Hammersmith free school set to open this week


West London’s third free school is optimistic about opening this week.


By Nadine Burnham-Marshalleck

West London’s third free school is set to open its doors this week. 

ARK Conway Primary in Hammersmith will have an intake of 30 reception pupils, with a curriculum including Modern Foreign Languages and Performing Arts. 

According to head teacher Damian McBeath, the aim of the school is to ensure pupils are fully prepared for secondary entrance.

Mr McBeath and his staff are confident they will cope without direct support and guidance from the Local Education Authority.

He said: “The school retains the option to buy in certain specialist services from the local authority if it is necessary.”

Earlier this month the Department for Education announced there are plans for 24 free schools to open across the country. The schools are expected to cost between £110m and £130m to build or renovate.

Although free schools are government funded, they are unrestricted by the local authority and free to select their own curriculum, term dates and teachers’ pay.

Critics have identified increased segregation within local communities as a possible result of the new free school system. There is also a concern about the effect on funding for normal state schools.

According to Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, funding for free schools is at the expense of other state schools.

“[Free schools’] annual budgets are calculated on a different and more generous basis than all other schools,” he said.

Mr Johnson added: “Free schools are likely to make life harder for teachers. If they don’t have access to specialist services they will be isolated from new ideas and developments in other schools.”

Despite the concerns from critics, Mr McBeath is optimistic ahead of the very first term at ARK Conway. 

He said: “The school aims to provide a calm, nurturing learning environment where teachers know pupils and parents, and every child can flourish.”

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