Ambitious plans for what could be the largest free school in the country have been revealed.
The Leeds Academy, which would be located in “city centre south”, is expected to cost around £17million and could be a catalyst for the regeneration of the area between the River Aire and the motorways – basically, what we in south Leeds would call old industrial Hunslet.
The proposals have been drawn up by the Leeds Sustainable Development Group (LSDG) with the GORSE Academies Trust, the charitable company which oversees the Morley and Farnley Academies in Leeds.
Co-ordinator of the LSDG David Lumb told South Leeds Life:
“The southern part of Leeds City Centre between the River Aire and the motorways has tremendous development potential. There are some 210 acres (85 hectares) of vacant or under-utilised sites and premises which could accommodate some 8-10,000 new residential units on brownfield land.
“Significant investment in social infrastructure such as schools, health centres and community facilities is vital to the creation of a long term sustainable urban community in this area.
“There is already a shortage of school places in Leeds and by providing a new, centrally located, outstanding school, our aim is to kick start development which will entice families to move back to this highly accessible area and encourage young families and city dwellers in their twenties and thirties to remain within the urban core.”
Executive Principal of the GORSE Academies Trust, John Townsley said:
“An application is to be submitted to the Department for Education in December which, if approved, will provide the opportunity for the school to deliver educational excellence to both primary and secondary students up to the age of 19.
“We appreciate the contribution this project will make to the learning community and are really excited at the prospect of working with Leeds City Council and other providers to deliver an excellent new facility at the heart of our city centre.
“For far too many years not all families have enjoyed the opportunity to access truly outstanding education. Equally importantly we also see this as one of the most important actions required to revitalise the south of our city centre with new family housing that will deliver a significant step change in the level of social mobility in a generation.
“The new academy will also provide greater access to opportunity in an area in need of regeneration. Supporting the growth of skills for residents is the key to the long term success of the Leeds economy and to tackling the barriers to opportunity associated with deprivation.”
Though details have yet to be fully confirmed, the school will cater for around 1,500 students. It will have a Post-16 centre of excellence in mathematics and applied mathematics and will cater for children of all abilities including those with physical and learning disabilities.
The school will deliver not only more school places but more ‘excellent’ education based on the key themes of improving aspiration and achievement. In addition, the school will be a catalyst for significant regeneration.
Mr Lumb added:
“The southern part of Leeds City Centre is an excellent location for the school. It is currently under-developed, with high levels of vacancy and deprivation offering great potential in the short, medium and long term.
“It is close to the existing prime city centre shops and amenities and has good links to the wider South Leeds area. A number of developments are already taking place to stimulate the revitalisation of this area, including the Leeds City College at the Print Works, new housing in Hunslet, the proposal for an international data-handling centre, the re-launch of New Dock and the NGT trolleybus.
“A successful, high-achieving school is a fundamental part of the social infrastructure of a 21st century city.”
A leading contributor to the LSDG, Steve Burt, overseeing the process of consultation with the local community in preparation for the application, said:
“We currently have a unique opportunity with the Free School movement to make a significant difference to the next generation of children in Leeds.
“There will be two open meetings for members of the public to find out more about the school. The first meeting will take place at The Farnley Academy on the evening of Thursday 22 November, commencing at 7pm. A second will take place at the Royal Armouries on Thursday 29 November, again commencing at 7pm.”
Leeds Sustainable Development Group is a network of individuals who share a commitment to their city working together to make it better.
What do you think? Good for South Leeds or just pie in the sky dreams of the city centre rich? Have your say in the comments section below.