An artist's impression of the Barclay Secondary Free School. Image: Lion Education Trust

An artist’s impression of the Barclay Secondary Free School. Image: Lion Education Trust

A new free school could start taking in pupils as early as next year if planning chiefs grant it permission to open on a depot site near Hackney Marshes.

The Lion Education Trust acquired the Lea Bridge Road site after Thames Water sold the land to the Education Funding Agency.

Christopher Stark, senior project manager for the scheme, told the Hackney Citizen a “substantial number” of Hackney-based parents had already signed up to send their children to the secondary school.

The site is located just over the border from the borough, and an application for the new school buildings is expected to go before a Waltham Forest Council committee early next year.

Stark pledged there would a wealth of sports provision on the site, with new playing fields set to be created in 11 acre grounds.

He added: “Our catchment area is 2.3m from the centre of the site – which means we include a large swathe of north and east Hackney – Clapton and the like – so parents from Hackney are very much invited and welcome to apply for places.”

Lion Education Trust already operates several primary schools.

Barclay Secondary Free School, as it will be known, will initially be based in temporary premises on the Lea Bridge Road site – which it will share with a primary free school called Athena.

To begin with, the secondary school will offer places for 208 pupils in Year 7, but once fully occupied in 2023, it will provide education to 1,400 pupils.

A public exhibition outlining the plans took place last weekend at the WaterWorks Centre.

Justin James, the Lion Academy Trust’s chief executive, has said the new school will “help to meet the looming shortage of quality spaces for families” and “ensure that the ‘no excuses’ culture and relentless pursuit of excellence we demonstrate in our primary schools is extended into the secondary phase”.

A flagship education policy by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, free schools operate outside of local authority control.

Unlike grammar schools, they do not use any academic selection process.

Support us


The coronavirus outbreak has meant that the Hackney Citizen has been unable to print a monthly newspaper for the last three months.

The need for quality news and reliable reporting is crucial - however, this is an increasingly challenging time for local journalism.

Our main source of income, print advertising revenue, fell suddenly - and so we are asking you, the readers, for your help.A one-off donation from anyone who can afford it will help our small team get our newspaper back in print and keep the website and social media feeds running through this unprecedented crisis.

Find out how you can donate.

Thanks in advance for your support, and stay safe.