A new high school for Beccles?

A NEW high school could open in Beccles in September 2012 under ambitious new plans currently being worked on by the community.

A group of parents of youngsters at Beccles Middle School, which is set to close under Suffolk County Council’s reorganisation of schools, want to create a new free school on the site which could serve up to 600 pupils aged between 11 and 16.

Under government arrangements new state-funded schools can be established in response to parental demand.

The Beccles Free School Project Group is in the preliminary stages of inquiries, but representatives say the feedback received so far has been very positive.

Free schools are similar to acad-emies. They are funded directly from central government, will be the subject of Ofsted inspections and will have freedom from local authority control.

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Beccles already has the Sir John Leman High School and the group says the new facility would provide parents with a choice.

They say it would also respond to concerns from parents and teachers in Beccles and south Lowestoft over the transitional arrangements under the school organisation review.

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Aidan McHugh, a father-of-two, is one of the parents involved. He said: “There appears to be a significant demand for having extra high school capacity within this area and it will give parents a choice.

“There is a danger that kids caught up in the school organisation review programme are going to have their education compromised. We are adamant that will not happen.”

Mr McHugh added: “It is almost identical to the way that every other school works, but setting up a free school requires commitment and demand from parents. We are trying to get a debate going with the community to see what are people’s thoughts and feelings.”

He said the school would be an “exceptional facility” and would “set extremely high standards”. It would welcome students of all abilities.

Mr McHugh said the group will consult local people before submitting a formal proposal to the secretary of state.

“At the middle school we believe we have a really great school and we want to continue the same philosophy,” he said.

“One of the comments made by the last senior Ofsted inspector was that if she was to come back in three years time she expected us to be an outstanding school. “We want to make sure education in Beccles is of outstandingly high quality in the future – that is really our philosophy.”

The group has registered with the New Schools Network, a charitable organisation set up to promote new schools supported by parents, and it plans to arrange a series of consultation meetings to discuss the new school plans.

l The group would like people to email their views and comments on the plans to freeschoolbeccles@gmail.com

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