Gladstone School, the new Free School approved to open in NW2/NW10, is today announcing that it has been unable to agree terms on permanent premises in time for a September 2014 opening, and as a result is forced to delay its opening until September 2015.
The decision follows a recent policy shift by the Department for Education (DfE) that no Free School can be allowed to open until a permanent site has been identified and secured. The Education Funding Agency (EFA), the government agency responsible for Free School premises, has been in discussions on several proposed permanent sites but none has proved suitable for the school.
Announcing the news today Principal Designate Paul Phillips said, “At this late stage it is highly unlikely that permanent premises will be found to permit all necessary contractual negotiations to be finalised in time for a September 2014 opening. In the light of this the school has no option but to postpone its opening for a year. We know of many other Free Schools in London suddenly forced to defer for the same reason. As a parent-led group we are profoundly aware of the distress this decision will cause to parents and carers of year 6 children who had put their faith in the Gladstone School vision.”
The school had previously advised parents of the possibility of deferral soon after it heard of the DfE's policy change in early March. Several parents wrote to their MPs and to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove to express their concerns.
Gladstone School will now open in September 2015, with the continued support of the DfE. Mary Pooley, Deputy Director of the Free Schools Group at the Department for Education said, “We have been delighted to work with Groups, such as Gladstone School, which share our vision to provide more children with the opportunity for an excellent education. It is very disappointing for us all that difficulties in securing a site will delay the opening of Gladstone School for a year. We will continue working to secure a site, and extend our full support to the school for a successful opening in September 2015.”
Chair of Governors and founder parent Maria Evans said, “This is heart-breaking news for us all, but there is still a vital job to do. The hundreds of Brent parents who have supported us over the last two years, and welcomed our ambitious and innovative vision, need the certainty that this school will open. We will be working in close consultation with Brent Council and the Education Funding Agency to secure the ideal site ahead of the admissions process for September 2015 entry.”