West Hampstead mum one of many without a primary school place for her son
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 13:40 12 July 2013
A squeeze on primary school places in Camden has this year left 50 children eager and ready to start school without a place for September - 44 of whom come from West Hampstead.
Despite two West Hampstead schools expanding in the last two years, parents are still struggling to find places for their children.
Eight more children than last year have been left without a place, causing concern amongst western Camden parents that Camden Council has not done enough to meet demand.
Children from Fortune Green and Kilburn wards are worst off, with 17 in each area left with no school place for September, according to the latest figures.
In West Hampstead ward, eight children currently have no school to attend come the autumn and in Frognal and Fitzjohns, two have no place.
Mum-of-two Mari Hilditch, 35, of Mill Lane, West Hampstead, was left without a place at any local faith school for her four-year-old son Harrison, despite living in the same road as Emmanuel Church of England Primary School.
After to-ing and fro-ing with the council for weeks, she was finally able to secure him a place at Rosary Roman Catholic Primary School in Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, nearly two miles from where the family lives.
Mrs Hilditch said: “It’s not an ideal situation as I have to take two trains to get him there. I just want to get him into one of our local schools.
“I am dreading going through this again with my youngest, Ridley, who is one. You just want the best for your children and I can’t give it to them.
“Harrison asked me if he would be going to school with his friends from nursery in West Hampstead and I had to tell him ‘no’. But I am trying to be positive.”
The struggle for places comes despite Emmanuel Church of England Primary School in Mill Lane, West Hampstead, taking in 45 more children since September 2011, expanding by a form and a half.
Kingsgate Primary School in Kingsgate Road, West Hampstead, also added 30 places this September until a new site in Liddell Road is built in 2016.
Labour councillor Mike Katz, who represents Kilburn ward, said: “This is a growing problem and part of it is that the government has taken away the council’s ability to create new schools.
“We can get around it by expanding Kingsgate Primary School but we do need a new school and extra forms.
“We could set up a free school or academy but then the council has no control over admissions.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Flick Rea, who represents Fortune Green ward, said: “The measures are not working and it’s a very distressing situation for everyone. I think Camden Council will need to set up a temporary school.”
Camden Council said the number of children without a primary school place on June 17, when the latest figures were issued, was already three times less than the number at the beginning of June.
Twelve of the 50 children without a place also live within two miles of a school with places available, so may be offered a place soon.
Cabinet member for children, Cllr Angela Mason, said: “Camden’s schools admissions team is working hard to identify vacancies both within schools in Camden and in the surrounding boroughs and the numbers can change quickly.”