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Michael Gove points to success of free school policy at St Luke’s in Hampstead

07:00 10 July 2014

Education secretary Michael Gove (far left) visiting St Luke

Education secretary Michael Gove (far left) visiting St Luke's Primary School in Hampstead. Picture: Mark Hakansson

Mark Hakansson

Education secretary Michael Gove has lauded the success of a Hampstead primary school as showing the benefits of the government’s controversial free school policy.

"What happens here shows that we can take a building that most people wouldn’t have necessarily thought was a conventional home for a school, and have an incredibly handsome school environment"

Michael Gove

The Conservative cabinet minister visited St Luke’s Church of England School, in Kidderpore Avenue, to see the progress made by Camden’s first-ever free school since it opened in September 2011.

The school, now in its third year, was set up in the undercroft of St Luke’s Church after a parent-led campaign for a new school to meet a shortage of primary places.

Under the free school model, pioneered by Mr Gove, parents and community members can apply to set up a new school, which can then be run by an independent education provider.

During last Thursday’s visit, Mr Gove said: “One of the things that the free schools programme has shown is that sites that hitherto you wouldn’t have thought of as obvious sites for opening schools in, can work very, very effectively.

“We have rising property prices and a growth in the number of residential properties that are being built, which means more pressure for school places, and that means we have to be smarter about finding new buildings for school places and developing existing buildings.

“What happens here shows that we can take a building that most people wouldn’t have necessarily thought was a conventional home for a school, and have an incredibly handsome school environment.

“Then you can have children learning in that school in a successful way. You can have Ofsted ranking it as good, and parents clearly delighted with the quality of education that their children enjoy.”

St Luke’s opened to just half a form of entry (15 pupils), a number which has since tripled with reception, Year 1 and Year 2 classes now attending.

Mr Gove, who observed lessons and enjoyed a choir performance from pupils during his visit, said the Department for Education was “totally” supportive of the school’s hopes to expand to a full form of entry each year.

Headteacher Gill Tyler said: “We believe that we have managed to create a school where children are happy, secure and making very good progress.

“This has been made possible through the hard work of the staff and governors and their resolute commitment to the core values of secure foundations, excellent practice, faith, hope and love.”

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