New free school welcomes first pupils despite Stotfold home not set to open until 2020

PUBLISHED: 16:39 10 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:39 10 September 2019

The new purpose-built site at Etonbury Academy. Picture: James Cunliffe

The new purpose-built site at Etonbury Academy. Picture: James Cunliffe

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A new free school has opened its doors for the first time, despite not having a permanent site.

The temporary building has four classrooms and a library, as well as other facilities. Picture: James CunliffeThe temporary building has four classrooms and a library, as well as other facilities. Picture: James Cunliffe

Pix Brook Academy, a free school devised by the Bedfordshire Schools Trust and Department of Education, welcomed Year 5 pupils last week at a purpose-built complex on the grounds of Etonbury Academy - situated between Arlesey and Stotfold.

The permanent site, off Arlesey Road in Stotfold, has begun construction and will open in 2020.

The temporary building - completely separate to Etonbury - has four classrooms, breakout spaces, a meeting room, a dining space, a library, a cycle store, a hard play area and sports field.

Councillor Sue Clark, Central Bedfordshire Council executive member for families, education and children, said: "We're delighted that Pix Brook has opened its doors to provide much-needed school places to children in the local community.

"We are currently working towards the delivery of the permanent new school facility.

"This exciting development is a welcome first phase of Central Bedfordshire Council's ambitious Schools for the Future programme to provide school places in areas of growth."

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The permanent site in Stotfold has been struck with controversy after wranglings over planning permission.

Stotfold Town Council threatened legal action against CBC in regards to an existing tenancy arrangement on a small area of land it leases.

A proposed football pitch to the south of the Arlesey Road site is believed to impede its leasehold interest.

Town councillor and deputy mayor Brian Collier called for a judicial review after accusing CBC of "not following proper processes".

A report to CBC's development management committee, however, said that the 19-acre Arlesey Road site is "outside the defined settlement of envelope of Stotfold".

Councillors approved the project with 10 votes in favour, none against and three abstentions.

The permanent Pix Brook free school will be an extended secondary for 1,260 pupils aged nine to 16.

Central Bedfordshire Council has claimed responsibility for ensuring there are enough school places for Arlesey, Fairfield and Stotfold pupils, after recent concerns of overcrowding.

Free schools are funded by the Department of Education and run by academies or multi-academy trusts.

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