Free school to tackle gangs rejected


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A plan for a pioneering "free" school aimed at breaking the link between teenagers and gang culture has been rejected by the Government.

The decision to turn down the application from Diaspora High School in Lewisham, south London, has fuelled concerns that the process for giving the go-ahead to "free" schools is too bureaucratic.

The school is in an area of south London where many teenagers have fallen prey to drugs and gang culture.

It has promised to provide pupils with three months' guaranteed work experience to avoid them going on the dole and ending up on the streets. Yet it has been turned down by the Department for Education because it failed to satisfy civil servants that it had enough expressions of interest to guarantee 50 per cent of enrolment in its first two years of operation.

The school, which is for three to 19-year-olds, was asked to give evidence of enrolment into the reception year and first year of secondary schooling.

It plans to operate a two-form entry system into its reception class and four-form entry into year seven, the first year of secondary schooling.

It told officials that it had already had expressions of interest from 110 parents for the 120 places on offer in the first year, with more expected to come, thinking that showed adequate support. When it received the letter, Kay Johnston, one of two teachers behind the proposal, rang the DfE to say they could easily satisfy the criteria, but was told it now did not want the information.

The letter of rejection said they could reapply next year, and suggested they might like to develop their application.

So far 13 "free" schools have been given the green light to open in September. They include five faith schools.