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Disappointment as new school halted because there are not enough pupils

PUBLISHED: 16:43 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:50 13 December 2017

The site intended for Hope School at Eastgate in Northfleet, Gravesend. Picture: New Gen Schools

The site intended for Hope School at Eastgate in Northfleet, Gravesend. Picture: New Gen Schools

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Proposals for a new free school in Northfleet have been scrapped, for now at least.

The site intended for Hope School at Eastgate in Northfleet, Gravesend. Photo: New Gen SchoolsThe site intended for Hope School at Eastgate in Northfleet, Gravesend. Photo: New Gen Schools

It was due to throw open the doors next September. But those behind the Hope Community School say they were told no by the Department for Education because there are not enough children to fill the classes.

It was being sponsored by the New Generation Schools Trust, and the plan was to provide 60 reception pupil places. The eventual full capacity was proposed to be 420.

Things were progressing well as both the Department for Education and New Generation Schools Trust believed there was a need for additional primary school places in Northfleet.

But fresh data from Kent County Council shows there are actually sufficient places already for reception children in 2018 and onwards.

Those findings meant the Department for Education is no longer confident a new school will attract enough pupils to be financially viable.

The disappointed chairman of New Generation Schools Trust is Paul Weston.

He said: “Because demand for school places has changed significantly the Department has raised serious concerns about the need for and the ongoing financial viability of a school in this area. It is also not our intention to open a school in an area which would ultimately compromise the stability of other local schools. We understand the rationale behind the decision, although are naturally hugely disappointed after almost four years of hard work.

“We also realise this will be disappointing for many of the school’s supporters and we are aware of many parents who were depending on the school opening in 2018.

“We hope that announcing this decision at this point will mean that prospective 2018 parents will have time to adjust their applications accordingly.

“We remain resolute on providing the children whom we have the privilege to serve with a high quality learning experiences and offering a new, alternative choice for Northfleet, as and when this is found to be needed.”

The project director Mary Rouse added: “There are a number of challenges to opening a school and one of the most fundamental is identifying the need for school places. Until very recently the Trust was confident that there was a strong local need for the school and was moving forwards at a good pace to deliver the school in September 2018.”

And local MP Adam Holloway said: “I am disappointed by the decision to pause this project. The project team have been tireless in their efforts to complete the initial phase of the project and those of us who have been working hard to support them are deeply frustrated that we are unable to open in 2018.

“The school would have offered an alternative choice for families in Northfleet and had made good progress towards opening in September 2018. “Obviously the demand for school places is a vital element in the approval and ongoing financial viability of the school and unfortunately data is now suggesting that the projected demand is no longer there. I would like to thank all at New Generation Schools Trust for their hard work to date and will continue to support their efforts to deliver a school on this site in the future.”

Anyone wanting further information about the decision can contact Hope Community School at www.hopecommunityschool.org or phone 01474 873040.

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