Beccles Free School decision expected by the end of May

THE group behind the bid to create the Beccles Free School has appointed a headteacher with a final decision expected on their proposal within weeks.

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust announced the appointment of John Lucas as headteacher and said they are hoping to be given the go-ahead by the end of the month.

However, Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he has not been given any timeframe for a decision from the Department for Education while campaigners against the proposed new high school said they were still standing firm against it.

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, which is behind the bid, announced that Mr Lucas, director of learning at the Thomas Clarkson Community College in Wisbech, will be the headteacher, while they also announced a headteacher for their proposed free school in Saxmundham.

A spokesman for the Trust said: 'The appointments were made after communication with local groups and the Department for Education (DFE) by the Free Schools Trust, which commented that the appointment of principal and headteachers of such quality would give the two schools even greater momentum than before.


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'The final decision for the opening of the proposed free schools is expected by the end of the month.'

Commenting on the announcement Graham Watson, director of The Seckford Foundation, added: 'We're delighted to have been able to recruit such a well qualified headteacher for the proposed Beccles Free School.'

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The move came shortly after the Foundation announced that former independent adjudicator Rob Cawley was to be principal designate for their Free Schools Trust.

The latest announcement came as a surprise to MP Mr Aldous who said he has yet to hear anything from the DFE.

Mr Aldous, who wrote to the schools minister against the proposal, said: 'The DFE said they will let me know as soon as a decision is made and I have had no indication at all.'

He added: 'In my original submission on the whole proposals I did say it was important it was made promptly and I do think it should have been made by now.'

The free school would open in September on the site of Carlton Colville Primary School before moving to Beccles Middle School in 2014.

Among the opposition to the bid are Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee, Jeremy Rowe, headteacher at Sir John Leman High, and fellow headteachers in Lowestoft and Pakefield.

Mr Rowe said: 'I just feel desperately sorry for the children of Beccles, the uncertainty is extraordinary.

'I feel the delay says it all about the proposal for the free school itself and the idea behind it.

'I stand by my original view that it is unprepared, unwanted and we should not all be asked to pay for this.'

He added that his school had never been performing better as it prepares to welcome more children than ever as Suffolk becomes a two-tier education system.

He said: 'Next year is planned with staff appointed, uniform ordered, curriculum designed and we are really excited and looking forward to another successful phase of the school's development.'

Campaigner Ian Goodyer, of Worlingham, said he still help hoped the free school would not be approved, despite the Trust's 'confident' manner.

He said: 'I hold out hope because I think they have clearly lost the argument on every single measure.'

Last Friday the Suffolk Coalition Opposing Free Schools was launched as a way to unite groups campaigning against proposed free schools in their towns.

James Hargrave, from the group, said that there were concerns about the number of children wanting to go to the school, the short time before it would open if approved and the funding going to the school rather than the Sir John Leman.

He said: 'We feel there is just not a need for two schools there, there are not enough children for it to be viable.'

He added: 'It's a shame it all seems such a rush. If it is a good idea, why can't they wait a year?'

Mr Watson, of The Seckford Foundation, has said throughout the process that they are committed to offering choice and meeting a demand from parents.

•On Monday from 7-9pm there will be a public meeting at Beccles Middle School about the future of Suffolk County Council's school transport across the region.

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