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Camden New Journal - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 21 June 2007
Fiona Millar
Fiona Millar
‘Please play it by the right rules’

Campaigners urge Town Hall open competition ahead of new school decision

FIONA Millar – the education journalist and former Downing Street aide – spoke in front of the full council on Monday night, demanding an open competition in the race to sponsor Camden’s new school.
She said plans should not be hatched behind closed doors at the Town Hall, telling councillors: “The only reason not to have a competition would be if the council decided to do a private deal with an academy sponsor.”
Ms Millar led a deputation from Campaign for State Education which also included London Assembly member Murad Qureshi, former Labour councillor Lucy Anderson and Andrew Baisley from the NUT.
Ms Millar is among campaigners trying to stave off the possibility of Camden using a city academy model for its new school – provisionally planned for Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage.
Camden is due to reach an “indicative” decision next month over where the school should be and whether it should accept private sponsorship.
Suspicion is mounting over what the Town Hall’s preferred strategy could be as nobody in a senior post has been willing to offer any clues.
Ms Millar, a school governor who lives in Gospel Oak, wants a fair fight with an open competition with a traditional community comprehensive as one of the options.
She said: “A competition would allow the views of parents, governors and other members of the local community to be heard. It could be judged by an independent adjudicator and the final decision would be laid clearly for all the community to see.”
In a warning about the way city academies operate, Luca Salice, a governor at Torriano Junior School in Kentish Town, who was also part of the deputation, said: “The sponsor has the majority of seats on the governing board so the sponsor can run the show. That means the other people are basically Christmas decorations.”
University College London and the Church of England are the only serious contenders in the running at this stage.
Supporters of the Church’s campaign also made a deputation on Monday night and backed Ms Millar’s call for an open competition.
Campaigner Shaleli Barlow, who is a Muslim but believes the C of E takes seriously the “spiritual dimension of life”, said: “Nobody has anything to fear from an open competition, least of all you (Camden Council).”
Ms Barlow presented a petition with more than 1,800 names calling for C of E sponsorship. She added: “It would certainly be more popular than a school sponsored by an organisation without a track record for setting up or running schools. There are already seven non-denominational secondary schools in Camden.”
Conservative education chief Councillor Andrew Mennear said: “We appreciate the views put forward.
“We will take them into account when we come to pulling together the final proposal. We are trying to be as open about the process as we possibly can.”

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