Durham Free School welcomes first pupils

Durham Free School welcomes first pupils

6th September 2013


ONE of the North East's first free schools has opened in Durham after a three year campaign by parents and educationalists.

The Durham Free School has opened with 30 ten and 11 year-olds and will grow as more children join in future years.

Parents drove the case for a new secondary school serving the south east of the city amid fears that children in the area were missing out on high quality education.

The new school has opened in the former Gilesgate Sports College buildings, but the long-term aim is to find a permanent site closer to Bowburn.

Headteacher Peter Cantley said: "It's a tremendously exciting day for the children, parents, staff, governors and everyone involved with The Durham Free School, which will be a caring, nurturing, family-based school where every child will get a lot of attention.”

"The vision is that we become an outstanding school in every way. Our team of experienced and highly qualified teachers will help the children succeed in the classroom, but more than that we are about developing character among children, so they can go on and play a transformational role in their communities; we want them to be contributors and leaders, rather than simply consumers."

The school will follow the National Curriculum, but being free of local authority control means it can add an extra hour to every school day so children can develop interests and talents in sport, music and other activities.

Mr Cantley joined new pupils on the free bus as it picked them up in Kirk Merrington, Spennymoor, Coxhoe, Kelloem, Bowburn and High Shincliffe en route to school.

Luke Douglas, ten, of Framwellgate Moor, said: "I'm excited, but a bit nervous at the same time. It's not just a new school for me, it's my first time in school since Year One, as I've been home schooled.  When I heard that the Free School was going to open with just Year 7 I thought that would be better for me than starting at a school with 2,000 children."

After being welcomed by Mr Cantley, the children were split into their two classes before special guest Reverend Dr Mark Bonnington, a lecturer at Durham University and senior minister of King's Church in the city, unveiled a plaque.

He told the children: "This is a new beginning for you and your school. In any institution the first generation sets the tone for everybody else who comes after. They will look to you as an example of good behaviour, for your seriousness in study and your preparedness to want to maximise your potential."

Chairman of governors John Denning, of High Shincliffe, said seeing the school come to fruition was "amazing".

"We have got to know many of the children and their parents over time and to see them here today in their uniforms is fantastic," he said.

His wife Jenny, who, with a group of mothers, instigated the idea of a free school and has a daughter Naomi at the school, added: "Parents do plan ahead for their children's education and three years ago there was a lot of uncertainty about good options for people to the south of the city.”

"It's been very moving to see all the hard work become a reality."

News in September