NW6 School campaign: Camden vs. parents

The debate over whether West Hampstead does or doesn’t need an additional school – likely a free school – has been raging on for some months. I have found the claims and counter-claims hard to track and harder to verify as both sides draw on various sets of data to prove their point.

The story took an unnecessarily personal turn on the front page of the Ham & High a couple of weeks ago when an unnamed Labour source described the parents campaigning for a free school as “snobs”. The argument was that Hampstead School, which is to the north-west of our area, is a perfectly good school and parents who wanted a state education for their children should send them there.

Rather than wade into the debate myself, I thought I’d let the two most important people have their say on these pages. First, Dr Clare Craig. Dr Craig has been the most public face of the NW6 School campaign team. After she sets out her stall, Cllr. Angela Mason, Camden’s cabinet member for children, explains why the council believes there is no need for an additional school. (If you’re familiar with the story, you can jump straight to the debate in the comments section).

The campaigners

Dr Clare Craig

After being called “middle class, church-going snobs” in the Ham & High last week by a ‘well placed Labour party source’, I would like to explain the real reasons we are going to open a new school and why it needs to be at the heart of West Hampstead. The unnamed source implied that we put the needs of our own children above that of our community. This could not be further from the truth. Ours is a large group of concerned parents, from all walks of life, and from varied religious backgrounds and ethnic groups, who recognise a problem that Labour does not seem to want to acknowledge: there simply aren’t enough secondary school places to go around.

Only a handful of constituencies have fewer secondary school places than Hampstead and Kilburn across the UK. Against this background we can add two straws which will break the camel’s back: the first is a dramatic population boom that will launch us into the top 20% of constituencies for number of 11 year olds by 2016, and we’ll still be climbing that league table thereafter; the second is the arrival of new children due to the unprecedented level of housing developments planned in and around our area.

Current situation
The Hampstead and Kilburn constituency has only three state secondary schools: Hampstead School, UCL Academy and Queens Park Community School. They are all oversubscribed and the latter two have tiny geographical catchment areas. Brent and Camden Councils are responsible for ensuring enough schools across their boroughs but both have neglected our area. The distribution of Camden schools shows the black hole that has been allowed to develop.

Camden schools. click for larger version
Schools in the Hampstead & Kilburn constituency

The result of this shortage is that in 2010 49% of state school children from West Hampstead, Fortune Green and Kilburn wards found places out of Camden. There are no good schools just over the borough borders and children end up travelling a long way to attend Barnet grammar schools or church schools elsewhere.

The opening of the UCL Academy reduced the proportion travelling to 36% for the year in which it opened. However, the already tiny catchment area shrank further this year and is likely to continue doing so: It thus offers no practical solution for children from our three wards.

Our population explosion
The next few years will see a frighteningly sharp increase in the number of children searching for a secondary school place. Across Hampstead and Kilburn there are 1106 11 year olds this year. This will rise to 1300 in 2016 and 1380 by 2019, without taking into account additional children arriving from the many new housing developments. By 2016 we estimate there will be 184 extra children looking for a school place from population growth alone.

In terms of provision, there will still be only three schools in the whole constituency – the average London constituency has six. These three have places for 590 children (rising to 600 from 2016 with a slight expansion of Queens Park Community School). Brent Council, which is responsible for 35% of Hampstead & Kilburn’s intake, now sees this as a problem; Camden, by contrast, is responsible for 65% of constituency’s children (and 80% of the forecast increase), and yet senior councillors deny that there is a problem.

No. of 11-year-olds* No. of state school places** No. currently finding alternative schooling Deficit
2013 1,106 590 516 0
2016 1,300 600 516 184
2019 1,380 600 516 264
*These figures are calculated by modeling population changes between the 2001 and 2011 censuses and assuming a constant drop out rate for each age cohort, over the next 10 years.
**Hampstead school has 210 places, UCL Academy 180 and Queens Park Community School has 200 increasing to 210 in 2016.

Camden is predicting that the number of secondary school places in our area is about to peak and will then flatten off. Camden secures its planning data from the Greater London Assembly. Camden officials agree that the population is rising rapidly; but they believe that the GLA’s formula works well for predicting the proportion of children who will take up a state school place. Camden seems to think that the extra children are a ‘problem’ that must be addressed by the private sector and not by Camden. So what are parents who can’t afford to send their children to private school supposed to do?

We believe the Council’s analysis of provision outside state schools is flawed and shockingly complacent for a number of reasons:

First, it is unrealistic to expect the private sector to add places for a growing number of Camden families – instead, we are likely to see prices increase, with little if any additional capacity. Contrary to perception, the proportion of children attending private schools within our campaign’s target area is in fact lower than the Camden average (26% vs. 31%). Also West Hampstead has not become more wealthy between the two censuses unlike other inner London areas

Camden should not be relying on the private sector as an opt-out from its responsibilities, and in the current economic climate it is reprehensible to take the view that ever more parents should pay twice for their children to receive an education. It seems doubly bizarre for this reliance on the fee-paying sector to come from Labour councillors, many of whom have long opposed the very principle of private education on ideological grounds.

Secondly, the projections assume that a constant proportion of places will be provided in neighbouring boroughs, when in reality the well-publicised shortages across London mean that out-of-borough provision is likely to shrink and has already started shrinking for our three wards from 39% of all children, in 2010 to 32% in 2011 and 24% in 2012.

Thirdly, the benefit from the opening of the popular UCL Academy is highly localised, and offers little to address the problem in the most under-supplied parts of the borough.

Finally, the GLA formula has been shown to fail when a new school is built and is supported by the whole community. It is fair to assume that the GLA formula will also be less effective at times of dramatic, rather than gradual population growth.

Camden have told us that there is a strong possibility that some of our children would be able to get a place at some of the state schools in the east of the borough. They don’t seem to realise that parents want to know their child can get into a school, not just have an increasing possibility of doing so. What we really want is a local school where a cohort of children from the local primaries move on to secondary together. What we have now is a scattering of our primary children all over London and a breaking up of the strong community bonds that have formed.

The Travis Perkins building
Since our campaign for a school started, Camden has been falling over itself to sell off the most obvious site for placing a secondary school.

The Travis Perkins building has commercial leases running until December 2016 yet Camden will be taking bids for the freehold up until 19th September 2013.

This site would be ideal because it:

  • is at the heart of the gap in schools
  • is council owned
  • is big enough
  • has plenty of social housing nearby
  • has neighbouring public open space including a sports court
  • is by the railway sidings reducing the objections in the planning process
  • already has a large building that could be adapted.

We believe this shows that Camden’s real intentions are to obstruct any thoughts of new schooling on purely ideological grounds.

We are trying to create a school for the whole community in a part of London that has always been neglected for schooling. We are working hard to identify the best educational partners to will help us to achieve this vision. In the meantime, you can help by telling parents of school-aged children that we need their support. We need parents to give us their emails so we can contact them, once we have a concrete plan, to ask if they would send their child to the new school. You can do that here.
NW6 School Campaign team

* * *

Camden council

Cllr. Angela Mason

There has been a lot of discussion in the area and in the pages of the Ham and High about whether a new secondary school is needed in the north west of the borough. I know what an important issue this is and I have been increasingly concerned that the true position is being lost amongst the welter of publicity. It is particularly important that parents have the right information in arriving at the choices open to them as part of the 2014 secondary school admissions process, the closing date for which is 31 October.

As I understand the position, a group of parents from NW6 is concerned about securing places in a local secondary school. They are concerned that they will be forced either to go out of borough or to leave the area. They do not believe that Camden’s school place planning takes into account housing development in Camden or neighbouring boroughs. They also believe that historically a high proportion of children from NW6 have attended private schools and that this may decrease in the future with insufficient provision within Camden’s maintained schools to accommodate them.

School place planning projections
It is important to start with what the Council is required to do in law. We must ensure that there are sufficient school places in the area. For secondary education, the area is defined as the borough of Camden. We fulfil this duty by comparing the availability of places in our schools with the need for places expressed by parental preference. Parents, for a whole host of reasons, choose to send their children to different schools, some in Camden, some in other boroughs and some to private schools.

We use data provided by the Greater London Assembly (GLA) team that collates information across London to arrive at projections of the need for school places in each London borough. The basis of these projections is the past patterns of admission to schools, based on the preferences for schools that parents have shown. We take this information and check it with our own local data. The sources of information include all known housing developments within Camden, so the additional growth that the campaigners talk about is taken into account in our projections.

Our neighbouring boroughs go through the same process and are also making plans for dealing with population growth in their own areas.

What the analysis shows is that will be sufficient school places in the borough until 2022/23, including the NW6 area. Our detailed analysis is set out in our annual school place planning report.

It is important to stress what the place planning projections and the Council’s duty don’t do. We can’t provide for unlimited choice. Indeed we are not allowed in law to propose schools where there is no need for a school. If we did, there would be schools with large numbers of vacancies and this would not be a good use of public money, particularly in the current climate.

Review of admissions’ information
We have also looked at information about admissions in response to the concern from parents about getting a place in a Camden school.

To set the scene, wherever you live, you may apply for a place at a state school in any London borough or other area. Parents can name up to six schools that should be listed in preference order on the application form.

It should be noted that the definition of the NW6 area used by the campaign changes, dependent on data/information available. The campaign has used two definitions: first, those Camden residents with an NW6 postcode (parts of Fortune Green, Kilburn, Swiss Cottage and West Hampstead wards) and second an NW6 ‘proxy’ based on Fortune Green, Kilburn, and West Hampstead wards in their entirety i.e. not Swiss Cottage.

It is not disputed that only a proportion of NW6 Camden residents are offered a Camden secondary school. Using three wards above as a proxy, 63%, 54% and 45% for 2012/13, 2011/12 and 2010/11 respectively of applicants from these wards are offered a place in a Camden school. These figures reflect the fact that many NW6 residents put out of borough schools as a higher preference than a Camden school. If they obtain their higher preference place in the out of borough school they are not then considered for their lower preference Camden school.

A number of parents opt for nearby schools in Westminster, particularly Quintin Kynaston which is on the border and St. Augustines CofE Secondary and St Georges RC school.

Analysis of Year 7 applications from NW6 residents shows that a high percentage have been offered one of their top three preference schools whether inside or outside the borough. For 2012/13, 56% of NW6 applicants received their 1st preference school and 84% received one of their top three preferences by September 2012 with comparative figures for all Camden resident applicants (59% and 81% respectively).

It is not true to say, as the campaign suggests, that NW6 residents don’t obtain Camden places because of a shortage. In the latest admissions round for September 2013, 103 of the 190 Camden residents from NW6 (using NW6 postcode) have been offered places at a number of Camden schools, based on parental preference. However, of the total of 190, all 68 applicants from Fortune Green and West Hampstead wards could have been accommodated at Hampstead School as they are closer to the school than many of those non-Camden residents being offered a place. Furthermore, the majority (if not all) of the 122 NW6 applicants from Kilburn and Swiss Cottage could have been accommodated at one of the five non-denominational schools in the north of the borough, including the UCL academy.

If parents had made a local Camden school a higher preference, the likelihood is that they would have been successful in obtaining a place in a Camden school. My job as Cabinet Member is to work with schools to get the message out there of the really good education in Camden’s existing schools so that more NW6 parents choose to send their children to Camden schools, where we have enough places to provide an excellent education for them.
Angela Mason

  • Let’s simplify the debate. It boils down to 2 questions: “will there be shortfall of secondary school places for NW6 students in the next 3+ years and what level of choice will there be?”
    a) Will there be a shortage: Planning bodies are famous for getting numbers wrong, and I have little doubt the GLA must struggle too. Especially as they are trying to cover all c. 130 of the London postcodes. And we all know, anecdotally, how many more families are staying in NW6, how house prices of family home have sky-rocketed, how many more children-friendly shops dot the high street, etc. And it appears (see Ham and High letters) that all the schools in or near the NW6 area have shrinking catchment areas. So my money is on NW6 campaign being right here.
    b) What level of choice will there be?
    If there is a shortage, then obviously, the choice boils down to paying privately or a long commute out of borough. And that is no choice at all for most of us. But even if the GLA are correct about NW6 (and I am skeptical), then is it good enough to have just 1 practical (i..e., nearby) option with some reputation issues? Hampstead High School has an improving reputation but it is undermined by the low percentage of the starting intake making it A-levels and the reports of disruptive behaviour of a minority of students. I’d like more choice than that, and judging by the apparent popularity of the NW6 campaign, I am not alone.
    Strange thing is, as we see more children in the borough, I’m unlikely to get even that option.

    • Anonymous

      Words like "anecdotally" worry me when we're talking about as big an investment as a new school. Seems to me that the money would be better spent expanding and investing in Hampstead School to bring it up to the standards expected by parents of Camden, or NW6, or Hampstead & Kilburn, or whatever area it is we're talking about.

    • And Hampstead school is about to get a huge investment in money to modernise it.

    • Anonymous

      @Theo Blackwell Modernising a school does nothing to improve the ethos, or to improve the aspiration of pupils or the level of education.

      Parents are concerned about the academic achievements, the learning environment for their kids, and the disruptive behaviour of students, and also about the very strange behaviour of the headmaster who has been reporting students to the police and their university for criticising him.

      It’s also quite a long way from West End Lane, as are all the other options.

    • I respectfully disagree:

      – Look at Haverstock, building rebuilt and the school radically changed for the better.

      – Regent High (frmrly South Camden Community School) is having extra investment and the results are going up and so too its popularity.

      Investment had an impact, alongside the community pulling together.

    • Anonymous

      “Will there be shortfall of secondary school places for NW6 students in the next 3+ years ”

      No, there obviously is not, and will be not.

      “and what level of choice will there be?”

      As much choice as anyone else in the borough, to be frank.

      “Planning bodies are famous for getting numbers wrong, and I have little doubt the GLA must struggle too”

      Camden’s pupil projections are based on a number of factors, including building developments and proposed expansions and are regularly within 1% of the total, so I think have a level of credibility attached.

      Hampstead has ‘reputation issues’ ? I’d love for the various parents presently rejecting the school to elaborate exactly what these ‘issues’ are ? I have heard far too much ‘school gate’ nonsense about stuff like this – it does seem that some NW6 parents really have a problem with the school which they would rather address by setting up a school for which there is no need than to bring the school up to scratch.

      I’d also like to ask the good burghers of the “NW6 School Campaign for Charlotte, Emma and Tristan and definitely no Stacies or Kevins” what they are proposing the borough do if they can’t expand Kingsgate on the Liddell Road site. There is an acute provable need for places NOW in West Hampstead – we can’t hang around for a Free School to get its act together and MAYBE offer some primary places.

      archiva at planetmail dot net

  • There are some additional points on funding I’d like to point out in relation to the campaign’s position:

    – the argument over numbers of schools ‘per constituency’ is odd because education is administered by borough – constituency is only relevant is someone is running a political campaign for Parliament. Even so, under the old boundaries (Hampstead and Highgate) Camden NW6 parents had the choice of 3 more secondaries – and they still do: the schools haven’t actually moved!
    – in terms of capital the government funds new secondary schools these days, not the council. The campaign needs to make its case to the Education Funding Agency – I’m not sure why the debate has been aimed at the council so far.
    – the fact that West End Lane depot is council-owned is neither here nor there, it’s not ‘free space’ to be given away, it has to be paid for because we have a capital programme. It has been earmarked for sale since 2009, so it’s a cross party issue. Government money would have to purchase it. For this they need a case.
    – In terms of choice versus ‘need’ there are very strong views in the school governing community about destabilisation of existing schools by surplus places – this is because funding follows the pupil. I suggest the campaign also talks to this community too as the picture is more nuanced than portrayed in the press.

    • Dear Theo,

      Thank you for advice about approaching local school governors. I think being able to reassure them that we are not a threat would be helpful.

      I chose to look at the whole constituency simply because it is a large geographical area which we are the centre of and data is available for it. It illustrates the problem well. The legal obligation for Camden to provide enough places across the borough has resulted in a situation where there are only two school with spare capacity and both are situated at the opposite end of the borough to us.

      A new school is being built South of the Euston Road. This will provide places for 120 more eleven year olds a year. The way that “need” is calculated means that before this school opens the need equals the provision. After it opens the need goes up and the provision goes up simultaneously. This is because almost all of those children are not counted towards the Camden school roll projection until they start attending a Camden school. This is the reason that the children in our area are not included on the Camden school roll projections either. These are Camden children and, with the increasing population, provision for them should be a responsibility of Camden.

      As a Camden councilor, what is your opinion on the discrepancy between the predicted number of eleven year olds living in our area and the Camden school roll projection which remains totally flat for the next ten years?

      The campaign is not party political in anyway and we have support from councilors from all three political parties. We would hope to have your support in time too.

      We will be putting an application into the Department of Education in Spring 2014. We are however going to continue to campaign to Camden. We want Camden’s support. These are Camden children who need schooling and support for that should be forth coming from their local council. Having support will make our application to central government easier. Every time I read about free schools being set up in areas where there is no “need”, I am hugely relieved that the current government does not put too much weight on local authority predictions of “need” and instead, if necessary, relies on parental demand for a school. More importantly, at some point we will be looking for a site to put a school and would like Camden’s help to get that stage right.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Theo, the Council are note the one’s to be lobbied here, the NW6 parents are. On appearance, all this campaign appears to be doing is communicating with it’s “supporters” (which appear to be made up of Emmanuelle school parents) via Twitter or the Ham & High. They need to not lobby Camden but actually obtain the feelings of parents in NW6 outside of Emmanuelle school, how can a minority group of parents propose anything without genuinely going to the community. I am a Mother and am deeply concerned about options for my children’s secondary – I welcome a campaign but it really needs to be opened up to ALL parents to ascertain what we want.

    • Anonymous

      a campaign can be opened up to ALL parents but the reality is only the parents who genuinely care will respond.

      why not cut out the charade and just allow for a free school to be set up and run by parents who care.

    • Anonymous

      ALL parents who care should be involved, why only an elite few, open up the group to the community and you will get a response from the genuine as there needs to be transparency in what is being sought for our community.

    • This project did begin with parents from Emmanuel school back in April but we are many steps away from that now. We have been steadily building up a team of people who can help. Many of that team have contacted us out of the blue offering help. These include people who do not have primary aged children and genuinely want to support the community in an altruistic way. Would you be part of that team? We need a whole host of skills to set up a school and if you don’t have any that are relevant we still need more people to communicate throughout the community as you have rightly pointed out.

      We have tried to engage with the community. We have attended both the Kilburn Grange festival and the Jester Festival and are accessible through twitter @nw6school, facebook and have an email online. We have succeeded in getting representatives at all but one local primary – Kingsgate. If you know anyone there please do put us in touch. Communicating is made much harder by not having support from all the headteachers yet. (Although the position of the Kingsgate head is very admirable in that she does not allow anyone to leaflet in school bags – so it’s not about politics just principles).

      The truth is we have not had much news to communicate with parents over the summer. We have been busy exploring every avenue open to us to figure out how we can best deliver a school that will appeal to everyone.

      Finally I want to reassure you that we are not nutters. We want a great traditional education for our children with all that that should involve. I think meeting is the best way to persuade you of that. So please, please get in touch.

    • Anonymous

      Ask yourself why the 3 Heads who have backed this, none of which are in Camden. 2 are Heads of old style selective grammar school type establishments. Is this what NW6 parents want ? Look at the list of the great and good on the list of the steering group ? Is there a non-white collar professional amongst them ? Local ordinary working class parents ?

      Er, no.

  • Michelle

    Forgive me if I'm wrong here but surely the children that fall within the catchment of Emmanuelle would be prioritised to attend Hampstead School. Hampstead School has a considerable intake from both Brent and Barnet children and therefore local West Hampstead (Camden) children would take these places instead.

    • Schools cannot select children from one borough. Admissions are purely geographical and three quarters of Hampstead’s catchment is outside Camden. This is why it is extremely concerning that Camden do not pay attention to housing developments and population growth in neighbouring boroughs in their sums.

      You are right that children in Fortune Green and West Hampstead will probably get a place at Hampstead. It is children in the Kilburn ward who would fall into a black hole. A group of parents from Kilburn were about to set up a free school campaign and joined forces with the Emmanuel group back in July. Since then we have grown to include not only parents from almost all of the schools but also people with no vested interest.

  • Anonymous

    The supporters are described as a “large group”, 57 followers on Twitter, 90 on Facebook and predominantly from the small Emmanuelle CoE school, that mainly represents surrounding Fortune Green. The debate will continue… but really for how long, unless there is a truly representative collection of parents within NW6 to prove the necessity of planned secondary school places we must engage with all bodies to work on this together. Maybe a Free School or maybe not, but I cannot be denied, the population in London is growing (not just NW6 Fortune Green!) and the current group campaigning really need to get all of NW6 on board!

    • You are absolutely right. We will be making a push to get into primary schools again soon. Some primaries are much more accessible than other as the headteachers at Kingsgate and Beckford will not let us in. That makes communicating with a huge swathe of local parents really difficult. We are left relying on parents hearing about us and getting in touch so we can communicate with them. Any method we use to communicate has to be financed entirely out of our own pockets. Let me know any ideas you have for economical ways of communicating. What’s more we are all working and have children and every spare moment is spent on this project so any method has to be time efficient too.

      After working hard on this for months we are finally at a stage where we will soon be able to introduce our wonderful team. We will also be able to announce some of the offers we have had from various bodies that can help us run the school. We absolutely want feedback on this but need your email to correspond with you. Please do sign up so your opinion is counted:

    • Anonymous

      Part of the issue here is that you seem to have set yourself apart from the mainstream of schools in the borough – people see you as a middle class elite determined to ensure that your children – and your children alone – benefit from this new facility, however fallacious this perception may be. You need to generate some genuine support amongst the local people in the environs, and not just the higher echelons. I can certainly see why Kingsgate’s Head won’t let you in – you plan on taking her site for expansion for your own school. Colour me completely unsurprised.

  • Jill Henry

    I am really struggling with the argument for a free school in West Hampstead. Is it a problem with the choices, if Camden’s comments are anything to go by it would appear that a high proportion of Camden parents simply do not want to send their children to the Camden Secondary School’s on offer? What other plans do Camden have, besides the investment for Hampstead School, to improve the choices on offer and prevent parents from choosing out of Borough schools as their preferred choice?
    I was invited to a meeting about the free school in July by an Emmanuelle parent. Following this, I took NW6Campaign leaflets to RMS on Woodchurch Road where my seven year old boy attends. I introduced Clare to the Head of RMS at Jester, I arranged for leaflets to be put on noticeboards at the school and I was included in a round of emails after the meeting. It seems that there has been a lot of progress since, which is great news and any parents working so hard to find better choice for their children’s schooling is only to be admired. I am one of those parents.
    One question, following my points of argument in the round of emails I was included in the day after, I cannot help that my worries over single sex schools, as a Mother of a boy in a Borough with over 60% boys, did not fit in with your vision – single-sex schools sharing co-ed facilities as a way to “legally select by gender”. This alarmed me… could I really support this vision, backdoor selection? I have been excluded from any direct communication with the group ever since…… A very strong message to the “community”!

    • Jill, I can only apologise. Since the end of July the summer holidays followed by a massive amount of work to apply to the New Schools Network for help has meant that other things have taken a back seat. We are back in action now and will be getting in touch with all the people who have offered help so far.

      We have not been making big decisions without involving people. Instead we have been building a really strong team of people to get this off the ground. I am really excited about all the talent this project has attracted and we should be able to make announcements soon about who the team are.

    • Anonymous

      This is a concern – good schools should be inclusive of everyone – no selection by gender or selection by religion.

  • Anonymous

    As a West Hampstead resident I have to say I have found the arguments from Clare above a breath of fresh air, and the defensive diatribe from the councillors below what I’d expect from our representatives. Let’s not play party politics with education – the council should welcome this initiative, and offer constructive criticism, not snipe from the sidelines. At least the comments from Theo Blackwell are a bit more helpful.

    I’m particularly troubled by this statement from the councillor:

    “What the analysis shows is that will be sufficient school places in the borough until 2022/23, including the NW6 area.”

    When half of the children in your borough have to go elsewhere to be educated, you do NOT have sufficient school places. Camden Council should step up to the mark and support this initiative. If they think it is not representative of all parents, they should commission a survey of all parents in the area, find out what people want, and provide it, not hide behind clearly manipulated statistics, which are fiddled to show that since children currently go outside the borough, there is no demand!

    I’ll be signing up to learn more, but I do hope this campaign is more inclusive and less Christian-focussed than Emmanuel school, which obliges parents to go to church just to have their children educated there

    • Thank you.

      This campaign is absolutely about the whole community. The team is made up of a disproportionate number of Emmanuel parents but it is much broader than that in total.

  • Anonymous

    I’m still undecided on the need for/ effects of a Free school in West Hampstead, but one thing I am sceptical about is the suitability of the Travis Perkins building for the school.
    I think I’m right in saying the campaign is after a 4 form entry school? If this is the case then that would be a school for just shy of 800 children.
    Is the TP building REALLY big enough? Has the campaign done the stats on this?

  • Ali E.A

    It really saddens me to see my school being maligned like this and I’m calling it as I see it – the Labour Party activists were right. I’ve read the interview you gave to the Ham & High and while at first you seem to claim the issue is regarding availability of spaces you eventually reveal what’s really at issue – your problem with Hampstead School, which I see ‘Anonymous’ has repeated and expanded upon here. As someone else has pointed out up above however, if your child goes to Emmanuel then they will be eligible to attend Hampstead. Yes, that will mean that children in Kilburn will have to look for somewhere else and surely then a ‘free school’ or another state secondary should be set up in the Kilburn-Cricklewood-Queens Park area for those children.

    You state that “Hampstead School is not right for every child….. there’s some boisterous behaviour and they lose a lot of pupils at sixth form”. If Hampstead School is not right for your child then pay for an independent one and if you cannot afford to then try home schooling because it’s ridiculous to ask for public funds to fit in with your personal educational philosophy – should every parent run around and grab 50 or so parents to sign a petition to set up a school that fits with their agenda – where would it end? As for “boisterous behaviour” – I am now in my final year and I have yet to see someone get punched. Perhaps you mean the students on the bus after school – bit too loud are they? They’ve just spent 7 hours in school with only a 40 minute lunch break which gives them just enough time to queue up for lunch and eat it before going back to class, so yes, they are finally getting to chat and have a laugh with friends – they are teenagers.
    ‘Anonymous’ up above implies that the students lack aspiration – how have they come to this conclusion? There is not one peer of mine that lacks ambition, quite the opposite in fact and what does ‘Anonymous’ mean by “Parents are concerned about the academic achievements, the learning environment for their kids, and the disruptive behaviour of students”? Academic achievements – have you looked at Hampstead’s stats – half the school speaks English as a second language so I think their stats are amazing – I should know as I left primary school being told I would never achieve above a Level 2 (yes that is Key Stage 1) and yet I received an A* English GCSE along with several more A*/As and that was down to the teachers at Hampstead School. As for “learning environment” – am clueless as to what you are implying here, perhaps you could be more specific. As I said above, we cannot all ask for our ideal school, it’s not feasible – you know what is feasible, sending your children to Hampstead where they will be offered a place if you put it down as first choice (oh the horror) and then joining the school parents association, running for parent governor – help make the changes you want to see instead of throwing your dummy out of the pram and demanding a new one.

    • The children who would be unable to find a school in the what you describe as the “Kilburn-Cricklewood-Queens Park” area would centre around the railway tracks at West Hampstead.

      Private education causes social segregation and we would rather avoid that.

      I was not thinking about lively teenage behaviour at the end of the school day which I have not problem with. I did not make any accusation of out right violence either. I was thinking more of this type of behaviour:
      I would describe that as boisterous.

      To set up a school we have to prove the school will be full for the first two years. That requires many more than 50 signatures. I don’t doubt we will be able to get enough.

    • Ali E.A

      The HT article on the Girls Only area is satire. As I tried to say – there is no such thing as a perfect school because whose idea of perfect do you go with. If the school has set up a Girls Only area then that is because they are responding sensitively to a request which is commendable. The school has prospective open days and evenings on the calendar shortly and I would suggest you come and visit and talk to us, not just the staff but the students. Speak to some 6th formers and ask them how they feel about their teachers, what their aspirations are. Talk to the younger ones and ask them if they feel unsafe. I think you’ll be surprised.
      Thanks for wishing me good luck

    • P.S. Many congratulations on your GCSE successes and good luck with your A levels next year.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm, I can’t afford to privately educate my children, I don’t like Hampstead School where they would automatically get a place, I know I will round up the others who balk at the mention of Hampstead School and set up my own. My children will automatically have a place along with my few select friends, or shall I call them co-founders, we will attract teachers on huge salaries as our free school doesn’t have to cap salaries, we don’t even have to employ qualified teachers and we can introduce subjects off curriculum that only I and my friends want and central government will give me the funding for my dream school and I am happy. Now what about my selection criteria, well now that I don’t have to be accountable locally I must think up some clever ways to select what I want to make my school perform, damn the rest of you, stick with what Camden gives, won’t be much when I get my £25million funding! Oh and I won’t publicise any results on my website, UCL got away with it so no one knows yet just how many had to re-sit exams or how many left to attend other schools.

    I love free schools, saves me a fortune on school fees and i just need a few hundred signatures, the DEMAND, and off i go to government to give me a school for me and my friends children.

    Oh, you want to apply to my school do you, let me check our policy on admissions, oh sorry no…, appeals process you ask, don’t be daft, its all legal what we are doing, now trot on to Hampstead will you.

  • Anonymous

    Leaving aside the question of whether a school is needed or not, the idea of putting a secondary school on West End Lane makes no sense to me. Would ruin it's character, not to mention additional traffic, noise etc…

  • Anonymous

    Clare, if you're still around answering comments please could you address the question of the WEL Travis Perkins site…?

    • If WEL were still an option, we would have proposed having a school with an entrance on Lymington Road. Secondary children make their own way to school and would all be from near by. Camden’s alternative is to have intensive housing in this area which is going to have a much more disruptive effect.

      I would hesitate to suggest that removing a builders yard from the centre of West Hampstead is going to damage its character much.

    • Whampmum

      Sorry if the question wasn’t clear, but can you demonstrate that the TP site would be big enough for a 4-form entry secondary school of a little under 800 pupils (plus staff)? It seems you will need a substantial site and there just doesn’t seem to be another suitable one in WH.

      Given you seem to have accepted that the TP building is no longer an option, do you have an alternative in mind? Surely this is necessary for your application to the DfE?

  • Kate V.

    Just wondering what will happen if the free school students bring boisterous behaviour to West End Lane? Do we set up another free school to avoid those types?

    Way to go Ali! I note there are plenty of open evenings at Hampstead School in the near future, one tomorrow morning at 9AM. I hope the NW6 School campaigners will find the time to attend one. They’ll do well to set up a school with half of the facilities of Hampstead.

  • Kate V.

    Perhaps the name of this discussion should be changed. I’m an NW6 parent and I don’t support the free school. The campaign has proved themselves to be self-serving and not supportive of the wider community as demonstrated by their attitude about Hampstead School.

    In any case, I don’t see it as “Camden vs. parents”, Camden has much broader support for its case and the parents involved with this campaign don’t have the support of many other local parents.

    • Camden vs. some parents? Point taken, though I think your message comes across loud and clear from the various comments

  • Anonymous

    Camden V Fortune Green Parents Free School Campaign? Setting up of free schools started out with noble aims, trumpeted as providing opportunity primarily for working-class parents. More than a year on, this is clearly not the case.
    The free school movement is developing into a strange, hybrid creature which now is the main vehicle for faith groups, but most worrying of all burgeoning private sector.

    They will seek protection, they are doing so by concealing information on costs, results and the “trusts” and for-profit companies behind these schools, many of who are backed by private Equity firms.

    We have a host of companies from the US and Sweden set up and ready to provide services. Edison Learning “support” 65 free schools but are now under financial investigation and are not allowed to support anymore academies.

    Free school plans simply add more, thickly coated, layers to this already over-complex, unfair hierarchy.

    Why are these parents not campaigning for improvements at Hampstead School where their likely demands would certainly raise the standards of the school. Are any of the campaign members attending the open evenings, have they done so yet?

  • Anonymous


    Check point 2.2.1 and 2.2.2 for the latest on admissions and forecast for secondary places in Camden. What has the campaign to say to these figures, is our Council lying?

    • These figures are provided by the GLA and Camden accepts them at face value. The fact there is such a major discrepancy between the children actually living here and those predicted to need a school place makes me think there has been an oversight in our area and I am taking this up with the GLA.

  • Anonymous

    "There are no good schools just over the borough borders and children end up travelling a long way to attend Barnet grammar schools or church schools elsewhere."

    So not middle class, church-going snobs at all, then.

    • Kate V.

      I think we have just discovered a new level of first world problems, West Hampstead problems. These parents have spent at least a year attending church to secure a place at Emmanuel School, successfully avoiding the Beckford riffraff. They don’t have that option on their doorstep for secondary. They must travel to grammar school or church schools elsewhere because “Private education causes social segregation and we would rather avoid that.”

  • Anonymous

    Clare, by signing on your site now to “show support”, will these be the signatures you will use when you make the application? This is very important as you are currently asking people to sign “a petition” for a school we know nothing about. Please clarify as I and a group of Mum’s in Kilburn would be reluctant to sign up without knowing the detail?

    One question, how many parents in your campaign have children at non-faith schools?

    Also, you refer to a group of parents in Kilburn who were about to set up a free school. Following many days of enquiries we are unable to source where this group have stemmed from, but we now believe that they are also from a Church school?

    Can you confirm if you will be making an application for a faith based school?

    • Anonymous

      I noted that, you are given the option of signing to show interest and receive updates but it would appear you are in fact signing a petition.
      @whampstead can you tweet the debate is still ongoing?

    • Done – also suggesting a few more of the Anonymous posters give their names (or even a pseudonym – makes it easier to track debate and for people to respond)

    • When we petition central government we have to show that parents have been informed about what the school will offer (something we are not able to do yet) and they have to state their postcode and children's date of birth. The website form is for communication purposes only. We have been asked to limit the number of emails that we send so are only communicating about big decisions. I take

  • Anonymous

    Should be called the Emmanuelle Parents V NW6 Parents debate?

  • Clare F

    Interesting debate indeed. I just wonder if anyone else caught last week’s London Assembly Education Panel committee meeting:


    3 key points:
    1) The current process for local authorities securing central funding for school expansion is not fit for purpose, particularly for secondary, given the demand increases projected, the cost of London land and infrastructure projects and the lead time needed for secondary builds.
    2) The recent dramatic birth rate increases are being compounded by less families leaving London, more families arriving in London and some movement away from the independent sector. This is going to really start hurting the secondary age groups within the next 5 years.
    3) Demand projections are set to improve but have been less than reliable for secondary pupils due to movement cross boundary

    Personally I can’t see how the recent emphasis on “Free Schools” (which report directly to the Department for Education) does anything but make it harder for local authorities to meet their legal obligations to place every child. The scope for foul play and increasing local division is undoubtedly there.

    However if free schools are the easiest (only?) way to unlock finance for meeting the upcoming time-bomb of secondary places, it is in everyone’s interest to purposefully get behind such schemes as these, and in particular challenge council’s involvement in selling large areas of London land which could fill this need. Once they’re gone, they’re gone…

    In case you are wondering, we are church goers who live in the Fortune Green ward, and my son has just started at our 5th choice of primary school (a CofE school in Barnet) having failed to get a place at our nearest school Beckford. We favoured Beckford over Emmanuel because we want our children to make the most of the broad cultural experience that London affords. I would hope we live close enough to Hampstead to secure a secondary place there but from our recent experiences I know the catchment will be shrinking and many pupils will not.

    Hats off to Ali E.A. People need look no further than Ali’s eloquent comments for an endorsement of the schooling available at Hampstead School.

  • Anonymous

    Does Hampstead School offer streaming? didn't think so…. Free school please!

    • Hampstead School fan

      They do stream, Anonymous.

  • I am one of the parents who was going to try and set up a free school and found the NW6 School campaign. Yes I am from a faith school St Marys Kilburn if you know St Marys we have families from both Kilburn and West Hampstead of all faiths that attened the school, its a great school. That aside I was approached by one of the parents who go to our school and she just wanted to know why we are having this big debate of Emmanuel School NW6 parents etc, isn’t this about building a community school to benefit our area

    My only answer to that question was yes, it shouldn’t be about upper, middle, lower, working classes it should’t be about loving or disliking Hampstead School. For me and other parents the school may be a faith school but it will also be a community school. When I look around our primary schools which quite a few are faith schools its a melting pot of all races and faiths and I love it and thats what we believe the secondary school in NW6 will be.

  • Whampmum

    I appreciate your sentiments Shay and your desire for inclusivity, but I’m afraid for me and for a lot of local parents, a Church school is not the right fit because we either practice another faith or none. I could have sent my children to a Church school but felt strongly that I wanted them educated in a non-religious environment (I don’t want to send them to a school of our own faith either). If this secondary campaign were to end up being for a Church school that would swing me from ‘undecided’ firmly into the ‘against’ camp, and I’d hazard a guess there would be a lot of others who would feel the same.

  • Whampmum

    Also, because my earlier question to Clare (or anyone else from the campaign) has been a bit lost amidst the other comments, I’m reposting here:

    Given that one of your chief complaints against Camden Council is that they are proceeding with the sale of the Travis Perkins site, can you actually demonstrate that it would be big enough for a 4-form entry secondary school of a little under 800 pupils (plus staff)?

    Even if you accept that one won’t now be an option, you will need a substantial site and there just doesn’t seem to be another suitable one in WH. Do you have an alternative in mind? Surely this is necessary for your application to the DfE?

    • Anonymous

      I support your view Whampmum, I am concerned that this group are keeping everything so closed right now in a deliberate attempt to have the desires of the Emmannuelle at application stage before they involve the community.

      As for location, I do not believe WH is actually where the true need is, but it is Kilburn, this is where, as Clare described it, is the “blackhole”.

      I have been speaking to other parents in Kilburn and we feel that we should actually be campaigning and inviting the group at Emmannuelle to join us, not the other way around. I do not believe there was a campaign in Kilburn, we would have known.

      The campaign as it stands is being progressed on the demands of Emmanuelle parents in the Fortune Green and nearby areas and NOT on the need of the community. That is why I am deeply concerned about the closure and having read the comments above I am not alone.

      A faith school as a secondary in NW6 would not be of benefit to the high proportion of non CofE. The admissions for free schools is different to LA schools. They can accept up to 50% of their own faith first and only then have to look outside of this. Also their are different agreements within the Admissions Codes for free school than there are for Local Authority schools and of course the appeal process is virtually non existent in free schools.

      We do need another secondary school but I think people should treat the founders of the NW6 campaign, well actually the founder as nobody seems to know who else is involved other than Clare Craig.

      Will it be another Penny Roberts Campaign, funding for demand but not for the community. Penny set up St Luke’s Primary free school on Kidderpore Avenue in NW3 where houses are valued at £5million and flats in Westfield start at £800 to £2million – many of the Westfield parents secured places for their children at St Lukes – the other end of the scale is Camden creating 400+ places at Liddell Road.

      The free school creationism is wrong, the principle of parent power is right. Unfortunately the movement is being high jacked by people for their own gains first.

      I will remain very cautious and I suggest others do too before providing your signature to the mere 500 needed to have the application progressed. Oh and a site!

      The site should be in Kilburn!

    • Anonymous

      We are already involved, just not under your control. A new secondary school will be state funded, provided for the community that support it and the site will be provide by the council… If there is something suitable. Now, how can you tell the public “we are not allowed to comment” on a community issue paid for by the state. Which government body is telling you to withhold this information?

    • Yes it would be big enough. We are not allowed to comment on other potential sites but there is more than one.

    • Why don't you get in touch and get involved?

    • Kate V.

      The level of secrecy is bizarre. They were not afraid to name the Travis Perkins site but now they won’t release any other potential site information. Also, they type of school is also kept under wraps. Free schools don’t have an amazing track record so why do they automatically assume it will be a good school?

      How could anyone really get behind it when so much is kept private? Why should I sign up to find out more?

      The campaigners come off so much worse than they were described by the “Labour source”.

      One thing I do know is it won’t be a P.R. specialist school.

    • Anonymous

      I don't understand the reference to TP other than to gain some publicity as the site has been poised for sale for over three years.

      Also, the DofE actually deemed it inappropriate for a primary school site previously, the group I am sure already know this.

  • Whampmum

    I believe West Hampstead Police station has been mentioned, but there’s no way you could fit a secondary school on that site. Also is far too near Hampstead.

    Re: Travis Perkins – is it REALLY big enough for a 4-form entry school, which is what I understand the campaign is for?

    Liddell Road is not available as the primary school is going there (this has also been mentioned in relation to the secondary, I believe). That primary is urgently needed as every year there are unplaced children in the four local wards (WH/FG/Kilburn/Swiss Cottage)

    I think the site is crucial and would urge the campaign to be more forthcoming about this, also if they intend a CofE school or not. These are two really key issues and if the campaign wishes more local parents to come on board they need to be more explicit on both.

    I for one cannot think about supporting it whilst these two major factors remain unknown (and Clare can you confirm the size of school you’re after, please?)

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps the secrecy is to keep the "debate" alive.

    The other proposed sites for development at the WH interchange are even less suitable than the TP site.
    There are two off Blackburn Road.

    You can check them all on the Camden website – they don't keep it secret!

  • I wish I could answer all these questions – it would make my life much easier!
    The fact is they are all undecided at this stage.
    There are good arguments for having a smaller school (120) and good ones for a larger one (180) and we need more data to see what would work without damaging existing schools and what parents would support.
    As for site – there are possible private sites as well as council owned land all around the railway interchange. I do not know enough about the situation to start naming them yet – but when we know more we will. (Also, oddly, the process is back to front with confirmation of the site coming last).
    Likewise we have not taken decisions about who will help run the school and that is also open to community negotiations.
    If you want to have a say in the latter then please add your name to our email list and we will include you in our survey of parents’ opinions on the subject.

  • Anonymous

    Is that figure for just the first year, 4 classes of 30? So yearly what will the admissions be? If this is the case then your campaign will not meet with the crisis you suggest and needs of the community – It would have to be a smaller catchment than UCL which is now at 0.6 miles.

    When are you opening up to "community negotiations" and what decisions will you take without

  • NW6 Parent

    Some burning questions:-

    How will you ensure that all children have access to the school and what will your admissions criteria be?

    Can you rule out the criteria being faith selection even if it were a faith school?

    Will your school reflect the socio-economic profile of the neighbourhood as measured by the proportion of children admitted who are entitled to free school meals?

    Will you insist that all teaching staff have Qualified Teacher Status?

    When and how will you consult with neighbouring schools and the community about your proposals?

    Lastly, will you be inviting Camden Council to either support or work in partnership with the school?

  • Anonymous

    To answer Whampmum’s question (which she keeps on posting) is the Travis Perkins site big enough for a school – try looking on Google maps. You can see that the Travis Perkins site goes back a long way. The footprint seems be a bit smaller than William Ellis School and Parliament Hill School but about twice the size of the site of Camden School for Girls. So yes it does seem to have been big enough to build a secondary school.

  • NW6 Parent

    You are asking us to support you/your campaign and entrust our children’s education and future without providing some very basic information.
    It is unrealistic to ask the community to support the campaign without providing them with some basic information which they require to make an informed decision. To this we need information on your plans on your website and provide an area where we can comment/make suggestions or ask questions. Your website should be the starting point for this so you can build up a base of feedback/support – which you will need anyway for your DofE application – and it will encourage others to join up.
    Having read the comments above there are some reasonable concerns and I feel now, after your three months of months of media interviews it is time that you share details of your team, provide details of what sort of school you are proposing, is our MP involved or responded and start to include the community instead of relying on the group in your church/school community.
    Please, please allow us to make informed decisions – you may find it is another key to gaining greater support – and provide us with the information we need to do so.

    • Anonymous

      Being a non UK national with children who will fall into this crisi for secondary places I find it most bizarre that the UK has introduced a new schools programme which is based on the vision of one person who can prove demand, easy in our growing population, and a decent business plan which is equally easy to do.

      For this to be the criteria now for new schools and with no other options available it is easy to see why free schools have gained such popularity.

      It is frighteningly ambitious and only time will tell but as it is the only option available in many cases it will continue to grow.

      I am taking bets on the date of fall out, not this side of the election of course!

  • Anonymous

    Just to put the cat amongst the pigeons here… My view is that the Travis Perkins site should be handed over to Hampstead school and the year 7 to 9’s should be housed on that site. That would allow for more students per year and then they could transfer to the main Hampstead School site. This would solve the school place issue, create local secondary and remove the devisiveness from the campaign in one go.
    Personally I’m not keen on having my tax money used to subsidise a ‘traditional education’ for someone else’s children. I read this as ‘I want a private school education’, but don’t want to pay for it. Nothing in life is free, not even ‘free’ schools.
    After years of politicians making an art out of it I now recognise when I’m being spun. This campaign is spinning faster than a gold belt at an Elvis impersonators competition.

    • Hampstead School fan

      I like your practical solution, Anonymous. The NW6 School campaigners will not be interested. Their motive is not to address a need for local places but, rather, to avoid sending their children to Barnet grammar schools, CofE schools further afield, paying school fees or, worst of all, sending them to Hampstead School.

      I would urge all local parents, carers and students who are soon to begin secondary school to go on a tour of Hampstead School. They are holding one every Tuesday at 9AM until 22/10 and on Thursday 17/10 at 6PM.

      Don’t believe the “boisterous behaviour” naysayers. Hampstead is a truly inclusive school where children of every background, academic ability and faith thrive. They have real community values at their core.

  • Anonymous

    For those of you naive enough to believe you will get answers on the details of what type of school the proposed new secondary will be please don’t hold your breadth.

    My concern is that the campaign has been kept so closed, that decisions about the school have been taken based on views and aspirations of a small group of NW6 parents.

    It is so shocking that Clare continues to refuse such reasonable questions but keeps begging for support.

    The truth is NW6 parents have no idea what sort of school they would be supporting but you need to show detailed evidence of support and provide proof that you have gained this from all sections of the community.

    Clare has confirmed above that she intends to file her application for the school to the DofE in January 2014 and she has also mentioned an application to the New Schools Network, the “chosen charity” of the DofE who provide funds to help with application in January 2014.

    What this means dear parents is that decisions on many things have already been made without your consultation and the criteria for obtaining funding from the NSN includes declaration of Faith Ethos or Faith Designation. So with the submission to the NSN already being made, checked deadline on NSN site, then so it too would the decision over faith school or not.

    But we are merely NW6 Parents, why should we have a say in this major, major decision.

    This campaign which withholds this information about our proposed secondary school is an insult to our intelligence.

  • Anonymous

    The Muslim Free School in Derby closed today, following the emergency inspection by Ofsted prompted by reports of female teachers being forced to wear the hijab and female pupils being forced to sit at the back of classes.

    This is an embarrassment to Michael Gove and is evidence the dangers of removing local authorities duties to local communities.

    • J. cole

      Angela Mason's main argument is: the majority of pupils are going outside of Camden
      , where they live, not because there are insufficient places but because they reject what is available as acceptable. Well that's alright then!