Sunderland’s first ‘free school’ finally open

We love our new school... pupils from Grindon Hall Christian School demonstrate their delight at the school's brand new extension.
We love our new school... pupils from Grindon Hall Christian School demonstrate their delight at the school's brand new extension.
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PUPILS at Sunderland’s first free school have finally gone back to class after unfinished building work delayed the start of this year’s term.

As reported in the Echo last month, more than 550 youngsters at Grindon Hall Christian School, were told to go back more than a week later that expected, following delays over a £3million extension, which included a 14-classroom primary school building.

Bosses told parents in a letter on September 6 that the term would not start on time as contractors had no delivered “a safe building or site”. One incensed parent even said they were writing to Education Secretary Michael Gove over the hold-ups, in an effort to get answers.

But classes eventually began again at the Nookside site on Monday, September 23, much to the delight of school bosses and governors.

Some pupils, such as those with exams looming at the end of this school year, were sent work to help them catch up during the delay.

School principal Chris Gray, who apologised to parents and pupils when the decision to delay 
the start of term was made, said everything at the school was now back to normal and pupils are making full use of the improved facilities.

“The first week has been great,” said Mr Gray.

“We are delighted with how things are going when you think that last year we had more than 500 children in a space for just over 300.

“It was a bit like Piccadilly Circus at times but now we have proper accommodation.”

Grindon Hall, which caters for pupils aged four up to 18, was granted free school status in September 2012, meaning that it is now independent of control from Sunderland City Council.

Lessons are taken from 8.20am to 4pm each day, meaning that pupils get longer in lessons than at most schools in the city.

Despite the school re-opening, other aspects of the revamp are still being finished while lessons continue.

Mr Gray added: “The entrance road to the school is now landscaped and the sports hall development, although not finished which we knew it wouldn’t be anyway, is coming along nicely.”