‘Oversubscribed’ Hornsey Rise free school still has empty seats in the classroom

Islington's first free school opens. L-R top Liam Ryan, 4, Jake Gordon, 4, headteacher Laura Birket

Islington's first free school opens. L-R top Liam Ryan, 4, Jake Gordon, 4, headteacher Laura Birkett, Ela Aribas, 4, Christina Sotiropoulou, 4. Bottom L-R are Polly Martin, 4 and Rufus Rumford, 4. - Credit: Alex Rumford

Islington’s controversial first free school has started the new term with almost a quarter of it’s spaces still empty.

Whitehall Park Free School, which occupies the former Ashmount Primary School site on Hornsey Lane, had 72 applications for its 56 places earlier this year however only 43 children currently attend the school.

Ken Muller, the joint secretary of the Islington branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “I suspected this was going to happen and in fact, the old chair of governors for Ashmount School, David Barry, predicted they wouldn’t fill their places.

“It’s no surprise.”

The classrooms at Whitehall Park are currently housed in temporary structures while work on the main permanent school building, expecting to cost the government £10 million by the time it is finished in 2017, takes place.

A spokesperson for the school said: “We opened with 42 children and have had one additional child join thus far and are expecting more.

“The ongoing uncertainty around the site was inevitably a factor in pupil numbers.”

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The Ashmount site was initially earmarked for housing developments but was instead claimed by education secretary Michael Gove as the next site for a free school.

Islington council is obligated to provide spaces for every child in the borough which led to fears that Whitehall Park could cause other schools to be undersubscribed.

Cllr Joe Calouri, Islington Council’s executive member for children and families, said: “We never felt the greatest need for places in that part of the borough but time will tell whether the free school is able to prosper or not.”

The children were welcomed to the school run by Bellevue Place Education with an opening ceremony following days of work from over thirty parents, grandparents and members of the community to paint, decorate and furnish the temporary classrooms.

Head teacher, Laura Birkett, said: “Now we are officially open we cannot wait to build relations with other local schools and further our involvement in the local community.

“We will strive to take our place as one of the best schools in the local area, delivering extremely high results and urge any parents who are interested in finding out more about us to come and see us.”