Go-ahead for Harpenden free school is confirmed

IT is full steam ahead for a new primary school in Harpenden which has now reached agreement to take over the former Oaklands College building in the town.

Harpenden Free School will open in temporary accommodation in mid September as planned for the first cohort of Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children.

And this week chair of the free school, Adam Nichols, revealed that it had acquired the former college and school building in Victoria Road which has been largely empty for the past few years.

It plans to construct a purpose-built state-of-the-art new school to open in 2014 which will incorporate the existing Victorian frontage.

In the meantime the school will open in temporary premises, a 14th-Century tithe barn between Redbourn and Harpenden, on September 17.

Adam said: “It has been a long and winding road to make our new school a reality but it will be worth it when we welcome parents and children next month.

“We are extremely grateful for the fantastic support we’ve received from the local community and we are looking forward to getting started with our outstanding team of teachers.”

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Confirmation of the September opening has followed the signing of a funding agreement with the Department for Education which has also enabled the school to formally acquire the Victoria Road site.

It was built in 1894 and originally opened as a school for 400 children. In 1939 the school moved to Manland and the northern end of the building was converted into a First Aid post manned continuously throughout the war.

The town’s library moved there in 1947 and in the post-war years, the site housed a campus of Oaklands College and a youth centre.

In recent years a lot of the building has been unused and with the imminent relocation of the library to the former Argos site in Harpenden High Street, the entire building became available.

Adam said: “We are delighted to be returning this iconic Harpenden landmark to its original use as a school.

“The building has always been at the centre of the local community, pioneering evening classes from 1908 and housing evacuees in the early years of the Second World War – an ethos which we plan to continue over the years to come.”

The free school will be a two form of entry school with each year group consisting of 60 pupils so it will have a full roll of 420 pupils once it is at full capacity.

It is underpinned by three founding partners and will have a Montessori approach as practised by one of its three founding partners, Artisans Kindergarten.

There are still a handful of places available and more information is available from the website at www.harpendenfsreeschool.org.uk