UK: Leicester’s first free Sikh school could be a step closer to opening.
Falcons Primary, in Gipsy Lane, was due to open on September 3, but had its funding from the Department for Education (DfE) pulled at the last minute because of a “breakdown in relationship”.
The move prompted angry calls from parents due to send their children there for the cash to be reinstated.
A meeting between the school’s Sikh trustees and Lord Nash, parliamentary under secretary for schools, took place on Wednesday. Following this, the DfE has said that providing the trustees can meet a number of conditions, the school could still open this academic year.
A spokesperson for the DfE said: “We continue to support the idea of a Sikh ethos school in Leicester and have been working closely with the trust of Falcons Primary to see if we can open the school soon. The trust must meet a number of strict conditions before this can happen – for example on staffing, governance and pupil numbers – but good progress has already been made.
“We will continue to support and work with them to try and open the school soon and would like to pay tribute to members of the local community who have put in a lot of time and effort over recent days to secure the future of the Sikh ethos school that we all want to see.”
Around 69 children had been due to take up a place at Falcons Primary.
However, a spokesperson for the department has previously said that a minimum of at least 90 youngsters should be starting there.
It’s understood that new governors with substantial experience have been found.
The meeting between the trustees and Lord Nash was brokered by Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, who is keen to see the school open as soon as possible.
Trustee Harminder Singh Jagdev said: “The support of the Sikh community and from the wider community has been really overwhelming. We will do all it can to ensure that Falcon Primary becomes an outstanding school and would like to thank Keith Vaz for his vital intervention, as well as Councillor Vi Dempster at Leicester City Council and the Sikh Council UK, for their ongoing commitment and support.”
Mr Vaz said: “I am delighted with this news.
“The discussions between the trustees and the Government have been a great success. At the heart of all these matters has been the best education for the children. Aiming to open the school at half term will give the new trustees an opportunity to bed down.
“This is a great day for Falcons and all those who are have struggled so valiantly to open it. My special thanks to John Nash who has been an outstanding minister and who has kept his promise to me and the community.”
Problems first arose when the Affinity Teaching School Alliance, a partner of the school trustees based in Kibworth, pulled out at the 11th hour.
Paul Stone, chairman of Affinity has said that it acted with “complete integrity” but felt it could no longer support the school and withdrew.
He said: “We were happy to hand over and have a transition period to another body and have always had the absolute desire to see it open.”
Councillor Dempster, assistant city mayor for schools, said: “I’m very pleased there has been progress, but the families and their children need certainty, and this announcement does nothing to provide that. The DfE really needs to get behind the community and give them a firm date.”
The building in Gipsy Lane has had a £1 million refurbishment in recent months.