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West Hampstead free school campaigners branded 'snobs' by Labour Party activists

PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 September 2013

NW6 School campaign leader Dr Clare Craig believe the comments made are

NW6 School campaign leader Dr Clare Craig believe the comments made are "unfair". Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Camden Labour activists have allegedly criticised a campaign for a free school in West Hampstead – branding those behind the proposal “middle-class church school-going snobs”.

A well-placed Labour Party source says an unnamed group of party activists believe the NW6 School campaign was only set up because parents of pupils attending Emmanuel Church of England Primary School do not want to send their children to the comprehensive Hampstead School in Cricklewood.

But NW6 School campaigners say there are not enough places in Camden secondary schools for West Hampstead children.

The source believes the class issue has impeded what should be an open debate and said: “Some Labour activists have said they don’t want to give time to an idea from ‘middle-class church school-going snobs’.

“Some have observed that the kids are from one particular church primary school in West Hampstead. It’s all about the perception around Hampstead School.”

But NW6 School campaign leader Dr Clare Craig said: “It’s not only middle-class people supporting this or leading it. People who choose not to send their kids to Hampstead School are not just middle-class.

“One of the problems people have with Hampstead School is that it is a massive school. It has 210 children in each year group.

“That is not much bigger than your average Camden school but a lot of people want a smaller, community school for their children.

“Part of going to school is being part of a community, but if your community is 1,500 people, it’s hard to feel like you belong.”

Cllr Mike Katz, a former Hampstead School governor, was more cautious in his criticism of the free school campaign.

He said he was concerned about some people’s negative perception of Hampstead School.

“I worry that it isn’t being given a fair crack of the whip,” he said. “Jacques [Szemalikowski] has done some amazing things as headteacher and the results speak for themselves.

“We do want to bring up the standards between primary and secondary schools, but if you see something’s not quite right, you sometimes need to work at what’s there rather than build something new.”

But Dr Craig, of Fortune Green Road, Fortune Green, is adamant there are not enough secondary school places for West Hampstead children. She said: “Hampstead School has improved a lot and it’s a good school in terms of results but the problem with it is that there are not enough places for kids in the area.

“People are travelling for miles and miles and Camden is turning a blind eye to it. The gross number of 11-year-olds where we live is huge.”

Camden cabinet member for children, Cllr Angela Mason, said: “As a council we feel we have sufficient capacity in our secondary schools for the next planning period up to 2022/23. We believe that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the availability of good secondary school places for parents in the NW6 area.”

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