THE Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was leading frantic efforts
this week to put together a last-minute rescue plan for the Fulham
Boys School (FBS), a Church of England free school, which had been
due to open in temporary premises in September, with a first-year
intake of about 90 pupils.
Preparations for the opening had been unexpectedly halted last
week after the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove,
refused to sign off funding for the school because a permanent site
had not been confirmed. A letter from the Department for Education
said that the project would be deferred by at least a year.
Postponement of the opening would leave at least 84 boys without
a secondary-school place, and would put in jeopardy the jobs of
newly recruited staff, many of whom had given up senior posts in
While local politicians - including the MP for Chelsea and
Fulham, Greg Sands - lobbied education ministers, staff from the
Mayor of London's education team were looking for a suitable
Greater London Authority-owned site that could be offered to FBS as
a permanent home. A spokesman for the Mayor's office said that he
had telephoned Mr Gove last Friday, and was hopeful that a solution
could be found. "Given the pressure on school places in London, the
Mayor shares the concern of pupils and parents," the spokesman
A meeting between Mr Gove and Mr Johnson was planned to take
place this week, to make a final decision that will benefit the
boys who no longer have a school to go to in September.
In a further move, it is understood that the chairman of FBS's
trustees, Alex Wade, was due to meet Lord Nash, the minister
responsible for free schools, on Wednesday.
FBS was proposed as a designated C of E boys' school in an area
of west London which has no single-sex boys schools, by a group of
mostly Anglican parents, about half of whom attend All Saints',
Fulham. The planned school is intended to emphasise academic and
The London Diocesan Board for Schools supports the project, but
was not part of the proposing group. It does, however, have one
representative on the trustees, and a further member represents the
The school was originally offered a permanent site at Sullivan
Primary School, which Hammersmith and Fulham Council's previous
Conservative-led administration had earmarked for merger with
another primary. But, after Labour took control of the council in
May, the new administration decided to review the merger. Since it
had no certainty of a permanent site, the long-term future of FBS
was then questioned by the Education Funding Agency, which provides
the capital for free schools on the Government's behalf.
Tory and Labour politicians are united in support for FBS. In a
statement, the Labour councillor Sue Macmillan, Hammersmith and
Fulham's Cabinet Member for Education, said that she had asked the
Secretary of State for an explanation of his "devastating" change
of heart on FBS nine weeks before it was due to open. "This
administration believes that free schools have an important role to
play in improving the quality of places on offer to local
families," she said.
Local Anglican leaders, including the Bishop of Kensington, the
Rt Revd Paul Williams; the Area Dean of Hammersmith and Fulham, the
Revd Guy Wilkinson; and the clergy and churchwardens of All
Saints', Fulham, all expressed their support for FBS this week.
Interviewed on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the
Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, promised that, although
a Labour government would not extend the free-schools programme, it
would retain, and continue to support, existing free schools.
The Mayor of London has already made available ten disused
police stations for school development, to help meet the pressure
on school places, it has been announced. One of these will provide
the base for the University Technical School, Newham, which is
sponsored by Chelmsford diocese.