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Government in talks to use Brighton TA site for new secondary school
An army base could be the solution for a free school’s protracted search for a permanent home.
The Argus understands Government officials are in discussions about using the Territorial Army (TA) barracks in Dyke Road, Brighton as a permanent home for King’s School.
But the MOD maintained yesterday there are currently no plans to dispose of the site.
The free school opened this week at a temporary site in Portslade but needs a permanent home for the start of the 2016/17 school year.
The King Alfred and BHASVIC playing fields have both been previously cited as possible sites for the school, which will eventually accommodate a maximum 750 children.
Brighton and Hove City Council asked the Ministry of Defence (MOD) last year to use part of the site as an extension for Stanford Infant School but were knocked back.
Now it has emerged that officials from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) are in discussions with the MOD over acquiring the whole site for King’s School.
Because of how the free school system works, the team behind King’s School are unaware of the discussions.
Richard Elms, senior adviser at the Russell Education Trust and project manager for the Kings School, said: “I can remember months and months ago the site being mentioned but we were told it was one of the sites that the MOD didn’t want to get rid of.
“Obviously we have a fair degree of say in choosing a site that is sensible and suitable but ultimately it is the Department for Education’s decision.”
Mr Elms added that King Alfred remained the school’s preferred site but it remained “a dream”.
Brighton and Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “I am pleased that the EFA are putting in the legwork.
“They approved the King School without a site so it’s good they are now trying to find somewhere for it to go.”
Conservative councillor for young people Andrew Wealls said: “I can’t understand the need to have a TA centre right in the heart of city but we need schools here and I feel this site would be ideal.
“There is a chronic need for schools in the centre of Brighton or Hove and so we would welcome the King’s School moving on to the site.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said: “The council enquired with the Ministry of Defence whether part of the Territorial Army site in Dyke Road could be purchased to provide additional space for Stanford Infant School.
“The Ministry of Defence reply was that it was unwilling to dispose of any of this site, and the matter has not been pursued further.
“However, we understand that the Education Funding Agency has itself made enquiries of the Ministry of Defence on the availability of this site as a possible location for King’s School.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman: “We are continuing to work with the free school proposers and the council to find a permanent site for King’s Free School.
“We remain committed to helping the proposers establish a new school that will raise standards in the area and help to address the pressure on school places.”
A spokesman for the Army said: “There are no plans to dispose of the TA centre in Brighton at this time.”
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