RICHARD Lewin, assistant director in Camden Council’s schools department, has played tough crowds at public meetings in the past. Rather bravely and certainly diligently, he has talked the people through plans to build new schools, plans not to build schools, the use of outside sponsors and more. He communicates clearly.
So the invitation to speak in front of residents in Holborn and Covent Garden tonight is unlikely to have been daunting for him, even if families down there are getting frustrated with the lack of council excitement about the possibility of a long-awaited secondary school opening in Wren Street. Remember, history check: it’s been the parents who had to find the site and work up plans for the school, while Camden concentrated on the UCL Academy opening in Swiss Cottage.
Yet, apparently, there will be an empty chair where organisers wanted Mr Lewin to sit tonight – the star guest withdrawn from the bill at the Covent Garden Community Centre at some stage yesterday. I’m told an email was circulated from him explaining that he would not be going along because Labour’s school chief Councillor Heather Johnson didn’t think it was ‘appropriate’ for him to attend while Camden’s Labour cabinet are still mulling over whether they like the idea of a free school opening in the area. Or not.
After missing out on Building Schools for the Future money for a new school and being overlooked for funding over the decades (whatever the political persuasion of the government of the day), the campaigners desperate to finally open The Holborn School might just think that sounds like stalling. Isn’t it make your mind up time for the politicians at the Town Hall? Are they up for the idea, or not?
There must be a worry among the volunteers who put the package together and the potential sponsors from the Institute of Education that those in charge are veering towards the latter.