Department for Education assure Beccles Free School will open
13:12 30 August 2012
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012
The first free school for Waveney will welcome high school children for the first time next Thursday.
Figures have revealed that Beccles Free School has only attracted two new pupils in the past month, but despite a register of 66 children, the Department for Education has made assurances that it will open.
This comes after a free school in Bradford had its government funding withdrawn a week before it was due to open for not attracting enough pupils
The One In A Million Free School had an initial intake target of 50 pupils but had only enrolled 30.
The Seckford Foundation’s Beccles Free School, which has a capacity for 162 places, is to open at the former Carlton Colville Primary School site on Thursday with 66 children across years seven, eight and nine.
Asked for assurances on the future of the school, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “Beccles Free School will open in September. The school will drive up standards and provide greater opportunity and choice for local parents and children.”
Rob Cawley, principal of the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, added that they were confident more pupils will join them in Beccles during the year, as well as at their free school in Saxmundham, which will open with 104 pupils.
“It is a very exciting time for us with the opening of two brand new schools. We are all working hard to ensure that pupils at both schools have a good experience from the moment they first walk through the doors,” he said.
The Suffolk NUT has said the decision to push ahead with the schools is “scandalous” and urged parents to rethink their decision to send their children to the sites or face further disruption to their education.
Graham White, branch secretary, said: “It’s taxpayers’ money for a school that’s not needed, which will not provide a broad and balanced curriculum for the community.”
He added: “My advice to parents is even at this late stage, don’t send them to a free school – send them to a local school instead.”
A campaign has been run against the free school, with Mark Bee, the county councillor for Beccles, and Waveney MP Peter Aldous speaking out against the plans.
Mr Bee said: “These figures demonstrate that this is not the right time for a free school in Beccles and that the Seckford Trust should be focusing its efforts on making the Saxmundham school a real success.
“I have some serious reservations about the sustainability of Beccles Free School.”
The Department for Education said that the funding agreement for the school would be published in the autumn.
It will move to the former Beccles Middle School site in September 2014.