Meller Educational Trust no longer involved in Ladbroke House college
Search for partner to replace schools group that bears name of Presidents Club businessman
09 March, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Working Title, the company behind hit films Bridget Jones and Love Actually, want to open a new sixth-form college in Islington
AN academy trust founded by the businessman who helped organise the controversial Presidents Club all-male dinner is no longer working on a new sixth-form college in the borough, the Tribune can reveal.
Meller Educational Trust (MET) had teamed up with successful film company Working Title to open a 1,000-student specialist school in Ladbroke House, Highbury Grove.
An undercover investigation by the Financial Times claimed there was “sexist” behaviour at the Presidents Club men-only charity dinner in January, with some hostesses allegedly being sexually harassed.
Days later, David Meller, an organiser of the event and founder of MET, resigned from all roles within the trust and its schools and his non-executive board member role for the Department for Education.
Last month, more than 30 National Education Union members at nearby all-girls Highbury Fields School passed a motion expressing concern that the free school, to be known as London Screen Academy, would be run by a trust in Mr Meller’s name, despite him no longer being directly involved.
A teacher at the school, who wished not to be named, said: “As a female teacher at a girls’ school I am constantly encouraging my students to believe they can achieve anything, and ensuring they are aware that they should never have to endure any kind of harassment.
“And it was a feeling of ‘We are a girls’ school and educate young women. We think having his name on a school in the area is a really negative message to send’.”
However, Working Title, the company behind hit films Bridget Jones and Love Actually, told the Tribune that MET had not been involved in the Ladbroke House project since the end of January.
Jane Frazer, who is working on the project, said: “I confirm we’re no longer working with MET and that we’re going forward with our partners and with plans for the London Screen Academy.”
Richard Elms, chief executive officer and trustee at MET, declined to comment “other than to confirm that we have not been working on this project since the end of January”.
At the time of going to press, neither organisation confirmed the reason for the non-involvement.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education, which approves free schools, said: “We are working with Working Title Films to identify a new education partner for London Screen Academy. We hope to agree the new partner as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for NEU Islington said: “Given David Meller’s involvement with Presidents Club we are glad he’s got nothing to do with running a school in Islington.
“But the lack of transparency raises yet another question about academies and free schools and how they are established.”
When first announced, the free school faced opposition from the NEU and the Town Hall.
The building was bought by the DfE, which approved a school for students aged 16 to 19, rather than 11 to 19, after local opposition.