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Residents call for elite Henrietta Barnett school to give priority to local children

PUBLISHED: 17:31 20 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:40 20 January 2017

Thousands of children from in and around London apply for a place at Henrietta Barnett. Photo: Archant

Thousands of children from in and around London apply for a place at Henrietta Barnett. Photo: Archant

Archant

A Henrietta Barnett consultation has sparked debate on whether the famous grammar school should give priority to Hampstead Garden Suburb pupils

Del Cooke, headteacher of Henrietta Barnett, said places will continue to be awarded on merit. Picture: Nigel SuttonDel Cooke, headteacher of Henrietta Barnett, said places will continue to be awarded on merit. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Headteacher Del Cooke has said there are no plans under consideration to set a catchment area - contrary to an anonymous flyer circulating around the suburb.

Henrietta Barnett, regularly named as one of the best schools in the country, attracts more than 2,000 applicants for 93 places in year 7, and conducts rigorous testing.

Mrs Cooke said the school is currently consulting on its admissions policy - as it does every year - but there are no changes planned to create a catchment area.

The consultation, however, has clearly stirred up strong feelings, with parents debating if priority should be given to local children.

The flyer is urging families to let the school know if they would like to see priority given to local children –especially as there are no other secondary schools in NW11.

It says: “Unlike other state funded schools, there are presently no restrictions on where Henrietta Barnett applicants can live.

“This means local children have to compete in exams against thousands of candidates any distance away.

“As a result, very few places are offered to children who live close to the school”.

Mrs Cooke said 48 per cent of pupils live in north London.

Resident Marjorie Harris said: “I think you will find that a majority of residents would prefer Henrietta Barnett to take in a far greater number of local girls from the two main Suburb Primary Schools – Garden Suburb and Brooklands Schools.

“This has been a bone of contention for a very long time, even in my daughter’s day (and she is now in her forties!)”

Harriet Galgut, a grandmother, said: “I think it is crazy that there are children coming from miles away. Environmentally it cannot be good, neither can it be good for these girls.”

A former pupil said: “While sympathetic to the wish that Henrietta Barnett be a school for locals, [I’m] unhappy at the prospect that this might make both it and the Suburb even more privileged. House prices would go up as people see the school as a bonus.”

Mrs Cooke said: “When Henrietta Barnett herself founded the school she wanted it to be available to girls from any background... We are delighted to have students from the local area, and we do encourage families not to apply if the journey would be too long for their daughters, but we do not impose geographical restrictions in order to make the school available to all.”

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