Sikh-ethos school opens two months late as funding restored

A Sikh-ethos free school that had its funding withdrawn five days before it was due to open in early September will begin lessons on Monday, after being given the final go-ahead from the Department for Education (DfE).

As previously reported by Schools Week, funding was withdrawn for Falcons Primary school in Leicester after two trustees stepped down and two others announced their intention to follow suit.

The Akaal Trust, which has been attempting to keep the project alive ever since, received confirmation of its funding at the end of last week.

Inderjit Singh Panesar, chair of the trust, said: “We had the good news on Thursday last week from the DfE to say that education minister Lord Nash had agreed to the new funding.”

He said that the trustees were “absolutely delighted and relieved”, although this was only the start of the trust’s work.

“I guess the real challenge starts now to get the school up and running and be an ‘outstanding’.”

Mr Panesar said that 40 children were on roll – down from the 70 expected to start in September – but that the trust was hoping the number would grow in January.

Since September, the school has appointed a new headteacher and has brought in several new trustees and a new chair of governors. The trustees have also been in regular contact with the DfE, meeting Lord Nash earlier this term.

The school is opening in a former hospital building, though Mr Panesar said that only part of the building had been handed over, with the rest expected to be completed in early November.

In a letter to the trust, Lord Nash wrote: “I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the great commitment and energy which you and your colleagues have shown in reaching this point.

“Free schools form an integral part of the government’s education policy to improve choice and drive up standards. I am therefore delighted that Falcons will bring new opportunities for children in Leicester and will help deal with the need for school places in the area.”

A Department for Education spokesperson: “We have always supported the idea of a Sikh-ethos school in Leicester and we are pleased that Falcons will now be opening after half term.”

The school was not the first free school to have its funding pulled at short notice. In 2012, the One in a Million free school in Bradford was told it could not open nine days before the school year began – but went on to open the following September.

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