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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 00:48 GMT
Black school fights eviction
Tabernacle Christian schools pupils
Many of the pupils had fared badly in state schools
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By Cindi John
BBC News Online community affairs reporter
One of the UK's few black-run schools is facing eviction and possible closure.

The lease on the building used by Tabernacle Christian School in north Kensington, London, expired last month before the school had been able to find new premises.

Since then teachers and parents have been taking turns to stay overnight in the school building for fear the landlord might change the locks.

The landlord - the Harrow Club, a charity formed to help local communities - is beginning legal action next week to evict them.

Paulette Wilson and pupil
Paulette Wilson wants more time to find new premises

The Harrow Club refused to comment on the situation when contacted by BBC News Online.

But the Tabernacle school principal, Paulette Wilson, said it did intend to leave once it had found alternative accommodation.

"We've seen a couple of premises which we are negotiating on so we're hoping it won't be too long, we're just asking for a bit of time," Mrs Wilson said.

Most of the school's 41 pupils were black and many of them had been in danger of exclusion before they came to Tabernacle, she added.


Kiaran, 16, is one pupil who had a chequered school career before arriving at Tabernacle two years ago.

"I was really underachieving, the teachers didn't really help me and I felt I wasn't learning anything.

Miles said the school had kept him out of gangs

"I just got into the wrong company, stealing and messing about," Kiaran said.

It's a very similar tale to that of Miles, also 16, who previously attended the same Westminster school.

"I was just mucking about following the crowd. I was stealing, getting into gangs and doing lots of unacceptable things just to fit in," he said.

Both boys were angry that the school which has helped them might have to shut when they are midway through their A-levels.

'Wolves den'

Parents say if the school closes the community will have lost a valuable means of raising the achievement level of black children.

Miles's mother, Grace Patterson, said the school had transformed her son.

"He's done so well that now he's actually doing A-levels and that's something I never dreamed he'd achieve," she said.

Parents of children at Tabernacle school
Parents are backing the school's fight to stay

The school takes children from the age of three and some parents say they want to avoid their children dropping behind by keeping them out of the state system altogether.

Sarah Morris, who has children aged four and five at the school said she was impressed by the discipline instilled in them from an early age.

She said she had only found out about the school when she saw a group of its children in a local park.

"The teachers didn't have to shout or bellow at them to get their attention, the children played amicably and respectfully together.

Outstanding behaviour

"There were about six other groups of children there but the behaviour of the Tabernacle children just outshone them," Mrs Morris said.

Other parents like Gail and Philip Williams were attracted by the school's Christian ethos.

But Mr Williams said keeping his five-year-old twins out of a system not suited to their needs had also played a factor.

"I find as black people we try to solve the situations in the schools but we're still like sheep in a wolves' den and we speak from the point of being victims," he said.

Such views means the Tabernacle school has a long waiting list, but principal Mrs Wilson fears that unless the Harrow Club relents the school will not survive in spite of its success.

"We're saying 'have a little heart' particularly for the older children here. This school is like a last resort for them."

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See also:

16 Mar 02 | Education
Task force to help black pupils
22 Dec 00 | Education
Black schools 'booming'
27 Oct 00 | Education
Teacher racism 'not whole story'
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