Brandon free school bid needs a pupil boost

A proposed new free school which is just weeks away from possible approval could be turned down if parents with children still in primary school do not declare an interest.

Those with youngsters in years four and five in Brandon are needed to fill in a form showing they would like to send their children to the school when the time comes, if it is approved.

Without this, organisers say Breckland Free School would be in real danger of not being given the approval it needs to open in September 2012.

The plea was made at a meeting of parents and staff hosted by West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock and SABRES Education Trust, which began the application process following a decision to close Breckland Middle School in July next year.

If given the go-ahead, the free school would open in the same building, initially with years seven, eight and nine. However the group needs to be able to demonstrate enough interest to fill the school in the following years from pupils who would currently be in years four and five.

Speaking at the meeting on Friday Nov18 evening, chairman of SABRES, Gordon Warnes, said parents should ensure they had filled out the most recent black and white form, available as a hard copy or on the group's website. Any blue forms parents may have filled out a year ago were now out of date

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He added: 'It's absolutely key we can show demand. Even if everything else is ready, but people haven't put their names forward, it will stop the project and I don't think people want that. It's absolutely vital people fill in the forms. We're depending on it.'

Figures given at the meeting showed that to date, just 12 parents with children in year four, and nine with children in year five, had shown an interest in sending them to the school.

Mr Warnes said 50 declarations of interest were needed in each year group. In contrast, 69 parents whose children would be going into year seven next year had filled in forms, while 76 had done so for children who would be in year eight, and 72 for those due to enter year nine.

MP for West Suffolk, Matthew Hancock, stressed the point and added that a decision was due from the government by January.

'What SABRES want to do is to make sure there is maximum engagement with people in Brandon to make sure people know what's going on and to make sure there's still education for teenagers in Brandon,' he said.

'To make that happen we need expressions of interest. The team's going great guns but we're not there yet and especially for the younger children we need to make sure we get that interest. I want to make sure we do everything we can to made sure that here in Brandon we have a school we can be proud of, not only for the children who are here now, but for the children and community for years to come.'

Currently, SABRES is considering tenders from three education providers and is expected to make a decision by early December. A meeting will then be held with the preferred bidder in January.

Expressions of interest can be completed online at www.sabreseducationtrust.com and should be filled in by November 30. Alternatively, contact the group for a hard copy by emailing consultation@sabreseeducationaltrust.com, or write to 6, Walton Way, Brandon, Suffolk, IP27 0HP.

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