Waveney MP Peter Aldous and county councillor Mark Bee voice disappointment on Beccles Free School decision

Saturday, May 26, 2012
6:30 AM

An MP and county councillor have expressed their disappointment after a controversial bid to open a free school in Waveney was given the go ahead by government ministers.

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Waveney MP Peter Aldous and Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, expressed their personal disappointment after The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust announced that their bid to establish the Beccles Free School had been given the go ahead.

The bid has caused controversy in both Beccles and Carlton Colville, where the school will initially be set up, with a campaign waged against it.

Mr Bee, who was speaking personally as the county councillor for Beccles, said: “I am extremely disappointed that the government has taken this view. I feel there is a great deal of talk about localism, but what consideration was given to local feelings and views?

“I feel it is unfortunate that the government has chosen not to listen to their local MP who worked hard behind the scenes.”

Mr Bee added that he felt money was to be unnecessarily spent on a temporary school in Carlton Colville and urged parents to support the existing Sir John Leman High School, in Beccles.

He said: “I would urge the people of Beccles to continue to support the John Leman as the established school and vote with their feet.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who wrote to the schools minister against the bid, said: “I am disappointed by the decision. I felt improving education in the future was better served by taking full advantage of what John Leman has put in place and I made the government aware of that, but they have taken the decision to pursue this.”

He added: “While disappointed I will now be working with all schools and college to make sure they provide the best possible education opportunities.”

Headteachers in Beccles, Lowestoft and Pakefield had signed a petition against the free school bid, and Jeremy Rowe, headteacher at Sir John Leman High, has not ruled the opposition group launching a judicial review against the decision.

Mr Rowe said: “I think it is a real shame and it flies in the face of all local opinions.”

The Seckford Foundation, which is based in Woodbridge, started the bid when approached by a group of parents who wanted to start a free school.

Aidan McHugh, one of the parents behind it, said: “This is fantastic news, I have already spoken to a number of other parents and we look forward to continuing to work with The Seckford Foundation and the new head, John Lucas, to ensure we develop a truly exceptional school for our children.”

Mr Lucas said he was thrilled by the news, while Graham Watson, director of The Seckford Foundation said he was delighted to be able to offer the added choice for children in Beccles.

The school will open to years seven, eight and nine at the former Carlton Colville Primary School in September, before moving to the site of Beccles Middle School in September 2014.

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust’s bid to open a free school in Saxmundham was also approved with the backing of Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey.

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