Victory for parents' education campaign as Durham Free School opens next week (From The Advertiser Series)
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Victory for parents' education campaign as Durham Free School opens next week
A HARD-fought parents’ education campaign is about to bear fruit, as Durham Free School opens its doors for the first time.
Families unable to get their children into high-performing Durham Johnston School have been fighting to establish County Durham’s first free school for two years.
The Durham Free School (DFS) will open in the former Durham Gilesgate Sports College (DGSC), in Gilesgate, on Thursday (September 5).
The school will be funded by and responsible to the Department for Education.
Headteacher Peter Cantley said: “It’s very exciting. It’s the fulfilment of a vision which has been held for a number of years.
“We’ve recruited a fantastic staff team. We’re absolutely confident we’ll provide high-quality education, as well as an outstanding extracurricular programme.”
Work has begun to redecorate the buildings and install new computers, although Mr Cantley will not get the keys until next week.
The school will grow by one year group each year but its long-term location is yet to be decided.
Supporters want to move to the south-east of Durham, but bids for three potential sites have already failed. Other sites are being considered but the school could also remain in Gilesgate.
It was hoped the school would open with 60 pupils. Sixty-eight applications were made, but delays in finding a permanent site and securing a funding agreement caused some parents to send their children elsewhere.
Mr Cantley said parents had shown a tremendous amount of faith in the school and its plans and he envisaged being in Gilesgate for two years. Some families at DGSC were angry it was closed this summer due to falling rolls and budget cuts, but money could be found for DFS.
Mr Cantley said this was entirely understandable but the DFS funding was separate and would not be coming into Durham if DFS did not exist.
Free schools are funded per pupil, with extra grants for start-up costs.
Applications will soon open for September 2014, through the council’s co-ordinated admissions programme. Prospective parents are invited to arrange visits throughout September and October.
Mr Cantley wants to accept 90 year seven children next year and there are still places available for this year.
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