Free school bid edges closer

PARENTS seeking to set up their own free school in Beccles are preparing to submit their bid to the Department for Education in the coming weeks.

It recently emerged that Suffolk’s oldest charity the Seckford Foundation is backing proposals for the new school along with another at Saxmundham.

The idea for a new school in Beccles comes from a group of parents of pupils at Beccles Middle School, which is set to close under Suffolk County Council’s reorganisation of schools.

They have formed the Beccles Free School Project Group to drive the plan forward.

Beccles already has the Sir John Leman High School but 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, Carlton Colville and south Lowestoft over the transitional arrangements under the school organisation review.

If the plans go ahead the new school would be called Waveney High School and would cater for youngsters aged 11 to 16.

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It would open in September next year and would be non-selective and cater for 540 pupils.

Free schools are funded directly by central government and are subject to Ofsted inspections, but are free from local authority control.

However, the proposals have proved controversial at Sir John Leman High where the headteacher, Jeremy Rowe, and David Castleon, chairman of the governors, have expressed their “profound reservations” about the proposed scheme.

A spokesman for the Beccles Free School Project Group said: “The link up between the Seckford Foundation and two proposed new free schools in Beccles and Saxmundham is breaking new ground in education with the independent and state sectors working together, this model has the potential to transform education in Suffolk.

“The groups from Beccles and Saxmundham met with representatives of the Seckford Foundation, which governs the independent Woodbridge School, to confirm their alliance and to set out an action plan to implement the new structure.

“The teams are now working jointly on submitting the bids that will see the schools working together in providing shared educational and administrative services. These will be submitted to the Department for Education by June 1.

“The new partnership arrangements are a great boost to our efforts. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from parents.”

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