‘Postitive signs’ for Sunderland school bidding for ‘free’ status

Pupils from Grindon Hall school.

Pupils from Grindon Hall school.

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A WEARSIDE school is playing the waiting game to find out if it has been granted permission to set up as a free school.

Grindon Hall Christian School was hoping to hear by the end of September if it had been successful, but the Government is still working on the proposals and it could be a few weeks yet before the announcement.

School principal Chris Gray said: “It looks like it will be a week or two yet, so we can only wait. We are still really hopeful about being given the go-ahead and there are some positive signs.”

If successful, Grindon Hall will open as a free school in September 2012, will ditch fees for parents and become funded by central Government, while remaining independent of the local authority, Sunderland City Council.

Mr Gray says the move would fulfil the original ambitions of the founders to provide an exceptional education with a Christian ethos for as many children as possible.

He said class sizes and methods of teaching would remain the same, but places will be allocated on the proximity of families living near the school.

Councillor Robert Oliver, Sunderland’s Tory spokesman for education, said he strongly supports the idea of free schools and has met Mr Gray to talk about the application.

He said: “The great benefit of the Grindon Hall application is that it would bring an excellent provider into the state system in an area where the current provision is patchy and levels of deprivation high.

“This is a school that was rated excellent for behaviour and exam results in its last inspection and is financially viable, representing the sort of education which should be available to all local parents.”

There has been strong support from both current parents at the school and prospective parents in the vicinity who have expressed an interest in sending their children there.

Coun Oliver said: “Free schools give the headteacher the freedom to tailor the curriculum to best suit the pupils of that school and provide a financial bonus in terms of money saved by opting out of the local bureaucracy, which can then be spent on the pupils.”

A spokeswoman from the Department of Education said this year all the schools being chosen to go ahead with the change to free schools would be announced on the same day.

She said: “No exact date has been set yet for the announcement, but it expected to be sometime this month.”

Twitter: @Sunechoschools