Primary school wants to be free

SET US FREE: School governor Najam Sheikh outside Paradise Primary School, which is applying to become a free school. (d20011111)
SET US FREE: School governor Najam Sheikh outside Paradise Primary School, which is applying to become a free school. (d20011111)
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A CAMPAIGN has started to convert a poorly funded primary school into a new ‘free school’.

Paradise Primary School, in Bretton Street, Savile Town, is already an independent school, free from local authority control.

But the parents who sit on the board of governors want it to become a free school so that it can remain independent and run by parents, but receive funding from central government.

Board chairman Najam Sheikh said: “The thing is, at the moment we are working with very scant resources.

“What we are trying to do with this government scheme is better enhance what we are offering.”

There are currently 226 pupils enrolled at the school, but Mr Sheikh said he would like to extend the school building and take in more students.

At the moment, the school has to run regular fundraising events to balance its books.

Mr Sheikh said: “It’s very important that we get some government funding. I know there are some criticisms of the free schools programme, but by having a free school we will, I hope, carry on making decisions for the children ourselves.”

Parents at Paradise Primary have submitted their application to set up a free school to the Department for Education, to be considered by government officials.

The country’s first approved free schools are due to open in September. The scheme has been criticised because some argue it will drain resources away from other schools. Others say it will give schools too much freedom to narrow their teaching.

Currently, all pupils at Paradise Primary are Muslim, but Mr Sheikh said the new school would also welcome non-Muslim pupils.

The school is currently taking parents’ views, and has a questionnaire on to its website.

Parent and campaign organiser Abdul Patel said: “I believe this school will be a tremendous school for the whole community.”