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Third of free school applications are from religious groups
7:00am Thursday 21st February 2013 in News
ALMOST one-third of applications to open ‘free schools’ across the region have come from religious groups, it was revealed yesterday (Wednesday, February 20).
Faith organisations have put in six of the 19 bids to run schools free from local authority influence, the department for education (Dfe) said.
They include the applications to open the Christian Durham Free School Limited, in Bowburn, and proposals for both Christian and Muslim schools in Middlesbrough.
Both applications for free schools in Sunderland were from independent Christian schools, hoping to axe fees and receive government cash to operate instead.
One – the Grindon Hall Christian School – became the first of the new breed of institutions to open in the region, last September.
The Durham Free School project got the go-ahead last July, but there will be a public consultation before a final proposal is submitted to the Dfe for approval this spring.
The Darlington bid would see Marchbank Free School provide specialist care for primary age children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD).
The list was published after the Dfe bowed to a ruling from the Information Commissioner to release the details of all applications – including whether they were faith-based.
Across England, no fewer than 132 of the 517 applications in the past two years have come from religious groups.
But the British Humanist Association, which pushed for release, said the statistics were likely to underestimate the number of faith school applications by up to 50 per cent.
It said: “This is because it only shows schools with a formally designated religious character and not those with a 'faith' ethos.”
The free school movement has got off to a slow start in this region, with controversy engulfing the bid for a 750-place secondary and sixth form at Ingleby Barwick, Stockton.
Councillors threw out the application because it was on green wedge land - green fields not earmarked for development - and there was not enough social housing included.
But the decision infuriated James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, and the decision now rests with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
The highest number of applications has come from Newcastle (5), followed by Middlesbrough and Stockton (both 3) and County Durham, Sunderland and York (all 2).
Mr Gove said he had not published details of applications in the past because of “personal attacks on individuals who simply want to improve education standards and choice locally”.
He added: “We have been told of instances where teachers have lost their jobs simply by virtue of their association with a free school application.
“One proposer even told us that they have been the subject of a death threat.”
LIST OF FREE SCHOOL APPLICANTS
** = Independent School
+ = Religious
- Education Village Trust Free School
- + Durham Free School Limited, Bowburn (Christian)
- Genesis Primary Academy Trust
- + Emaan Academy (Muslim)
- ** + Moordale School (Christian)
- Tees Valley Independent Grammar School
- + Clayton Academy (Church of England)
- Discovery Enterprise School
- Newcastle Occupation
- The Excelsior School
- West Newcastle Academy
- Barwick’s Own Second Secondary School
- Innovative Thinking (UK) Ltd
- Levon Arts & Vocational Free School
- ** + Grindon Hall Free School (Christian)
- ** North Eastern Christian Schools Ltd
- Malton Montessori School
- Lindley Murray School
- York Free School Limited
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