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Setback for free school’s permanent home plan

University Cathedral Free School will begin 2014 in temporary classrooms

First day at The University Cathedral Free School in Chester in September 2013

Hopes that pupils from a new free school would move into their permanent home later this month have been dashed.

University Cathedral Free School (UCFS) opened a temporary base for 60 students in Gateway House, Northgate Street, for the start of the autumn term.

It was hoped the primary school pupils could move into their permanent buildings at the start of 2014 after receiving planning consent back in August to convert 10 and 11 Abbey Square, overlooking the cathedral.

The aim is for the school to accommodate up to 210 pupils by September 2018.

But spokeswoman Lindsay Pilling explained: “There has been a delay to the commencement of the build programme at 10 and 11 Abbey Square due to their significant, historic importance.

“Building works at the Grade II* listed buildings are anticipated to commence in the early part of 2014.”

She said pupils had enjoyed “considerable success” during the school’s first term and pupils were “happy and making outstanding progress”.

“This is all credit to parents, children and staff for their dedication, care and support,” she added.

Principal Gareth Davies commented: “Parents have been kept up to date with progress at the permanent premises and I would like to thank all of them for their understanding and unwavering support during the first term of the school.

“I would particularly like to thank the children who make every day special.”

UCFS recently performed its first ever Christmas show to more than 350 people at Chester Cathedral.

Free schools are state-funded but free of local authority control and officially opposed by the Labour Party nationally but supported by former Labour premier Tony Blair and enthusiastically promoted by Tory education secretary Michael Gove.

Supporters argue they deliver excellent educational standards but critics fear they will become elitist.



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David Holmes
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