Beccles Free School bid given go ahead

A controversial bid to open a free school in Waveney has been given the go ahead by government ministers.

Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust has this afternoon announced that their bid to set-up Beccles Free School has been given the go ahead.

The bid has caused controversy in Beccles and Carlton Colville, where the school will initially be set up, but this afternoon approval was given.

Aidan McHugh, one of the parent group behind the bid, 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.'

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John Lucas, the Headteacher of the Beccles Free School, said: 'I'm thrilled with the news. We'll be talking to all the parents who have expressed an interest in their child having a place at Beccles Free School, which will be accepting children in years seven, eight and nine this year. We are well on track for opening in September.'

The new school will initially be based at the former Carlton Colville Primary School site before moving to Beccles in September 2014, when the Beccles Middle School building becomes available.

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Graham Watson, Director of The Seckford Foundation, the charity which backed the bid to create the school, said: 'We were approached by the parent group in Beccles as they wanted to have the opportunity for choice in the future education of their children.

'We joined the project to take the bid forward and naturally we are delighted to have this clear Government approval for Beccles Free School to open in September.'

Among the opposition to the bid have been Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee, Waveney MP Peter Aldous and headteachers in Beccles, Lowestoft and Pakefield.

Jeremy Rowe, headteacher at Sir John Leman High, in Beccles, said: 'I think it is a real shame and it flies in the face of all local opinions.'

The Trust's bid for a free school in Saxmundham was also approved.

James Hargrave, of Suffolk Coalition Opposing Free Schools, said he wasn't surprised but was disappointed.

He said: 'I think the government have shown a shocking disregard for the view of the local people, particularly in Beccles which was opposed by the local MP and local county councillor.'

For the full reaction see tomorrow's EDP.

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