Plans for Portsmouth’s first free school submitted to the Government

David Parkin
David Parkin
Forest School Leaders Dawn White and Sue Evans with their pupils outside the school

Picture: Habibur Rahman (180146-338)

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PORTSMOUTH could have its first free school by September next year.

Plans have been submitted to the government for the John Pounds Free School.

Those behind the project say it has had support from hundreds of parents with enough enquiries to fill the first two years.

Founder David Parkin, a teacher at Barncroft Primary School in Leigh Park, said: ‘It would be a fantastic achievement.

‘The fact it’s a free school is secondary.

‘It’s the vision behind the school that we are more excited about. It’s about building a community.

‘We would be excited to have a chance to create a school in a way that we think would work best.’

The primary school will offer 308 places and will be open to children across the city.

‘There are three possible locations being considered but they have not yet been revealed.

‘We have put a lot of work into it,’ Mr Parkin added.

‘We have spoken to a lot of people who have helped to set up free schools.

‘The response has been very positive.

‘This is being set up by people from the world of education.’

It’s hoped that the DfE will confirm whether or not the application has been successful in the next month.

If so, the next step will be an interview with the department, with a final decision announced in the summer.

If it got the go-ahead, it would open in September next year.

It comes as education secretary Michael Gove was criticised after it was reported that 30,000 local authority places are being lost as money is diverted to new free schools.

But Mr Parkin said: ‘It seems to be the funding that has caused an issue.

‘A lot of free schools have been set up in areas that don’t need the places or are costing more because they haven’t got the places.

‘We are trying to set up a free school in a place that needs places.’

Free schools are one of the government’s flagship education initiatives, designed to give parents and teachers a greater say in setting up and running schools.

They are independent schools with state funding but which operate outside the management of the local authority.

The Education Funding Agency, which is part of the Department for Education, will provide the finance for school building works.

It is likely that the school will be reconstructed from an old building currently used for different purposes in the area.

The school would take on a different approach to teaching called Philosophy for Children through enquiry based learning.

Rather than the traditional approach of a teacher standing in front of a class, Philosophy for Children opens up learning through pupils exploring different ideas.

It aims to give children the confidence to ask questions and learn through having discussions.