A charity which opened a primary school with just 12 pupils last month has just been given the green light to create a new secondary school on three sites in the borough.

Harris Federation were pipped to the post by Chapel St, which had a bid for the free school approved by the Department for Education (DofE) on Tuesday.

Merton Council and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) fiercely opposed the Chapel St plans based on its lack of track record and the situation with Park Community School.

Last month it opened its doors to just 12 children in what Councillor Martin Whelton, Labour cabinet member for education described as a ‘corrugated iron hut’ - the former Salvation Army building in Morden.

The Salvation Army building in Morden.

The charity has yet to start redeveloping the school's permanent base in Morden Road despite claiming it will be built and running by next September.

It had originally planned to open a school on the Motspur Park/Raynes Park border where there was a high demand for primary school places.

Coun Whelton said he has grave concerns about Chapel St's secondary plan and the council had written to the Secretary of State to oppose it.

But it has no power to appeal the decision by the Secretary of State for Education allowing it to move to the implementation stage.

He said: "From a council perspective Harris is our preferred operator for a secondary school.

"We have concerns about Chapel St because they don’t have a proven track record.

"We want the best possible outcome for our children.

"The decision made is regrettable - we want Harris over Chapel St."

He said Harris was preparing an application for a Merton secondary school and the DofE should have considered both at the same time.

But Merton Conservatives welcomed the news.

Leader Oonagh Moulton said: "I am delighted to hear it and I am fully supportive of the Chapel St mission."

Referring to Park Community School, Coun Moulton added: "Once it has moved in to their new site numbers will pick up and it will become an excellent addition to Merton."

Chapel St said the new secondary school will open its doors in September 2016 and will be called Trinity High School.

It said it will be based on three sites, each with its own specialism - science and innovation, business and enterprise, and the arts - "combining the scale and efficiencies of a 1,100 student secondary school with the smaller and more intimate provision that many students and families prefer," a statement said.

No specific sites have been announced but previous speculation centred on the Chaucer Centre in Canterbury Road, Morden, Worsfold House in Church Road, Mitcham and a children’s centre in Leyton Road, Colliers Wood.

The three had been whittled down from 41 originally named in the Merton Council's sites and policies plan.

All of the sites are owned by the council.

President of Merton NUT, Maurice Sharp said: "We are totally opposed to this free school because they have no control by the local authority.

"Most of them are using unqualified teachers because they are cheaper.

"The amount of money poured into the schools is incredible - state schools are starved of funds.

"It is a kick in the face by this present government against education in general."

Chapel St has not responded to repeated requests for information about both schools from the Wimbledon Guardian.

Instead it issued a short statement yesterday from its chief executive, Dr Russell Rook, said: "It is not often that a community gets the chance to start a school from scratch.

"Trinity High School will have the community at its heart and I would wholeheartedly encourage parents, children and the wider community to join us in making the most of the opportunity that opening Merton's newest school presents."