Parents used to promises

28th October 2005 at 01:00
Devon Allison has heard promises from the Government that they will help parents open local schools before.

But she has spent the past five years trying to do that in Brixton, south London, without success.

Ms Allison is secretary of the Nelson Mandela School Foundation, a parent-backed campaign to open a new secondary school in central Brixton, Lambeth.

The foundation has the backing of its namesake as well as 150 paid-up members and signatures from 3,000 supporters. Lambeth has already seen two successes in "parent power", which were trumpeted by the Prime Minister this week.

Parents successfully campaigned for the creation of the Lambeth academy in Clapham, while another group of parents have won permission to set up a school in West Norwood.

But campaigners for the Brixton school say that their campaign has been thwarted by resistance from their local education authority and problems buying a site. Although the Government has potentially allocated the project an estimated pound;25 million from its academies budget, Lambeth council says that the land alone would cost at least pound;20m.

Despite their experiences, the Brixton campaigners may take some encouragement from plans in this week's white paper. It proposes a "parent's pot" of Pounds 180m to help parents who are having difficulties setting up new schools. It also outlines plans to create a "schools commissioner" who will support parents who want to create schools and will call in the Education Secretary where he thinks that local authorities should be overruled.

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