Parents and teachers plan Free School for Hackney

A campaign for the first Free School in Hackney gained pace this weekend as parents and teachers battled to provide primary school places the borough.

Up to 100 people met at Trelawney Estate Community Hall in Morning Lane, Hackney Central, on Saturday (March 5) to put forward ideas for a new state-funded primary school, free from local authority control.

Campaigners from the Free School for Hackney Initiative want to set up a new school in Homerton ready to open in September 2012.

They say its admissions policy would be based on catchment areas and include pupils of all abilities and ethnicities,

“Education in Hackney is fantastic so we are not criticising that,” said Alan Arslan, who is leading the campaign.

“But there are a lot of passionate people here in Hackney who would want to take advantage of this opportunity.”

He said the Free School would provide much-needed primary school places in Hackney, and offer smaller class sizes due to increased funding from central government under the coalition’s plans.

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Governors could improve flexibility for working parents by changing school hours, and children who speak English as their second language would get extra help, he said.

Education secretary Michael Gove has given the go-ahead to 25 free schools in England so far. The Free School for Hackney Initiative plans to apply in coming weeks.

But Mark Lushington, Hackney’s representative for the National Union of Teachers, said: “We are opposed to free schools as they are a way of developing a middle class enclave. They are not free at all but very expensive, and are sucking money out of the education budget.”

A spokeswoman for the Learning Trust said: “We have a duty to provide places for all Hackney children. Currently we have vacancies in all year groups, including reception. We are also in the final stages of a consultation to expand five primary schools, which will create an additional 150 primary places.”