Primary school searching for a home is told it can't share Haverstock site

Rejection for Abacus comes after years of trying to move into Hampstead police station

Thursday, 21st July — By Harry Taylor

Vicki Briody, headteacher at Abacus,

Abacus headteacher Vicki Briody

PLANS to find a permanent home for a primary school near its Belsize Park catchment area have faltered again – after a secondary school rejected its bid to share its site.

Abacus Belsize Primary School, which has been at the centre of a long-running saga to find a long-term home, had hoped to move onto the Haverstock School site in Chalk Farm.

It has bussed pupils to a temporary site in Camley Street since 2015, and spent six years trying to move into the former Hampstead Police Station – which has stood empty since Boris Johnson closed it during his time as Mayor of London. This move was rejected by councillors and then a planning inspector.

A possible move to Haverstock’s land was proposed by the Department for Education (DfE), but the New Journal can reveal that governors rejected the idea at a meeting last month.

James Hadley

James Hadley, headteacher at Haverstock, said: “Ultimately we considered the plan that was put forward by the Department for Education and whilst we had no objection in principle to the school, the disruption that would have been caused by the building project was too great and outweighed any benefit it would bring to the school.

“The problem would have been managing the transition from what we have now to what the campus would have looked like when it was completed. There would have been a lot of movement of the curriculum and classes, and that comes at a price for young people.”

The plans would have brought extra funding for Haverstock School at a time when it has had to reduce the number of Year 7 pupils it expects to admit every year due to fewer teenagers living in the borough. Mr Hadley said: “We are open to discussions in the future with the DfE if they want to come back with different plans with less disruption.”

Abacus was set up in 2013 after a campaign by parents who said there were only “pay or pray” options in their area – private or religious schools. It is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.

In a statement, Anthem, the trust that runs Abacus Belsize Primary School said: “They [Haverstock governors] have explained that while they have no objection to Abacus as a school, they consider the co-location plans to be too potentially disruptive and to have limited longer-term benefits for their own school.

“Anthem Schools Trust, the DfE and Camden local authority are continuing their search for a suitable permanent home for Abacus.”

Abacus headteacher Vicki Briody, said: “Naturally, this is disappointing news for our school community, but everyone at Abacus remains completely committed to ensuring our children receive the very best education, now and moving forward. “Combined efforts to find us a permanent home are ongoing, and we look forward to exploring new site options in the coming weeks.”

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