Bradford’s One in a Million Free School is celebrating after finally being given funding to open in September, a year after its original opening date.
Last August the One in a Million charity, which had created the school in the former Bradford City shop at Valley Parade, was dealt a crushing blow when the Department of Education (DfE) refused to sign a funding agreement, partly because of concerns about just 30 pupils signing up, just days before the school was due to open.
The school has now had more than 180 expressions of interest for its 50 pupil places.
DfE confirmed yesterday that it had signed a funding agreement with the charity so the school can open in September as a secondary school with a sixth form.
The project is a collaboration between the One in a Million charity, co-founded by former Bradford City player Wayne Jacobs, the Bradford City football club and the DfE.
Matthew Band, the chief executive of the charity, said: “We are delighted that the funding agreement has been signed.
“We want to give children the opportunity to succeed.
“We will be a small school with small class sizes, with students taught by great teachers, underpinned by good discipline.
“The football club works with us as a community partner.
“As a school that will have a focus on sport and enterprise, that is fantastic – the sport speaks for itself and there is every job you can think of at the stadium.
“We have come a long way since last year and can now look forward to opening later this year.”
By the time the first students are in Year 13, there will be at least 350 pupils across all year groups, 100 of which will be sixth-formers.
A spokesman for the DfE, which has worked with the charity as the school project has developed, said that the school’s proposers and staff had shown great commitment and energy, and had made great progress since first being approved in 2011.
“The number of parents applying for places demonstrates the confidence the community has in them, and the school,” the spokesman added.
“Free Schools are an integral part of the Government’s education policy. We are very pleased that the One in a Million Free School will be part of the programme because it will complement the education provision within the city and drive up standards in Bradford.”
The first Free Schools opened 18 months ago. Free schools are run by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, religious or voluntary groups, but funded directly by central government.
Case study: Son now ‘struggles to cope’
A mother left devastated by the decision to pull funding for One in a Million last year says her son cannot cope in a mainstream school.
Janet East, of Idle, said her son James, 12, who has multiple special needs, had struggled since he started at Hanson Academy in September and she was “on her knees” in desperation as she could not get him placed anywhere else.
One in a Million is no longer an alternative because James has now enrolled elsewhere.
Mrs East said James was being taught for no more than three hours a day because of his behavioural problems, including attempts at running away and being generally disruptive.
She said she wanted James to go to a specialist unit dedicated to youngsters with special needs placed in mainstream schools. “I feel like I am on my knees with it all and do not know where to go next,” she said.
“He is not getting an education and I just want him to succeed.”
A Bradford Council spokesman said Mrs East applied for an initial assessment of special educational needs on January 16. It was going through the process, which could take six weeks.