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Axed black-led catering school getting 'raw deal' from Gov't

ACTION: Kajans trustee Camille Ade-John

DETERMINED campaigners fighting to save Birmingham’s first black-led college, which specialises in Caribbean cuisine, are taking their battle right to the Prime Minister’s door.

They are pushing for an immediate judicial review into why the Department of Education (DfE) has called time on Kajans Hospitality and Catering Studio College less than a year after it opened in September 2013.

Angry parents, trustees, governors and staff joined forces at a packed public meeting at the school’s new base in Whitehead Road, Aston, and drew up a plan of action to stop the DfE closing the school next month.

Kajans is a studio school which offers vocational opportunities in catering and hospitality for 14 to 19-year-olds while also providing a GCSE syllabus and formal hospitality qualifications.

Studio schools are a new concept in education and seek to address the growing gap between the skills and knowledge that young people require to succeed, and those that the current education system provides.

SOLIDARITY: Labour MP Shabana Mahmood

Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, who was at the meeting, urged everyone to bombard Lord Nash, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, with letters demanding a U-turn on his decision. She also urged people to write to Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Minister Michael Gove.

“You need to outsmart and out-organise officials in Whitehall who have made this decision to close,” she said.

“And you need to make Lord Nash’s life hell by flooding his letterbox with letters from local people demanding this college remain open.”

Mahmood said she felt Kajans had had "a raw deal" at the hands of the DfE compared to other studio schools across the UK which had opened around the same time and had experienced problems at the launch of the schools.

"This college is a fantastic resource for this community and I want to work with you to dispel any of the misinformation that has been circulating about Kajans since it opened."

One member of the community, a young Asian man, explained how the immediate neighbourhood, which has a high number of Asian residents, wrongly believed the college was going to be a dance academy or a nightclub and were strongly against it.

"It’s time for the Asian community to join forces with the black community in order to save this college," he said.

Derek Douglas, a director of the Kajans Educational and Cultural Trust who chaired the meeting, emphasised that the college was open to students of all races and backgrounds.

He added that Kajans had had cross-party support from all Birmingham politicians in its fight to remain open.

Camille Ade-John, one of Kajans trustees, added: “We cannot allow this to be taken from our community. It is not simply getting rid of a college – losing something like this will have a far wider impact on our community.”

Hermin McIntosh, Kajans executive director told parents the only reason for the DfE’s closure decision was that the college had not met a student numbers target set in April, but insisted they were now above-target for students enrolling in September 2014.

Kajans is also planning to partner with Handsworth Woods Girls Academy next year, which has just been rated outstanding during a recent Ofsted inspection.

Many at the meeting contributed to a fighting fund to raise an initial £6,500 to start proceedings for a judicial review as soon as possible.

Community activist Desmond Jaddoo said he was extremely disappointed that all three local ward councillors who had been invited to the meeting, failed to turn up to support the college.

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