Dixons academies chain in Bradford plans to open a new free school in Leeds and London

AN ACADEMY trust which runs nine schools in Bradford is planing to open a through age free school in Leeds and is also considering a bid to establish itself in London.

Luke Sparkes at Dixons Trinity

Dixons is a well known name in education in Bradford having opened one of the country’s first city technology colleges in the city 25 years ago and being at the forefront of the academies and free schools movement.

Now it is putting together a bid to open a new school in Leeds - in the Harehills/ Chapeltown area - after talks with the city council.

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Dixons Trinity Academy, which opened in 2012, became the first secondary free school to be rated as outstanding in the country.

Photos: Mike Cowling

The school serves some of Bradford’s most deprived areas, with around half of its students living in the city’s five poorest wards.

Its principal Luke Sparkes said Dixons wanted to be able to replicate the success of the school in Leeds. The plan is for a two form entry primary and a four form secondary

He said: “We want to be able to replicate the model we have in Bradford with Dixons Trinity (a secondary school) and Dixons Music Primary on the same site.”

Dixons City Academy was the first of its schools which opened as a city technology college 25-years ago and became one of Yorkshire’s first academies in 2005. That school established itself as one of the strongest performing in Braford.

The trust has also taken over several existing schools which were in difficulty, in the city, including the controversial former Kings Science Academy free school which had previously been embroiled in a scandal over alleged fraud before Dixons’ involvement and where teacher Vincent Uzomah was stabbed earlier this year.

The free schools set up in Bradford are said to be in demand with parents and Dixons Trinity has been hailed as an example for other free schools to follow.

Mr Sparkes said: “Our success is founded in our clear mission and our commitment to the core values of hard work, trust and fairness. We focus relentlessly on results, operate strict routines, build strong relationships at all levels and do the simple things well every day. We have looked to take the best from other schools.”

He said that he had learned from the independent sector - including the Grammar School at Leeds - on improving the co-curricular offer to pupils and from charter schools in the United States including KIPP on raising aspiration and having firm routines throughout the school day. He added: “I have learned from all the schools I have worked in. The most important thng I have taken is that you should keep things simple but do everything with rigour.”

“We do not claim to have a silver bullet and we know that starting a school from scratch gives you a big advantage in being able to shape the culture of the school and the staff.” Mr Sparkes said the plan for a Leeds free school was driven by wanting to be able to help more pupils from urban areas to “get to and through a good university into a top job and to thrive in life.”

He added; “We do not want to open in competition with anybody. We have chosen this area because we know through talks with the council that it will need a new school. It is a diverse area and Dixons schools have usually served diverse communities.”

Mr Sparkes is urging parents in Harehills/Chapeltown area to visit Dixons Trinity’s website to express an interest in the school to help its bid to be successful.

Dixons are also planning to apply to open a free school in London. Mr Sparkes said this would give it the chance to work with other schools in the capital who share similar approaches.

“We have some supporters in the capital and Future Leaders have said they would be involved in the governance of the new school.”

He said the school was in a discussions about where in Londond it should be located.