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Children in tears as Durham Free School closes

Durham Free School Credit: ITV News

Durham Free School has closed today, after a campaign to keep it open ended in failure.

Less than two years after opening, Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan ordered that the school be shut despite a passionate campaign by parents to keep it open with many saying it had transformed their children's lives.

In January, the government said it was terminating Durham Free School's funding agreement after inspectors rated the school inadequate.

Students, staff and parents of The Durham Free School have today marked the school’s closure with a service of thanksgiving.

The school has told ITV Tyne Tees that many of the children were in tears during the service which included readings, prayers written by students, a choir performance and the presentation of awards.

Our time at The Durham Free School ended with a sense of celebration for all that the children have achieved and thankfulness for the undying commitment of staff to care for the children and the continued support of parents and other supporters. It has been an incredibly traumatic time for our staff who have suffered personal abuse from a local MP and had their livelihoods threatened. They have been the consummate professionals throughout, behaving in an exemplary manner and always in the best interests of the children. It is a sad day."

– Acting headteacher Julian Eisner

We put up a fantastic fight and we can all walk out with our heads held very high. We all did our best and we can all be proud of what The Durham Free School has taught us."

– Dave Lewin, parent

School closure 'like breaking up a family'

A school pupil says the decision to close Durham Free School is 'like breaking up a family'.

A statement released on the school's Facebook page last night confirm that campaigners had decided not to pursue a Judicial Review and that the school will close at Easter.

Sophie Dinning and her dad John Dinning told ITV News the decision to close the school is a disgrace.

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Campaigners 'legally advised' to withdraw school closure challenge

The Chair of Governors at The Durham Free School, John Denning, said they have withdrawn their legal challenge against the government's decision to withdraw funding from the school at Easter.

He told ITV News that their decision followed further legal advise regarding pursuing a judicial review.

DfE: Durham Free School 'not delivering high standard of education'

The Department for Education has released a statement regarding the announcement that Durham Free School will close at Easter.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

After carefully considering all of the issues and representations I have received, I have taken the decision to proceed with the closure of Durham Free School. The Department for Education operates on the basis that the interests of children must come first and it is clear that the school is not delivering the high standard of education that parents and I expect. It is also clear that there is no imminent prospect of improvement and I am not prepared to let any child remain in a failing school. While I know this decision will mean some upheaval for those pupils still in attendance, I am confident that it is the right thing to do. We are already working with the local authority to ensure every child is found a suitable place at another local school.

– Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary

School closure is 'like breaking up a family'

Sophie Dinning (left) and dad John Dinning say the decision to close Durham Free School is a disgrace Credit: ITV

A school pupil says the decision to close Durham Free School is 'like breaking up a family'.

A statement released on the school's Facebook page last night confirm that campaigners had decided not to pursue a Judicial Review and that the school will close at Easter.

Sophie Dinning and her dad John Dinning told ITV News the decision to close the school is a disgrace.

Campaigners give up the fight to save Durham Free School

Durham Free School Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Durham Free School WILL close at Easter after campaigners decided not to pursue a Judicial Review.

A statement released on the school's Facebook page last night said even if a review of the Secretary of State's decision was successful, it would not guarantee the school stayed open in the future.

The statement went on to describe the decision by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan as a 'miscarriage of justice' and said the priority now was finding alternative schools for the children.

The Department for Education said, following an OFSTED inspection, the school had failed to show enough evidence of improvement, and gave formal notice that its funding would be terminated and should close before Easter.

Last night the school said it would work hard to ensure the last weeks of the school term were as happy and fulfilling as possible for the children

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that The Durham Free School will close at Easter. We have taken the difficult decision not to pursue a Judicial Review against the Secretary of State for Education. Even if successful, it would do little to assure the school stayed open. Our priority must be to focus on helping the children and their families who have been so badly affected by this terrible miscarriage of justice and to make their last days at the school, which has become like a second family to many, as happy and celebratory as possible.

– Durham Free School

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Parents will home-school children if free school closes

Parents outside Durham Free School showed emotion as they said they were 'devastated' by the news that the school will close at Easter.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said funding will stop after it failed to improve following a highly critical Ofsted report in January.

Defiant parents told ITV News Tyne Tees they would continue to fight the closure, and several said if they failed to do so, they would teach their children at home instead.

'Sufficient places' for Durham Free School pupils

Durham County Council says it has identified 'sufficient places' at alternative schools for pupils currently at Durham Free School.

“Our school admissions team has identified sufficient places at local schools, all of which are rated as at least good by Ofsted, for every student currently studying at this school or who has indicated it as their first choice for this September.

“Many parents have already been in touch and of those a number have also applied for an alternative school place. We will work with parents and receiving schools to ensure that pupils have the smoothest possible transition to their new place of study.

“Any parents who would like support and advice on this can speak with the schools admissions team on 03000 265 896.”

– Caroline O’Neill - Durham County Council
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