As West Hampstead Ward Councillors we fully support the need for a new primary school in the area.
At present there is a Public Consultation about the proposed expansion of Kingsgate School and the redevelopment of the Liddell Road site (www.camden.gov.uk/kingsgate) with a closing date of Tuesday 15th October 2013.
The need for additional school places in the area should be a high priority. Under the present Government policy, any new school would have to be a Free school or Academy and two new Free schools have been opened in other parts of Camden during the past year, funded by the Government. Unfortunately, the current Labour Administration, is ideologically opposed to the option (even though academies were introduced by the last Labour Government) and so have not addressed the escalating school place shortage problem in the North West of the Borough and only now promoting the expansion of an existing school that is funded by building private homes for sale. The new places will not be available untill 2016 at the earliest.
As Ward Councillors we continue to campaign for extra school places but we believe that the approach being consulted on is flawed for the following reasons:
1) There can be no educational case made to have a school based on two sites, a mile apart with railway lines in between with no direct access route between the two. Separating Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils would require additional resources and effort from staff to promote a single school ethos as well as providing a lack of continuity to the children. Schools operating from two sites should be in close proximity to each other and so, in reality, Kingsgate would have to operate as two separate schools.
2) A 4-form intake at one school could prove problematic in meeting future demographic and educational needs. Whilst 4 forms could be accommodated in a new building, Kingsgate is currently in an old Victorian building that may not be suitable for the modern teaching methods for a 4-form older year group entry.
3) The increase of 412 additional pupils on the new site will add to traffic and pedestrian congestion on West End Lane, Kilburn High and surrounding streets during peak morning rush hours and in the afternoons with families travelling to, between and from the two sites. Access between the two locations would be particularly problematic to parents with children attending each site, even if start and finishing times are staggered and would be unduly tiring for young siblings.
4) The new proposed catchment area equidistant between the two sites will mean that some children in Kilburn Ward, who make up much of the current Kingsgate intake, will have less change of attending Kingsgate School than they do now and therefore would be disadvantaged. Those children who failed to get a place this year would be even worse off.
5) In order to finance the new school under the proposed plan it will be necessary to build 120-160 new homes for sale (equivalent to 60-80% of the West Hampstead Square development) but are unlikely to include adequate social or "affordable" housing for local residents. In addition, the influx of around 300 additional residents in an area already subject to intense development will have a cumulative impact on local services such as transport, traffic, parking, health services, parks and playgrounds as well as school places.
6) The 33 profitable businesses currently on site which provide employment and services to local residents will be displaced which will have an effect on the local economy. Although a small amount of new employment is included in the new development, it will not replace what is being displaced.
What West Hampstead needs is a new 2-form entry secular school that would address the needs of West Hampstead children and not deprive children in neighbouring wards of school places. If an application had been made to build a Free School or academy the funding would have come from Central Government and so there would be no need for Camden Council to raise money through building more homes for sale. We take a pragmatic view of accessing the funding that is available through Central Government, rather than putting personal political ideologies before the needs of local children. Kingsgate is an Outstanding school and its success and education provision to local children should not be compromised by political expediency.
We would be very interested in having receiving further thoughts and feedback from local residents on this issue and the consultation process.
Further information on the Council's proposal can be found at www.camden.gov.uk/kingsgate. Comments on the consultation can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 15th October, 201