Parents hit out at council as new Leeds primary school plan hit by delays

Parents fighting for a new primary to tackle a school places 'black hole' in Yorkshire's biggest city are considering mounting a protest against council officials '“ and are questioning the viability of the trust set up to run it.

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

It has emerged that the Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA), the body that had been in charge of Roundhay Park Primary School, is handing responsibility over to Leeds City Council to move the project forward itself.

Ministers last year gave a new free school the go-ahead to open this September, but there have been issues with the preferred location and it is now unclear when the school will open.

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Now, more than two years after the school was first mooted, campaigners are demanding answers following the latest twist in the tale, as frustrations grow over the organisations involved who are “not fighting hard enough” to resolve the issue.

Fair Access member Damian Nicholls, who has arranged to meet senior Leeds councillor Lisa Mulherin next week, said: “I intend to ask her why we still find ourselves in this situation and to justify the stance and behaviour of Leeds Council throughout the whole sorry affair. I also want to know what their plan is to get us out of this mess.”

He has also written to council leader Judith Blake and the Regional Schools Commissioner for West Yorkshire Vicky Beer calling for a resolution over the school’s location and indicating that parents were leaning towards a vote of no confidence against the Roundhay Park Primary School Trust, which was established to set up and run the primary.

He said: “There is immense frustration with the council and dissatisfaction with the trust. When it comes to delivering the school it is a completely unknown entity. It is getting to the point of a vote of no confidence. This is fairly monumental news from the EFSA that the school is going back to the council to self-deliver. Why hasn’t the trust arranged a meeting with the council? There is no energy and no passion. Who is actually driving it forward?”

Mr Nicholls said the group is now asking whether it would be better for an existing academy to take on the project. He said: “We just want a school and if the greatest chance for success is via a multi-academy trust to come in and deliver it then perhaps that is the answer.

“We will go back to campaigning outside the Civic Hall with banners if we need to,” he added.

A consultation on the location of the school was completed last month, and the results revealed a 50/50 split between land off the ring road at Roundhay Park Lane East and the practice ground at Roundhay Park municipal golf course.

The EFSA was supposed to submit a planning application; however, it will now be up to Leeds City Council to do this.

The EFSA will still finance the school, but sources believe the funding could be scaled back as a result of the Government having to find extra money for existing schools as part of the new national funding formula.

A city council spokeswoman said the authority was talking to the Secretary of State about what happens next.

‘Disappointment’ over delays

The trust set up to run Roundhay Park Primary School has expressed its disappointment over delays in delivering the site.

A spokesperson said: “The trust completely understands the frustrations of parents and indeed shares them, especially as two of our trustees are parents in the area of need with children starting school over the next couple of years.

“Whilst perhaps well-meaning, we are extremely disappointed the council’s site consultation has delayed the whole process by six months without leading to any meaningful progress and we are still awaiting a response as to whether they will make available either of the sites officers identified as the most popular choices.

"As the ESFA have now asked the council to self-deliver the site, we are ready and waiting to support the council to deliver the build. The ball is in their court as to whether they want to proceed and along with parents, we eagerly await their decision.”