Cloud hangs over announcement of Islington’s first private secondary school

Chris Woodhead Pic: Johnny Green

Chris Woodhead Pic: Johnny Green - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

The first private secondary school in Islington is to open next year amid claims that the man behind it was responsible for controversially closing an improving school in the borough.

Ken Muller

Ken Muller - Credit: Archant

The £3.5million independent school – North Bridge House Senior Canonbury – is set to launch in a historic listed building in Canonbury Place next September.

But the company behind the move, Cognita, is run by Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools, who controversially ranked Islington Green as a failing school in 1997 despite his own inspectors giving it a clean bill of health.

Mr Muller, assistant branch secretary of Islington National Union of Teachers, said: “Islington Green was an improving school in 1997 when he overrode his own inspectors.

“It led to the school experiencing huge disruption which took a long time to undo and led to children being taken out of school and a third of the teachers, some of whom were outstanding, losing their jobs.

“Remembering the damage this man enforced on Islington Green, we don’t want him anywhere near education in Islington. He is politically motivated.

“In general it is hard to prevent the privatisation of education, but we are totally opposed to it and will do anything we can to stop it.

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“We don’t think Islington needs an independent school.

“They allow a minority to receive a privileged education and they increase social deprivation and inequality.”

Geraint Jones, the new school’s director of education, said: “We are very excited about the prospect of opening a new senior school in Islington, which will build on the excellent foundations of the North Bridge House Group – a school with the same high academic standards and a focus on the best teaching, pastoral care and extra-curricular provision.

He added: “We are delighted to be creating Islington’s first independent senior school, and, due to the excellent public transport links to the area, we will be able to serve pupils and parents from a wide area across central and north London as well as further afield.”

Cognita has declined to comment on the concerns of the NUT.