Two of the country’s leading academy trusts have clashed over plans for an “unneeded” free school in north London.
Plans for Ark to build the Ark Pioneer Academy – a secondary school with a sixth form – on the site of the former Underhill Stadium in Barnet are expected to be rubber-stamped soon despite objections from United Learning, which took over the nearby Totteridge Academy in November 2016.
The new school will open in September 2019, and will have 900 secondary and 300 sixth-form places when it reaches full capacity. The Totteridge Academy, a secondary school with 399 unfilled spaces, is located just 0.7 miles away.
Two more secondary free schools with sixth forms – Saracens High School and The Compton School – will also open in the borough this year and next year respectively.
Ark insists the Pioneer Academy is needed to address “the need for additional places in Barnet” that have been identified by Barnet Council and the Department for Education, but in its own analysis, United Learning said there was already a surplus of places in the borough and no need for another secondary school.
Jon Coles, United Learning’s chief executive and a former DfE civil servant, blasted local and national officials over their handling of the case.