Parents in ‘places blackhole’ campaign bid to open free school

Lucy Clement and Mark Rowlinson post the application for their free school bid. Photo Simon Hulme
Lucy Clement and Mark Rowlinson post the application for their free school bid. Photo Simon Hulme
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PARENTS who fought for primary school places for their children this year have now submitted a bid to open their own free school.

Campaigners in North Leeds posted off their application to the Department for Education today to set up Roundhay Park Primary in 2017.

The Fair Access Group was formed this year after 86 parents discovered they had not been allocated a place for their children at any of their preferred primary schools.

Parents in Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley claimed they were living in a places blackhole with no chance of getting into local schools.

They mounted a high profile campaign which led to questions being put to David Cameron and George Osborne during their visits to Leeds on the General Election campaign trail.

After a series of talks Leeds City Council was able to secure 90 additional places at three schools meaning the majority of parents affected were offered one of the schools they had originally chosen.

However campaigners are now looking for a long term solution to avoid a repeat of this year’s events.

Lucy Clement, who played a leading role in the Fair Access Group, has now teamed up with two school governors Mark Rowlinson and Gillian Hayward to develop plans to create their own free school.

The plan is for a two form entry primary school taking on sixty pupils each year.

In its application it has had expressions of interest from 62 parents of children due to start school in 2017 and another 67 for those due to start in 2018.

Mrs Clement said: “The location is key. We want to make sure that the school is as close as possible to the West Park area of Roundhay so that it closes the blackhole and we finally have a school that prioritizes this community. It has been a phenomenal amount of work putting the bid together and now we have submitted it I think we feel proud of what we have achieved. I feel like I have not stopped since National Offer Day.”

Back in April more than 80 parents in North Leeds discovered that they had been allocated places at schools they had not chosen up to four miles away from their homes.

It sparked an angry reaction and the creation of the Fair Access Group campaign.

Mrs Clement’s daughter Daisy was allocated her 28th nearest primary school more than three miles from their home. On the proposed free school website she writes: “We had never heard of the school and knew absolutely nothing about it.

“Daisy would never walk to school and it would put massive pressure on our already busy lives as working parents. Devastated and angry I was determined to take action.”

She said the aim of the free school would be to ensure this did not happen again for future generations. The team have spent the summer developing plans for the school and ensuring they could demonstrate that their plan had the support of the community.

Mrs Clement said: “Looking at the bid we have put together the thing I am most proud of is the level of community engagement we have had.”

The school’s vision is said to be built around four key areas: the national curriculum; positive attitudes to learning; engaging teaching and promoting good citizenship.

Mrs Clement said the school was also keen to instill a growth mindset in its pupils and to use project based learning.

The bid has received support from Leeds City Council which says it recognises the need for more school places in this area.

Mr Rowlinson said: “We feel proud of what we have achieved and the support we have received. Hopefully it can come together and we can create something which makes a lasting mark on the community.”

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