Bradford free school One In A Million has funding cut

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A free school in Bradford has had its government funding withdrawn a week before it was due to open after it failed to attract enough pupils.

The One In A Million Free School was set to open in the grounds of Bradford City football club on 3 September.

It had a target of an initial intake of 50 pupils but had only enrolled 30.

The Department for Education (DfE) has asked the charity-run school to defer opening until 2013. Parents said the decision was a "devastating blow".

The project was a collaboration between the One In A Million charity co-founded by former Bradford City player Wayne Jacobs, the football club and the DfE.

'Completely baffled'

It involved equipping a building next to Bradford City's Valley Parade stadium and has already cost the taxpayer £213,000.

Mr Jacobs said: "We are completely baffled and stunned at this decision by the DfE and absolutely devastated for the parents, children and staff of the One in a Million Free School."

FREE SCHOOLS - KEY FACTS

  • Free schools are set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, religious or voluntary groups
  • They are funded directly by central government and are not in local authority control
  • Head teachers have more control over the curriculum, teachers' pay and conditions, term dates and the school day
  • Free schools were much talked about in the run-up to the general election in May 2010 and are the flagship policy of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove
  • Free schools must operate an inclusive, fair and transparent admissions policy and cannot be academically selective
  • There are now just under 200 in England

The charity said it had been assured by the DfE in June that its funding was "all on track for sign-off" by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

However, it was told last Friday the DfE had decided to recommend the funding was not approved.

Free schools are run by faith organisations, parents' groups or charities. They are independent of local authority control and funded by central government.

The DfE said: "Before any new schools open their doors, we have to be sure that all the conditions we set have been met.

"Setting up a free school is a difficult task and we thank One In A Million for all their hard work. We still hope that One in a Million will open in 2013."

An online petition has been set up by parents who have been left with less than seven days to find alternative schools for their children.

'Callous and cruel'

Bradford Council said all 30 children would be found local authority school places.

Parent Janet East, who launched the petition on a social networking site, said: "This news that the government has decided not to go ahead with funding this great school has come as an enormous devastating blow.

"We would like to show the government how disgusted we all are with the decision not to fund at such a late stage in the academic year, when it is not possible now to look at alternative schools, get new uniform, sort out transport and child care.

"My son James and others are expecting to be starting school [on Monday]. James has additional needs and there is not another school in this area that is suited to James' needs."

David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, said: "It is callous, cruel and quite stupid in my view and incredibly unfair on the parents and children and One in a Million.

"They have put heart and soul into this."

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