Anger at Turing House School meeting, but little hope of opening (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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Anger at Turing House School meeting, but little hope of opening
Bosses at Turing House School said they were ‘0 per cent confident’ the school would open this year, without the prospect of a permanent site.
Employees at the Russell Education Trust (RET), which put forward the school’s proposal, had meetings with the Schools Minister Lord Nash since his decision to defer the opening of the free school until 2015 due to uncertainty over a permanent site.
Parents were left with just four days for find a suitable school place for their children.
RET’s chief executive Karen Lynch said: “Without the prospect of a permanent site, I cannot see any change of mind is possible.
“We are so very sorry at just the level of disappointment parents must feel.”
Twickenham MP Vince Cable has requested an urgent meeting with the minister, who turned down an invitation to face angry parents at a meeting on Tuesday, March 25.
In a letter to Councillor Stephen Knight, Lord Nash wrote: “Opening the school in time-limited accommodation may have done the children a greater disservice if I had to later take the unpalatable decision to close the school due to the lack of a permanent home at an even more critical point in their education, as they approached the start of their GCSE courses.”
Leader of Richmond Council Lord True had meetings with the minister after the decision was made.
Lord True said it was ridiculous that councils have little control over free schools, but said he supported the free school policy.
He said: “I have spoken to Lord Nash who is immensely supportive of Turing House and the issue simply is finding a site for the school.
“I am never going to make promises to people I can’t keep but the council will do all it can to make sure a site is found for 2015.
“We have suggested possible sites they might want to consider but that is obviously an issue for them to decide.”
Parents expressed their anger at the heated meeting, a day before RET’s meeting with Lord Nash.
One parent said: “There is a feeling of betrayal.
“We went into this with good indications and we were told that we were going to have a good school.
“I cannot covey how unfair this feels to us. We arranged our lives around this.”
Fears were raised over the certainty of the school opening in 2015 and the trust said it would not make the same mistake again.
Richmond Council said it was relying on the school opening by at least 2015 and it needed two new schools by 2017 to cope with the school place demand.
Under the free school system, power is devolved from the council to the Government’s education department, which is responsible for the funding.
Councillor Paul Hodgins, cabinet member for schools, said the council supported the school.
He said: “We are going to continue to work together and we are going to use all our influence to put the pressure on.
“It is very difficult now for 2014 but we very much want this to happen.”
Parents set up a petition to open up a council debate on the debacle. To view it, visit richmond.gov.uk/received_petitions.
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