Angela Mason: 'A new school south of the Euston Road is something that we have pressed for over a number of years'
Published: 5 July, 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY
MICHAEL Gove is edging closer to approving plans for a brand new secondary school in the south of Camden, the New Journal has learned.
The Education Secretary is due to announce a new wave of his much-trumpeted “Free Schools” within the next fortnight and sources keeping checks on the discussions have suggested his office is looking seriously at answering the decades-old call for a school south of Euston Road.
Several sites have been discussed during more than 30 years of campaigning by parents and councillors but a surprise new potential location has emerged in Bidborough House, the council offices in King’s Cross.
Although recently refurbished, Camden Council is abandoning the building as part of its move to new offices on the Railway Lands site close to St Pancras International station.
And though the government or an independent sponsor would have to pay the Town Hall to secure the land, it has been talked about as being big enough for a new school
The council said last night there had been no “detailed negotiations” over Bidborough House, but insiders have told the New Journal that the idea has at the very least been flagged up.
The site is just a few steps south of Euston Road, and technically meets the criteria of a banner campaign for new school provision on that side of the road.
Sceptics are already warning that a school there – jokingly referred to this week as “Bidborough House High” – would be close to Regent High School, the rebranded and expanded South Camden School, and also Maria Fidelis School.
Rather than easing a shortage of classroom places problem, there were warnings it could lead to a “surplus” of places and empty desks in lessons.
Other sites in the “South of the Euston Road” zone discussed over recent years have included land in Wren Street currently occupied by council-owned lock-ups.
The Mount Pleasant postal site and the Eastman Dental Hospital were also once on the radar.
Parent campaigners revealed last year that the Institute of Education (IoE) was working with them on a plan to get a school open in the target area.
Widely seen as the organisation most interested in sponsoring a new free school in the area, the IoE said it could not comment on the suggestion when contacted by the New Journal yesterday (Wednesday).
The new school, it is thought, could be a perfect starting point for teacher training.
The Department of Education was also keeping its cards close to its chest yesterday.
Its press office said that there would be no statement on the new schools until Mr Gove’s announcement at some stage later this month.
A Camden Council source, however, said there was a confidence that Mr Gove would always be attracted to a school supported by organisations with obvious educational expertise.
Labour cabinet member Councillor Angela Mason said: “The council has been talking to Partnership for Schools and their successor body for two years about a new school south of the Euston Road.
“There is nothing new to add.
"As it stands, Government have made no offer for any site in the council’s ownership to progress this, therefore we must continue to work with all interested parties to find a resolution that meets the needs of those involved.
“A new school south of the Euston Road is something that we have pressed for over a number of years, but the previous administration missed the opportunity to address this.”
Leader of the opposition Councillor Keith Moffitt said: “While they are expanding what will be Regent High, having a new school in the King’s Cross site and there is possibly a new school here, there is a danger of overprovision.
“In the north west of the borough there is a problem of school places which isn’t being addressed.”
Conservative leader Councillor Andrew Mennear, a former education chief who always said he wanted a new school south of the Euston Road, said: “It is, ‘well done Michael Gove’.
"After 35 years of campaigning in this area, it looks like all the ducks are now lined up in a row and this has all come about because the government has changed the rules to make it easier to set schools up.”
He added: “There may be a surplus of places at schools.
“I don’t mind that if there is parental choice over schools and people aren’t forced to send their children to one school.”