Charity backs Beccles free school following Waveney MP branding it “a waste of money”

A former Waveney MP has slammed proposals for a free school in north Suffolk, branding it 'a waste of money'.

Bob Blizzard, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, has condemned education secretary Michael Gove's decision to provisionally approve a new free school in Beccles.

Mr Blizzard, who represented Waveney for 13 years until losing by just over 700 votes to Conservative Peter Aldous last year, attended a meeting where he spoke to parents concerned about the impact of the proposal on the existing Sir John Leman High School.

He said: 'Another high school in a town the size of Beccles cannot be justified. There is no capacity problem in Beccles and parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with standards at Sir John Leman, especially as it has just received a glowing Ofsted inspection report.

'It doesn't make sense. If there is money to spare, it could be used to avoid cuts in the budgets of other local schools or restore the young person's travel pass.'

Under government arrangements new state-funded schools can be established in response to parental demand.

Mr Blizzard, of Lowestoft, was also leader of Waveney District Council for six years until he was elected to parliament in 1997, and added: 'Another high school would also damage secondary education in Beccles by destabilising Sir John Leman and reducing the breadth of subjects and skills it offers.

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'Even if one supports the idea of free schools, this one doesn't make any sense for Beccles.'

The Seckford Foundation, Suffolk's oldest charity, are supporting the Beccles Free School Project Group, comprising of parents of pupils at Beccles Middle School

Graham Watson, director of the Foundation, said: 'When we were contacted by members of the local community in Beccles, they made it very clear they were looking for more choice for educating young people in the town. We looked into the situation and it became quite clear there was a need for a smaller and more academically focused school.

'We took this proposal to the Department for Education and they have backed this decision. This has been reinforced by our receiving over 75pc support for the 324 places which would be available in Year 1 for September next year.

'While we understand some people may have concerns about this change we see it as a clear opportunity to respond to a demand in the community for choice.'

Free schools are funded directly from central government and are the subject of Ofsted inspections but have freedom from local authority control.

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