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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 3 December 2009
Education Secretary Ed Balls
Education Secretary Ed Balls
Just £1m to solve school places crisis

Camden set to face massive primary classroom challenge after modest government handout

PLEASE sir, can we have some more?
Camden’s education chiefs may have to approach Ed Balls, Labour’s Education Secretary, in the manner of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, after Balls gave them just £1million towards solving the borough’s primary school places crisis.

The Education Secretary announced on Tuesday that he will make £300m available to London boroughs to help them cope with a massive increase in demand for places.
But only a Scrooge-like share of the handout is heading Camden’s way, despite the fierce debates over a lack of places and the fact that some children are currently being taught in a converted church hall.
The Courthope Education Centre opened as a temporary solution after protests by families whose children are close to school age – particularly in the Belsize council ward.
Education supremo Councillor Andrew Mennear believes the only way to solve Camden’s specific problem will be to open two new primaries and possibly expand existing schools.
He estimates that at least £6million would be needed to create each new school, a requirement far in excess of the money being offered by the Department for Education and Skills.
In comparison to the £1m coming Camden’s way, areas such as Barking and Dagenham will get £18m, Wandsworth receives £19.9m and Newham in east London collects £17.5m.
“Any investment is welcome, it all helps,” said Cllr Mennear. “The signs are there will not be any more. We accept there is a problem and it is up to all of us to find a solution now.
“The fact is that there are more people in London now, whether they have come to London from other parts of the UK or abroad.”
He added: “In the past, couples with young children, living in flats, have decided they need a garden or some more space and have moved out of London.
“But in the current climate they are finding that they can’t sell or are in negative equity. So they are still in London when they reach school age.”
Cllr Mennear admitted that other local authorities were facing even bigger problems than in Camden, but added: “This shouldn’t mean families here miss out.
“To my mind, providing school places is one of the main things that people expect from a local authority, so it is top of my list of priorities.
Labour MP Glenda Jackson said she was “delighted” with the new investment, while the Lib Dems said their campaigning had made the government take notice.
Mr Balls said in Tuesday’s announcement: “It is down to local authorities to make sure there are sufficient school places available to meet parental demand across their areas. It is now clear that some local authorities are now facing big, unanticipated rises.”

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