Extension plan is ‘cherry on the cake’ at free school

Bedford Free School headteacher Mark Lehain. PNL-151102-144218001
Bedford Free School headteacher Mark Lehain. PNL-151102-144218001

A funding windfall that will pay for a new two storey extension at Bedford Free School has been described as the cherry on the cake by its headteacher.

Mark Lehain, pictured, said the plans for a sports hall and activity studio – which are possible thanks to a grant of more than £1million from the Department for Education – will mark the end of building work at the school.

Bedford Free School's plans for a two storey extension.

Bedford Free School's plans for a two storey extension.

The free school, which is expecting its first ever GCSE results this summer after opening its doors in September 2012, is based within a converted office block in Cauldwell Street.

The rear of the building is four storeys high and, under new plans, the front two storey section will be extended to add an extra two levels.

These will house a sports hall, which will allow the school to run some PE sessions on site for the first time, and an activity studio.

Mr Lehain said: “This is going to be the third and final phase to get the school finished.

Bedford Free School. Library image.

Bedford Free School. Library image.

“This is the cherry on the cake.

“We have amazing PE at this school, it is just that we currently go off site, which is the way that private schools have been doing it for years.

“It is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.”

The additional facilities will enable the school to expand its performing arts provision, run indoor sports sessions in games such as badminton and basketball and hire the venue to outside groups during evenings and weekends.

Bedford Free School's plans for a two storey extension.

Bedford Free School's plans for a two storey extension.

Students currently use the sports facilities at the Bunyan Centre, Bedford’s International Athletic Stadium as well 
as the field at King’s Oak Primary.

But if all goes to plan teenagers will be using outside facilities and the new school facilities by Christmas.

The school now has more than 470 students on its books and can cater for a maximum of 500 teenagers.

“We are over-subscribed in the majority of our year groups,” said Mr Lehain.

He said the school team are nervous but confident about what GSCE results day will bring in August and said ‘massive strides’ have been made since Ofsted inspectors rated the school as requiring improvement in February 2014 – little more than a year after it had opened.

“We have not been resting on our laurels,” he said.