Bid for first ‘free’ school bid is in its closing stages, says Dagenham head

A bid to open the first free school in Barking and Dagenham is through to its final stage, according to the headteacher spearheading the project.

The 1,700-place Barking Riverside School would open in Renwick Road in 2014, under plans designed to alleviate a growing school place shortage in the borough.

Roger Leighton, headteacher of Sydney Russell comprehensive, in Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham, said the bid to build the �20million secondary school with government funding had now entered its final stage.

Almost �10million has been injected to create more than 10,000 new primary school places in the borough by September and now secondary places are needed, according to education chiefs.

The secondary school would be built at the site of the new housing development, Barking Riverside, which is expected to comprise of more than 10,000 homes in the next two decades.

The bid has the backing of Barking and Dagenham Council and was the subject of a campaign endorsed by the Post earlier this year.

Mr Leighton, the executive headteacher of Barking Riverside School, said: “We went to the Department for Education and were grilled for two hours. We had to do a presentation. We are all feeling very positive. A final decision is to be made in the summer.”

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Mr Leighton understands that about 250 groups applied for funds and around half were still in the running after a tough selection process including interviews and site visits.

The government said that the groups set to be allocated free school funding would be unveiled this summer.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are currently in the process of interviewing a number of free school groups that were successful in the first round. We expect to make an announcement in July.”