Fate of new Leeds school in ‘black hole’ hangs in the balance

Education stock image. PA
Education stock image. PA
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Parents in a pupil places “black hole” in north Leeds who have been campaigning for a new school for three years are at risk of losing their battle.

In a letter to members of the trust that was set up to run Roundhay Park Primary, the Department for Education (DfE) says the school will be axed if Leeds City Council has not submitted a feasibility study on a site for the building by the end of this month.

Marie Lowther, unit head for Lancashire, West Yorkshire and the North Free Schools Group, wrote that the DfE has been working with the authority to attempt to find a value for money, deliverable site, for the free school project but this “has proved very difficult”.

She said: “The council agreed in principle to self-delivery of their preferred site and agreed to provide a feasibility report by the end of November 2017, to establish whether the site is deliverable within a reasonable budget and timescales. If we do not receive a feasibility report which demonstrates this, within the agreed timescales, it will be necessary to cancel the project.”

Last month the council unveiled an alternative plan to meet the need for places, which involves making Moor Allerton Hall Primary School and the nearby Allerton Grange School an all-through school on one combined site.

Ms Lowther added: “If, following the local authority’s consultation, the council proceeds with the amalgamation, there will obviously no longer be a need for a new primary free school.”

However, parents argue that the alternative plan would not solve the problem due to children from other areas also living within the catchment. They have also expressed fears that the consultation will have not been properly analysed in time for the deadline and results of an Ofsted inspection at Allerton Grange will also not yet have been made public.

The campaigners are now calling for the council to release the cost of constructing the free school on their preferred driving range site after being told it would be too expensive to build.

Steve Walker, the council’s director of children’s services, said: “We were surprised to learn that parents in Roundhay had been told that the DfE would cancel the free school project if we don’t provide them with a feasibility study by the end of November. I have written to the DfE to seek clarification of this because it’s not something they have told us directly.”