Waiting game for Sunderland school

Grindon Hall Christian School, Pennywell, Sunderland.

Grindon Hall Christian School, Pennywell, Sunderland.

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A CITY school will find out within weeks whether it can become one of the region’s first “free schools”.

Grindon Hall Christian School’s application to change from a fee-paying institution to one of the Government’s new free schools looks set to be determined this month.

If given the go-ahead, the school, in Nookside, would scrap charges and become open for any parent in the area to apply for a place for their child.

Chris Gray, principal at the school, said that after submitting a 170-page application to the Department of Education the governing body was invited on to the interview stage.

The interview panels consist of Department for Education officials, financial experts, education advisers, headteachers and organisations with good track records of setting up and running schools.

Mr Gray said: “The interview seemed to go well, but we won’t know the outcome until the end of September, so at the minute we are just waiting, really.

“It is a bit nerve-wracking.”

If the school is successful in its bid, and if it then decided to go ahead with the plan, Grindon Hall would open as a free school in September 2012.

Free schools can be set up by groups of parents, teachers, trusts and other organisations and will get their funding directly from the Government, which means Grindon Hall would get state funding but still remain independent of the local education authority, Sunderland City Council.

Since announcing its plans to scrap fees and become a free school, Grindon Hall has been inundated with calls from parents interested in securing places for their children at the school which boasts impressive exam results.

A survey was carried out in the Pennywell, South Hylton, Ford and Grindon areas, and of the 711 completed responses only 15 people said they would not be interested in sending their child to the school.

Mr Gray said setting up as a free school was a way of fulfilling the ambitions of the founders, which was to provide a good education with a Christian ethos for as many children as possible, and it would not be a profit-making business.