The Department of Education today approved 38 new free schools across the country, four of which are in Croydon. They are:
• ARK Croydon Primary Academy;
• ARK Croydon Secondary Academy;
• Crystal Palace Primary School; and
• STEM Academy Croydon Gateway.
Free schools are academies - independently-run state schools - that are set up by parents, teachers or charities in response to demand from the local community. Nationally, free schools:
• perform better than council-run schools - they are twice as likely to be rated outstanding by Ofsted as council-run schools inspected under the same framework;
• are popular with parents - schools due to open this September have attracted almost three applications per place; and
• are being set up faster and more cheaply than schools established by the last Labour Government - free schools construction costs are 45% lower than under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme and on average they open in just 18 months.
These new free schools are in addition to the £142 million the Government has given Croydon Council over the last four years to help it provide new school places (eight times what we got from the Labour Government over the preceding four years). The fact that over 10% of the new schools Michael Gove has approved today are in our borough shows that the Government understands the need for new school places in Croydon and is doing everything it can to help.
The Crystal Palace Primary School was conceived by a group of parents that were fed up with the lack of choice in their area. In addition to following the national curriculum, the school will make sure pupils develop determination, optimism, curiosity and a hard work ethic. It is set to open to 60 reception pupils in September 2015 and when full will have 420 pupils.
The STEM Academy Croydon is also set to open in September 2015. It will provide 460 places for 16-19 year-olds who wish to specialise in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. All students will be enrolled onto the Academy’s ‘Career First’ programme, a work simulation programme through which students will undertake work-focused, project-based learning activities and have the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurial ventures, providing an insight into the functioning of companies. The STEM Academy Education Trust already run STEM Academy Tech City, located just off Tech City’s Silicon Roundabout in East London.
ARK already have a proven track record in Croydon have raised standards at Oval Primary School now ARK Oval Primary Academy in Addiscombe. The primary school will be opening next September with the secondary open for the 2015-16 year.
I have lobbied hard to get sufficient funding from the Government for new school places in Croydon. If we are going to grow as a town, it is vital that the Government helps us provide the necessary infrastructure. I am therefore delighted by today’s announcement.