Haverstock School proposed as joint home for Abacus Primary

Haverstock School

Haverstock School - could it also be home to Abacus Belsize Primary? - Credit: Archant

Haverstock School has announced it is "in discussions" with the Department for Education (DfE) and Abacus Belsize Primary School over a deal which would see the homeless Free School move onto the Haverstock site. 

Abacus has lacked a permanent home ever since its founding in September 2013. Parents and campaigners launched it to address the so-called "Belsize black hole" of a lack of secular primary schools catering to those living in the council ward. 

Most recently the DfE failed in a bid to get permission to rehouse the school inside the old Hampstead Police Station. It is now seeking to sell that property

The old Hampstead Police Station, now up for sale

The old Hampstead Police Station, now up for sale - Credit: André Langlois

Instead, Haverstock School has revealed talks over "co-locating" Abacus on its 24 Haverstock Hill site. 

A Camden Council spokesperson said the aim is to have the new site ready for the 2022/23 school year.

In a statement, a Haverstock School spokesperson said: “An initial site survey by the DfE has shown that the proposal to divide the site and to accommodate both schools is viable in building terms.

"Indeed there would be some surplus accommodation and Haverstock is likely to be provided with some building enhancements if the proposal is agreed."

Headteacher Vicky Briody. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Headteacher Vicky Briody. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The school explained this proposal had come after three years of discussion with Camden Council about how to reduce its site costs. Previous measures as part of this had seen the location of the Camden Reintegration Base (CRiB) at Haverstock, along with special educational needs (SEN) provision.

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Haverstock School said its governing body had given further talks with Abacus the go-ahead, and Camden Council would now discuss options with the DfE. 

The statement continues: "The proposal offers the possibility of significant financial benefits to Haverstock, putting us on a sound and stable financial footing so that going forward our sole focus can be on the ‘Good to Great’ journey as a confident and inclusive smaller school."

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “Following the outcome of Abacus’s planning appeal, the DfE approached the council to ask for help in exploring other possible options of a permanent site for the school." 

The town hall said the plans were at a "very early stage" and added: "All parties need to undertake due diligence to ensure that any change is in the best interests of all Camden children.

"If it were to be approved, it would provide financial support to Haverstock School, which has exceptionally high running costs from its PFI agreement, as well as reduced income due to falling student numbers.”

A representative of Abacus Primary added: "We are at an early stage in securing some space for a site on the large Haverstock School site, which would provide a single discrete area for our school."

They added that it "could be possible to secure an area of the school with separate classrooms, entrance and playground area to ensure the distinct nature of the provision of both schools".

The schools would "keep their separate identity", the statement continued.

They also said "detailed discussions" were ongoing, but that it was hoped at this stage any move could take place at the beginning of the 2022/2023 academic year in September 2022.

Abacus Belsize been based in Camley Street, St Pancras, since 2015. Its lease expires in 2022, The school occupied the old Hampstead Town Hall in Haverstock Hill between 2013 and 2015.