SUNDERLAND’S first free school has attracted 400 applications for just 80 places.
Grindon Hall School has been inundated with parents wanting their children to start this September.
It became a free school, meaning it is independent of control from Sunderland City Council, last September after successfully applying to the Department of Education.
Pupils in each year are taught in two classes of 20, bringing them through the education system until they complete their A-levels.
Before it was given free school status, Grindon Hall had a roll of 345 pupils.
However, the school has capacity now for 560 pupils and plans are under way for a £3million extension which will feature a multi-purpose hall, a kitchen, music classroom and changing facilities.
Principal Chris Gray said: “The figures are great because the school is full – and proving popular.
“However, the negative side is that we would love to offer places to everyone that applied, but simply don’t have the capacity to do so.”
Free schools are being set up across the country by teachers, parents and charities where there is parental demand. The schools tend to be, in the main, areas of deprivation. Minister Lord Nash said the figures underlined the popularity of free schools with parents.
He added: “It goes to show that if you give local communities the freedom to establish high-quality and innovative schools that raise standards, parents will want a place for their child.
“The free schools policy is just one part of our education reform package to create more good schools, and more good school places.”
The Government is hoping to raise standards across the board so that more parents have the opportunity to send their child to a good Sunderland school of their choice.
Natalie Evans, director of the New Schools Network, said: “Free schools are proving overwhelmingly popular.”