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Schoolchildren to go behind scenes of controversial Hampstead Heath dams project

08:00 05 May 2014

Grace Rawnsley, Hampstead Heath Education Officer

Grace Rawnsley, Hampstead Heath Education Officer

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Schoolchildren will go behind the scenes of a controversial dam engineering project on Hampstead Heath to learn how bosses will transform the green space.

The City of London Corporation, which runs the Heath, has launched a three-year education programme for pupils from primary and secondary schools close to the Heath, which will run alongside the proposed £15million flood defences project.

If plans to raise the dams by as much as 18ft go ahead, students will be taken on hard-hat tours around the construction site, test the soil and learn about engineering, hydrology and green space management in an education centre on the Heath.

Grace Rawnsley, the City’s Hampstead Heath education manager, said: “What struck me when I first heard about the project was the learning 
potential it could provide.

“The project provides a unique learning opportunity and an interesting case study that covers lots of different aspects of the National Curriculum. That’s what got us really excited about the project.”

The City is yet to recruit an education officer to lead the programme, but hopes to invite the first schools into the education centre in early 2015.

Schools within a one-mile radius of the Heath will take part in the programme, including secondaries Parliament Hill, La Sainte Union and William Ellis, and primary schools Gospel Oak, Christ Church and Fleet.

Younger children will visit excavation sites, take soil samples and learn about rocks.

Secondary school pupils will be 
offered a bespoke programme 
catered to each school’s needs but they will learn about hydrology and see mathematics used in a real-life situation.

The City wants to carry out the engineering works to safeguard the beauty spot from flooding that could see the dams collapse in the event of an 
extreme storm.

Tony Hiller, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society and spokesman for the Dam Nonsense opposition campaign, said the launch of the education programme was “premature”.

“I don’t know the details but it seems unlikely that the City will be giving a balanced programme by providing an understanding that engineering is subject to legal supervision,” he said. “If they include that, then I will be in favour of it.”

Last year the Heath’s education centre taught a record 10,000 students on the green space.

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