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Parents push Balls for Belsize primary school

PUBLISHED: 11:32 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:42 07 September 2010

Ed Balls meets parents in Chalk Farm

Ed Balls meets parents in Chalk Farm

PARENTS met with education secretary Ed Balls yesterday to demand a new Belsize Park primary school to cope with demand for places. The MP was visiting the Harmood Children s Centre in Chalk Farm to launch the government's families and relatio

Tan Parsons

PARENTS met with education secretary Ed Balls yesterday to demand a new Belsize Park primary school to cope with demand for places.

The MP was visiting the Harmood Children's Centre in Chalk Farm to launch the government's families and relationships green paper.

But he met his match in protesters worried that their children will have nowhere to go when they reach school age.

Grandmother and former teacher Linda Grove handed Mr Balls a letter demanding a new school as he entered the building.

She said: "We need a new school in Belsize Park. We had the same problem when my daughter was a child and now it's worse than ever."

Belsize Park has been described as a black hole in terms of primary places.

This year, the problem has been exacerbated by a baby boom and the possibility that fewer parents are sending their children to private schools during the recession.

Questioned by the Ham&High, Mr Balls implied that Camden Council had to shoulder some of the blame for the lack of places currently available.

He said: "We put £1million in this year for Camden to meet the extra demand for places. That is for immediate action.

"Long-term planning responsibility lies with the local authority.

"It's absolutely right for parents to say that we should have a school that our children can walk to. It's important to be planning two or three years ahead - the council should be making plans to fund places with the money we are giving them. Camden has had money every year for the last 12 years."

Last August, Mr Balls wrote a letter to Cllr Alexis Rowell saying that Camden Council could qualify to apply for some of the £200million being made available over the next two years to build permanent classrooms for reception pupils in areas facing exceptional growth demand.

Mrs Grove's daughter Rachael Guan, 34, of Lawn Road, had a private meeting with Mr Balls at the Harmood Centre yesterday about her fears for the future education of her five-month-old son Sebastian.

Afterwards she said: "We spoke to him about schools and he was aware of the issue. We pointed out that we needed a proper new school.

"He has promised to write to the head of children's services at Camden Council about the lack of school places.

"He said that his understanding was that the situation with extra children had arisen because of birth rate issues and a lack of planning.

"I think there's a chance that Sebastian will be able to go to a school in Belsize Park but at the moment it's just too early to say."

Currently the extra demand for places is being met in part by the Camden Courthope Education Centre in South End Green. It opened last September.\


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