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Council buildings to be used for new free school

The former Holme Lacy school building and the current Blackfriars Offices in Hereford have been earmarked as possible sites to accommodate a new free school.

The Department for Education asked Herefordshire Council to provide suitable premises from its building stock as a result of plans for the Robert Owen Group to open a new 14-19 vocational school under the government’s free school scheme.
Free Schools are state-funded schools that can be set up with approval from the Department for Education.
The local authority has no involvement in setting up free schools: the final arrangements and decisions lie with the Department for Education, but the government expects any organisation wishing to set up a free school to consult on their plans, and the local authority has to be one of the consultees.

Councillor Graham Powell, cabinet member for infrastructure and education, said: “We know the Robert Owen Group has already begun the recruitment process to ensure staffing is in place for September 2013. However, we have not yet seen a consultation document so are not clear about the group’s detailed proposals.

“We are happy to work with any setting as long as they provide good quality educational opportunities for our children and young people and that they are financially sustainable.”

Under legislation the secretary of state for education has the right to determine how land that has been used for educational purposes in the past should be used in the future. As a result, the council has to provide accommodation options for the new school for the short term and long term.

Following discussions between the council and the Department for Education, both parties have agreed it will be housed temporarily in the old Holme Lacy Primary School building, subject to a Funding Agreement being signed. The intention will be to move to Blackfriars Offices once the council has vacated the buildings and refurbishment has taken place. It is anticipated this will happen early next year as part of the council’s accommodation strategy.