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Free Schools


Approved Free Schools yet to open, July 2021, and the one proposal which was dropped.  
Pre-Opening Phase,
The latest published government list of Approved Free Schools in Kent and Medway, up to July 2021 and still in the pre-opening stage, includes the Kent and Medway schools below. Most of these have also been considered in previous articles, brought up to date here. Several have been waiting for many years with as yet no sign of progress.
The schools are: Alkerden CofE Academy (all through), Ebbsfleet; Barton Manor School (secondary), Canterbury; Chapelfield Primary, Maidstone; Chilmington Green Secondary Academy, Ashford; Leigh Academy Rainham;  Park Crescent Academy, Margate; Rochester Riverside CofE Primary School; Special School, Isle of Sheppey; St Andrew’s Primary Free School, Paddock Wood; The Beeches (Alternative Provision Primary Centre), Chatham;  The Maritime Academy, Strood.
Fuller details on all the pre-opening approved schools below. 
Schools Approved in Principle:
Conningbrook CofE Primary School, Kennington; Gravesend Central School.  You will find further details about both via the links. 
Alkerden CofE Academy, Ebbsfleet.
 Alcerden School
In 2018 The Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust was awarded a new eight f.e. (forms of entry) N/S (non-selective secondary) school with Sixth Form in the Alkerden District of the new garden city of Ebbsfleet, with a 15 place Specialist Resourced Provision (SEN Unit) for children with ASD. Subsequently, a new two f.e. primary school and Nursery was added as part of an all-through provision at the request of KCC. It will also contain a dual provision sports centre and the whole project is funded by the housing developers, Henley Camland. The school will initially open with four forms of entry in Year Seven in September 2023. 
Barton Manor School is to be run by Barton Court Academy Trust
Barton Manor 2
Like many Free Schools before it, the opening of this five f.e. N/S school with a Sixth Form, approved in 2017, was delayed because of ‘protracted negotiations between KCC and the Department for Education over how much of the site will be given over to the school’. A previous article with planned opening in 2019, is here, then a further delay until 2021, but the school will now open in September 2022  admitting five forms of entry at Year Seven, at a cost of £20 million. You will find details of Open Mornings and Evenings for admission on the school website, here.  Last year (2020), KCC predicted that an extra 135 Year 7 places will be needed in the city by 2021, but in practice, there were 51 N/S vacancies according to the October 2020 schools census. See also here
Chapelfield School, Maidstone, approved February 2021.  A two f.e. primary school, To be run by the Bromley based Chancery Education Trust but unlikely to open until 2024 when new development in the area around Maidstone Hospital provides the need. It was the only new Kent or Medway Free School to be approved in the 2021 round. Further details here
Chilmington Green Secondary Academy in Ashford is to be run by United Learning.
Chilmington Green
Approved in June 2019 and is planned to open in 2023, according to its website. The school will be N/S six f.e. together with a Sixth Form and Sports Centre, and will open with four forms of entry. It will cost £22.5 million, paid for by the developer, who will also provide the site. See also here.
 Leigh Academy Rainham. Approved for pre-opening in 2017 and now opening in September 2021, with a planned N/S six f.e., but in fact is opening with 240 Year Seven pupils; see here. It will be run by the Leigh Academies Trust.
Leigh Academy Rainham 2 
You will find the school website here. See also here for a fuller comment. 
Park Crescent Academy, Margate, a highly controversial project approved for pre-opening in 2018,  is to be sponsored by the Howard AcademyTrust and now planned to open in 2023 for six N/S f.e. but no Sixth Form. It is the only one of the twelve new secondary schools in Kent and Medway, open or planned since Ebbsfleet Academy in 2013 not to have a Sixth Form, a decision clearly made because of space limitations. Coincidentally, I was also in at the birth of Ebbsfleet Academy, and received assurances at an open meeting from the then KCC Cabinet Member, that the new school would not be built on the current site as it was too small and had no room for a Sixth Form. Ebbsfleet was built there, hasn't a Sixth Form, and has struggled ever since. I have written extensively on the development, most recently here, where I describe the Planning Application as 'exposing the utter poverty of the concept. The education case set out for it is almost non-existent, whilst the site is described as being ‘constricted or constrained where space is at a premium’  and is also constrained by being on two distinct levels, with the very limited recreational and sporting outdoor areas dependent on the nearby public  Dane Park Playing Fields'. 
 Rochester Riverside Church of England Primary School is to be run by the Pilgrim Multi-Academy Trust approved in 2017. Work has now started on the new two f.e. school, due to open in September 2022. 
The school will be part of the new Rochester Riverside housing development, close to Rochester railway station.
 St Andrew's Primary Free School, Paddock Wood, to be run by the Tenax Trust.
It was planned to open this school in 2018, in what appears to be an initiative by the Trust, rather than a response to a shortage of places. According to the school website, it reached the stage where a contractor was identified to build the new school after tenders were considered. However, the site goes on to explain that ‘Following a recent review of KCC’s data by the DfE, it has been determined that the analysis of Basic Need does not yet support the opening of this two form entry school’  because of slower rate of housebuilding than expected. The project has therefore been ‘paused’, although ‘The Tenax Trust and St Andrew’s remain wholeheartedly committed to this project and to the delivery of a new Church primary school, when appropriate’.
The Beeches, an Alternative Provision Centre in Medway. There is a complex background issue highlighted here, one paragraph explaining that: High levels of exclusion coupled with the rarity of reintegration means that there is insufficient space in the two Medway Alternative Provision schools to accommodate even half of permanently excluded children. This forces the local authority to place in settings that are either less than ‘good’ or are outside of Medway. It also offers a rationale for Alternative Provision schools which are ‘intended, in most cases, to be short stay schools, with pupils returning to their home school after a period of intervention to improve behaviour’.  In Kent the AP Schools cater to a large extent for pupils at risk of permanent exclusion, although in Medway there appears no such facility. The new proposal for Medway is for ‘establishing a single all through integrated service on a single site. This service would result in: a short stay provision for permanently excluded primary school children and secondary pupils in key stage 3; time limited behaviour modification places for referred primary school pupils and secondary in key stage 3; educational placements for students in key stage 4 for whom reintegration is not appropriate;  outreach services to schools; and all primary and secondary pupils up to the end of year nine should be on a reintegration plan’. It is therefore proposed ‘to amalgamate Will Adams and The Rowans into an all-through provision, initially on a split site and over time to merge onto a single site at the Rowans, by the technical closure of Will Adams and the expansion of The Rowans’.  Then follows the only mention of The Beeches: 'The delivery of the DFE funded Beeches Free School operated by the highly thought of and Ofsted rated outstanding, Rowans Alternative Provision Centre, under the Inspiring Change Trust should be supported. The Beeches will be located on the same site would provide the all-through element recommended by the review'. In another document the ‘school’ is described as ‘The Beeches: an alternative provision primary school with places for 35 pupils with behavioural issues and excluded children. This will be managed by the Rowans Academy Trust and will be located adjacent to the current Rowans site! Hardly sounds very separate for a new Free School. An advertisement for a new Primary School Lead Teacher, reports that the Centre will open in a new purpose built building in 2023. 
The Maritime Academy, Strood, to be run by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, and approved in 2017, illustrates one of the central problems facing potential Free Schools in moving from concept to realisation. A Medway Council Cabinet Paper for a Meeting back in March 2020 sets out major issues with a proposed land purchase to the West of Berwick Way and south of Frindsbury Hill, dealing with ‘overage’ a legal condition I am not sure I understand but which has proved a major stumbling block. The Minutes of the Meeting show that the Council decided to ‘underwrite the overage held against the land’. This decision would only cost the Authority money if the DFE, having bought the land, sold it for housing within the next 14 years. The decision meant that: ‘Approving the underwriting of the overage will enable the Department for Education (DFE) to agree a land acquisition with the owners of the Manor Barn site, and is a low risk high reward strategy which will provide a site for the construction of a secondary Free School, to help meet increasing demand in Medway, with all construction costs met by the DFE’ All of this suggests that the project is back on track, as confirmed in other Medway Council papers, although the new school will not be ready until at least 2021. Somewhere during this process, it was noticed that there would be no demand for additional places in Strood, and the school reduced from being all-through to providing just secondary places. See also here.
Proposal Lapsed
The proposal for Hope Community School, Northfleet originally aiming to open in September 2017,  in an area where there is a dire shortage of primary school places was scrapped on the grounds that there were sufficient primary places in Gravesham (but not in Northfleet!). It would have been part of the New Generation Schools Trust, run by the New Generation Church, an Evangelical Christian Church that already runs a Free School in Bexley. As with the Jubilee Primary School in Maidstone, with a similar background, it will present issues for some families living in the area, as there may be no alternative to this faith school offered. The preferred location for the school is on the Springhead Development, where KCC turned down the opportunity to open its own school a few years ago, on the grounds there would be overcapacity. The school was subsequently replaced by the new Springhead Park Primary Academy, Gravesham which opened in 2020.  





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Last modified on Sunday, 29 August 2021 19:17
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