The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports;
“Popular Marylebone free school running out of time to secure site
A free school which has proved popular with Westminster parents may have to delay its opening if it doesn’t secure a permanent site soon.
Parents are anxiously waiting for Marylebone Boys’ School (MBS) to unveil either a permanent or temporary location as they prepare to make a choice on where to send their children in September.
Next week, children across the borough discover which secondary school they have been allocated.
The worry has led the school’s management team – which has received 365 applications for its 120 Year 7 places – to launch a fresh appeal to Westminster Council as it tries to secure a stable location for the “traditional” school. It will eventually welcome 880 local secondary pupils.
Chairman of governors Sarah Clifford said: “We are in negotiations with Westminster Council and the Education Funding Agency to find a permanent site but we require the assistance of all parties to ensure that a site is found immediately.”
While MBS has been given a start-up grant of £300,000, the usual funding allocated for any new school from the Department for Education (DfE) will not be unlocked until it can confirm a permanent location – a situation described as “chicken and egg” by worried parents.
The school was given the go-ahead by Education Secretary Michael Gove in May.
Ms Clifford said: “There are concerns that these delays could leave us postponing the school’s opening until 2015. We are all volunteers here as part of the ‘Big Society’, taking part of a flagship Conservative policy within a Conservative council. You’d have thought they would have been able to find a quicker solution to ensure we can open in time. We really don’t know what is causing the delay.”
The uncertainty over MBS’s location has caused prospective parents like Antoine Kohler to call for action.
He said: “We urgently need support from the council to secure a permanent site and need all possible resources to be mobilised to unlock this final hurdle.
“There are buildings and plots of land available in Westminster and in the Marylebone area and until the school has been offered a solution to secure permanent premises, asking 120 parents to make a final decision in the next weeks about sending their children to a new school is an unreasonable ask.”
The Wood&Vale understands MBS is lining up three prospective sites, while a temporary base has been found, but this won’t be announced until all the legal arrangements are in place following an agreement with the DfE.
Ben Denton, Westminster Council’s strategic director for housing and property, said “The council is supportive of Marylebone Boys School and are keen for them to find a suitable site.”