Parents campaigning for a new secondary school in Holborn, central London, have reacted angrily to news that their proposals to convert workshops and studios have been labelled “not viable” by the Department for Education.
The news has been described as a “bolt out of the blue” by the Labour leader of Camden Council, Sarah Hayward, who said she was mystified by the decision given the IoE’s educational expertise.
The IoE, part of the University of London, had planned to establish the institution as a University Training School, to train new teachers.
“Here is a sponsor which is a leading education specialist maybe not just in this country but in Europe and it can’t get approval,” Cllr Hayward told the Camden New Journal.
“Compare that to some of the other rag-tag organisations that have been given approval and where - some seem to have set up in old scout huts and still get a ‘yes’ - and you have to think there is an ulterior motive,” she added.
Cllr Hayward also claimed the rejection was “politically motivated”.
The decision is likely to be a blow to the IoE, which is due to merge with University College London later this year, as several universities have been involved in setting up schools.
A DfE spokeswoman said the project has been “unable to reach the high bar we have set and we have withdrawn our approval for it to proceed any further”.
“All free schools must meet strict criteria,” she added.
She said the DfE had “worked closely with the Institute of Education on the Holborn schools” to ensure it could “deliver a high quality alternative to existing provision in the area and represented value for money”.
She added: “We have informed the Institute of Education of our decision and are grateful for the considerable time and commitment they gave to developing the application.”
In a letter to the education secretary, parents from the ‘Where is My School?’ campaign backing the plans said: “Your sudden and apparently final decision goes against everything our community has been encouraged to believe over the past three years and so, charged with the job of explaining this extraordinary U-turn to hundreds of local parents and children, we are writing to ask you to take time to explain it to us.”