Harperbury Free School could be open to year eight pupils next year

Watford Observer: Harperbury Free School could be open to year eight pupils next year Harperbury Free School could be open to year eight pupils next year

Pupils who were due to start at a free school in Radlett before its opening was deferred could still be offered year eight places for 2015 if there is enough demand.

Harperbury Free School was due to open this September in the former Harperbury Hospital in Harpers Lane.

However schools’ minister Lord Nash announced in February the Department for Education (DoE) had failed to secure the site in time, meaning its opening would be delayed for a year.

Headmaster Martin Blain said one final possibility exists for those parents and pupils disappointed this year, and the school is considering taking year eight pupils next year.

They will not be able to take a full cohort of 120 because this would put an "unrealistic strain" on staffing, according to Mr Blain.

He said they would need a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 60 pupils to make it viable.

Mr Blain said: "We need to stress that the process of setting up the 2015 year eight is complex and will strain our relations with other schools and the LEA. It will also put pressure on staff recruitment and the temporary building requirement.

"We decided to continue with this idea out of continuing loyalty to the 2014 parents. Some parents worked for four years on the project and were upset that the opening was deferred.  However, we cannot pursue it unless there is reasonable indicative demand.

"We will do anything possible to see the school open. We are still very excited about the project - it will be a fabulous school albeit a year later than planned. We are all committed to the project."

Mr Blain said the support from the local community and two local MPs has helped to raise the profile of the school within the department of education.

This has meant the department is going to carry out a full feasibility study into the hospital site - something not usually granted to projects at this stage.

This will consider whether the school's additional traffic will mean rebuilding the Harper Lane bridge, and if so how much of the cost could fall to the project.

Clive Glover, founding governor of the school, said the school were working closely with the Education Funding Agency to prove the "viability and affordability" of the Harperbury hospital site for the school.

He said: "We will know the outcome in the summer and will let everyone know as soon as possible. At the same time we are looking at nearby alternative sites as backups in case developing the hospital site does prove to be too expensive, but we hope we won't need them in the end."

The school hope to have full clarity on this issue by this September. Following this, they will recruit pupils and the rest of the staff for 2015.

If parents are interested in signing up for the school they should email: admissions@harperbury.org.uk.

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