New Christian-ethos led free school announced in borough

City Gates' building collapses in 2012

City Gates' building collapses in 2012 - Credit: Archant

A new Christian free school is set to be built in the borough after the Department for Education (DfE) accepted a church’s application.

Trustees from City Gates Christian Centre, in Clements Road, Ilford, renowned for the devastating collapse of its new building in 2012, applied to build a new “through school” for around 1000 pupils aged between four and 16.

Keith Gardner, 61, of Barkingside, helped draw up the application after garnering support from around 180 families.

He said: “One of the reasons why the Department for Education have asked us to do it is to increase the number of faith schools at secondary school level.

“Redbridge needs more school places and it is getting to the stage where the local authority cannot open any more itself.”

He also added: “Parents like sending their children to schools where there is a Christian ethos.”

An application to build Atam Academy, east London’s first free Sikh school, was accepted by the Department for Education last year.

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However trustees have struggled to identify a suitable site to build the school ahead of its provisional opening date in September 2016.

Government officials and City Gates School have also been unable to find a site to build on so far.

“That is going to be a challenge,” said Mr Gardner, who is a governor at Oak Park High School, in Oaks Lane, Newbury Park, too.

“It is a challenge for all free schools. The Department for Education acknowledges it is a challenge.

“It is not going to be building the school which is going to be an issue – it will just be finding the site.”

The Labour MP for Ilford South, Mike Gapes, called the government’s decision “a pre-election stunt”, and dismissed the plans as nothing more than “an outline”.

“There is no certainty that it is going to happen,” he said. “It is the first stage of a long term complex process.

“As far as I am concerned it is another attempt by this government to fragment the school system.”

But Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said in a statement: “Free schools give pupils the chance to attend an excellent local school.

“They are providing more choice than ever before to parents and ensuring that children have access to a high quality school place and the best possible education that prepares them for life in modern Britain.”