PLANS to open one of the country’s largest free schools aimed at supporting family living in Leeds city centre is among nine proposals in Yorkshire which have been given the initial go ahead to open from next year by the Government.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said he was delighted to be approving so many high quality plans as he announced that 102 more free schools were set to open from 2014.
Schemes that have been backed in Yorkshire include the Ruth Gorse Academy – a plan for a school in the south of Leeds city centre which aims to help to regenerate the area.
David Lumb, the co-ordinator of the Leeds Sustainable Development Group behind the scheme, said it would be a major step toward supporting sustainable family living in the city centre.
Other Yorkshire projects which could now open next year include the Transforming Lives for Good alternative provision school in Bradford run by the TLG Christian charity which specialises in supporting children who are struggling in education or have been excluded from school.
The School Partnership Trust, (SPT) an academy chain which now runs more than 40 schools across Yorkshire, has been given initial go-ahead to open alternative provision academies in Leeds, Doncaster and North East Lincolnshire. The plan is for these free schools to take on pupils from existing SPT schools.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “Our Alternative Provision Free School will, via a range of approaches, including outreach work, staff continuing professional development and free school placements, seek to re-engage our most challenging and vulnerable students aged between three and 19 years of age, so that they can make the progress of which they are capable.”
Other free schools given initial approval in the region include the Aspire Academy for pupils who have been excluded in Hull, the XP school in Doncaster, which is led by teacher Gwyn ap Harri and is described by the Department for Education (DfE) as “drawing on the practices” of the Charter School movement in the United States and the Chapeltown Academy – a new sixth form which would be the first free school in Sheffield.
Tom Beaumont, a spokesman for the Chapeltown Academy Trust said: “We are absolutely delighted the Department for Education has seen the obvious need and desire we have pointed out, and as such our youngsters in North Sheffield, South Barnsley and West Rotherham will no longer have to travel significant distances for such provision.”
There are also plans for two more free schools in Bradford which have been given approval to get to the pre-opening stage on top of the four which are already open and another two in the pipeline. Dixons, which runs Dixon City Academy and sponsors three other schools in the city, has been given backing to open another secondary free school while the Khalsa Engineering Academy will be a new primary school in the city.
Announcing the latest wave of free schools Mr Gove said: “There are many innovators in local communities set on raising standards of education for their children. I am delighted to approve so many of their high-quality plans to open a free school.”
Free schools are state-funded and run independently from local councils. The DfE has encouraged groups of teachers, schools and other organisations to set them up if they can prove they have parental demand.