Primary opened by free school pioneer announces closure

9th February 2018 at 17:31
James O’Shaughnessy
Floreat Education blames finances and problems with site for closure of Floreat Brentford

A free school set up by a pioneer of the free school movement has announced that it intends to close.

Floreat Education blamed financial viability and site issues for the proposal to close Floreat Brentford Primary School, which opened in west London in 2015.

The trust said it had “nothing to do with free schools as a policy”, but the free school is one of a number that have been hampered by difficulties securing suitable sites.

Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow Council, said it was "another case of the government’s free school model failing and letting down our children, which is unacceptable to us".

The trust was founded by James O’Shaughnessy, who was director of policy and research for David Cameron between 2007 and 2011 and is now a Conservative health minister in the House of Lords.

It places a high value on character education, saying education is as much about developing “character strengths and virtues” as academic knowledge.

Last year, it said it planned to merge with another trust because of financial challenges it faced.

A spokesperson for Floreat said: “The closure of Floreat Brentford has nothing to do with free schools as a policy. It is entirely due to the authorities’ failure to meet their commitments with respect to a permanent school site. We regret that pupils, parents, and our teachers have had to suffer due to this closure which could have been avoided."

In a statement this afternoon, the trust said the Department for Education had agreed in principle to the school’s closure, although there will be a four-week consultation process.

Floreat’s trustees said: “The school is currently housed in two separate units, sitting under high-rise blocks at opposite ends of a retail parade and opening onto a busy public highway. Our pupils, who are aged 4-7, move between the units throughout the day. There is no outside space and so the children take a walk of up to ten minutes each way to spend playtime and PE lessons in a local park.

“This is clearly not sustainable and was only ever intended to be short term. Despite tireless efforts to secure a permanent site, the build programme has been beset with delays and is still not confirmed. Floreat Brentford should be a burgeoning two-form entry school by now, but with space restricting us to just three class groups, funding levels are critically low, making it increasingly challenging to provide a safe school and the quality of education that is our hallmark.

“We are working closely with the Department for Education and Hounslow Council to ensure that families get the advice and support they need."

They said the closure of Floreat Brentford would not impact on the trust’s other schools, or its plans to open Floreat Silver Meadow in West Wokingham in September 2018.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Following a request from the trust’s board, we have agreed in principle to the closure of the school.  We will work with the local authority to ensure pupils are able to continue their education without interruption.”

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