A new row has erupted about Waveney’s first free school after the government minister who controversially gave it the go-ahead said it was becoming “increasingly popular” with parents.

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Lord Hill of Oareford approved Beccles Free School last May despite fierce opposition from local campaigners, head teachers and senior politicians.

At that time there were only 37 applications for places, but now he has spoken of his delight that it has grown to have 102 pupils on its books – meaning more than a third of its places remain unfilled.

Lord Hill, parliamentary under secretary of state for schools, said: “I am delighted that since Beccles Free School opened in September and parents have been able to see first hand the sort of secondary education being offered, the numbers have climbed steadily. There are now 102 pupils on roll. As a small secondary school with a focus on academic subjects, Beccles offers parents a choice that seems to be increasingly popular.”

However, the minister’s comments prompted new demands that the Department for Education (DfE) publish how much it cost to set to up the school, which has a capacity of 162 pupils on its current site in Carlton Colville, near Lowestoft.

Peter Byatt, NUT secretary for the Lowestoft area and Waveney councillor for Pakefield, said: “I condemn the DfE’s continued refusal to reveal the details of the school’s funding, broken down into building costs, staffing and provision of free uniforms, meals and other items to pupils.

“This is public money, and at a time of national belt-tightening we are entitled to transparency.

“No-one would dispute the fact that our children deserve the best education possible, but by diverting funds into this school’s away from high schools in order to ensure small class sizes in morally wrong.”

It was believed the funding agreement would be released in the autumn of 2012, but a DfE spokesman said this week that it will publish the funding for all 2012 free schools “shortly”.

He said: “Details of the capital funding each school received will be published when contracts for site acquisition and renovation are finalised, and therefore the cost of the project is no longer commercially sensitive.”

Parents wanting to set up a free school turned to the Woodbridge-based Seckford Foundation for help, but their plan prompted fierce objections with Conservative MP for Waveney Peter Aldous and the leader of the Tory-controlled county council, Mark Bee, who represents Beccles, speaking out against it.

But Lord Hill opted to approve the school, which is outside local authority control.

The school currently accommodates Years 7-9 but when it relocates to the former Beccles Middle School next year it will have space for 540 students from Years 7-11.

29 comments

  • Good to have a mature debate...I would ask any supporters of the Free School concept to spend a few minutes reading this link http:jimsweetman.comwhy-free-schools-would-cost-education as it explains where I'm coming from better than I can!

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

  • And for how long have you worked for NSN damon7? :-) Or maybe you're an intern?

    Report this comment

    point du jour

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

  • @damon7...I am no apologist for Ed Balls...I had hoped, as did many,that the last government would actually listen to representatives of public sector workers, who had a real understanding of how things could be done better...also, I firmly believe that any Secretary of State should have had working experience of their own department's responsibilities...thus a former teacher for education, a doctor for health etc etc.The ongoing problem specifically for Education is that every initiative to improve standards has a short shelf life...the 5-year Election cycle is to blame for this as governments want to see immediate results to make themselves look good...what is needed is to take the politics out of education so that a sound 10 year plan can be put into place without interference, but with regular reviews as to it's progress. In addition to this, there has to be something for children to aspire to...if there are no jobs, then what point in achieving academic or vocational success.Furthermore, there is no point in trying to get everyone to the same academic standard...just to find the square holes for the square pegs...common sense without political dogma.What is tiresome are the constant attacks on teachers ( and other state sectors) by this government because it makes for good headlines in the Press...and provokes the unions into trying to protect their members form childish abuse from ministers etc! As for your 4 questions - Academies are simply re-vamped state schools receiving funding as before...using the same site.Free Schools receive funding for setting-up a school in new premises - there were expensive alterations needed for the Carlton Colville site, in addition to the freebies offered, and the disproportionate costs for the Senior Management Team therefore more expensive than the Academy equivalent.Your second query regarding SJL...if their class sizes were reduced to those of the subsidised Free School, their results would improve...although they are already good.I cannot comment on the decision to close the Tweet account, but your 4th point regarding opposition to Academies locally and nationally...all unions have campaigned actively against this but are faced by a government that sees the removal of schools from local authority control as essential...so much for Localism and the Big Society! In conclusion, I stand by my point about SCC...they have cut so many services which support schools and thus now reap the rewards with poor results. As usual, the portfolio holder for education blames everyone else...but what has he been doing for the past few years!

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

  • Pig headed dogma and party politics, against local authorities provisions and their own party advise, has made this small town into a national laughing stock thanks to Michael Gove and Lord Hill.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • @Dogberry - Your point about the lack of financial transparency is an important one. (As are all your other points, of course!) The DfE spokesman's comment about commercial sensitivity is not encouraging.

    Report this comment

    point du jour

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Just looked at the link to the Independent and can see your confusion...you need to read Column A not D...I cannot understand why they have created such a misleading chart as the EngMaths percentages are listed in two places.That's statisticians for you!

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Hi PdJ: Wow, I never realised how much NSN achieved year after year on so little! They are a credit to themselves. Perhaps some of our failing academies littering lowestoft and waveney could do well to invite NSN in and advise them how to put their children first with all the extra cash every one has instead of churning out dissapointing GSCE results year after year after year after year......

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

  • Dogberry - can you confirm that it is the Tories who have ruined education in Suffolk? I seem to recall a very aptly named politician called Ed Balls doing a super job of collapsing standards for many years so at least every child left school with a 'well done' certificate. And lets not mention the millions wasted on the Diploma scandal. I also recall he was in the Labour Party.Ring any bells for you Dogberry?

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Hello Dogberry. The stats don't lie. The key word is 'equivilent'. What many schools promoted their lesser able children complete were Key Skills and Functional Skills or an Adult Literacy and Numeracy multiple guess paper. Somehow, if a child got one of these , it was a GCSE equivilent for the school results!! Michael Gove, to his major credit has blocked this from happening any more. It is understandably insulting to a child who spends 2 years hard gcse maths study to gaIn a 'c' to be judged the same standard as a child who knocked out a KS or FS or ALAN in 4 months with teacher's help on the portfolio! So, the figures are right. The ones quoted are the percentage of children who got pure GCSE maths and English. Employers are also no longer fooled by 'equivilents' either.....

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • @damon7...I am no apologist for Ed Balls...I had hoped, as did many,that the last government would actually listen to representatives of public sector workers, who had a real understanding of how things could be done better...also, I firmly believe that any Secretary of State should have had working experience of their own department's responsibilities...thus a former teacher for education, a doctor for health etc etc.The ongoing problem specifically for Education is that every initiative to improve standards has a short shelf life...the 5-year Election cycle is to blame for this as governments want to see immediate results to make themselves look good...what is needed is to take the politics out of education so that a sound 10 year plan can be put into place without interference, but with regular reviews as to it's progress. In addition to this, there has to be something for children to aspire to...if there are no jobs, then what point in achieving academic or vocational success.Furthermore, there is no point in trying to get everyone to the same academic standard...just to find the square holes for the square pegs...common sense without political dogma.What is tiresome are the constant attacks on teachers ( and other state sectors) by this government because it makes for good headlines in the Press...and provokes the unions into trying to protect their members form childish abuse from ministers etc! As for your 4 questions - Academies are simply re-vamped state schools receiving funding as before...using the same site.Free Schools receive funding for setting-up a school in new premises - there were expensive alterations needed for the Carlton Colville site, in addition to the freebies offered, and the disproportionate costs for the Senior Management Team therefore more expensive than the Academy equivalent.Your second query regarding SJL...if their class sizes were reduced to those of the subsidised Free School, their results would improve...although they are already good.I cannot comment on the decision to close the Tweet account, but your 4th point regarding opposition to Academies locally and nationally...all unions have campaigned actively against this but are faced by a government that sees the removal of schools from local authority control as essential...so much for Localism and the Big Society! In conclusion, I stand by my point about SCC...they have cut so many services which support schools and thus now reap the rewards with poor results. As usual, the portfolio holder for education blames everyone else...but what has he been doing for the past few years!

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

  • For the sake of accuracy, I dont think the league tables for 2012 have been published by the Dfe yet. The data on the Indie page is definitely for 2011. I don't think the headings are aligned correctly either. I would be astonished if D wasn't Ebacc As I read the data Bungay ( was 65 ) SJLHS ( was 53 ) Denes ( was 40 ) have all gone down into 2012 It would be worth checking if the data reported in August 2012 included equivalents. I expect the dfe to publish the 2012 league tables in March

    Report this comment

    mrchas

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Regardless of how many times you post ingo, as someone who travels this (not so) great country each week, I can ssure you 99% of people have never heard of Beccles!!

    Report this comment

    becclesboy

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • @SideshowBob education in Suffolk has been in the hands of the tories for a long time and each year the results get worse - class size is very relevant, and you will find that the best results are where the classes are of a sensible size.Until a new way of funding schools to allow for smaller classes is in place then there will be no serious improvement Having observed the "Free School" furore from the start - it's blindingly obvious that any parent would jump at the opportunity of sending their child to a school with tiny class sizes. The real proof of the pudding will be when the Free School is operating with class sizes the same as other High Schools- and not until then! I agree with the comment about the moral issue here!!!

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • Hi PdJ: Wow, I never realised how much NSN achieved year after year on so little! They are a credit to themselves. Perhaps some of our failing academies littering lowestoft and waveney could do well to invite NSN in and advise them how to put their children first with all the extra cash every one has instead of churning out dissapointing GSCE results year after year after year after year......

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

  • The hysteria waged against Beccles Free School from the outset was, at times, beyond belief, yet parents are quickly realising where the best interests of their children's education lie. Suffolk's performance as an educational provider has been shown to be poor in comparison to other local authorities. The new primary school tables back this up as the authority dropped into the bottom three in the entire country. It's about time they stopped blaming the three tier system, the free schools, the academies and just about everything else, and looked a bit closer to home for the reason why their schools are so poorly performing.

    Report this comment

    SideshowBob

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • As a parent of 2 children, both of whom had to attend the hell hole that was Kirkley High, where bullying, physical assault of pupils and teachers was tolerated to avoid expulsions (I have pictures of my son taken at James Paget), i am all in favour of a school where academic standards are put first, where children are expected to behave as a the norm, and teachers and parents work together, rather than being lied to to avoid trouble. Long may Beccles Free School continue to flourish

    Report this comment

    DaveG

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

  • Just for clarity - the New Schools Network which damon7 mentions began as a 'thinktank' set up in 2009 by Rachel Wolf, a former adviser to Michael Gove, Secretary of State at the Department for Education, and is now (astonishingly) a charity. In May 2010, the Department for Education awarded NSN £500,000 to advise (on behalf of the DfE) groups setting up free schools. The Charity Commission for England and Wales found it necessary to remind this 'charity' of its responsibility to remain politically impartial in November 2010. There has been further finding from the DfE of £400,000 for 2011–2012 and £650,000 for 2012-2013. Concerns have been expressed about the lack of transparency regarding overall funding and the identity of donors to this organisation since its inception.

    Report this comment

    point du jour

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

  • Dogberry, I am completely and wholly comfortable with the way that Academies and Free Schools are funded. You may consider ringing the very helpful people at the New Schools Network who I am sure will confirm the funding levels I have previously quoted. Bottom line is, and as CAT alluded to, the academy status came with a massive lump of cash to convert. My problem with all the academies in Lowestoftwaveney is they are not delivering the educational goods. What should be happening up here is money recovered from poor performing academies should be directed into achieving schools. However, on that basis alone, SJLHS would have about 6 months left......

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

  • @SideshowBob - Many people objecting to, or approving of something does not automatically constitute an hysterical response - even though you might not agree with them. Surely democracy is based on something similar?

    Report this comment

    point du jour

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • @ Dogberry - quote 'You may also be a little cohused over the cost of Free Schools versus Academies - most Academies are simply the same school "re-opening" under a different name - same building, same pupils and mostly the same staff.'. What happened to the substantial amount of money each state school was given as an incentive to become an academy. I believe this was meant for capital projects and would be interested to know what it was spent on in the case of local schools or if it is still sitting in their budgets.

    Report this comment

    CAT66

    Monday, January 7, 2013

  • Lord Hill's ill fated decision over the heads of local opposition, even from his own party, will disrupt Beccles education for years to come. Party political dogma and ignorance of local authorities provisions has led to this small Town becoming a national laughing stock. Pigheaded politics of the worst kind.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • 4 simple straighforward questions I'd love to see answered by the more robust posters on here: 1. What is the difference between the funding model for an academy and a free school. Answer:NOTHING- meaning ZERO NADA NICHT has been diverted from all your local academIes. 2. Can the objectors to the free school confirm to everyone why they think the Sir John Leman is perfectly fine? Their results, year after year suggest something different. 3. Can anybody elaborate why the Sir john Leman Headmaster closed down his very enjoyable twitter account so suddenly? 4. Why did nobody object to all the failing schools in the area being handed over for free to academy 'trusts'. Some are even run by big companIes such AET who now have more than 40 schools. Not a single anti free school protester campaigned against Kirkley HIgh being gobbled up.. Double standards clearly in evidence.

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • HI PdJ. No, I am not employed by anybody in Suffolk. I have merely become more and more interested at the questionable defence and 'see no ships' attitude to the state of your secondary education in suffolk. lets consider facts sourced from:http:www.independent.co.uknewseducationsecondary-tables-2012suffolk. Then lets only dip our toe into one statistic that really does the talking for any parent fed up with the current crop of schools:Percentage of Key Stage Pupils achieving A* to C in both English and maths GCSE. 1.Bungay High School: 8% 2. Kirkley Community High School 2% 3. Sir John Leman High School 2%. 4. The Benjamin Britten High School 4%. 5. The Denes High School CY: 3%. Bear in mind a number of the above schools are academies. Therefore, I am at a complete loss why you think pouring more money into academy trust pockets is in anyway going to change a decline that is basicaly dead, pulseless, finito!. The government is absolutely correct to empower parents to say enough is enough. I am just amazed that not a single anti free school protester has campaigned at the incredibly sad results your poor parents tolerate year after year after year. 8%

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

  • Good to have a mature debate...successive governments have played around with Education for their own ends...arrogantly ignoring the views of Heads,teachers, parents and pupils. In response to damon7...SCC haven't got any "new" funds to add to the per capita amount, but money is being thrown at Free Schools...in addition to building costs...hence the refusal of government to give details of the cost of setting up the Free School...where's the open-ness that we were promised...let's have the figures compared with the figures for the state sector.The funding is not the same...as we may see one day, just after the pigs have flown over! You may also be a little cohused over the cost of Free Schools versus Academies - most Academies are simply the same school "re-opening" under a different name - same building, same pupils and mostly the same staff. Some academies are new-build, but they are sponsored using private funds which will be repaid to the sponsor over time by the government...sort of PPI. I don't support Free Schools, and I don't agree with transferring schools from LEA control to Academies either, as it is, as you say, our taxes that have paid for them... but two wrongs don't make a right. What concerns me above all is that all this public money is being spent and there is no accountability to taxpayers...once again we pay but have no say! DaveG I can only sympathise with you...KHS has always been the poor relation of the High Schools in Lowestoft...and I know people who have kids there who think that SCC deliberately let it run down to make it easier to turn it into an academy! Why do politicians always make life hard for us ordinary folk?

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

  • @damon 7...I don't know where you are getting your figures from for GCSE results...perhaps you could enlighten us...the following are figures published last August...Bungay...52.4%...Kirkley...41%...SJL...50%...BBHS not available for EngMaths, but 77% overall...Denes 29%...not brilliant overall, but cast doubt on your figures.Also...don't forget the fiasco over English grading levels. Have you contacted the High Schools to find out what they have been doing to try to raise standards, or do you just rely on the press which constanty undermines all public services? A point to bear in mind is that Academies and Free Schools can pick and choose which pupils they admit...QED better results!

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

  • Dogberry. We have just had years and years and years of Labour. As you rightly say, we have witnessed Ed Balls pursue Labour doctrine in the classes which has resulted in powerless teachers, large class sizes ( pursing their idealogically correct inclusivity equality diversity policy) and (in Suffolk) terrible GCSE results and a complete muck up wiith Diplomas. The academies can also chose to have small class sizes if they so wish. They receive a base £8,000 per child plus whatever they can negotiate from the local CC. This could be an extra £4 or £5 k on top - £12-14k p.a. per child. Oh surprise surprise, not many academies appear to reduce their classes or hire more teachers, Sir John Leman included. Any ideas why? Therefore, hats off to ANY free school that sets its stall out and invests in teaching staff to have smaller classes. Dogberry, you really should be investigating what your local academies are doing with their new funding and why now in excess of a 100 parents have said enough is enough with them and switched to a free school. The bottom line is a free school is parent driven. I would also argue the other question you need to be asking is if a free school, funded EXACTLY the same as an academy can give away a school uniform, then why are the academies not doing the same. It might not take long to work out. Lastly, why are you so opposed to the refurb of a premises which is far far cheaper than the outright transfer of OUR state schools, originally paid for by OUR taxes to academies for free? Building land anyone? Give me a free school model every time.

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

  • ...also...why can't we be told how much this "Free" school has cost we taxpayers?

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Friday, January 4, 2013

  • CAT66 - put in a Fredom of Information request to them and if you aren't happy with how it's been spent then tell the Press - I think the funding will pale into insignificance compared with that thrown at the Free Schools though. The overarching problem is that it's still politicians playing games with experimental social manipulation...and in the meantime the children are but pawns...

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Monday, January 7, 2013

  • 4 simple straighforward questions I'd love to see answered by the more robust posters on here: 1. What is the difference between the funding model for an academy and a free school. Answer:NOTHING- meaning ZERO NADA NICHT has been diverted from all your local academIes. 2. Can the objectors to the free school confirm to everyone why they think the Sir John Leman is perfectly fine? Their results, year after year suggest something different. 3. Can anybody elaborate why the Sir john Leman Headmaster closed down his very enjoyable twitter account so suddenly? 4. Why did nobody object to all the failing schools in the area being handed over for free to academy 'trusts'. Some are even run by big companIes such AET who now have more than 40 schools. Not a single anti free school protester campaigned against Kirkley HIgh being gobbled up.. Double standards clearly in evidence.

    Report this comment

    damon7

    Friday, January 4, 2013

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