Belsize school campaign gathers momentum
Susanna Wilkey PARENTS campaigning for a new Belsize school have taken their crusade to MP Glenda Jackson in a bid to get the help they desperately need from the government. The Hampstead and Highgate MP promised more than 20 families who showed up at her
PARENTS campaigning for a new Belsize school have taken their crusade to MP Glenda Jackson in a bid to get the help they desperately need from the government.
The Hampstead and Highgate MP promised more than 20 families who showed up at her Swiss Cottage surgery on Saturday that she would discuss the issue with ministers and Secretary of State Ed Balls.
More than 100 children in Camden are still without a school place less than three months before the new school year begins and parents are becoming increasingly stressed and frustrated.
Campaign organiser Liz Taylor, who lives with her four-year-old son in Belsize, said: "Emergency options Ms Jackson mentioned were temporary classrooms and larger class sizes with extra teachers. We asked her to look at all the options including innovative ones.
"We need three or four classes for the 100 children who have had no offer - 57 of whom are in Belsize, Frognal and Fitzjohn's and Swiss Cottage.
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"Parents cannot walk for more than an hour taking their children to school or be forced to take two buses - it is just not good enough.
"It is very stressful and we are really hoping that, in the short-term, extra classes will be provided in this area. The community is really behind this campaign which is fantastic."
Camden is one of the worst London boroughs for children not offered a place at any of their chosen schools. In Belsize ward, 38 per cent of children - more than one in three - were not offered a place at any of their four choices.
Swiss Cottage parent Christina Von Borcke has had no offers for her four-year-old daughter Sasha and is fed up with the whole process. She said: "It is incredibly frustrating. The problem has obviously existed for a very long time and the council has done nothing, which is not good enough. They cannot even say how many children this has happened to each year.
"We need a school in the area and, in the meantime, extra classes nearby. We are being told not to drive, and to stay close by, but we are being offered schools really far away, if at all. It is hugely frustrating."
Campaigners ultimately want a new school in Belsize but, in the short-term, they want extra classes added to schools in the area, to deal with the problem.
Parent Leila Roy, who lives on Haverstock Road with her four-year-old son Anton, added: "I have been offered a faith school two miles away, which is just not workable with a four-year-old.
"We are practically opposite Fleet School but are only on the waiting list there. I am very frustrated by the whole process.
"It is not a new issue - it has been around for a long time so why has Camden not done anything about it? It is not going to go away - only get worse with the recession."
Camden Council has set up a working group with parents to try to work towards a solution.
Schools boss Cllr Andrew Mennear said: "We advised the parents to go to their MP and ask for help and I hope she [Glenda Jackson] will be able to lobby the government to give us some funding to start a new school.
"There are some issues for the national government so these problems do need to be raised with national government.
"We do need to try to get as much sorted here as soon as possible and everyone is working hard trying to find a solution.
"There are discussions being held with schools about whether we can set up extra classes and we are working hard to resolve the situation.