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Time to discuss new school plan

PUBLISHED: 18:07 07 June 2007 | UPDATED: 14:33 07 September 2010

ANGRY campaigners hijacked a Camden Council meeting on Tuesday night demanding to discuss plans for a new school in the borough. Around 80 parents, teachers and governors turned up at Haverstock school for Camden's second consultation

By Ben McPartland

ANGRY campaigners hijacked a Camden Council meeting on Tuesday night demanding to discuss plans for a new school in the borough.

Around 80 parents, teachers and governors turned up at Haverstock school for Camden's second consultation meeting to discuss the future of secondary education in the borough.

But just a few minutes into the meeting, campaigners threw the schedule out of the window and demanded to talk about the most controversial aspect of Camden's plans to transform secondary education.

Jane Knight, an English teacher at Haverstock school, said: "We are being gerrymandered into discussing things we don't want to talk about - can we just get on and discuss the location of the new secondary school."

Camden's plans to build a new 1,200 place secondary school and merge special schools Swiss Cottage and Jack Taylor on the same Adelaide Road site has caused huge controversy.

The plans have angered those campaigning for a school in the south of the borough and also staff and parents at Frank Barnes school for deaf children, which is set to make way for the new secondary.

There was also opposition to the format of the consultation where small discussion groups were given keyboards to type in their ideas which were then projected onto a large screen at the front.

Chairman of governors at Torriano junior school Luca Salice said: "This technology channels views into a way people don't like.

"They want to express their anger at Camden's plans but this technology just smothers it."

Another angry member of the audience said: "I have never been to a public meeting that has been so controlled from the front. It is disgraceful."

Camden's children's spokesman Cllr John Bryant was at the meeting with education bosses whose task it is to come up with plans for the new school and a vision for secondary education.

Camden is bidding for around £180million of government money to build the new school and revamp every other secondary in the borough.

Following the dissent from the audience, assistant director for Learning and School Effectiveness at Camden, Gail Tolley, bowed to their wishes but warned them that other issues are just as important as the new school.

She said: "We have to prove to the DfES [Department for Education and Schools] that we have a collective vision for learning and unless we can really prove that then we won't get the money for the bricks. We need to engage as many people as possible in that."

Education bosses are hoping this vision will be discussed at the next consultation meeting at Hampstead Synagogue Community Hall on Monday at 7pm.

The council is currently carrying out a feasibility study to see whether the new school will be viable on the same site as two special specials.

It will then take a draft decision on July 25 before it hands over their final plans to the DfES in October.

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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