Abacus School: Department for Education still backing Free School's move to old Hampstead Police station
PUBLISHED: 19:45 11 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:39 12 June 2019
The Department for Education (DfE) has backed the controversial Abacus Free School's move to Hampstead's old police station.
This comes after the board of governors at the state-funded New End Primary took the unusual step of encouraging parents and carers to object to plans to convert the old police station for the homeless school.
New End Primary's chair of governors Linda Davies signed the letter which was sent out last week.
Ms Davies justified sending the letter, saying: "It is introducing a new school into Hampstead at the wrong time and in the wrong place.
"Obviously the Governors of New End School don't want to do anything that would harm other existing schools, as they face the same financial squeeze as us. But we wanted parents to understand that opening yet another primary school in Hampstead would make things worse for everyone."
Ms Davies explained that she "had to look out for New End" and cited the falling birth-rate in Hampstead and Belsize Park, as well as Camden Council planning guidance which warns against new schools or expansions in the area.
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She also explained that the governors "had nothing against Abacus".
But Abacus' headteacher Vicki Briody defended the plans as helping to address a need "identified by parents 11 years ago". She said: "We've given the whole community an opportunity to contribute to the evolution of our proposals and are confident that those as yet unconvinced will find their fears misplaced."
Co-founder of the free school and campaigner Linda Grove told this newspaper: "I was apalled that the governors of New End canvassed parents to object against another state school."
Despite the school-on-school warfare, a DfE spokesperson backed Abacus.
They said: "Abacus is an outstanding school that is already very popular with parents, despite having to open in temporary accommodation.
"It is only right that the Government continues to support the school's move to a permanent building and the former police station is the most suitable site in the area for the school."
The planning application has been opposed by a number of other local groups, including the Heath and Hampstead Society.
After a consultation last year, it has submitted plans to Camden Council in May to turn the empty old police station into a school for 210 pupils.