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Mother takes campaign for new non-religious mixed school to council

12:41 20 September 2011

Sarah Cohen and Avis Johns take their campaign for a new school to Hendon Town Hall. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Sarah Cohen and Avis Johns take their campaign for a new school to Hendon Town Hall. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A mother campaigning for a co-ed secular secondary school for children in Hampstead Garden Suburb, Golders Green and East Finchley has delivered the community’s demands to Barnet Council.

Mother-of-two Avis Johns set out the parents’ agenda asking for schools to accommodate swathes of children forced to travel up to an hour and a half away to attend a mixed, non-religious school.

Nearby schools include a Catholic school, an all-boys school and an all-girls grammar school.

The 41-year-old addressed a special committee on Monday, September 12, set up to deal with the borough-wide problem, backed by her MP, local councillors and hundreds of parents.

Education boss Cllr Andrew Harper said: “It’s a good idea to have evidence from council officers and parents, all with a view to assisting us in determining the scale of the problem and what we should be doing about it.”

Mrs Johns is a member of campaign group Local Schools For Local Children, but is personally campaigning for her nine-year-old daughter, who she would like to send to a mixed, non-religious school in the local area.

She also predicts an “exponential growth” in the number of families and children in the south of the borough creating increased demand for new school places.

“This situation actually tears families apart,” she said. “Parents go through this terrible anguish because of the pressure that children are put under. Why is there no local solution?

“They’ve no idea behind closed doors how unsettling it is, it’s the only thing that wakes me up in the middle of the night with nightmares about where my daughter will go to school.”

She said that parents are having to resort to home tutoring and others relocate to get their children into the right schools.

Mrs Johns, of Heath View in East Finchley, claims some local schools struggle to reach capacity and considered making teachers redundant at the beginning of the year.

But she admitted that the group of parents behind the campaign are not equipped to start their own free school, with no land and no expertise to hand.

“Local schools need to change to accommodate the community rather than us starting another school,” she said. “I’m not a teacher and I think it’s wrong for me to open a free school when we’ve got schools here.

“We need to work with them and we would love to be part of the solution.”

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