1,700 places will be created in Leeds after schools approved

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More than 1,700 new places for pupils will be created in Leeds following the largest wave of free school approvals this Parliament.

The Department for Education has given the go-ahead for three new schools – a primary, a secondary, and a sixth-form centre – to be built in the city to meet the growing demand for places. It is hoped the schools will open in September 2018.

The announcement has been welcomed by Leeds City Council, which has pledged to work with the parties involved to help deliver the scheme. Steve Walker, director of children and families at the city council, said: “The Government is committed to free schools and we will now work with the Regional Schools Commissioner and the free school proposers to deliver these new schools for Leeds children. Leeds City Council is committed to maintaining a strong family of schools across the city, which work collectively for the benefit of all children and young people in Leeds.”

The South Bank Primary Academy will be part of the Gorse Academies Trust and will be built next to the £25m Ruth Gorse Academy, on Black Bull Street, in Hunslet. The new school will accept 420 pupils and will cater for 530 new homes that are set to be built in the area. It will be based in a brand new building, designed in Scandinavia, according to the trust’s website. The Laurence Calvert Academy will create a minimum of 900 places in the inner south area of the city and will be sponsored by the Cockburn Multi-Academy Trust, which is based in Beeston. While the North West Leeds Sixth Form Centre, which will be run by Horsforth School, will have an intake of 400 Year 12 students. A website set up for the school says: “There is particular pressure at sixth form and Year 7 and it is this need that has driven our proposals.”

Today the Department for Education has approved applications for 131 new schools across the country, creating 69,000 places, as part of its commitment to open 500 new free schools by September 2020. Seven schools will be built in Yorkshire, which will create 4,006 new places. And 20 local authorities have been approved to create a new special school.

What exactly is a free school?

There are currently eight free schools in Leeds, including one University Technical College. Free schools can be set up by parents, teachers, charities, businesses, cultural and sporting bodies, community groups, academy trusts and sponsors, and existing schools in response to demand from the community, either where there is a shortage of places, or where the parents are not happy with the places on offer. Campaigners in Roundhay have been battling to open a new primary school and a consultation on where to build it is underway.

- Read about Leeds’s action plan for schools in tomorrow’s Yorkshire Evening Post.