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Headteacher quits city's first free school

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

The headteacher of the Black Country's first free school has quit her post - and the school's controlling body has disbanded less than a year into its existence.

Anand Primary School opened its doors in Wolverhampton in September last year.

But it can today be revealed the body set up to oversee the running of the school has agreed to relinquish its control amid fears about the low number of pupils - just 20 - on the school roll.

The Wolverhampton Sangat Education Trust is to fold after its board agreed to allow the Birmingham-based Nishkam School Trust to take control of the school.

Headteacher Kulbinder Kaur Pouni, who took up her post in September 2013, told the Express & Star she had resigned and would be leaving on September 1.

The news comes just a week after the Government gave the go ahead for 38 new free schools to open by September 2015, including another one planned for Wolverhampton.

They are created by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, religious or voluntary groups, but funded directly by central government.

Anand Primary was set up at the former Orchard Centre in Great Brickkiln Street with the aid of a £220,000 grant from the Department for Education (DfE).

It received a further £1.6 million from the Government last year to build an eight-classroom extension.

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It is run with Sikh principals but open to people of all faiths or none, aims to have 420 pupils on its books by 2019.

But only 20 children started classes last September - 40 fewer than the initial target of 60 starts.

And a letter from the Wolverhampton Local Education Authority sent out to governors in February stated only 14 pupils had put the school down as first choice for next year.

Teja Sidhu, who was part of the school's pre-opening steering group, said: "The low number of pupils on the school roll is clearly of great concern.

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"But it is disappointing for Wolverhampton that a city with the second largest Sikh population in the UK cannot run its own school."

Robert Cooper, spokesman for the Department for Education, today said Anand Free School was a small primary school set up in direct response to demand from parents.

"It has only been open for nine months – and it is perfectly normal for any type of new school to take time to fully establish itself," he added.

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