

"There isn’t a time in the programme to do it, and to reinforce the point, on any one day when football is going on, half our teams are renting pitches in Battersea and Paddington Rec.

"It’s not that we’re being mean, it’s quite simply the case that we don’t have nearly enough for ourselves never mind anybody else.”

Mr Silcock said Westminster School also had playing fields in Kent that were “surplus to capacity” and which it had leased to a Haberdashers’ Aske’s-sponsored academy school for a peppercorn rent for the next 100 years.

He said increased congestion and journey times meant it was no longer practicable for Westminster School pupils to be taken to the Kent pitches.

Mr Qureshi insisted that Vincent Square was often empty. He said: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Maybe an ex-pupil like Nick Clegg could do something about it.”

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