Barnet sells Stanley Road Playing Fields to Archer Academy free school in £3.5million deal

Sarah Cohen and Avis Johns (right) of the Archer Academy team. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Sarah Cohen and Avis Johns (right) of the Archer Academy team. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A 12-year wait to decide the future of an abandoned playing field is finally over after a new free school agreed a £3.5million deal to redevelop the land.

The Archer Academy plans to build a sports centre and all-weather pitch on the site of Stanley Road Playing Fields in East Finchley after the school’s bid to buy the land was accepted by Barnet Council.

The council’s cabinet resources committee approved the sale of the playing fields for £3.5million to the Archer Academy last night (Monday, February 25) on the basis that the land would be opened for community use outside of school hours.

Roger Chapman, chairman of community group Sport East Finchley and a governor of the new school, said: “We think this deal works very well because there is a need for secondary school places in the area and a lack of sport and recreational space. This deal helps marry the two together.”

The new school will open in The Institute building, off The Bishops Avenue, in East Finchley, in September to 150 pupils, after the school agreed to buy the facility from Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute last year.

The deal to buy the Stanley Road Playing Fields ends the school’s search for sports facilities and marks another major chapter in its development.

It also ends a 12-year campaign by Sport East Finchley to see the unused playing fields redeveloped as a sport and recreational community space.

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The school is now set to submit a planning application for a £7million development on the playing fields site. Last week, the Archer Academy announced it had received 301 applications for its first year – double the 150 places on offer. From September, the Year 7 pupils will be divided into six forms and will have the opportunity to stay at the school until the age of 18.

The school ran its own admissions process, independently from Barnet Council, for this first year only – giving prospective parents a choice of two state school places in March.

Avis Johns, chairman of governors, said: “When we started on our journey to create the Archer Academy, we always said there was a desperate need for a mixed, non-selective, non-denominational school in our community.

“The number of people who have applied for a place proves that we were right. We’re pleased that so many local people are putting their faith in us and we can assure them that we’ll live up to their expectations.”

Last July, a group of parents and campaigners were given the go-ahead by the Department for Education (DfE) to set up the school under the government’s free schools initiative, after their request to Barnet Council for a new secondary was turned down.

The school has appointed Mick Quigley, Barnet Council’s former assistant director of schools and learning, as headteacher and Lucy Harrison as deputy headteacher.

* To find out more, visit www.thearcher