Charity to aim high with plan for free school

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A CHARITY set up to improve the education and economic position of ethnic minorities has announced plans to open a new free school in a Yorkshire city which faces a shortage of places.

The award-winning Bradford-based charity QED wants to set up a primary school in the city from 2014 which it claims would better “national performance levels” and help tackle social inequality.

The plan is for Quest Primary School to open with 60 pupils, rising to 420 by 2020.

The charity said it would be open to all children regardless of their background.

The Government’s free school programme is encouraging the creation of new state schools in areas where there is local demand which are being set up by groups of teachers, parents, business and charities.

It has also seen private schools join the state sector and existing academies establish new free schools themselves.

Mohammed Ali, founder and chief executive of QED, said: “We were approached by parents in February 2011 with a request to consider opening a school to raise the educational achievement of children, particularly in the inner city.

“As a charity, QED has been working in the community since 1990 – education is at the heart of our mission – and so we felt compelled to take on this challenge.

“A start was made back in April 2011 at grassroot levels on gauging support from the local community. Since then, the trust and support of parents and members of the local community to make the school a reality has been incredible.

“The idea that where you are born impacts on the quality of education your children receive is a social inequality Bradford needs to address.

“Primary schools are critically important for instilling a good grounding and many educational leaders we’ve spoken to believe there is not only a need to relieve the pressure on primary school places, but to raise the educational performance of children to meet at least the national average for the country.”

QED, which stands for Quest for Economic Development, was set up in Bradford in 1990. The charity said the plan was for the free school to “broadly follow the national curriculum but with a focus on English and maths to cater to the needs of Bradford children”.

Dr Ali said: “Our aims are quite simple. We want to improve the educational performance of children in the deprived communities. Despite the best efforts of the education providers, too many schools are still not reaching the standards of performance that would be considered acceptable.

“We want to add value to what is already happening in the city and contribute to a future workforce that will meet the challenges of the new century. We want to support parental aspirations for their children.”

Bradford is already at the forefront of the free school movement with four set up in the city and another two with initial backing to open from the Department for Education (DfE).

The King’s Science Academy and Rainbow Primary were among the first free schools in the country to open last year.

Kings has been set up by Bradford teacher Sajid Hussain Raza. Rainbow Primary was set up by Bradford-based enterprise organisation ATL, formerly known as Asian Trade Link.

This year two more free schools, one primary and one secondary, have been set up by Dixons City Academy, one of Bradford’s best performing state schools.

The One-in-a-Million charity, based at Bradford City football club, had been given initial approval to set up a free school opening this year but discovered less than a fortnight before the start of term that the DfE was not giving it funding. It plans to open next year. The Girls Grammar School in Bradford is converting from the private sector next year.