Free school closes after a year after failing to secure a permanent site

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A FREE school which opened last year to provide alternative provision to pupils from schools in Yorkshire’s biggest academy chain has been closed down.

The Department for Education (DfE) said that Dawes Lane Academy had experienced difficulties with pupil recruitment and finding a suitable permanent home.

It was one of three alternative provision schools opened by the School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) - a chain which runs more than 40 schools mainly around the Yorkshire region.

Dawes Lane Academy opened last year in temporary premises at John Whitgift Academy, in Grimsby, - another school run by the SPTA - after getting the go ahead from the DfE.

However it failed to secure planning permission for a move to a permanent base in Scunthorpe and has now been closed. The DfE said the SPTA had taken the decision to close the school.

The SPTA alternative provision schools were planned to take on pupils of all ages from schools across its chain. The other two which remain open are Elland Academy, in Leeds, and St Wilfrid’s Academy, in Doncaster.

A DfE spokesman said: “Free schools are a vital part of our plan for education and are providing thousands of pupils with an excellent education, including many of those who have fallen out of the mainstream school system.

“Dawes Lane Academy has experienced difficulties with pupil recruitment and finding an appropriate permanent site and the trust has therefore decided to close the school. Year 11 pupils have moved on to post-16 providers while other pupils have returned to their host schools within the School Partnership Trust.”

The SPTA’s chief executive Sir Paul Edwards said: “This was not an issue about the quality of provision, rather the failure to find a permanent base.”

“Dawes Lane was one of three alternative provision academies established by SPTA.” Planning permission for a permanent site was rejected last year. The other two schools have moved to permanent homes.

But planning permission to convert a premises on Dawes Lane, Scunthorpe, was rejected by North Lincolnshire Council’s Planning Committee last September and the SPTA said subsequent efforts to find another suitable site in the town failed.

Sir Paul added: “The Education Funding Agency has tried very hard to secure planning permission for the site. My priority was the children’s welfare. The lack of permanent accommodation created an unacceptable risk for the effectiveness and sustainability of the academy going forward.”