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Alarm over rumours about Askham Family Centre

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Toby Young, the man at the head of the group planning to launch West London Free School in September 2011, says he hopes to make " a full announcement about the school's site" in the "near future".

His statement comes as rumours continue to strengthen about the school's arrival in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Though Hammersmith's Palingswick House, currently home to 23 local charities, is widely expected to become the school's permanent site, it is now being predicted that the Askham Family Centre, off Uxbridge Road in Shepherd's Bush will be made available to the school while Palingswick House is being vacated and prepared.

It has also been reported that during this time, which may be for an entire year, the school will be allowed to use the Askham Centre either free or by paying a nominal rent.

This prospect has alarmed Stephen Cowan, Leader of Labour Group of Councillors, who points out: " A wide range of families, including those with severely disabled children, are currently provided with vital support at the Askham Family Centre."

Mr Cowan says he has written to the director of education to seek clarification and find out exactly what is happening to those families.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which confirmed last month that it was " actively helping in the search for a suitable site in the borough" refused to confirm the rumours today.

Instead it issued a statement saying: " We are having ongoing discussions with the West London Free School about potential sites and we are keen to support them in developing their application for government approval. We haven't yet agreed any specific site but we will happily share any news as soon as we have it."

In the meantime, the school is now accepting applications from parents of local children in year six at primary school. You can find out more about applying at the school website.

The school is expected to launch next September with 120 pupils in Year 7. It plans to specialise in music and children will be expected to study Latin at least until the age of 14 and to sit at least eight academic GCSEs or IGCSEs. Competitive sport will be a big part of school life.

Toby Young says: " We believe the West London School will prove popular with both parents and children in Hammersmith & Fulham, offering a choice that many of them don’t have at present.

" In addition to academic rigour, the school will be characterised by high expectations, strong discipline and a competitive atmosphere."

West London Free School was one of three local schools given the go ahead by the Coalition Government in September.

Announcing the names of the first batch of 16 schools across the country, Education Secretary Michael Gove said the schools, which are state funded but outside of local authority control, had all been driven by demand from local people.

The other two free schools are both in Shepherd's Bush. They are Ark Conway primary in White City and the Rivendale Free School, both catering for for primary age children.

West London Free School is holding an open event for parents (children also welcome) on Wednesday December 15 from 4-7pm at the Lyric Hammersmith in King Street. Presentations will be given at 4.30pm, 5.30pm, and 6.30pm, and details the admissions process for September 2011 will be
available. For more information email the school at newfreeschool@gmail.com.

December 13, 2010