LocatEd announces first new free school

LocatED, a private company set up by the Department for Education in July 2016 to produce new sites for new free schools, has named its first project: the GEMS Kingston primary academy in south London.

The school is to be designed by Architecture Initiative and will be run by the GEMS Learning Trust, which currently has two other primary schools in Twickenham and Didcot.

LocatED was established last year with a £2 billion warchest to help see through the government’s commitment to new school places by securing sites to deliver the additional 110 free schools that were announced in the March budget.

The designers have been involved with a range of projects across the residential and education sectors, including the Fulham Boys School and Kingston Community School.

This new flagship academy project will be a two-form entry primary with the capacity for 420 pupils and 11 residential units in the town centre of Kingston.

Jodie Croft, the chief executive of the GEMS Learning Trust, said the group was pleased to have secured the planning permission needed for the site, which “straddles two conservation areas.”

“Tendering for the [construction] contractor starts now and the school will be ready to open in September 2019 with two classes in reception,” she added.

LocatedEd took over the responsibility from the Education Funding Agency of acquiring and developing land for new schools – including free schools and university technology colleges.

Problems with developing sites for new schools have caused considerable delays for the government in the past.

Last year a proposed free school in north London was cancelled over planning issues, despite two years of delays and £1.9 million already sunk into the project.

Hundreds of other new schools have faced delays or long waits in temporary accommodation due to difficulties with securing sites.