“A dream come true” – that’s how the opening of Leicester’s first Sikh free school has been described.
Falcons Primary, in Gipsy Lane, opened this morning, following a delay of several weeks.
The school was supposed to open in September for the beginning of the academic year but had its funding withdrawn from the Department for Education (DfE) at the last minute following a “breakdown in relationships”.
The move prompted angry calls from parents to have it reinstated.
Inderjit Singh Panesar, chair of trustees behind the new school said: “The opening is a dream come true for parents and the local community. Our aim is to provide the highest quality education supported by universal values and virtues which are underpinned by our Sikh faith ethos.”
Mr Panesar thanked Leicester East MP Keith Vaz and Councillor Vi Dempster, assistant city mayor for schools, for their support over the past few weeks, along with the DfE.
The school has opened to reception and year one children and over time will grow to 420 pupils on roll. It has opened under the Government’s free schools programme and will provide education for children from all backgrounds with at least 50 per cent of places available for non-Sikh children.
Head teacher, Jasbir Mann added: “It’s such a privilege to be here and thoroughly exciting. The building is Grade II listed and has some fantastic historical features but has been completely renovated inside and is peaceful and calm. The children look lovely in their crisp new uniforms and are busy settling in.
“Over the next few weeks we’ll be implementing the new curriculum as well as introducing after school activities. There is so much to look forward to.”
The DfE agreed to allow the school to open, provided the trustees, who make up the Akaal Education Trust, could meet a number of strict conditions, including restructuring the board of trustees and governing body to include more people from the primary education sector and finding a new principal.
Trustees were also asked to provide a secure financial plan and budget for future sustainability.
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz lobbied the DfE following the funding withdrawal and was instrumental in paving the way for it to finally open.
He said: “This is the day that we thought would never happen. The devastation of the news that the funding was to be withdrawn has been replaced by euphoria. At last the school has opened.
“This is a tribute to all parties – the government, trustees and the council, who worked together to ensure that the needs of the children should be the first and paramount consideration.
“It would have been wrong to open a school that did not have firm foundations and I know that it will work hard to become one of the best schools in the city.”
~ Source: www.leicestermercury.co.uk