Funding hopes grow for new Belsize Park school
Susanna Wilkey CAMPAIGNERS for a new school in Belsize have been given fresh hope from a letter sent by the Secretary of State for Schools to a Camden councillor. Last month the Government announced a �200m fund to build permanent classrooms for reception
CAMPAIGNERS for a new school in Belsize have been given fresh hope from a letter sent by the Secretary of State for Schools to a Camden councillor.
Last month the Government announced a �200m fund to build permanent classrooms for reception pupils over the next two years in areas facing exceptional primary school demand.
Parents urged Camden Council to apply for the Belsize area where children face huge competition each year to get in somewhere nearby.
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But they feared that they wouldn't qualify as demand is measured across the borough rather than in specific wards.
Now Government minister Ed Balls has sent a letter to Camden councillor Alexis Rowell saying the council can apply as an exception because the Belsize area is a black hole in terms of primary school places.
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Cllr Rowell said: "I am cautiously optimistic about the letter I received from Ed Balls.
"It says we can legitimately apply for funding for a new school or expansion of existing schools on the basis that there is a particular problem in the Belsize and the NW3 area."
Campaign organiser Liz Taylor said: "We were concerned so this letter is good. London Councils [representing all councils in the capital] has also written to Ed Balls saying that the rules would mean that London boroughs would not get any money.
"The response is good news but until we actually get the money it is still worrying that we will not get a school. Until the money is there and the council can actually do something with it we are always wondering."
Last month the council was forced to set up the Courthope Road education centre in All Hallows church hall to deal with the extra children who couldn't get places in the borough's primary schools for the start of this school year.
A total of 41 children have now taken up places and the council is still waiting to hear from another 16. A fledgling PTA has been set up and a uniform chosen.
The council has also been working on the building to make it ready for the new school term in September.
Ms Taylor added: "It is fantastic news that so many children have taken up places and really shows the need in this area.
"In fact there is more of a need than that because some people had already made other arrangements before this was sorted out at the end of July.
"It is brilliant that these children now have a place and will not be sitting at home. I am very pleased about that and hope that we will, in time, get a new school in Belsize."
A spokeswoman for the council said: "The council is carrying out minor building works to the Camden Courthope Education Centre to ensure that it meets the same standards required of all Camden's education buildings.
"All the works will be finished before the centre opening on 14 September. The works being carried out includes remodelling of classrooms on the ground floor, the installation of commercial kitchen equipment and new cabling and IT equipment."