North Westminster free school to be split over two sites after delay

Move to permanent location put back a year due to fear that adult education service would be left homeless

A new free school set to open in north Westminster this September has been told it will straddle two temporary sites for a year after its move to a permanent home was delayed.

The ARK Atwood Primary Academy was due to be located in Third Avenue, Queen’s Park for two years before moving to a permanent home in the current Westminster Adult Education Service (WAES) building on Amberley Road, Maida Hill.

But the council’s unsuccessful search to find a new premises for the WAES has now left ARK Atwood unable to move until September 2014.

With the Third Avenue site only large enough to cater for two school years, the primary school will be forced to occupy another building on Lancefield Street for the 2013 intake with staff moving between the two sites.

ARK Schools communications director Lesley Smith said the change was “slightly inconvenient” but assured parents they shouldn’t notice a difference.

“It’s a shame but the children will remain at the site they start in and not have to move location,” she said.

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“So the first two years’ intake will stay at Third Avenue and the third year will go to Lancefield Street.

“We would like to get into the permanent site as soon as we can but it’s not the end of the world.”

While the decision is not ideal for the new school, it will come as a relief to thousands of WAES students whose courses had been in jeopardy as they feared being kicked out of the Amberley Road building with nowhere else to go.

Now the council will have an extra year to search for an alternative site for the WAES.

Cllr Brian Connell, business, enterprise and skills boss, said: “We have always made it clear that while we agreed in principle that our site on Amberley Road was the most appropriate long-term location for the new school, this was subject to us working with the WAES to find them suitable temporary premises to ensure our residents continue to have access to vital adult education and skills provision.

“While this has not proved possible so far, we are continuing to work closely with WAES to ensure a short-term location can be found to protect this valuable service while works are carried out.”