TEACHERS, pupils and parents at a Sunderland school are celebrating today after getting the go-ahead to become the city’s first free school.
Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday confirmed Grindon Hall Christian School is part of the second wave of free schools that have been approved to open from next autumn.
The first 24 free schools – publicly-funded but free from local authority control – opened last month.
Grindon Hall is currently a private school but will ditch fees when it becomes funded by central Government next year.
A statement on the school website said: “We are absolutely delighted, on behalf of directors, parents, staff, students and all other members of the Grindon Hall community, to announce that Grindon Hall Free School will become a reality in September 2012. The Secretary of State has approved our application, along with 54 others from an original pool of 281. This is a great day for us all and we look forward to an exciting future.”
School principal Chris Gray believes the move will fulfil the original ambitions of the founders to provide an exceptional education with a Christian ethos for as many children as possible.
He claims class sizes and methods of teaching will remain the same, but places will be allocated on the proximity of families living near the Pennywell school.
Coun Robert Oliver, Sunderland’s Tory spokesman for education, said: “Sunderland Conservatives welcome the decision to award free school status to Grindon Hall Christian School and look forward to more children enjoying the excellent education the school offers which was previously only available to fee-paying parents.
“Free School status brings an outstanding provider into the state system to the benefit of all local parents, a large number of whom expressed an interest in sending their children to the school when asked in a recent survey.
“According to its most recent inspection report, the school achieves outstanding examination results and the behaviour of the pupils is excellent. This provision is currently lacking in the area and free school status will mean improvement in standards will now come more quickly.
“The school has passed a rigorous and transparent selection process to ensure the proposal is sustainable and beneficial to pupils and parents. Free School status is very difficult to achieve with an average of only one in ten applicants being successful such is the demand for quality in the process.
“Grindon Hall School meets the demands of parents both in terms of offering more good school places in the community and providing more choice in terms of a greater variety of schools on offer.”