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‘Victory’ as plans for Highbury free school are scaled back

Film company behind Love Actually and Billy Elliot to sponsor new school

14 April, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Ladbroke House, which was formerly owned by London Metropolitan University

PLANS for a controversial free school in Highbury have been  scaled back, it was announced this week.

The Town Hall’s education chief hailed a “victory for common sense” after a successful campaign to stop a new secondary school opening in the Ladbroke House building in Highbury Grove.

The Meller Educational Trust (MET), owned by Tory party donor and property developer David Meller, had wanted to open a school with a film specialism for children aged 11-19.

But the Department for Education, which paid £33.5m for the building, approved a school only for students aged 16-19.

It will be sponsored by prestigious film company Working Title, which has produced huge hits such as Love Actually and Billy Elliot.

MET chief executive Richard Elms told the Tribune older pupils would be in a better position to choose to specialise in an area such as film.

Behind the scenes, senior Town Hall figures made it clear to MET that a secondary school would be “unacceptable”. The original plan had sparked outrage at Islington Council among residents, and parents and teachers  at the two schools very close by – Highbury Fields, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, and Highbury Grove.

There is no shortage of secondary places in the area and state schools there are struggling to get by due to government cuts.

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families said: “Now the proposal has now removed the original 11-16 school element then an additional specialised post-16 provision could be a good use for that site, preferably combined with key worker housing for teachers.”


Town Hall education chief Joe Caluori

Cllr Caluori said he wanted to ensure the school would lead to clear employment opportunities for Islington children. The school will take children from across London and Cllr Caluori said Working Title were “clearly committed” to the idea.

The new facility will have capacity for up to 1,000 students – a statistic which has raised fears of overcrowding in an already very busy area.

Mr Elms said: “This will enrich the diversity of courses on offer to post-16 pupils in Islington. Film is an increasingly substantial area of employment in London and the South East.”

London’s film industry is booming. Earlier this year London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced his plans to make the capital the “world’s most film-friendly city”, including a new film studio complex in Dagenham.

“There is a shortage particularly of high-level technicians and everything down to writers across the film industry,” Mr Elms added.

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