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School's Christmas eviction nightmare

COULD LOSE OUT: Students at the Eden School

A BELOVED school started with faith as its foundation is now relying on its beliefs to save it from being shut down.

The Eden School, in northwest London, prides itself on its holistic approach to learning is now on the brink of closure after Ealing Council asked back for the property the school has occupied for almost five years.

Naomi Osei, the school’s marketing manager and daughter of the school’s principal told the Voice of their disappointment of being asked to move their 60 pupils to a new site by December 31.

“At the beginning of this year (Feb), we had a visit from the council to basically say that they are going to need use of these premises back by August 31 as they want to knock the building down and turn it into flats,” said Osei.

“For a school it is not really a sufficient amount of time to find new premises, but we decided we are going to try our best to find somewhere, [we] searched and searched but came up with nothing suitable. Then it got a bit desperate.”

Under pressure, they contacted the council and asked for an extension. The council extended the deadline by two months but the school was unable to secure suitable accommodation.

With the new deadline looming Osei decided to seek legal advice. She said that when a solicitor looked into their situation she had concerns that Ealing Council had not offered them a period of time they were legally entitled to.

“The amount of notice they had given wasn’t quite within the law so that’s why they (Ealing Council) was happy to give us that extension," Osei explained.

However Ealing Council argued that Laura Osei, the school’s co-founder and principal, knew early on that she would need to hand back the property eventually.

“Mrs. Osei has always been aware that her lease was temporary and the council would require the site back in order to build affordable housing. This housing is being built with the aid of a time-limited grant and we must have possession of the site by 31st January or jeopardise the funding,” a council spokesperson told the Voice.

The council said it has even been assisting the school with finding a building. “We have worked closely with Mrs. Osei to find suitable premises. Unfortunately, our suggested alternatives have not been accepted, although we have offered sites that we believe to be appropriate.”

Osei said that the properties the council have suggested have always been unsuitable. She said that some of these buildings were too small to accommodate the school in its entirety.

Laura Osei’s team, which include her three daughters, run the fee-paying school based in Northolt, north west London. The students range from the ages of three to 18, including those referred from the council that have challenging behaviours.

Osei said that the school had recently rejected an offer for a building that was located in what she described as a rough part of Ealing.

Now the school, which Osei said has a “brilliant track record” of turning around the lives of troubled young people has until December 31st to move out of the property.

With only one building currently in their sights, Osei hopes that the new property in Hanwell, west London will be ready in time.

“It looks likely but it is going to be a struggle” she said. “If Ealing does as they said by threatening to pull out all of their children then it is going to be financially difficult for us to continue renting out the new premises.”

She said the ideal scenario for the school would be for the council to “ take off some of the pressure” and continue the “good working relationship” they once had.

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