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King's Leadership Academy opens in Woolston
3:00pm Thursday 13th September 2012 in News
LEADERS at Warrington’s first free school have vowed to provide children with a top education after it opened on Thursday.
The first year group at King’s Leadership Academy, based on the site of Bruche Primary School, Seymour Drive, began lessons last week.
Sir Iain Hall, the super head charged with overseeing the project, conducted the opening ceremony last week after Lord Hill, deputy minister for education, failed to show.
He said: “I’m not normally a nervous speaker but today I was.
“That’s because today I have seen a two-year dream come true.
“I’d like to thank everybody that has made this come about.”
Colin Scotland has headed a parents’ group which pushed for high school provision to remain in Woolston.
He said: “It’s been a fantastic day.
“I’m just a resident who was worried about where my children were going to go to school.
“The community was never happy about the closure of Woolston High School – it had its heart ripped out.
“The opportunity to put the heart back into the community with this school is amazing.”
Officals at the free school had predicted 120 students would join in its first year.
On Thursday, 38 children confirmed places by attending to start school.
Shane Ierston, principal, formerly taught at Woolston High School.
He said he was confident numbers would grow.
“We have got applications coming in all the time. We are expecting to grow.
“Several parents want to come in and look around and they are always welcome.
“Once parents see the high standards of what we are doing, there will be more interest in the school.”
Andrew Reay, vice principal, has moved from All Saints Capital College in Manchester after eight years in the RAF.
He said he has ‘high expectations’ of the free school.
“It’s very different being able to start up a school from scratch, and being able to write up your own curriculum.
“Students have high expectations of themselves and what they can achieve.
“There’s a little bit of risk but with the experience of the team we have got it can be a real success.”
FUED OVER POTENTIAL SITE
THE opening of the free school on Thursday marked the end of a long-running feud between the Government and Warrington Borough
Town Hall bosses were provoked after special education needs provision was threatened by the Department for Education.
The row began when leaders at King’s Leadership Academy Warrington were searching for a site.
An application to use existing buildings at the now closed Woolston High School in Hillock Lane was rejected.
That led to what Warrington Borough Council called ‘bullying’ by the Department for Education.
The DfE requested that infant buildings at Bruche Primary School currently not in use, and playing fields at Hillock Lane, be used by the free school.
If not, it would ‘actively pursue powers’ to secure the Woolston High School buildings, even though the council had long-term plans to move children from Green Lane Special School and Foxwood Special School there.
The council accused the Government of deliberately putting vulnerable children in the town at risk, something the DfE denied.
The decision to approve the DfE’s application was made by Warrington Borough Council’s planning committee before it was called in by Labour party backbenchers.
The Bruche Primary School and Hillock Lane sites were ultimately approved in June.
The latter attracted criticism because playing fields will be sold to facilitate new buildings – a Conservative policy which seems to contradict the legacy of the Olympic games.
Following the opening of King’s Leadership Academy Warrington, issues remain, with nowhere currently available to cook hot meals for children.
Private caterers will instead be used, according to officials.