Headteacher bids for first ‘free school’ in Barking and Dagenham

A free school could be set up in Barking this autumn.

Plans are afoot to build the 1,500-place secondary school within the new housing development called Barking Riverside, which is set to comprise more than 10,000 homes.

The Riverside School in Raylton Road would become the first free school in Barking and Dagenham.

Free schools have attracted criticism, in particular from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which says they could be run independently without local authority control for profit.

But the management team setting up the secondary said it was putting in a government bid to try to secure funding for a free school, as other funding streams like Building Schools for the Future have been scrapped.

Roger Leighton, the headteacher of Sydney Russell Secondary School, Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham, is the Riverside School’s executive headteacher.

He said: “Money is available. The local education authority is fully aware of our bid and is not opposing it.”

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Plans are also being examined to open the school as an academy. The school will start teaching pupils in September 2012.

The secondary pupils will initially be taught at George Carey Primary School, Minter Road, Barking Riverside, while the new establishment is being built.

Barking and Dagenham Council is backing the free school bid, set to be submitted to government next month.

A spokesman said: “The council is supporting the management team in applying for Private Finance Initiative funding in the current round, which is the preferred funding route for both the management team and the council.

“A secondary school for Thames View and Riverside is essential because of our rapidly growing population, therefore all funding avenues have to be considered.

“There are no plans to convert schools, or to open other free schools. This is the only one we are aware of.”