Failed bidder’s anger at call for more free schools

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A CAMPAIGNER who led an unsuccessful bid to open a free school in Leeds which would have remained open 51 weeks a year has hit out after the Government announced it wanted more schools to provide extended childcare.

Pat Payne’s vision to open a mainstream primary school with “dyslexia friendly” teaching had been backed by the Free School Norwich which has been championed by ministers for providing childcare to working parents throughout the year.

The same model was to be used to create the Free School Leeds which had been given the initial go ahead to open from September.

However the scheme was halted earlier this year amid concerns about the lack of parents signed up.

Now Ms Payne says she is “flabbergasted” that ministers are calling for more schools to follow the Free School Norwich model after her scheme failed to win Government backing. The Department for Education (DfE) said the Free School Leeds project haAd been withdrawn by “the proposers.”

Ms Payne said the scheme had been withdrawn by the Free School Norwich rather than herself. She added: “We were called to a meeting by the DfE in mid February and questioned about lack of numbers of pupils. We did not have sufficient pupils signed up, but were confident we would get them.”

Ms Payne also criticised Leeds City Council for not doing more to help find a school site. She said that although a site in Horsforth had been identified, the lack of a site earlier on in the project had been “critical”.

Free schools are run independently of local councils.

Tania Sidney-Roberts, principal of the Free School Norwich said the project had been closed as insufficient parents had committed to it as it had been very difficult to find a suitable site.

Justine Oldham.

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