RENT of more than a quarter-of-a-million pounds has been paid at Parkfield School’s former premises in the last year despite it lying empty.

The Department for Education has forked out £260,200 for empty office block Dorset House since the school moved to its new multi-million pounds premises at Hurn in September last year.

The figure came to light following a Freedom of Information request which has been seen by the Daily Echo.

Parkfield has recently joined the Reach South Academy Trust and the lease for Dorset House is set to be “re-assigned” to them.

But it is understood that the government will continue to pick up the bill.

It is not known how long the lease is for and a Department for Education spokesperson refused to comment, saying the situation is “commercially sensitive.”

Parkfield opened at Dorset House in Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, in 2013 after failing to secure a suitable town centre site.

After numerous delays the free school moved to a site near Bournemouth Airport in September 2017.

Bournemouth Echo: SCHOOL PLAN: Dorset House in Christchurch Road, Bournemouth

The move was delayed several times due to problems with asbestos, bats and other issues.

And last year it was revealed the new site cost £3 million.

That did not include include building costs, professional fees or ICT costs, likely to run into many more millions of pounds.

The Department for Education has faced criticism over its spending on free schools.

Parkfield, an all-through school, has a troubled past and progress made by last year’s Year 11 pupils was among the worst in the country.

But this summer GCSE grades were above the national average and the school finally secured a sponsor in Reach South, which also runs Malmesbury Park and Hill View primary schools in Bournemouth.

Ian Golding has been made permanent head teacher of the school, which currently has around 400 pupils.

When last visited by Ofsted inspectors in October last year, Parkfield was given an overall rating of Requires Improvement.

Bournemouth Echo:

Early Years provision was graded as Good.

A spokesperson for Reach South confirmed they would not be funding the lease.

They added: “The lease is in the process of being reassigned to Reach South.

“This will be funded fully by the Education Skills Funding Agency, not by the academy or Reach South.”