North Westminster free school ‘not in preferred location’

Concerns over new academy located in Queen’s Park

OPINION is divided over the location of a new free school after it was announced on Tuesday that it is to be based in Queen’s Park.

The Wood&Vale exclusively revealed Queen’s Park was being considered for the primary school in October and it has now been confirmed that it will temporarily be located on Third Avenue for up to two years.

The ARK Atwood Primary Academy will admit 60 reception-aged pupils next September to try and compensate for a shortage of school places in Westminster where 364 pupils are currently without schooling.

But critics have argued Queen’s Park is not the ideal location for the school which will also admit children from Brent rather than focusing on areas in north Westminster where the lack of places is more acute.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck said: “We need the school. It is a good thing but this is not the preferred location and gives us a problem because it will not necessarily give us a way of solving the shortage of school places in Westminster.

“There have been concerns expressed by other primary schools in the area and if this is just an interim site then the task will be to organise their intake to deal with the shortfall of places in a way that doesn’t de-stabilise our other primary schools.”

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Queen’s Park councillor Paul Dimoldenberg said none of the ward’s councillors were consulted about the decision and he only found out about it with Tuesday’s official announcement.

“This decision has been taken by cabinet members without any local councillors and we are concerned,” he said.

“To my knowledge there’s no shortage of primary places in the Queen’s Park area. There’s a need for more primary schools in the borough but it’s not here.”

Statistics show there are currently 11 children without places in the Queen’s Park area compared to 83 in Paddington, 75 in Maida Vale and 69 in St John’s Wood.

But Maida Vale councillor Lee Rowley welcomed the decision, saying any school that tackles the problem of Westminster’s shortage is a good idea.

“It’s good news that a new school is opening within walking distance of Maida Vale,” he said.

Cllr Nickie Aiken, cabinet member for children and young people, said the school will operate from the site for a maximum of two years while a permanent site is found. “We have begun consulting with people in the vicinity of the site and will ensure they are kept fully informed of all key developments as this exciting project moves forward,” she said.

“The school will serve the increasing number of parents who want high-quality places in a part of Westminster where there is an increasing shortage of reception vacancies.

“By helping to establish this school we are directly responding to the demands of many parents and families who want greater choice when choosing a primary school for their children.”

It is understood the school, which will be run by ARK, who also run the King Solomon Academy in Lisson Grove, will look to move permanently nearer to Maida Vale.