Islington free school to be forced out of portacabins before new building is ready
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Children at Islington’s £10million first free school look set to be forced out of their portacabins before the new building is ready.
The government-backed Whitehall Park School in Hornsey Rise, Archway, has already suffered several delays over the opening of its new building and now time is set to run out on their temporary home.
The children have been in makeshift classrooms since opening in 2014 after problems with planning applications.
And now the Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA), which owns the land, needs the site back by October for a housing development, leaving the school in limbo.
The Bellevue Place Education Trust, which runs the school, said it had looked at several options, with children’s safety the most important thing to consider.
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Chief executive Mark Greatrex said discussions were taking place about a temporary solution outside of the current site.
He told the Gazette: “We are currently in the final stages of confirming the temporary arrangements for Whitehall Park School in the autumn term, ensuring that the safety of pupils is our foremost consideration.
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“We anticipate that we will be confirming with parents this week the plans for next term, ahead of moving into the permanent building in early 2017.”
Another problem is that the school is expanding from two reception classes to hold Year 1 and Year 2, and will have 180 pupils to house come September.
But worried parents have rallied behind the school and praised the teachers for their work.
Katie Skelsey told the Gazette her child had made “amazing progress” under headteacher Laura Birkett and trusted her to find a solution.
“The school has a high quality of teaching and the new building looks really exciting. I’m not concerned about the delay,” she said.
Thomas Wyld works in planning for Barnet Council and has one child at the school and twins starting in September.
He said: “There’s two needs – one is to establish a school and the other is housing.
“We have sympathy with ISHA because the land does belong to them and they have a need to commence their development as soon as possible.”
“It is an unfortunate situation, but the school staff are absolutely wonderful.”