Helen Mirren backs free school to open in Wapping

Dame Helen Mirren. Pic: Flickr

A free school, which is supported by actress Dame Helen Mirren, is due to open in one of the East End’s most under-privileged areas, next September.

A parent-led campaign for a new school in Wapping is the latest of 55 such schools given approval by education secretary, Michael Gove.

The first 24 free schools – including primaries, secondaries and all-through establishments for 3-18 year olds – opened last month.

Wapping High School is expected to support around 400 families from the Wapping, Shadwell and Limehouse areas of Tower Hamlets.

The Oscar-winning actress who resides in the borough and whose mother is from West Ham, offered her “full support” for the campaign in east London and urged the Government and business leaders to do the same.

Almost half the pupils at the Wapping High School will be entitled to free school meals – a measure of child poverty.

Under this scheme, parents groups, charities, faith organizations and entrepreneurs are given grants to open their own state school, free of local authority interference. They get almost complete control over admissions, the curriculum, staff appointments, and length of the school day and shape of the academic year.

The Wapping school, an 11-16 secondary, will have an extended day with compulsory afterschool activities, including setting up a newspaper, playing football and polo classes.

As well as the national curriculum, the school would offer two fields: new media and enterprise and innovation.

In further move, the London Academy of Excellence, a new sixth-form college supported by several leading private schools, is being established in Newham. To be accepted, pupils must score at least five A grades at GSCE.

Natalie Evans, Chief Operating Officer at the New Schools Network, the charity which advises groups wanting to set up free schools, says, “We are delighted that so many London based Free School groups have been successful and will be opening new schools in 2012.  Having worked with the majority of them over the last year, we know how innovative and inspirational they are. “

Mossbourne Academy will open another academy in south Hackney in 2014 for 800 pupils.

Penny Wrout, one of the parents from four South Hackney primary schools who  has been campaigning for an additional secondary school in the area for some years now says, “we’re delighted the government has found the money, in tough times, to make the best use of an historic site in the area and to revamp it as a new, non-denominational, mixed-sex school.”

“A local consultation showed there was no appetite for a free-school, and we think a Mossbourne-led academy is the best we could hope for in the current political circumstances.”
“Not everyone is a fan of the Mossbourne approach to education, but the fact is that simply by providing extra secondary places in the borough, there will be an increased chance of everyone being allocated a school of their choice.”
“I think local parents would particularly like to thank Geoff Taylor and Katie Hanson, two of the local councillors, who have fought really hard for this, and the Learning Trust for their perseverance with central government.”

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Principal of Mossbourne Academy is “delighted and proud” about the news.

Detailed plans will be submitted to Tower Hamlets council this month.

Read more:

Government considers first free school for Tower Hamlets


One Response

  1. Local Mum December 3, 2015

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