SCHOOL CAMPAIGN: Correction on 23/08/2014: Letter published in Hendon and Finchley Press 07th August 2014
In response to Richard Cornelius' column on 20/07/2014, I have to take issue with his notion that "the meetings of the new committees (...) [are] ensuring the best early years services to improve the life chances of young children in Barnet". Indeed, after attending the Barnet's Children, Education and Safeguarding Committee meeting on 27/07/2014 it is plain that councillors and representatives are blissfully unaware of the urgent need for more and better school provision.
A recent London Councils report indicates that demand for primary school places in Barnet is set to increase by 25% 2013-2018. This bodes ill, given the population explosion set to hit London's outer boroughs for this same period, only partially taken into account in the report. But rather than acting swiftly to ensure the children of Barnet have schools to go to, councillors are imposing excessive red tape and unnecessary delays on Free School Bids, allowing ideology to get in the way of decision making.
Now is the time for Labour and Conservative councillors to overcome party political grudges and support inclusive and ambitious school bids. One of these is the the Ara school which would offer an International Baccalaureate programme to Barnet residents; but has been turfed into the long grass in spite of its evident potential. Rather than relying on the economically and ethnically divisive selection policies of religious groups (e.g. CofE), this Borough should welcome a secular and inclusive international Free School which can cater for an increasingly diverse community.
I hope Mr Cornelius is serious that Barnet can 'refocus on delivering the substance and the services'. But if he has not spotted this storm on the horizon, how could he be?
© David Kelly,  All rights reserved.