Difficulty finding a site will delay the opening of York’s first free school.
Ebor Academy Trust won government backing for the new school in July and originally hoped to open the Creative Arts Academy York next year – but property surveyors are still searching for a suitable site.
The former park and ride car park at Askham Bar was Ebor’s preferred option, but discussions between City of York Council, the trust and the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which identifies sites for the Department for Education, have failed to reach agreement. The council have earmarked that site for affordable housing in their draft local plan.
“We have now run out of time to be able to open next year,” said Ebor’s chief executive Richard Ludlow. “It’s important that we get this right. Our new school will provide an innovative primary education, offering a creative arts-based curriculum alongside academic rigour but finding two acres on which to put it, is proving something of a challenge.
“We are in regular contact with the EFA who are exploring the feasibility of a number of possible sites,” he said. “Unfortunately we can’t talk about them openly as it might jeopardise negotiations. City of York Council has been helpful in making some suggestions and surveyors are working hard on our behalf to come up with what we want. I am confident we’ll find a site but disappointed we are not able to open when we would have liked.”
As well as land for a new build, existing premises which could be adapted are also being considered.
A clearer idea of when the school, for children aged between 4 and 11, could open will be known once a suitable site is agreed.
York-based Ebor Academy Trust runs two primary schools locally, Robert Wilkinson in Strensall and Haxby Road. Hob Moor and Hob Moor Oaks are set to become members of the academy group soon and Park Grove is currently consulting with a view to joining if governors agree. Outside York, there are schools in the trust, or committed to joining it, in Selby, the East Riding and on the Yorkshire Coast.