Islington free school is given approval but where will it be located?
- Credit: Archant
A free school will open in Islington, the government has confirmed.
Islington Free Primary School will open in September next year but arguments rage on about where it should be situated.
Place Group, which will run the new school, is thought to want to take over the former site of Ashmount Primary in Hornsey Rise, which moved to a new building in the autumn.
However Islington Council is determined to bulldoze the old school and sell the site for housing, offering to move an existing school premises – a pupil referral unit (PRU) for New River College in Dowrey Street, Islington – to make way for the free school.
Meanwhile people in the area near the old Ashmount School want to save the 1960s building and say the neighbourhood is already overcrowded.
Frances Wilkinson, chair of the Ashmount Site Action Group, said: “This is a last gasp by Islington Council to make the site for housing.
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“The council applied to the secretary of state to change the use of the site from education to housing, but that was refused. Now they are offering to move another school, which doesn’t make a lot of sense because we are short of primary school places in north Islington, but not near the Dowrey Street site.”
David Barry, chair of governors at Ashmount Primary, said: “The old Ashmount School building had worn out, falling apart and the layout is unsuitable for current needs. It was also the most expensive school building in London to heat for its size.”
Cllr Joe Calouri, Islington Council’s new executive member for children and families, said: “The pressure on primary school places in Islington is significantly less than in other London boroughs. In fact we now have more school places available in the borough than we have children who need them.
“If the government says that we must have a free school in the borough, Dowrey Street would certainly be the best location for it.”
Free schools are the brainchild of education secretary Michael Gove.
They can be set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, religious or other groups and can teach what they want as long as the curriculum is deemed fair and balanced.
Free schools receive cash straight from central government rather than councils, leading to criticism that they take funds away from local authorities.
Ken Muller, assistant secretary of the Islington branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: “We’re not happy about this. We are against free schools – they are a move towards the privatisation of education.
“It allows unelected and unaccountable people to be responsible for the schools. They also introduce Wild West competition into schools and there is no evidence they work.”