|Massive Turnout To Hear New School Plans|
Could be located at The King Fahad Academy in South Ealing
Organisers say more than 300 parents packed public meetings last night (tues) in support of a new free school in Ealing amid a chronic shortage of secondary places.
About 320 people turned up to briefings in support of the Ealing Fields Free School (EFFS) which is planned for South Ealing.
A prime location under discussion is a disused secondary school in South Ealing, which is owned by the Saudi Royal family.
The proposed school for 11 to 18-year-olds comes amid a desperate shortage of secondary places across London.
The Ealing Fields Free School - whose steering group is made up of local parents - has gained the backing of Ealing Council, Boris Johnson's free schools department and the New Schools Network.
Northfields Tory councillors David Millican, Mark Reen and Phil Taylor attended the two back-to-back meetings at the Navastartian Centre in South Ealing.
Holly Morgan-Smith, project officer for Ealing Council's Schools, Planning and Resources department, told parents that this year has seen the equivalent of 30 extra reception classes in primary schools compared to 2008.
The council is already planning for the impact of the impending baby boom on secondary places in Ealing.
She said: 'What the local authority doesn't do now is build new schools and run those new schools. There's a strong presumption that new schools are academies or free schools.
'Our role in that is to try and attract strong academy sponsors and strong free school groups into the borough to make sure we have the best available resources locally.'
Ms Morgan-Smith said that the EFFS would provide four forms of entry (120 places per year group), however the council needed up to 30 by the end of the decade.
'This is just part of the picture of secondary provision which we will be looking to provide,' she said.
She added that possible expansion of an existing local state secondary school, Elthorne Park High School, would not be enough to meet the demand for future places in the area.
She said: 'It won't meet the whole problem. If you know the site, Elthorne's not got realms and realms of space. It possibly could expand by two forms of entry.
'But the level of primary places that we're putting in place, it's not ever going to be sufficient for this area.
'Even with this school (EFFS), we're looking at other options in the Ealing, Hanwell and Acton area.'
Ms Morgan-Smith added that she anticipated the EFFS would be heavily over-subscribed if it is approved by the Department for Education.
The EFFS plans to open in South Ealing in 2015 and have 840 pupils - 120 in each year group.
The school aims to stretch pupils with high academic expectations, place an emphasis on parental involvement and provide a wide range of enrichment activities including sport, music, art and drama.
Educational psychologist, Dr Judith Mortell, chair of the EFFS steering group, told the public meeting: 'In all honesty, we wouldn't be standing here and setting up a free school group if there wasn't a need for places.
'But that's our number one driver. Our thinking is that because free schools can be set up by any number of people - religious groups or people with particular interests - our goal is a community school that's open to the whole of the community.
'We just want a really good school in the heart of the community, for the community. That's why we decided to put in all the hard work that's need to be done to set up a free school.'
Parents, speaking after the meeting, agreed that the EFFS was desperately needed to avoid families having to move out of the area.
Dee Duroux, a mother of four-year-old twins, from South Ealing, said: 'I think it can only be a really positive thing for the community.
'It gives parents another choice in education and it's a community focused school, which is really important.
'For us, it's about being part of the community. We look forward to seeing it open.'
Theresa Kyeyune, whose five-year-old son attends a local primary school, added: 'It's devastating to think your child won't have a school place by the time they have to move on to secondary education. It's just so worrying.'
She added: 'I think the EFFS sounds amazing. I love the music and arts side of the proposed curriculum which is just so important.'
'The EFFS sounds like a real option. I think it's absolutely outstanding the level of work and commitment that has gone into it making it happen. I think it's really exciting that we could be getting a new free school.'
Speaking after the event, Dr Mortell said: 'We had an amazing turn out for both our meetings which ended up as standing room only. It's great to know the level of support we have in the community, not just from parents.
'It was fantastic that a member of the local authority turned out to support us, along with local residents' groups and teachers.'
London Councils, which represents all local authorities in the capital, has asked the government for more than £1billion to build new schools.
By 2019 the secondary figures will rocket to 1,142 borough wide, with the largest shortfall of 401 in just Ealing and Hanwell.
24th April 2013