A Bradford free school due to open next week has been left in limbo after its funding was withheld by the Department for Education.
The One in a Million Free School was set to be opened within the grounds of the Bradford City Football Club, but the department said it had failed to meet funding conditions on Friday, just days before the school was due to open.
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, chief executive of One in a Million said: “Put simply, in Oct 2011 when we secured the OIAM 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 10 months, due to the DfE’s processes & inability to sign off [its] funding agreement and secure our facilities, they have put the project at risk.”
Building contractors had carried out preliminary works at the site, in order to ensure it was suitable for students to enrol and start school from 3 September.
The department has insisted that it hopes the school will now be able to open in 2013.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Setting up a free school is a difficult task and we 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. 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 founders insisted they were assured by the DfE that the funding agreement required to open the school was “all on track for sign off by the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove”.
Mr. Band said: “Obviously we are amazed at this decision particularly at such a late stage And although ‘low’ student numbers have been cited and we have had to watch some parents walk away due to the insecurity surrounding Funding Agreement and Facility acquisition, as a small school we still have nearly two thirds of our places filled with 30 students committed to start on the 3 September 2012.”
He added: “The secretary of state has asked us to consider a deferred opening in September 2013 which we will seriously think through whilst seeking concrete guarantees that if we do, [the] Funding Agreement will rapidly proceed to sign off and the facilities including sports pitches are secured and building works completed with no further reduction in our capital or revenue funding so that the school is fit for purpose and will provide the educational Vision & Plan as originally proposed by the OIAM Charity.”