March 2016 Update

We are sorry to say that the Department for Education’s latest guidance on free school applications makes it very difficult for us to proceed at the present time.  Our intention to submit a new application this month will have to be put on hold.

In the future, free schools like ours will only be approved if there is a clear ‘basic need’ case for a new school – i.e. a projected shortage of school places in the local area which matches the size of the proposed school. Although there are over 1,000 children of secondary school age living in our locality and no secondary school, our community is deemed not to ‘need’ a school because our children can be dispersed in all directions to schools elsewhere, frequently to other boroughs across London.

There is an increase in secondary-age children in other parts of Camden and in neighbouring boroughs and there are proposed expansions of existing schools to accommodate this.  Our planned application pointed out that the creation of The Holborn School would reduce the pressure on these schools by enabling our children to remain in their own community attending their own local school, and building on the outstanding work of our primary schools.  However, we would have to secure the support of the relevant local authorities if we were to make this case to the DfE and this cannot be done quickly or easily.

Under the DfE’s new guidelines, parental demand, the unfair geographical distribution of schools, community cohesion and the huge educational benefits of primary-secondary continuity are no longer seen as sufficient to justify the provision of a local school.  We believe that this grossly undervalues the outstanding work being done in our local primary schools and the overwhelming support for our campaign from all members of our community.

Our campaign to challenge this unfair and damaging situation needs to continue if we are ever going to give all local children equality of opportunity at secondary level.

The Holborn School Campaign will continue to be driven by a core group of parents with young children, backed up by committed local people who believe this fight must go on for the sake of the community.  Policies will come and go but our right to a local secondary school remains and we must continue to campaign for the benefit of present and future generations.  As a subscriber to our newsletter, we will keep you in touch with progress, and we will update our website so that you can find information there as well.

Thank you for your continued support.

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Prime Minister pledges 500 new free schools – but government spikes parents’ plan for new secondary in Holborn

Published in CNJ 12 Mar 2015

david cameronPRIME Minister David Cameron promised to open 500 new free schools across the country on the same day that his government dashed the hopes of parents campaigning for a new secondary in Holborn.

Families living south of the Euston Road have spent 10 years campaigning for a new school, but had the door slammed in their faces on Tuesday when the Department for Education rejected their application for a new school in Wren Street.

The final pieces of the jigsaw seemed to have fallen into place for the parent-led campaign when the Town Hall agreed last year to their suggestion that workshops and studio premises in Wren Street could be used for a new school.

But campaigners have now been told that their application will not be among the waves of new free schools backed by the Conservative-led government.

The plan for the Holborn school was to meet a long-argued need for school places in the southern wards, where research suggests the neighbourhood becomes split as parents search for somewhere to send their children.

In the 2013/2014 round of admissions, The Holborn School’s researchers found that almost 40 per cent of children in the area were not offered a place at a Camden school, while the other three-fifths became scattered across 29 schools in 11 different boroughs.

These figures are used whenever sceptics say that the recent opening of the UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage has had such a domino effect on admissions that the need is no longer there. It remains a source of frustration that the university-sponsored school was not placed closer to its Bloomsbury base. Campaigner Emma Jones’s children were at primary school when she helped kickstart the campaign: one is now at university, the other is preparing for GCSEs.

“It is obviously disappointing and incredibly frustrating, but we have to keep asking the question: why not, why can’t the children living in this part of Camden have the same opportunity, the same access to a good, local school?” she said. “The fight will go on until we get there, but we do have to come together and discuss what the future of the campaign will be. It’s grown over the years – people join and get involved as they come up against the same problem. It feels like they’re asking us to start again when we have demonstrated for so long, on so many occasions, that there is the need here.”

She added: “The department says it is a competitive process, one free school application competing against another, but if the need is there, the need is there, it doesn’t compete with another area of the country because every child deserves the same.”

The rejection came as a government press release promised a “landmark wave of free schools” on Tuesday. In a press conference, Mr Cameron added that hundreds of new schools would “mean more opportunities” for pupils, while his education secretary Nicky Morgan added: “Children for generations will be able to benefit from a place at a free school.”

Camden’s schools chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “It makes a mockery of the government’s announcement of more free schools this week which amounts to ‘free schools, but only if your face fits’.”

Camden Conservative leader Claire-Louise Leyland said it was “disappointing” and that she had supported the local campaign, lobbying Ms Morgan.

The Department for Education said: “In what is a competitive process, we are only able to support the applications which best align with the aims of the free schools programme,” adding that school places were available “within a commutable distance”.

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2015 Survey

Thank you for taking part in our most recent survey of parental demand.

We needed more than 120 yeses per year group 3 and 4.

The final result is 194 from Year 3 and 160 from Year 4.

This is an amazing result.
What’s even more heartening compared with the last time we canvassed parents is the strong and large network of support that the process has created. We could not have presented a more convincing case of demand for The Holborn School in our area.

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Facts & Figures 2014

The demographic case for a new secondary school south of Euston Road (SER)

The following figures are drawn mainly from Camden Council data. Other sources are the Census and a local survey.

The South of Euston Road (SER) area comprises the three Camden wards of Holborn and Covent Garden, Bloomsbury and King’s Cross. The two wards next to Euston Road on the north side are St. Pancras and Somers Town and Regent’s Park.

  • 36,000 people live in the SER area, of whom over 1,000 are children aged 11-15.
  • Population projections 2013-2033 show that there will continue to be over 1,000 children in this age group living in the area for the forseeable future.
  • Over 200 children aged eleven are expected to transfer to secondary schools (state or private) each year over this period.
  • The number of children attending our local primary schools has literally doubled in a generation. One primary had to reopen in the ‘nineties and others have increased their intake.
  • In 2013, 194 children living in the SER area (not including those transferring in the private sector) were offered places at 29 different secondary schools in 11 different boroughs. Of the total, 75 (39%) were offered places at seven different Camden schools.
  • It is usual for over 60% of local children to be dispersed between secondary schools outside Camden. This has sometimes been interpreted as ‘parental choice’, notwithstanding the fact that many do not get their preferred choice and none has the choice of a school in their own locality.
  • Hundreds of children have to crowd on to buses in the rush hour to get to secondary school when they could walk to our proposed school.

The nearest community comprehensive in Camden is in Somers Town. However, the two wards north of Euston Road are home to even larger numbers of children, over 1,400 at present, projected to rise to 1,700 by 2033. It cannot accommodate all the children from both areas.

One in ten of Camden’s secondary-age children live south of Euston Road, yet none of its ten secondary schools is located here  – half of them are concentrated at the north end of the borough.

It should be borne in mind that these figures do not reflect parental ‘choice’ in any meaningful sense. At the time applications are made, parents have to try to guess which schools are likely to offer their child a place, as well as ones they prefer. In some cases, they get the school they really want, in some cases a second or third preference and in some cases, one they don’t want at all. They cannot choose one in their own community because there isn’t one.

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Recent Support

SarahHaywardThis has come as a bolt out of the blue – after a lot of hard work and a lot of steers and indications that it would be approved. It feels politically motivated. Here is a sponsor which is a leading education specialist maybe not just in this country but in Europe and it can’t get approval. Compare that to some of the other rag-tag organisations that have been given approval and where – some seem to have set up in old scout huts and still get a ‘yes’ – and you have to think there is an ulterior motive. All along the way, the steer has been that this would go through.
Cllr Sarah Hayward, Leader of the Council. Kings X ward.

NashAliI am shocked with the decision taken by Ministers in the Department for Education especially after all the positive feedback that the campaign has received. I can’t believe such a good application has been turned down when shabby applications from organisations with no educational background or experience are being approved. We must all work together to ensure that the Ministers do a U-turn on this and make the right decision!!! You have my full support for this campaign!!!
Councillor Nasim Ali OBE, Cabinet Member for Young People. 

AngelaMasonWe are extremely disappointed with the news that Ministers in the Department for Education are not supporting the proposal from the Institute of Education for a university training school at Wren Street.

There has been a long running and well supported campaign from parents for a school south of Euston Road and the Council remains committed to working with the campaign to find a way to provide a new school for children in the area.
Councillor Angela Mason, Cabinet member for Children.

AdamHarrison-1Recent figures show Bloomsbury to be one of the fastest-growing in London in terms of the rise in number of secondary-school age children in our ward. Never has a secondary school here been more desperately called for. The government can and must change its mind on this, and quickly, as the community here should not have to put up with any further delay in correcting this long-standing injustice.
Cllr Adam Harrison, Bloomsbury ward 

SVnewThis is indeed dreadful and such unexpected news. I will write, and encourage other contacts to write directly to Gove to express concerns on this appalling decision.
Cllr Sue Vincent, Holborn &Covent Garden ward 


I am also shocked and disappointed. I am sure our Governing Body will wish to write a letter to Gove.
Helen Tyler,  Headteacher St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School

This is terrible news – we will do all we can to support the ongoing campaign
Gwen Lee, Head teacher Christopher Hatton School

It is indeed a real blow. You have our full support moving forwards.
Rebecca Harris, Headteacher  St George the Martyr CE Primary School

We were devastated to hear of Michael Gove’s recent baffling decision to reject your proposal for a local secondary school on the Wren Street Site, next to Mount Pleasant.
As you are aware, we have been campaigning for a long time for a better quality and more publically-minded development on the
Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site and a local community secondary school nearby would have been a dream come true for this densely populated and socio-economically diverse inner-city community. This chance to dream has
been robbed by a political nightmare.
Bit by bit we are witnessing our local community being defiled by political and market forces that claim to care for localism while selling public assets to the highest bidder – the fire station, the post office’s land, and now your school. We must stand united against this devastating process and keep fighting for the common good – our children’s future and the future of our beloved city depend on it.
The Mount Pleasant Association

Letter published in CNJ 20 Feb 2014
Claire-LouiseLeylandHolborn and St Pancras Secondary School Campaign – we were surprised at the (rejection) decision taken by the Department for Education, particularly in light of education secretary Michael Gove’s support for the initiative.
Conservatives in Camden have been fully behind the parents’ campaign for a secondary school south of Euston Road, as was the last Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition in Camden Council.
We would be very interested to know the reasons for rejecting the school as “not viable” and once these are in the open they can form the basis for renewing the school campaign. The rejection is a blow to parents who we know have worked so hard over the years on the campaign for a school. The free schools initiative has opened the way for a small secondary, like the one proposed by local parents, and we will certainly be continuing to support it by writing to Mr Gove and asking why the DfE has turned it down.
Cllr Claire-Louise Leyland, Leader, Camden Conservatives

Conservative candidates, Holborn & Covent Garden ward

Conservative candidates, Bloomsbury ward

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Numbers and History Speak for Themselves

Response to CNJ 

In 2012 Camden received 178 secondary transfer applications from children resident in Camden south of Euston Road.  Of those 178 applicants, Camden offered places to just 47.  This means 131 went to school in other boroughs.

March 2013: 194 applications. Camden places were offered to 75. The rest, 119, went to 29 different schools in 11 different boroughs.

In 2011 the comparative figures are similar. 186 applications received with 55 offered Camden places – 131 were placed outside Camden.

From the 2010/11 figures, 60% of Camden resident children got into Camden secondary schools. That’s from all of Camden. The percentage for south of Euston Road was different – 202 SER eleven-year olds went to 38 different schools in 14 different boroughs;  just 29% got a place at a Camden secondary school.

A recent report by Camden’s Director of Children, Schools and Families of 11-year olds living in the SER area projects a peak at over 300 in 2015 and subsequently levelling out at out around 250 per year until 2033. This is more than enough to fill 120 places in The Holborn School each year.


The ‘Where is my School?’ campaign has been running since 2005.  During that time we have presented a 2000 signature petition and conducted three surveys of parental demand.

The results of the 2013 survey of year 4 and 5 pupils are :

Year 4:  Yes 134   Maybe 41  Total positive 175

Year 5:  Yes 153   Maybe 19  Total positive 172

The school will be 4-form entry, meaning that it will accept 120 pupils per year. 

Quality and Excellence

The Holborn School will be one of the UK’s first University Training Schools. A University Training School (UTS) is a school that is set up and sponsored by a Higher Education Institution – in this case The Institute of Education (IOE).

The aim of setting up the UTS is to draw on the IOE’s expertise as one of the UK’s best higher education providers of Initial Teacher Education (ITE), both to enhance the quality of education for pupils who attend the UTS and to help improve other schools, by creating a centre for excellence for teacher education, school improvement and educational research.

The IOE is already working closely with a number of schools in the borough so there is much to build on for future close working across all Camden schools and the UTS.  The IOE has confirmed that it wants to work closely with the Camden family of schools through sharing of best practice from the research at the UTS and in schools generally and also by exploring the possibility of shared sixth form provision with other schools and colleges, in the south of the borough.

The campaign continues to be grateful for the help and support of our ward councillors, our MP Frank Dobson, Angela Mason and Camden’s CSF.  The Holborn School is both needed and wanted, and will become an asset to the local community and to the Camden family of schools.

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Survey: final results

As we make progress towards opening the new local school, we consulted with you to make sure that the school we’re planning is the school you want.  Thank you to the 339 families of the 348 year 4 and year 5 children who took part in our survey.

We were aiming for a minimum of 120 ‘Yeses’ in each year group to fill all the school places.  The final figures are:

Year 4:  Yes 134   Maybe  41  Total positive 175

Year 5:  Yes 153   Maybe  19  Total positive 172

The government also required us to “provide a map which shows that potential pupils live within commuting distance of your school.”  We did this using the postcodes you gave us.

 click on each map to enlarge









A couple of points:- multiple occupancy dwellings can result in some markers being on top of each other.   This is a high density housing area, and many families live above and below each other in flats. The map should be taken as a representation. Some people lived further away – off the map.  The two blue markers are the Old Water Pump in Queen Square, and the location of the school itself.

More information about The Holborn School is available on our FAQ page.

You can still let us know what you think and what your ideas are for The Holborn School by sending us an email or using the contact form.

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Survey: first results

As we make progress towards opening the new local school, we consulted with you to make sure that the school we’re planning is the school you want.  Thank you to the 336 families of the 344 year 4 and year 5 children who took part in our survey.  We are still working on the final report but wanted to share the headline results with you now.

We were aiming for a minimum of 120 ‘Yeses’ in each year group to fill all the school places.  The provisional figures are:

Year 4: 131 yes, 41 maybe: total 172

Year 5: 153 yes, 19 maybe: total 172

The astonishing thing is that, purely by chance,  the totals are the same. (Update note:  Some late surveys have been returned and the numbers are now slightly higher, and no longer the same)

336 families with 344 children said ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’.

There may be very small changes to the totals but this is virtually it.

More information about The Holborn School is available on our FAQ page.

You can still let us know what you think and what your ideas are for The Holborn School by sending us an email or using the contact form.

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Parents applaud Town Hall

Published by CNJ: 01 August, 2013


WrenStreetPhotoPARENTS in the south of the borough have hailed council plans to open a new secondary school as “historic” after the scheme was given the green light by leading councillors.

Camden will move ahead with plans to turn workshops and studios in Wren Street, Holborn, into a new secondary school sponsored by the Institute of Education.

But as the celebrations began, private tenants in the workshops warned again that the council will be turning its back on small businesses, which will be forced to move.

There were questions as to why Camden had not been able to strike a deal for a new school on the larger Mount Pleasant Royal Mail site, a short walk from Wren Street.

The Town Hall cabinet – the cabal of 10 senior councillors who have the final say on council policy – approved the school plan last Wednesday night.

polly shieldsPolly Shields, one of the leading voices in the eight-year Where Is My School Campaign?, which called for a new secondary somewhere south of Euston Road, told the meeting: “It’s fantastic and almost unbelievable.

“Since the news of this broke in the Camden New Journal people have been coming up to us in the street to tell us how excited they are, to congratulate the campaign and to tell us they want to join in and for their children to enrol.

She said more than 80 per cent of children in that part of the borough currently went to a secondary school outside Camden, adding: “This will finally allow the diverse children of our community to be educated together. This is a historic opportunity.

The plan is to sell the council-owned land to the government, which would then pass it to the IoE to run as a school where teachers are trained. Part of the deal will be financed by selling a section of the site for private housing.

Camden is under fire, however, from businesses based at the workshops. In a deputation to the meeting, Simon Moore, who runs a glass-blowing company on the site, said the cabinet meeting was the “first face-to-face conversation” the council was having with businesses, all of which are facing a costly upheaval.

You can hardly watch the news or read a newspaper without hearing how we should improve our manufacturing output, improving apprenticeships,” he said.

“All of this is something that Wren Street offers. We’ve survived the rigours of the downturn, imagine what we could do when things improve. Wren Street should be such an asset to the council.

Businesses in Wren Street want the council to put the brakes on the scheme so that alternative arrangements can be made, making it easier to move when firms are forced to go. They questioned why the new school could not be built at nearby Mount Pleasant.

Councillors pledged to help the companies but remain fully committed to the new school. Pressure for a new secondary south of Euston Road dates back more than three decades, although it was intensified eight years ago with a spirited parents’ campaign.

Campaigners found the site after councillors and council officials insisted there was no land available in the neighbourhood for a new secondary. Ms Shields said: “I had a six-month-old baby when this started. She’s eight now.

Planning official Ed Watson said the Mount Pleasant site was not an option because the cost of buying a share of the land was “way beyond the means” of the council, whereas it already owned Wren Street.

AngelaMasonCamden education chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “This does feel like a historic moment.

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Another Step Closer

Camden’s Cabinet accepted the report on the disposal of Wren Street for our University Training School (UTS) last Wednesday 24th July. This decision builds on a previous one in 2009 where the Wren Street site would be redeveloped for a school or for commercial use.

Campaigner Polly Shields presented a deputation to Cabinet before the decision was made:

Over the last eight years, parents from the area of Camden south of the Euston Road have appeared regularly in this chamber to make the case for a secondary school to serve our area. It is fantastic, and almost unbelievable, to be here now to witness the first real steps being made towards our school actually being built.  

 Since the news broke in the Camden New Journal, people have been contacting the campaign by email, and coming up to us in the street to tell us how pleased and excited they are, to congratulate the campaign, to tell us they want to join in and for their children to attend the new school. This is a  school that has widespread community support from local residents, parents of children of all ages, primary schools, councillors, community organisations, and our MP. Building a fantastic new school on the Wren Street site is an immensely popular move.

 But it’s not just popular – it is necessary. The pupil population statistics have long supported the need for a new secondary school. There already are, and will continue to be, over a thousand kids aged between 11 and 15 living in this area – over 80% of whom currently go to secondaries outside Camden. Having a school in our area will at last allow the diverse children of this community to be educated together in their borough of residence.

 So this is an historic opportunity for a long-standing need to be met. But it is also so much more than that. By partnering the Institute of Education, and building a University Training School, we will be creating a trailblazer, a new way of training teachers which builds innovation into its educational offer from the ground up. Our vision is for a flagship school with a creative, relevant and rigorous curriculum which can meet the needs of all its pupils.

 We recognise that there are major challenges ahead, particularly in terms of funding, and how to design and build on a restricted site. But we are determined to aim high, not to settle for second best, and to make every square centimetre count. We are confident that the combined creativity of all those keen to make the school happen will result in a really high-quality offer for local families, which is nothing less than they deserve.

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