Parental demands denied

Families demanding a school to serve their area say the Government is offering them the wrong kind of parent power.

When Emma Jones heard about the education white paper and its promises to respond to parental demand for new schools, she thought her problems had been solved.

The theatre director from Holborn, in London, had just set up the Holborn and St Pancras Secondary School Campaign after realising that her nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son would have no local secondary to attend.

The central London areas of Bloomsbury, Holborn and King's Cross were all outside local secondary catchment areas, she said. Parents who could not afford to move house or pay fees were having to see their children go as far away as Barnet - a two-hour round trip - to find a suitable school.

But the mood of the 50 campaigners changed when they spoke to Camden council. She said the authority reported that the Government wanted academies to be built using Building Schools for the Future money, and that the white paper ruled out creating the council-run community school they wanted for their children.

The campaign, which Mrs Jones says has wide community backing, does not want a school set up by a parents' charitable foundation as will happen at Elmcourt school in Lambeth, south London, when it opens in 2007 after a long local campaign.

"We could say we are a nice group of parents who could make a nice school, but in my opinion a parent like me doesn't have the qualifications to run one," she said. "We want to make sure that the school is a comprehensive community school that is run by the democratically accountable local authority."

Lucy Anderson, Camden council's executive member for schools, said the authority was considering the campaign's case alongside other demands for new schools in the borough.

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