Monday, 9 March 2015

Gateway abandons plans to open free school in Brent

Johnny Kyriacou, Principal designate, of Gateway Free School, has announced that Gateway will 'not proceed' after failing for the third year to find a school site in Brent.  He says pupils should not suffer as they will still have school choices selected through the Brent Council admissions system.

Kyriacou claimed that there was still a looming secondary school places shortage and that if the 800 or so pupils who currently choose schools outside of Brent were instead to stay in-borough there would be an immediate crisis.

This is the letter sent to parents:

Dear Parents/Guardians

It is with great regret and a profound sadness to announce that Gateway Academy will no longer proceed, thereby ending our attempts to provide an outstanding education to the young people of Brent.

In a recent meeting with the DfE we were informed that a building could not be secured in time for opening in September 2015 and that there remains no realistic prospect of being able to secure one in the future. There are a number of challenges to securing a building in Brent and that includes rising land prices and competition against developers for all available land, which means the DfE are not able to compete financially. That is not to say it is impossible but it seems very unlikely. 

We came close on a number of occasions, significant bids were made for various bits of land and on two occasions a deal with a property developer came extremely close to being signed only for them to pull out in the last minute for one reason or another. The DfE, through the Education Funding Agency have tried their best but not been able to succeed.

The Trustees felt that to go on for another year and campaign to recruit students without a building would not be in the best interests of the local community by raising their hopes and then seeing the school possibly be deferred for opening yet again.

I would like to offer my thanks to all those parents and members of the local community who supported us and were looking forward to the opening of our school. This journey represented over two years from application to pre-opening and to fail at the last hurdle through no fault of our own is devastating. 

I wish you and your children all the best for the future. You really do deserve the best.


  1. Pass me a tissue. Gateway with their salaried head and deputy managed to arrange one info event during the whole of last school year.

    Roll on Gladstone, surely you'll be next to do the descent thing and call the whole thing off.

    1. Just to clear up any misconceptions the Deputy Head that was appointed was not on a salary and was only going to start work once the school opened.

    2. Assume the head was paid a huge sum of money to run a school that did not exist and had no children.

      Funny that I thought we were in a period of Austerity ?

      Head teachers leading schools that do not exist and getting paid a small fortune can be compared to bankers fleecing the country.

      Daylight robbery in my book.

    3. The head left a stable and secure job to do something he passionately believed in. His salary was only a little more than the job that he left so not a proper head teachers salary. He now needs to find a job for September to provide for his two young children and family. It was hardly a great swindle of cosmic proportions on the scale of the banking crisis.

    4. 'Passionately': unfortunately, through overuse by the chancer community, a word to be viewed with suspicion.
      'Two young children and a family': so have a large proportion of the other people hammered by the policies of this government.
      Difference is, this person embraced those policies.

    5. A policy embraced to provide education to young people of Brent is a good thing surely? Gateway was encouraged to apply by the LA so they embraced the policy as well. Parents embraced it because they wanted to send their children there. So there was lots of support and embracing from right across many sections of the local community. The losers here are the parents and children who wanted to attend the school.

    6. Build a school in a location to compete with an already high number of secondary schools in north of Brent ?

      Gateway was always in the Sting location simply trying to draw young people away from other local schools.

      You have a big F for failure Gateway at least young people will not be taught by your failure.

    7. None of the parties you quote have much choice in the matter. They're stuck with a shambolic bit of ' freedom of choice' idiocy imposed on them by a faction in the Tory party which until fairly recently was regarded as the resort of those whom the mental health professionals refer to as loonies and fruitcakes. 'Free' schools are destined to be the educational equivalent of the Sinclair C5; an aberration, an interestingly wasteful historical anomaly.

      We're all in favour of education. Most of us think it's a really good idea. We all want Brent children to have the benefit of the best the state and the local authority can offer. That's why it's so important to have people running the provision of education who take it seriously enough to avoid the sort of ideologically driven amateurish shambles that the 'free' school movement has turned out to be. Look around you.

      Mike Hine

    8. Everyone has a choice. The fact so many parents wanted to send their kids to the school without even knowing where it would be speaks volumes. There are spaces elsewhere in the LA. However more than 800 kids a year are leaving Brent to go to a different borough for secondary school. Brent currently sits bottom of all outer London boroughs in terms of OFSTED ratings. (Although these figures do change constantly). There is certainly work to be done in Brent and the stakeholders that matter ie the parents have shown their support.

      Yes you are right there are many elements of the free school movement that are absolutely chaotic and have been widely reported but there are success stories. Reach academy in feltham was set up teachers and is an outstanding school. It's all a case by case situation.

      I feel in the case of gateway there was a school set up by local stakeholders, not an academy chain and not people with no experience of education, that would have provided quality and support. No ideology at all.

      You must realise that Brent simply has no land, is getting bigger and bigger in terms of population and the biggest developer in town is simply building flats. This is not healthy for the borough and there is a lack of strategic planning.

      I understand the scepticism of the free school movement but in this particular case it does really feel like a missed opportunity. The govt should buy property first then invite people to set up the school. Local authorities should also be part of that process. I fear for the future of secondary places in terms of capacity.

    9. DFE would not have abandones Gate way if there was enough demand.

      The fact of the matter is DFE months away from an election want to be sure there is enough demand and is why at last minute when placement offers are finalized they ended funding Gate way.

      Gate way should have realized they are a political pawn in the chess game.
      Gate way is part of larger Education provider as far as I am aware with a number of sites so yet again Gate way is Just another example of privatization of education

    10. I'm afraid you are completely incorrect. The press statement released was approved by the DfE which reveals it was site issues. But also the trustees pulled out rather than defer because they didn't want to continue to raise hopes for parents for a third year. It was no in the best interests of parents. You'll note all the other secondary schools approved for Brent have not been able to find a site either (Gladstone and One Degree). Demand is not the issue and the LA say they need spaces.

      Also I am not sure where you are getting your facts from but Gateway was a single provider. There are other schools called Gateway Academy but have nothing to do with this particular Gateway Academy. Not sure where you think the privatisation is coming from either. It would have been a state funded school and just like every other secondary school in Brent.

    11. Socialize the cost and privatize profit !

      Privatization in disguise.

      There have been so many recent scandals with excessive pay and contracts being awarded to linked companies managed by those on a board of schopl trustees etc where there is conflict of interest.

      Just face facts Gateway a big fail Mark.

    12. It's difficult to assess the anonymous points made in this discussion when the reader doesn't know where they're coming from . Are we listening to the views of parents, disinterested observers or people with a financial or career interest in a particular result?
      If you won't give your name then it would be helpful at least to state your interest.

      Mike Hine

  2. What a way to run a chicken shop.

  3. The curse of Christine Gilbert.

    I think it is now clear both Gateway and Gladstone were approved by the DFE more as political point scoring rather than any genuine attempt at providing Brent with world class schools.

    Other deprived communities have had huge investment in schools and while the appointment of Christine Gilbert might have been expediant at the time, it does seem longer term implications she is a liability. DFE and government can now easily point the finger at Brent LA as to why new schools have not been built in the Borough. The reality is a mix of both incompetance on the part of DFE, but also lack of Brent strategic planning in identifying sites for new schools.

    For example Brent could have easily reviewed Unisys site for new school with community access to sports facilities on the site rather than what Brent Officers accepted with more housing tower blocks and smaller sports facility.

    Quantain should have been forced to allocate land and funding for new school.

    Alperton growth corridor with loads vacant land could have been reviewed for a school site.

    This should all have been identified back in 2011-2012 at the latest. Developers would not have then moved in land banking any available land.

    The moral Gilbert is a liability and Brent needs a head of Council ideally who can achieve consensus between all stakeholders.

    1. Think you are right.

      Gilbert as head of Brent has been used as a political football.

      Funny how Brent goes without funding for new schools and other Boroughs supporting Tory policy get all the money !

      Gilbert needs to step aside.

  4. Political spin

    150 New schools ?

    Be nice if Cameron told the truth and also said the number of schools not opening !

    Lies Lies

    1. He promised 500 new free schools. How about 0 and return the power to build new schools where they are needed to the local authorities?