– Mayor guarantees a permanent site in Fulham will be found, allowing the Education Funding Agency to release funds immediately
– City Hall secures agreement on a longer lease on the temporary site giving the school an extra year to find a permanent home
Earlier this month the Fulham Boys School, a new secondary free school in West London, was forced to abandon plans to open on a temporary site in Gibbs Green, West Kensington, after the then Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he had no choice but to withdraw funding because a permanent home for the school could no longer be guaranteed.
Fulham Boys had been due to take over a permanent site freed up by the merger of two local primary schools but this plan was thrown into doubt when the new Labour leader at Hammersmith and Fulham Council announced a review of the merger decision, leaving Fulham Boys without the guarantee of a permanent home from September 2016.
The Mayor discussed the issue with Mr Gove and asked his team at City Hall to investigate other potential permanent sites, and an extension to the lease on the Gibbs Green site.
Working closely with the Education Funding Agency the Mayor has secured an agreement in principle from CAPCO (owners of the temporary site at Gibbs Green) that allows for a one year extension to the lease, a move that will mean pupils can occupy the temporary site until at least July 2017. This extension, coupled with a guarantee from the Mayor to help the school find a permanent home in the Borough, means the Education Funding Agency has agreed to release the funds to enable the school to open as planned this September.
City Hall will begin work shortly alongside the school, the borough, and the funding agency to find a permanent site from 2017.
News of the agreement between the Mayor and the EFA was relayed to the school yesterday evening.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:
“There is enormous pressure on school places and a key part of my efforts to improve education across the capital is about helping groups secure sites to set up free schools. I am delighted we have been able to find a solution which allows the Fulham Boys School to open as planned this September. I am grateful to CAPCO for their understanding and to the EFA for their openness in supporting our ambition to find a permanent site. Their decision today to release the funds needed for the school to start life in Fulham is great news. I know that parents and pupils have endured a dreadful couple of weeks but this agreement means there will be a Fulham Boys School up and running from this September.”
The Schools Minister Lord Nash said:
“I am delighted that we are now able to open this excellent school in September as originally planned. The GLA and EFA have worked rapidly together to achieve this way forward, and the Mayor’s guarantee of a permanent site provides the school with the security it needs.”
“This is fantastic news for parents who have been through a lot to get their schools into what we believe will be a top quality Church of England secondary school.
I was delighted by this decision.
In recent weeks, I have had extensive conversations with Michael Gove (until yesterday Education Secretary, but now with me in the
Government Whips Office) and Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, seeking them to reconsider the Department for Education decision not to fund the school 2014/15, and instead to postpone the opening. I have also been trying to find a new site with the Council, but without success.
Yesterday, however, London Mayor, Boris Johnson, met Lord Nash and gave significant undertakings to help provide a permanent site for Fulham Boys School. I spoke further with Lord Nash yesterday evening. The undertakings made by Boris were of sufficient strength to convince Lord Nash to change his decision, and the very welcome news is that Fulham Boys School will be opening this September, as originally envisaged, on its temporary site at Gibbs Green.”
“This is wonderful. Many FBS parents have contacted me over the last fortnight and have been distraught – this will now be amazingly good news for all of them. It has also been an absolute privilege to witness the dedication of the FBS founder team who have simply not taken no for an answer. I also want to recognise the hard work of my Conservative colleagues at H&F council who have worked tirelessly over the last fortnight to continue the search for a suitable site – leaving no stone unturned. Great news for our borough this morning.”
Fulham Boys School Chairman Alex Wade said:
“We’re delighted sense has prevailed. Whatever the agonies we’ve all been through, the ‘can do’ spirit shown by FBS parents, boys, and staff, has been quite remarkable in setting the foundations for a unique school. My thanks go to Greg Hands MP in particular, who has been with us from the start and has been a continual support in the last two weeks. Thanks also to the Department for Education for their work in reviewing their decision, to the Mayor of London for his intervention and to Councillors for their engagement in recent weeks.”
Alun Ebenezer, FBS headmaster, added:
“I’ve gone on the record as saying FBS will be an outstanding school within two years. We can now start on the hard work of getting FBS set on the road to becoming one of the best schools in the country”.