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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 12 June 2008
School governors revolt

Row over transfer of deaf school threatens to become a war

EDUCATION chiefs were desperately trying to patch up relations with governors last night (Wednesday) as parents at a Somers Town primary tried to force a re-think over plans to move a specialist school for deaf children on to its grounds.
Just as the two sides appeared on the brink of serious conflict, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Councillor Janet Grauberg agreed to meet with angry represenatives from Edith Neville School in Ossulston Street.
The school has been selected as the new home for Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children, which is due for eviction from its current site in Swiss Cottage to make way for Camden’s blue-riband project, the opening of its first independently sponsored city academy.
Edith Neville’s governors insist that, while they have no grudge with Frank Barnes and wish the school well, the overhaul has not been properly thought out. They sent a stinging letter to senior figures in the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition early yesterday.
They fear the council risk harming the education of children at both schools by squeezing them on to the same site.
In a sign that relations are rapidly deteriorating, the letter effectively spelled out an ultimatum with the warning that Edith Neville could break off from future negotiations with the council unless it meets a checklist of demands amounting to starting the search for a new home for Frank Barnes.
Governors also want an apology for the way the school has been treated since the transfer was foisted on them at short notice.
The message was sent to both Cllr Grauberg’s desk and Conservative councillor Andrew Mennear, who runs the education department on behalf of the Tories.
The council had hoped the issue could be talked through and that governors would embrace the incentive of bringing forward refurbishment on the Edith Neville site which, in the minds of most families connected with the school, is long overdue.
But the ultimatum letter indicated that resistance is not wilting.
The letter – signed by Robin Nash, chairman of the governors at Edith Neville, and his number two Cavendish Elithorn – said: “Camden needs to show that it has an open mind and therefore we suggest that you formally write to all primary schools, and their respective Diocesan Boards where relevant, in Camden and ask them whether they would be a willing co-location partner for Frank Barnes and that you explore feasibility with all schools who reply positively.”
It added: “We believe that recognition of the flawed process and an apology by Camden would help start the long journey to rebuilding that trust with the educational community. We would like Camden to publicly recognise that they have not run an appropriate engagement process with Edith Neville.”
Cllr Grauberg said: “We are pleased that they have written and we have arranged a meeting with them.
“They asked us to accept the letter in the spirit of co-operation and we replied in the spirit of co-operation. It’s time for us to have the conversation.”
Parents are due to step up their campaign for a fresh hearing at Monday’s full council meeting.

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