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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 16 July 2009
Good news on primary school places

• AT last some good news on primary school places in the Belsize area.
Following a suggestion from a Belsize parent, Camden Council has secured the use of classrooms for up to 90 children at the private Hampstead Hill School site in Courthope Road in Gospel Oak.
It’s not ideal – Courthope Road is too far to the west – but it’s a lot better than nothing.
Parents are to be congratulated for their patience, determination and ingenuity. If Camden had stuck to its Plan A – temporary classrooms on state school sites – then we certainly wouldn’t have had a solution for September.
Sean Birch, the Labour candidate in the Belsize by-election, wrote in your pages recently that there was no primary school problem in Belsize, that the Liberal Democrats were politicising the “non-existent” problem and that, since the Lib Dems ran the council, if there was a problem, then it was our fault.
Presumably, hopefully, the news that Camden has seen fit to secure up to 90 extra places has now made it through to Mr Birch.
Every statistic, and every anecdote from parents, shows there is a problem.
If Mr Birch had come to the primary school working group meetings he would have heard parent after parent expressing their heartfelt frustrations. One has since been diagnosed by her GP as suffering from a nervous breakdown. Try telling her there’s no problem, Mr Birch.
I have been raising this issue with the council ever since I was elected in 2006.
In previous years the problem “went away” because frustrated parents found their own solutions. They paid, they discovered religion or they moved.
What’s different this year is not that the Belsize Lib Dems are “politicising” the problem, it’s that there’s a very angry and very well organised parents campaign, which the Belsize Lib Dem councillors fully support.
The executive member for schools, Andrew Mennear, is a Tory not a Lib Dem and it is he who has the final say over schooling issues.
Last year his department messed up its place planning strategy. That strategy recommended adding half a class to Emmanuel School in Fortune Green and a new school in King’s Cross.
They completely ignored the primary school black hole that is Belsize. Thankfully this time round the campaign has been too strong to ignore and the council has been forced to listen. Now we have a temporary solution. Next we need a permanent solution – a new primary school or expansion of existing schools in the area.
Lib Dem, Belsize ward

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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