Ambitious new plans to tackle places 'black hole' in North Leeds unveiled - and it doesn't involve building a new school...

An ambitious new plan to transform a primary and secondary into an 'all-through' school to address a places 'black hole' in Yorkshire's biggest city has been unveiled by council chiefs.

The Fair Access group demonstrating at Leeds Civic Hall in 2015; they have threatened to go back to campaigning if progress is not made.
The Fair Access group demonstrating at Leeds Civic Hall in 2015; they have threatened to go back to campaigning if progress is not made.

The proposal, which would hopefully create an additional 60 new reception places each year from next September, is set to replace plans for a new free school in the Roundhay area of Leeds.

The announcement comes after the Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA), the body that had been in charge of Roundhay Park Primary School, handed responsibility over to the local authority to move the project forward itself - a move the council said would have ended up costing it in the region of £12m.

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Now, the authority is launching a consultation on proposals to make Moor Allerton Primary School and the nearby Allerton Grange High School an all-through school on one combined site.

The plans would also see a neighbouring learning centre transformed into classrooms.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families, said: “We have now come up with a solution.

“We are going to look at creating a new through school from the three buildings, which will enable us to create two permanent additional forms of entry.

“It is a big proposal but there is enough ground space to make it work.”

The council envisages the current primary school housing the youngest pupils, with juniors being educated in the North East City Learning Centre, which would be made “fit for purpose”.

They would then have the option to move to the secondary school.

Andrew Eastwood, head of learning improvement, said: “By looking at this as a combined site, it is giving us options to look at something different and more creative - exciting actually.

“We appreciate this is not a new school, however it delivers everything those parents wanted - good quality learning places within walking distance of where they live.”

Coun Mulherin added: “We think this is an exciting proposal in terms of resolving the shortage of places for families and children in that area on a permanent basis.”

A new free school was due to open last month after Ministers gave it the go-ahead in 2016, but there have been issues with the preferred location. It will now be up to the Government to decide on the fate of the school.

Coun Mulherin said: “All the sites were difficult as they were Green Belt. The chosen site would have had to go through planning and it would have taken time. I don’t think we would have got places by 2018.

“We are grasping the metal and we are going to crack on and consult on delivering the places the community needs.”

At the end of last month campaigning parents launched a petition - which has collected more than 1,200 signatures - calling on the education secretary Justine Greening to step in and help secure land to allow the long-running project to move forward.

The council was set to unveil its new proposal to the campaigners and the trust set up to run the free school yesterday. Coun Mulherin acknowledged that assurances may also have to be made to parents at the existing schools that the project would not impact on pupils’ education.

The consultation will launch tomorrow and will end on November 29.

Mr Eastwood said: “Once we stopped looking for one school and started looking for a solution to the actual problem, it means we could be more creative.”