Durham Free School prepares for 50-strong intake, but still no permanent site

Peter Cantley

Peter Cantley

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

A CONTROVERSIAL free school is poised to more than double in size from September, but is still waiting on a permanent site.

Durham Free School (DFS) opened in the former Durham Gilesgate Sports College in September, with 30 year seven pupils.

Since then, the number has grown to 37; and school bosses expect more than 50 new year sevens to begin this September, taking the overall roll to about 90.

However, the Department for Education is still yet to make an announcement on where the school will be located in the long-term.

It is expected DFS, which was set up to serve villages south-east of Durham City, will remain in Gilesgate until at least summer 2015, but it could be even longer.

John Denning, the chair of governors, said: “The journey towards reaching a decision on our permanent site has been a far longer and much more complicated process than we could have possibly imagined when we first embarked on the free school project over three years ago.”

School leaders have called two information meetings, at Bowburn Community Centre, Durham Road, Bowburn, on Thursday (March 27) at 7.30pm; and at the school, on Bradford Crescent, on Thursday, April 3, again at 7.30pm.

Headteacher Peter Cantley said: “We don’t have a final outcome yet and ultimately the decision lies with the Government, but we want to listen and pass on any comments people may wish to make.”

Mr Denning added: “I know this is an issue which is important to many families and although we still await a final decision from the Department for Education we want to share as much information as possible with local people at this juncture and have a chance to talk with them and listen to their feelings.”

Responsibility for the site lies with the Education Funding Agency, part of the Department for Education.

Three bids for potential sites south-east of Durham failed last year.

DFS became a focus of the national free school debate, after it emerged its first term cost taxpayers nearly £900,000 – more than £25,000 per pupil. Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods called for it to be closed this summer.

Comments (2)

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7:07pm Mon 24 Mar 14

YouandI says...

I cannot see the Government providing a new site and building for the Free School. While there is a good argument for setting up a new school to the South of the city, the Governing Body appear to be out of touch and totally inept
I cannot see the Government providing a new site and building for the Free School. While there is a good argument for setting up a new school to the South of the city, the Governing Body appear to be out of touch and totally inept YouandI
  • Score: -3

10:50pm Mon 24 Mar 14

DurhamMum says...

Rather it's the reporting that appears to be somewhat inept and out of touch, or at least out if date! I was at a parents meeting about the site just the other week. We were shown a map with all the sites that have been considered and also informed that there are now two options. We were given the pros and cons of each and some detail about the two possibilities. They are just waiting for the government to decide now between these two and will pass on any comments the communities wish to make, whether they are parents or not.
Rather it's the reporting that appears to be somewhat inept and out of touch, or at least out if date! I was at a parents meeting about the site just the other week. We were shown a map with all the sites that have been considered and also informed that there are now two options. We were given the pros and cons of each and some detail about the two possibilities. They are just waiting for the government to decide now between these two and will pass on any comments the communities wish to make, whether they are parents or not. DurhamMum
  • Score: 1

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