Durham Free School to stay in Gilesgate until 2015

The Advertiser Series: Durham Free School headteacher Peter Cantley Durham Free School headteacher Peter Cantley

LEADERS of a controversial free school expect to remain on their current site for another academic year.

Durham Free School (DFS) opened in the former Durham Gilesgate Sports College (DGSC), in Gilesgate, Durham, in September, after attempts to find a site south-east of the city stalled.

The move angered parents who had seen DGSC close just weeks earlier amid falling rolls and budget cuts and their resentment increased after it emerged DFS’ first term had cost taxpayers nearly £900,000 – more than £25,000 for each of its 34 pupils, about five times the national average.

Now DFS leaders say they expect to stay in Gilesgate for the 2014-15 academic year.

Despite three bids for potential sites south-east of Durham falling through last year, it had been hoped the Education Funding Agency, the part of the Department for Education responsible for free school sites, would strike a deal before Christmas.

However, DFS leaders still hope to have a new permanent site ready for September 2015.

They hope to move south-east of Durham because the school was set up to serve families in villages such as Bowburn, Coxhoe and Shincliffe.

Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, who has labelled DFS a waste of public money, called for the school to be closed this summer.

“I don’t think we should have a school allowed this setup when there are surplus places elsewhere,” she said.

Supporters say because DFS is free from Durham County Council control and directly funded by the Government it has brought extra investment into the area.

However, Dr Blackman-Woods said: “This isn’t value for money, whatever budget it comes from.”

DFS has become the focus of the national political debate over free schools, with Labour MPs repeatedly slamming its spending and staffing – which includes nine teachers, including six part-timers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has defended it, recently saying it had the potential to be a very good school.

Headteacher Peter Cantley said: “Our first priority has always been, and will always be, to provide high-quality teaching and learning, through the delivery of the National Curriculum and an exciting extracurricular programme, led by experienced and very well-qualified staff.

“Given the quality of the staff team and the way in which the students have risen to meet the challenges of the term, we have been able to provide an excellent educational experience for all the children.”

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4:16pm Thu 2 Jan 14

sineater says...

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