Head teacher moves in at free school site

Lea Gilbert, head of Gildredge House
Lea Gilbert, head of Gildredge House

After a turbulent March, the head of Eastbourne’s proposed new free school has set up office on site and says she ‘excited and confident’ about the opening of Gildredge House in just 20 weeks’ time.

Lea Gilbert, who was appointed head last September, officially took up the role this week and moved in to her office at the former Dental Estimates Board site in Old Town.

Mrs Gilbert, the steering group and governors behind the proposed free school aim to create an all-through facility for reception children through to sixth form. The school will take Reception and Year Seven in September 2013 and will be up to its full capacity of 1,192 pupils by 2019.

But it has not been plain sailing, as last month a row saw some of the founding members leave the project. The argument sparked rumours. Mrs Gilbert said although it had been a ‘difficult time’ everything was on track.

There was also criticism the school had lost its local and community involvement following the row.

Mrs Gilbert, who has just moved from Peterborough for her new role, said it was ‘naive’ to think local companies could complete all aspects of the project but added, “We are using local suppliers too.

“Some of the governors who were previously in place are still there and they are from the Eastbourne community. There are also people on the steering group who have been here since the beginning.

“I intend to be part of the community as well. I have moved here with my husband and we see this as our home.”

Planning permission for Gildredge House will be considered in May and, if granted, work will take place in two stages. Mrs Gilbert said, “It is such an exciting time.

“The plans for the school are so exciting and it is breathtaking to see the work that is going to take place.

“The people who are involved in the project are those that have it close to their heart.

“Ultimately it is a wonderful opportunity for children in Eastbourne.”

A total of 108 Year Seven parents have accepted places out of a possible 120, meaning the 13 remaining places have been offered to the parents who were not successful in the first round of selection.

Mrs Gilbert admits it is a ‘leap of faith’ for the parents and teacher involved.

She said, “It is a step in to the unknown and it is not as certain as other school places, say Cavendish, that they may have been offered.

“I handed in my notice as deputy head at my school in Peterborough back in September and moved here with my husband. Some people might think I am a lunatic but I think it shows guts and a pioneering spirit. That goes for the teachers and the parents too.”

For information on jobs and open days visit www.gildredge house.org.uk