Hampstead free school looks back at its first successful year

It is hard to believe the bright and colourful classrooms of St Luke’s Church of England Primary School in Hampstead were a gloomy, disused basement space just over a year ago.

Yet the free school in Kidderpore Gardens celebrated its first year anniversary nearly two weeks ago with a visit from the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres.

Set up to provide school spaces for parents struggling to find a school place in the area, it took 17 months from inception in July 2010 to completion in December 2011.

The journey has involved a lot of hard work from many people, but particularly chair of governors Penny Roberts, who has driven the vision.

She said: “It’s been hard work. Looking back it’s amazing how many different kinds of people understand the vision when you do any big project as exciting as this.”

The mother-of-two, who is a congregation member of St Luke’s Church, said she jumped on the idea of a free school.

“I live in the area,” she said. “My children are at an excellent primary school but I knew how difficult it is to get a place.

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“When we saw the opportunity with free schools, we thought we could make a difference.

“We knew the building was here and knew the church would support us.”

It took her two weeks to win support from the church council, carry out a survey of local residents and then apply.

The school was shortlisted by the Department of Education in September 2010 and was then given the go ahead in April 2011.

Last September, it opened with just 15 pupils in the reception class and this year it has taken a fresh intake of another 15 reception class pupils.

The school delivers a mainstream curriculum but has an emphasis on the arts. Children learn Spanish from reception class and have an after-school French club.

As a Church of England school, the St Luke’s has a Christian ethos. The vicar at the church leads a weekly service but caters for the fact that children come from a mixture of faiths.

Looking back over the last hectic 26 months, Mrs Roberts says: “I think we have done well. We have gone from a community project to a very-well run school.

“The fact that it has turned out well makes it all worthwhile.”