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Support for Edmonton 'free school' overwhelming, says headteacher
A HEADTEACHER setting up a primary school in Edmonton using new free school legislation said it had received overwhelming support from the community.
Patricia Sowter, current head of Cuckoo Hall Academy, rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted, said people had been able to put "politics to the side" to recognise that creating much-needed primary school places was in the best interests of children.
She said: "I was touched by the kind things people said. Cuckoo Hall is heavily over-subscribed because there is a shortage of good schools in the area. The general feeling was that if there could be one more Cuckoo Hall that would be a good thing and that is what we have done."
After gaining the final go-ahead from education secretary Michael Gove on Friday, Woodpecker Hall Academy will open in September taking in two nursery classes and one reception class.
At first, the pupils will be based at Cuckoo Hall while the new school is built on a brownfield site in Nightingale Road, which has been approved by Enfield Council.
Both schools will be managed by Cuckoo Academy Trust which formed when Cuckoo Hall, in Cuckoo Hall Lane, gained Academy status after impressing the Government with its exemplary record.
Free schools, a flagship Conservative education policy, can now be set up in response to parental demand or community groups who want to address a particular educational need. Woodpecker Hall will focus on literacy.
Like academies, free schools are not under the control of local authorities and can manage their own budgets, set their own curriculum and staff wages, but will be funded by central Government.
Ms Sowter said: "I have a background in teaching in areas of disadvantage and my ethos is just to focus on the quality of teaching. People often ask why Cuckoo Hall is so outstanding and there's no secret formula. We are just relentless about making sure our teachers are of the highest standard especially when training newly-qualified teachers.
"I think my staff would agree that I'm incredibly supportive, but it's not wrong to expect a high standard. It is a hard part of the job when headteachers have to confront teachers who are inadequate, but it has to be done."
She added: "I don't think of Woodpecker Hall as a 'free school' – that is just the legislation that has allowed us to open a new school that is state-funded, non-selective and open to all. This is a good thing for Edmonton where the numbers of school places is at a critical low."
The education professional said there are no plans to create a secondary school.