DfE pulls plug on new voluntary-aided secondary over ‘lack of need’


One of only three proposed new voluntary-aided schools approved for government set-up cash has been cancelled because of a lack of basic need and an available site.

Avanti Schools Trust applied to open a new Hindu secondary school in the London Borough of Redbridge in 2018 after the government reopened the process for new VA schools to win capital cash.

Applications were reopened after ministers reneged on a promise to lift the cap on the number of pupils who could be recruited based on their faith in new free schools. But of 14 applications, only one was approved in principle, and two others, including Avanti’s, were placed “on hold”.

But this week, the Department for Education removed Avanti’s bid from its list of bids on hold.

Mike Ion, Avanti’s education director, said the trust and local community were “bitterly disappointed that our VA school proposal has been cancelled due to a lack of basic need and site availability”.

He said Avanti, which already runs a primary school in Redbridge, was “absolutely committed to establishing a secondary provision in the near future”.

“There is only one Hindu secondary school in the whole of Greater London and Hinduism is the most underrepresented faith in the country,” said Ion. “We know how disappointed those families will be and will continue to press the DfE to work with us towards a positive solution.”

Schools Week revealed in 2019 how Avanti was offering “naming rights” to prospective parents who pledged large donations, as it struggled to raise its £2 million, 10 per cent contribution to capital costs.

The DfE said at the time it was working to identify a site for the school, and gave Avanti until September of that year to come up with the cash and find a site.

Of the remaining VA school bids, one from the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education for the new Kingston Church of England Secondary School remains on hold, while a bid from the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia to open Hampton Waters Roman Catholic VA School was approved “in principle”.

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