Parents who wanted to open a new free school in north Leeds put in months of work and even recruited a headteacher, but still found their hopes dashed.
The plans for Roundhay Park Primary School in Leeds were scuppered because of problems identifying a site. The case illustrates how commitment and a solid case for a new school may not be enough to make it a reality.
“I live right in the community that needs the school and I couldn’t step out of my house without someone asking me about how it was going,” says Lucy Clement, one of the group’s proposers.
“A parent once said to me, ‘I’d have sold my house if it wasn’t for this school happening.’ The pressure we felt was huge and it was the hardest part of the process for me.
“It became even worse when things started to go wrong. We threw ourselves into everything we could control, but unfortunately the one thing we had no control over was the progress on site.”
Another proposer, Mark Rowlinson, says the obvious challenge for parents opening up free schools is the sheer amount of work involved.
“The bid process was extremely hard,” he says. “It put everything else on hold for three months. I put on weight, was tired from lack of sleep all the time. When it got close to submission, I was taking days off work to go through the bid and still working to 4am or 5am to get things done.”
Everyone appeared to agree that a new school was needed, but despite the work of the group, the Department for Education and Leeds City Council, a site could not be agreed and the school never opened.
“I can’t put into words how it feels to have nothing to show for the process we went through and the huge amount of work and effort that went into it,” says Clement.
“The stress it put on me and my family is still having an impact now. But when I am feeling positive, I think of what we have achieved: a better informed community of parents who are continuing to push for a new local primary. I hope they achieve this one day.”