THE Department for Education has been "backed into a corner" over its three-time rejection of a Lewisham free school championing young black boys.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has been forced to change the free school application process after accusations that the rejection of Diaspora High School exposed a lack of equal opportunities.

Headteacher of the all-boys school for five to 18-year-olds – which aims to give strong male role models and combat boys drifting into crime – Kay Johnston says she believes there was a "degree of discrimination" involved in the rebuffs.

It comes after mother-of-six Patricia Johnson, whose son was due to start at the school in September this year before the third rejection, took the department to the High Court over the issue, with support from Mrs Johnston.

Teacher-of-33-years Mrs Johnston told News Shopper: "There’s been a lot of procrastination from the Department for Education.

"We backed them into a corner because I have refused to give up.

"It’s just been one excuse after another that they couldn’t really justify.

"It was an absolute disgrace.

"I hadn’t wanted to go along this line, but yes, I believe there was some degree of discrimination."

The High Court battle ended with a settlement saying the department will now record details of any equality impact with applications, but Ms Johnston insists the changes are too vague.

The 57-year-old mother-of-four first had her vision rejected in 2010 for "spurious reasons" which culminated in the third dismissal in July last year when she claims she was told the project was too ambitious.

The free school would offer pupils male mentors from the community - such as doctors, lawyers, bankers - and follow the International Primary and Middle Years Curriculums with hands-on subjects including construction, painting, and carpentry taught alongside the more traditional.

Ms Johnston, who lives off Brownhill Road, Hither Green, said: "We have had 57 mentors sign up so far.

"Cambridge University offered to give masterclasses on Saturdays. Everybody is just waiting to go."

She has been told to reapply in September and will start a recruitment drive over the summer and aims open the school’s doors in September next year.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We always look to refine and improve the free school application process, learning from our experience of previous application rounds."