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Jeremy Corbyn joins calls for new school building that suits special needs children

Headteacher calls for move to ground-floor building

15 February, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Head Julie Keylock with Jeremy Corbyn. ‘The current school is inaccessible,’ she said. ‘Our ultimate aim is to have a school fit for purpose for children with complex needs’

A SPECIAL needs school is looking for a new home after parents and students were unable to reach the classrooms on the top floor of a five-storey Victorian building.

Jeremy Corbyn this week backed calls from the headteacher of Samuel Rhodes Primary to move the school to a ground-floor space.

The 27 students, some with profound needs, are currently based above Montem Primary School, in Hornsey Road, Holloway, which means they are forced to walk up 87 steps during frequent lift breakdowns.

The Islington North MP said he was “incredibly sad” to hear about a wheelchair-bound parent with cerebral palsy who is unable to get in the lift and visit her son at the school because of health and safety regulations.

He said after a tour of the school last Friday: “Accessibility is ab­solutely key. It’s wrong you [the school] can’t take some children because of their physical disability.”

Headteacher Julie Keylock is asking the Town Hall to move her school to a new building.

She said: “The current school is inaccessible. I’ve been constantly communicating with the local authority to find appropriate premises, but in a densely populated borough that’s very difficult.

“Our ultimate aim is to be on the ground floor and have a school which is fit for purpose for children with complex needs.”

She said one pupil once spent two hours walking up the stairs because she finds both the lifts and the stairs too stressful.

Ms Keylock added: “As soon as a building becomes free it’s snapped up by somebody with lots of money. Obviously, we don’t have lots of money. There is no money.

“It’s got to be the cheapest possible option available and there hasn’t been one.”

Ms Keylock, who has been at the helm of both the primary school and Samuel Rhodes secondary school, based in Highbury, for 10 years, said her schools were facing mounting financial pressures.

The primary school was having to fundraise to pay for children’s swimming lessons after having its budget cut.

She said: “We have 86 per cent of children on free school meals and we can’t ask their families to fundraise.”

Jeremy talking to one of the pupils at the school at the top floor of Montem primary school  

As previously reported in the Tribune, Ms Keylock, who is also the headteacher of Samuel Rhodes Secondary school in Highbury, received a £50,000 donation for the school from an Australian billionaire philanthropist she met on a chimpanzee trek in Tanzania before Christmas. This money will pay for new equipment at the secondary school.

Mr Corbyn said: “Teachers shouldn’t become experts in form- filling for charitable donations.

“Primary schools are all facing problems, with fewer teaching assistants than they would want. Generally speaking, they lose out on extra-curricular activity. They miss out on trips.”

Education chief Councillor Joe Caluori said the school would be “one of the priorities” if the Town Hall was given extra capital funding.

“We know there are some concerns about the current primary location, and understand that the school would ideally like to be in purpose-built, ground-floor premises,” he said.

“However, the current space was adapted relatively recently for the school. Because of government changes to education funding there are no longer any easy ways to fund such a major school project.”

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