Islamia Primary School parents presented a petition opposing the move of the school to the Strathcona site in Kingsbury at today's Cabinet meeting. Public space in the meeting room was limited but 15 or so parent supporters squeezed in to back up Jamad Guled as she spoke to the petition:
The Yusuf Islam Foundation has issued Islamia Primary school with an eviction notice. For the past couple of years Brent Council and Islamia's governing body have been in talks in regard to moving the school to South Kenton which is over 6 miles away from Queen's Park.
Last June the Governing body informed parents that the decision was made to move and it was just being finalised. No mention of a consultation.
Panicked parents had to write to the council and were reassured no decision was made yet and the school had a statutory duty to consult parents.
Unfortunately, this attempt to mislead the parents created a lot of unnecessary confusion, frustration and mistrust.
This petition was signed by 509 stakeholders, this undeniably demonstrates that the local community is against such move and worried about the future.
A change like this requires a serious discussion around issues like :
1) affordability especially since we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis ( low income families, single parent households and those with work and caring responsibilities will be left behind)
2)accessibility ( how will children with mobility problems, children with sensory difficulties or families with multiple young children travel safely to a location with no viable parking facilities nor lifts) they will be left behind as well.
3) higher population density ( how will local residents cope with increased traffic and people?
4) the environmental impact of increased number of vehicles driving from different locations and accessing a small area like the Strathcona site.
5)safety concerns when hundreds of young children will have to travel to a school located in an industrial area near a car repair centre,and will also be accessing busy train station platforms every day at peak times.
Parents demand that an equality and impact assessment is carried out to protect the most vulnerable families.
We must bear in mind that some families, no matter the sacrifice required will choose to travel. How is the council going to protect and support those families?
Others will choose to home-school.
This will make monitoring children's attainment and safety difficult and put further pressure on services required to monitor and safeguard children.
This representation is an opportunity to voice our anguish and worry as parents. It aims to shed a light on the blatant discrimination this decision will enable.
It is our hope that this will be an opportunity to rise above the mighty power afforded to some VA schools which make it extremely hard for parents to be heard, to enforce accountability and demand transparency.
The truth is, we are where we are because many opportunities were missed over the years. Should the children be the scapegoats for those?
We are calling upon the council to finally listen and act in the best interest of Islamia's children.
We are tired of being permanently in limbo and kept in the dark.
Everyone here knows that Strathcona is not a fair nor safe solution and should have never been an option made available to Islamia's Governing body. If the governing body cannot uphold its duty of care, then the council must step in, and safeguard children's futures by withdrawing this inadequate offer and find a local solution.In the second part of my petition l have discussed the option of the new school being built in South Kilburn.
I firmly believe this is the best solution. The council has a duty to use taxpayers where needed most.
Carlton Vale and Kilburn Park have been struggling with numbers for years and cannot fill the new 2FE school being built. They currently have respectively 77 and 76 children on roll. For a capacity of 230 and 240.
2022’s national census predicts a further decline in birth rates therefore there will be no shortage of primary schools places in the foreseeable future. So the council cannot invoke pressing needs.
Government data shows that schools in the area are all operating well below capacity and can easily accommodate children from Carlton Vale and Kilburn Park when their school is demolished.
That will be a like for like solution that will not disrupt their lives.
Islamia's children will not be afforded the same consideration whether the school moves or shuts down and some children will have to join neighbouring schools.
Islamia's children will lose the faith element In their education .And faith matters.
How can the council justify earmarking the new school for two empty schools when an oversubscribed and popular one is at risk of shutting down? Who will safeguard Islamia's children travelling 6 miles for compulsory education?
Let us not forget that Islamia is a Brent school.
Sofia Moussaoui, Chair of Governors at Islamia, also spoke. She said that she had seen the petition and the Governing Board would consider if the proposal for South Kilburn was viable but the Council had said the site was not available. Anyway it would not have been available for 4 years and the school had only 2 years in which to find an alternative site. The school had been under pressure in terms of space, occupying a split site that was supposed to be temporary, but they had been there for 14 years.
She said, 'Ideally we will take parents with us. We will look into how to get them there. The main thing is to get families behind us.'
Leader of the Council, Muhammed Butt said that the Council would take on parents' broad concerns over the viability of the proposal but the South Kilburn site was not an option. It was a long-long term part of the South Kilburn Development Master Plan.
Cllr Grahl, Cabinet Lead for Schools, said that she recognised that the Council had invested in other sites but unfortunately South Kilburn was tied up as part of a development. Eviction had come at a time when no other sites were available in Queens Park. An effort had gone into the Strathcona project and the Council will work to ensure a smooth transition for parents and children. The consultation would enable parents to contribute and the Council will look at how to facilitate access particularly for children with special needs.
Cllr Butt added that the petitioners will be able to have a say through the consultation. The main issue is to secure the futuure of the school working with the Governing Board and the Trust. He personally had been out to look for alternative sites and Strathcona was the only one that can be developed as a permanent site.
Perplexingly no questions were asked about why the Yusuf Islam Foundation had evicted the voluntary aided primary school while the private secondary schools remained. No reasons were given in the Cabinet papers and neither Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) or the Foundation have replied to the question, 'Why the eviction notice ?' sent on Twitter, Facebook and email.
Social media reactions:
The report that clears the way for a formal consultation on the move was approved by Cabinet.