CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Police station school poses ‘serious threat’ to New End School

Warnings that there will not be enough money or children to go around

06 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

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

A PRIMARY school has objected to a free school opening in the old Hampstead Police Station, warning that it poses a “serious threat” to its own financial stability.

New End Primary School has raised its concerns about Abacus moving into the building in Rosslyn Hill as planners consider whether permission should be granted. The Abacus application says it will use two floors of a former courthouse inside the police station as a “business centre” to raise funds for children’s education.

As the New Journal has reported over the last two years, schools in Camden say they are struggling to make ends meet due to a national education funding crisis.

In an official objection to Camden Council’s planning department, governors at New End say: “Abacus will earn and keep a significant income from managing a new business centre in some of the surplus space. This will amount to a very significant subsidy to Abacus School that is simply not available to other state schools.”

The letter adds: “Put together, the brand new facilities, coupled with very generous space and a very significant subsidy from the business centre, amount to significant unfair advantages for Abacus School. The proposal creates even more unnecessary spare capacity and will result in other local schools being starved of desperately-needed funds. The combination of funding pressure, declining pupil numbers and increasing capacity will be toxic: there will simply not be enough children or money to go round. If such a development were permitted, it would pose a serious threat to the future financial stability of New End.”

The objection says there are currently 79 unfilled places at New End – meaning the school is getting £398,792 less than usual in funding. Unfilled pupil places are the official reason for the planned closure of St Aloysius Primary School, in Somers Town, due to be officially announced next month.

Todd Berman, who lives in Hampstead and is campaigning against Abacus, said: “All rents from the business centre would go directly to Abac­us. This is entirely outside the normal school’s funding model and very disturbing indeed when other schools in Camden are desperately short of funds.”

Abacus has been based in a temporary building in King’s Cross with children bussed in each morning from Belsize Park. The school is rated “outstanding” and has for several years been waiting to move into the police station bought for it by central government for £14million.

The council rejected the original plans for a 420-place school at the police station in 2016, but advised that a 210-pupil school was more likely to be approved.

Plans for the smaller-intake school are now on the desk of council planners.


SEE ALSO FRESH BID TO OPEN NEW HAMPSTEAD SCHOOL COMES WITH ‘CAR FREE’ PROMISE


Mr Berman is behind a mass leafleting campaign in Hampstead opposing the Abacus application. Hundreds of leaflets have urged residents to object to the school because it will add to the notorious Hampstead school run.

The school has promised it will go “car free” and that parents who drop off children from vehicles will receive verbal warnings from wardens at the school gates. New End’s objection says it has struggled to force parents to stop using cars for the school run despite having a similar “car-free ethos”.

Some letters of support have been received by the council.

Linda Grove, who first campaigned for the school more than 10 years ago, has criticised “nimbys” oppos­ing Abacus, adding: “Shame on them all. What is happening in our community if one state school cannot support another state school?”

The Department for Education’s planning application, on behalf of Abacus, says: “The northwest ‘return wing’, the former magistrates’ court, holds the proposed business and enterprise space on ground and first floors. The entrance to the business and enterprise space is off Downshire Hill.”

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