New school sparks fears for Queen’s Park primarys

Headteacher Barbara Mayne says she fears the school could cause a drop in applications at existing schools

A council has been accused of putting Queens Park primary schools at risk by temporarily housing a new free school in the area.

Ark Atwood Primary Academy will open in September in Third Avenue, just south of Kilburn Lane.

The school, which will have two reception classes of around 30 children is being set up by education charity Ark Schools, which runs nearby Ark Academy in Forty Avenue, Wembley and King Solomon Academy in Penfold Street, Lisson Grove.

But schools and opposition councillors are concerned that Atwood could destabilise the area’s three existing primary schools – St. Lukes, in Fernhead Road, Wilberforce, in Beethoven Street, and Queen’s Park Primary, in Droop Street.

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Barbara Mayne, headteacher of Queens Park Primary School, which takes children from Kilburn, said she was ‘disappointed’ that Westminster council had not talked to local headteachers before choosing where to put Atwood.

She also warned that it could lead to a worrying reduction in applications to existing schools.

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She said: “It could cause us to lose quite a lot of pupils and be very damaging for us.

“I don’t think it is good that Westminster headteachers of schools that will be affected don’t hear about it directly.”

Ms Mayne added that her school was still struggling to fill nursery places.

Atwood’s catchment area is likely to extend into South Kilburn, Brondesbury, Kensal Green, Kensal Rise, where reception classes are full.

The school is expected to stay on Third Avenue for two years at most before moving to a permanent site elsewhere in Westminster.

However, Mary Arnold, Kilburn councillor and lead member for children and families in Brent Council, cast doubt over claims the school will attract pupils from Kilburn.

She said: “I would be surprised if parents opted for a free school in Westminster which plans to move to a permanent site much further south in two years’ time.

“We have good provision in the south of the borough with a planned school expansion and I would be surprised if parents opted for a free school in Westminster which plans to move to a permanent site much further south in two years’ time.”

Islamia Primary School, in nearby Salusbury Road, Queen’s Park, announced in September plans for an �8 million expansion.

A Westminster Council spokesman said the school will help plug shortfalls in primary school places in the borough and neighbouring Brent, and that the site was ‘cost efficient’.”

Sophy Blakeway, Ark director of primary education said: “We have had a great response from local parents.”

However, the charity refused to comment on criticisms about the location.

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