East Finchley free school: Parents fight for new comprehensive

Campaigners have stepped up their fight for a secular, mixed comprehensive secondary school in East Finchley by bidding to open a free school.

Competition for available land from Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Hindu schools has prompted more than 500 parents to come together in a bid to open the Archer Academy in East Finchley.

Campaigners say some parents prefer to home-school their children rather than take up places offered by Barnet Council, because of the distance they are asked to travel and the religious status of the schools.

Avis Johns, who spends more than 50 hours a week working on the Local School N2 project, said: “The real tipping point came when Barnet Council told us there was competition for any available land. We were absolutely desperate not to let another year of school children down.

“We still have children who are without a school place and are sat at home being home-schooled, languishing by themselves.”

A spokesman said the council had no record of children without school places, but this did not account for places offered and not accepted.

Although there is no obvious plot of land available for the proposed new school, Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer said he has approached the Bishop of Westminster with a proposal.

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He has suggested Bishop Douglas School – which comes under the control of the Diocese of Westminster – could vacate its premises in Hamilton Road, East Finchley, and make way for the Archer Academy.

Campaigners claim the Catholic school is only operating at half its capacity.

Mr Freer told the Ham&High: “The community need a non-denominational, mixed comprehensive and in my view Bishops Douglas is a solution, because it’s not currently meeting the needs of the community and is significantly undersubscribed.”

Teachers, lawyers and financiers have already pledged help to open a specialist maths and English free school in East Finchley. A parents committee has set out a vision to create a school with a strong emphasis on entrepreneurial skills.

Mrs Johns, whose 10-year-old daughter will be looking for a secondary school place in September, said: “The school we have in mind will provide an outstanding environment to allow children to achieve their academic goals.

“We want our children to come out as critical thinkers and to recognise they have a social responsibility.”

The campaign needs to gather interest from 300 parents in Years 4 and 5 before February 24 to take its bid any further.