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One In A Million venture at Valley Parade thrown into confusion
The plug has been pulled on a free school due to open within the next fortnight after the Department for Education (DfE) refused the hundreds of thousands of pounds needed to fund it.
Concerns about poor pupil recruitment and the One in a Million school’s viability have led to the DfE deferring the funding agreement for 12 months.
It has led to disgusted parents setting up a petition urging the DfE to reconsider.
Bradford Council is now trying desperately to place up to 30 youngsters believed to have signed up for the Valley Parade school.
The future of the purchase of the Bantams Business Centre office block and shop at Valley Parade could be in doubt because of the decision, taken days ago.
The block was sold by Pruprint in 2006 in a deal worth £4 million.
One upset mother, whose son was due to go there, said: “The enthusiasm and positive approach of the head and staff is above and beyond what we could expect from a larger school.
“This news that the Government has decided not to go ahead with funding this great school has come as an enormous devastating blow.
“Staff will now be out of work. 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.”
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, and only days ago appealed for more people to sign up for a “limited” number of places at the school which has capacity for 50 children.
Bradford Council’s executive member for Children’s Services, Councillor Ralph Berry (Lab), said that children had met their teachers and uniforms had been bought, adding: “I was never completely convinced with the idea of a Free School that takes its children from various places across the city doing a vocational learning module.
“I was not sure how it would get parents. A few weeks ago they were showing their newly-appointed head teacher around Valley Parade and now they are left with a head teacher to sack and all manner of things.
“The DfE makes a late decision and it falls to the local authority to pick up the pieces. It now falls to us to place these children and puts the local authority to considerable inconvienence. But most of them have still got a local authority place.
“Clearly that model of working with disadvantaged kids is what some of those parents have gone for and we will try and support them get a school place.
“But this is no way to plan or organise an education system with a growing population. I have to make that point, but I imagine that One in a Million feel devastated.”
A spokesman for the DfE said that setting up a Free School was a difficult task and it wanted to thank One in a Million for all their hard work.
“Before any new schools open their doors, we have to be sure that all the conditions we set have been met,” the spokesman added.
“Making certain that new schools raise standards is one of the reasons why our Free Schools have been so popular with families across England. We still hope that One in a Million will open in 2013.”
The DfE said it had asked the group if it would consider deferring its application to next September, giving it a year to address the issues that have prevented it from being ready in time to open this year.
But today Wayne Jacobs, co-founder of One in a Million 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."
Matthew Band, the charity's chief executive, said: “Put simply, in October 2011 when we secured the One in a Million Free School, we were at 100 per cent capacity in terms of our student numbers, had our split site facilities identified and ready to purchase and yet within ten months, due to the DfE’s processes and inability to sign off Funding Agreement and secure our facilities, they have put the project at risk.”
Dave Baldwin, the director of operations at Bradford City, said that there would be no impact on the football club.
“It is a deferment for 12 months as we understand it,” he added.
“There will be a decision over the next couple of weeks to be clear what the next steps are,” he added.
It is understood that contracts had not been exchanged but that One in a Million had been licensed to carry out construction work on the site.