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Free school’s unfair advantage in education marketplace

06 June, 2019

New End School, left, and the former police station in Rosslyn Hill lined up for the Abacus free school

PARENT-run free schools were a central plank of former education secretary Michael Gove’s education policy, underpinned by the “Big Society” mantra of David Cameron and his coalition government.

A fundamental consequence of the marketplace ideology of Thatcherism, they were introduced to drive up standards through competition.

It is clear that Abacus will have an unfair advantage over its neighbours if it is allowed to move into Hampstead Police Station.

The prestigious £14m red brick building, with a £7m refit, makes it the envy of NW3. Two floors inside will be a “business centre”, a revenue-generating facility that will afford its operators all the things all other Camden primary schools are being so scandalously deprived of.

There is unlikely to be a shortage of teachers, assistants, equipment at this school.

Already Ofsted-rated “outstanding”, it is no wonder that governors of New End Primary fear the worst. Their school’s pupil numbers are dwindling. Funding has, in turn, been drastically reduced. A cautionary tale is playing out at St Aloysius in Somers Town, a school that is almost certainly due to close this year. Rosary, Fleet, Fitzjohn’s, Hampstead Parochial and Christchurch will all be watching anxiously.

It is scandal enough that a functioning police station – sold-off by Boris Johnson – has been locked shut for the best part of six years.

Few would argue that Abacus’s children should remain in a temporary build­ing. But it cannot be right that the Department for Education can impose a school on an area with so little con­sid­eration for its neighbours. It strikes at the heart of local government and Camden’s ability to run a truly compre­hensive education service.

Knife bin haul

THE number of blades that have been left in the knife bin in Primrose Hill highlights how successful it is. So successful, we believe, that it should be copied in other parts of the borough.

The knife bin also underlines the scale of the problem facing youth workers, one of whom, Jason Allen – judging by his remarks made at a local neighbourhood meeting – clearly demonstrates a well-rounded understanding of the dilemmas facing youngsters.

He pinpoints the social causes: poor education, and all the cuts being senselessly pursued by the government. In short he is point­ing a finger at the government’s austerity programme.

The origins of knife crime can sometimes be found when young­sters are expelled from school. To what degree will, hopefully, become clearer when the council’s children’s committee starts gather­ing evidence during its coming hearings into what is now a crisis.

We hope the experience of youth workers like Jason Allen will be tapped by the committee.

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