As a new ‘free school’ is opposed by Waltham Forest Council, Christopher Stark, the director of the academy trust proposing to build it, makes his case
Barclay Secondary Free School is the right way forward to resolve a range of issues in Waltham Forest.
Not only does it meet the demand for much-needed secondary places locally, but equally it drives forward the regeneration of Lea Bridge Road by transforming an industrial storage yard into a multi-purpose learning campus. The free school is a critical route for further investment in the children and communities of the borough.
The Echo article from January (Warning over lack of classrooms, Page 1, Issue 46) set out the need for additional school places but failed to articulate how our fully-funded free school project will deliver on this. The Lion Academy Trust submitted its application in October 2014 and, after exhaustive scrutiny of the trust’s capacity and ability to deliver an exceptional secondary offer by the Department for Education (DfE), the move to address the site and delivery of the new school commenced. Since then, DfE’s technical and property teams have worked diligently with Waltham Forest Council and neighbouring councils to explore what, if any, site options were viable to support the new and much needed secondary school.
As a local school provider of choice to more than 2,000 parents and pupils in Waltham Forest, the Lion Academy Trust will deliver a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)-focussed, highly-tailored secondary school experience which will provide much-needed capacity and choice for local families. The trust has a proven track record in recruiting and growing the best educators and the move to the secondary phase has been embraced as the logical progression to meeting parental demand for the trust to cater for the educational needs of pupils and students locally, from age two to 19.
In terms of where to locate the school – simply put – there are no other sites in the area which meet the needs of a new secondary school, despite many inaccurate reports to the contrary. The Lea Bridge Road site, used by Thames Water as a staging depot and barred to public access for more than 100 years, is a complex but unrivalled space for the delivery of a learning campus. Once approved and built for the planned opening in September 2021, the site will support a 1,400-place secondary school and sixth form with fabulous sporting and cultural facilities for the benefit of the wider community.
With significant existing pressure on high-performing secondary schools for places and the council’s own master-plan for the south of the borough seeking to create an additional 4,000 homes by 2027, it is difficult to conceive a development which could be more necessary and beneficial to the area – one which, on paper at least, should be embraced by those who have a passion for enhancing the life chances and learning opportunities for all.
For more information about the proposed Barclay Secondary School: