PUPILS at Bournemouth's first free school will spend the first week of term at a scout camp because their school is still a building site.

Parkfield School was due to open in the Dorset House office block in the Lansdowne on September 9, with capacity for up to 364 pupils.

But just weeks before the start of term, the school confirmed that the bill for refurbishing the inside of Dorset House in Christchurch Road had tripled to over £1.1million.

Parents have also been told the building work is behind schedule and that pupils will be educated at Butcher's Coppice - a Scout campsite and activity centre - until it is completed.

In his latest newsletter principal Terry Conaghan said: “Finding an alternative venue for nearly 300 children aged four to 14 was quite a challenge.

“However we have been fortunate enough to secure the use of Butcher's Coppice and Community Outdoor Centre which is a fantastic facility near to Bear Cross in Bournemouth.”

He added: “We appreciate that this is an unconventional start for the children in their new school but the situation at Dorset House is totally beyond our control. This actually could turn out to be an excellent way for the children to get to know each other.”

Parkfield School was originally intended to open in September 2012 and places were offered to prospective pupils in Bournemouth and Poole. But its opening had to be deferred when it could not secure its chosen site at Homelife House.

Dorset House will be a temporary base for Parkfield School for just two years. As well as paying for the refurbishment of Dorset House, the Government is funding a brand new purpose-built school in the centre of Bournemouth as their permanent base.

Parkfield School will eventually be an all-through school catering for up to 784 pupils.

Efforts to contact Parkfield School were unsuccessful. When the Echo visited the site, contractors from Kier were working in the building but could not give details of how the work was progressing.


A FREEDOM of Information request to the Government to find out how much has been spent on Parkfield School so far was only partially successful.

The Department for Education refused to release a breakdown of expenditure, because it said it was more appropriate to publish this information once the school was open.

They did however confirm that all free schools received up to £300,000 to spend on administration, staff costs and legal support.

Head teacher Terry Conaghan was appointed in January 2012 and has been in position ever since. The Department for Education would not give details of how much he was being paid as this is confidential information.

What is a free school?

Free schools are schools set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, trusts or voluntary groups and funded by central government.

They are independent of local authorities,which means they have increased control over their curriculum, teachers' pay and conditions and the structure of the school year.

They were a key part of the Conservative's last election manifesto and are championed by education secretary Michael Gove, who believes they offer greater parental choice. The first 24 free schools opened in September 2011 and more than 100 are due to open this year.