Leeds parents to open their own free school after places blackhole row

Mark Rowlinson and Lucy Clement posting their application for a free school off. It has been given the go ahead today. Picture by Simon Hulme
Mark Rowlinson and Lucy Clement posting their application for a free school off. It has been given the go ahead today. Picture by Simon Hulme
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A FREE school planned by parents who campaigned about a lack of places in Leeds has been given the go ahead by the Government.

Roundhay Park Primary is one of two free schools in Leeds which have been approved, to open in 2017, by the Department for Education today.

Dixons Trinity Leeds, a new through-age school for pupils in the Harehills area, has also been backed by Ministers.

And the Government has announced plans for a new body of property experts who will help to find sites for free schools.

The Roundhay free school follows a high-profile campaign over school places in Leeds last year which leed to Leeds parents putting questions to both David Cameron and George Osborne and staging a rally outside Civic Hall.

The Fair Access Group was formed in Leeds after a group of more than 80 parents said they had missed out on places at all of their choices of local schools.

Those affected in parts of Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley claimed they were living in a “places black hole”.

An extra 90 places were found at three primary schools, Wigton Moor, Highfield and Gledhow, by Leeds City Council last year and more extra places are planned this year with Talbot Primary in talks over taking on another class.

However, some of the campaigners decided to bid for a free school to provide a long-term solution for Roundhay parents.

Roundhay Park Primary will now open in 2017 with 60 pupils in each year group. A final location has not been decided.

Lucy Clement, who led the parents’ campaign and was one of the free school bidders: “I am so pleased that Roundhay will now get the new school it so desperately needs. From 2017, hopefully no parent will have to go through what I and 86 other families went through last year. This school has been needed for some time and, having the free school route as an option, the community has been empowered to get up and do something about it. I feel very proud of what we have achieved.

Fellow bidder Mark Rowlinson said: “I’m thrilled to hear our bid has been approved. It’s been a lot of hard work but goes to show that if you put your mind to it you really can achieve anything.”

Dixons Trinity Leeds is being led by Dixons Trinity, Bradford, the first secondary free school in the country to be rated outstanding by Ofsted. Principal Luke Sparkes said: “We are very pleased and excited to have our plans approved. We already have a strong reputation in Bradford and now want to replicate that success in the Harehills and Chapeltown area from September 2017.

“Our first students will be in reception and year seven. We have had a lot of interest in the school and will shortly be back in contact with families who currently have children in nursery and year five.”

The two Leeds schools are among further 22 free schools which have been given the green light to open across the country.

Free schools – a key Conservative education policy – are newly established state schools. When the policy was being promoted in the run up to the 2010 general election the Conservatives said it would help empower parents and teachers to set up their own state schools.

However, free schools have also been set up by existing academy chains, charities and religious groups and in some cases are former independent schools which have converted to the state sector. Roundhay Park Primary will be one of the first parent -led mainstream free schools to open in the region.

PIC: Tony Johnson

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