Double celebration for ‘free’ Sunderland school

Pupils at Graindon Hall Christain School, Pennywell Sunderland, celebrate being awarded free school status, on Tuesday.
Pupils at Graindon Hall Christain School, Pennywell Sunderland, celebrate being awarded free school status, on Tuesday.
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THE city’s first free school will celebrate its silver jubilee finally fulfilling what it set out to achieve.

Grindon Hall Christian School is celebrating being given the go-ahead to open as a free school in September 2012, which will mean the axing fees for parents.

Chris Gray, principal at the Pennywell school, said: “I am a founding director and the aim was always to provide a first class education with a Christian ethos to as many children as possible and free of charge.

“It is our 25th anniversary in the next academic year and we are finally going to be able to achieve all of these aims.”

Mr Gray said: “The idea is that parents ought to be able to choose the school they want for their child and we have clear evidence that Grindon Hall will be the choice for many parents and we can now say we are available to our community.”

The headteacher is anticipating a massive influx of applications for the coming school year and said hundreds of parents have been in touch since the proposals to become a free school were announced.

But the high-performing school is only planning an intake of around 36 children in reception and 20 in Year 7.

The aim of a free school is to allow groups of parents, teachers or charities to establish their own school, allowing them the freedom to set their own ethos and subject specialisms, but with government funding.

However, not everyone is in favour of the free schools.

Mike Johnson, the Sunderland federation secretary of the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers) said the union is against free schools and academies because they take education out of democratic control and put it into the hands of individuals.

Howard Brown, divisional officer for the National Union of Teachers on Wearside, said: “Free schools, like academies, will offer less transparency and undermine community cohesion.

“They are not required to employ qualified teachers, they are not accountable to democratically elected local authorities, despite being funded by the taxpayer, and as they are funded by the taxpayer they are taking money away from already cash-strapped existing schools.”