Parents campaign for free school in West Hampstead to end squeeze on secondary places

NW6 School campaigners canvassing for supporters at the Jester Festival in Fortune Green. Picture: N

NW6 School campaigners canvassing for supporters at the Jester Festival in Fortune Green. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A campaign to fill a “black hole” of secondary education in West Hampstead with a free school has been backed by local councillors.

Cllr Keith Moffitt, who represents West Hampstead, and Cllr Flick Rea, for Fortune Green, have both lent their support to the drive to open a co-educational school with four forms by September 2015.

The new school could potentially be located on a site close to the railway interchange in West End Lane if parents can win backing for the plan.

Campaigners need up to 500 parents of children aged between seven and nine to sign a petition showing interest in a new West Hampstead school for the Department for Education to consider the proposals.

Figures have revealed that 40 per cent of Camden secondary school children leave the borough to attend classes.

Cllr Moffitt said: “In West Hampstead we find ourselves between two good schools, Hampstead School and the UCL Academy, but children struggle to get into them because of how the catchment areas fall.

“It’s sad for the West Hampstead community that families start a life here and then are forced to move out when their kids grow up.”

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The campaign follows the news that 50 primary school children from across Camden - 44 from West Hampstead, Finchley Road and Kilburn - are still without a school place for September.

Disgruntled parents decided to campaign for a free school because of the squeeze on primary and secondary school places, as well as the fact that thousands of people are expected to move into the NW6 area once new housing developments are built.

They are also canvassing after children missed out on places at the newly built UCL Academy in Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage, which opened in September last year, because the catchment area was less than a mile in radius in 2012.

However, other parents have expressed their concern about a free school opening in the area, saying they would prefer another comprehensive instead.

Last year, it was revealed that Camden would need an extra eight classes for 11-year-old pupils by 2016 due to the borough’s growing population.

Mum-of-four and free school campaign co-founder Dr Clare Craig, 37, from Fortune Green Road, Fortune Green, believes this prediction does not take into account the surge in new homes.

She said: “There is a black hole of secondary education where we are.

“There are only two secondary schools in the NW6 postcode, both on the edges of the area, and none in Camden.

“We need support to show the Department for Education and Camden Council that this is what people want and that the school will be full if it opens.”

For the plans to go ahead, the campaign group need at least 250 signatures from parents who would like to send their children to the new school when they turn 11, to present to the Department for Education.