Traditionalist church applies to open new free school in Thetford

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 February 2015

Three new Norfolk free schools have been approved. Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Three new Norfolk free schools have been approved. Nick Ansell/PA Wire

A traditionalist Christian group has applied to open a free school in Breckland, it has emerged.

Previous Norfolk free school applications

The four free school applications for Norfolk currently being considered by the Department for Education are part of the eighth wave of applications since the government launched its flagship policy in 2010.

Previous applications, and their success, or otherwise, are listed below:

Wave one:

Free School Norwich (successful)

Norwich Steiner School

OPEN Youth Trust - ‘Open Highway’

Thetford Free School

Wave two:

Alternative Provision Free Schools Thetford

Breckland Park School

Wave three:

Benjamin’s School

Future Free School

Sir Isaac Newton Free School (successful)

Thetford Alternative Provision Free School (successful)

Wave four:

Benjamin’s School

Eton Hall Specialist Academy

Jane Austen College (successful)

The Compass Free School

The Free School Norwich (High School)

Wave five:

Kett Primary

Wave six:

No Norfolk applications

Wave seven:

No Norfolk applications

Wave eight (decision to be determined):

Charles Darwin Primary School

East Anglian Primary Academy

The Wherry School

Trafalgar College

The Department for Education is expected to announce soon the fate of 148 applications for free schools - new state-funded schools independent of the local authority.

A Freedom of Information request by the British Humanist Association has revealed the Focus Learning Trust, which is run and controlled by the Plymouth Brethen Christian Church (PBCC), has applied to set up the East Anglian Primary Academy as part of the eighth wave of free schools.

Three other Norfolk free school applications were already in the public domain.

The trust already runs the private Focus School in Swaffham, but all its previous applications to open free schools across England have been rejected.

PBCC spokesman Rod Buckey said it had received an “overwhelmingly positive response”, and added: “It was designed to support the new 5,000 house development in Thetford, there was no fixed site but we were in communication with a number of developers. It is an area of basic need, Thetford already has a dearth of primary school places and this new housing development will only add to the issue.”

He said the school would not teach creationism as science, and would “teach evolution as a scientific theory”.

The Focus Learning Trust is a registered charity, but, in 2012, the Charity Commission rejected an application by Preston Down Trust (PDT), a meeting hall of the church, to be registered as a charity, before changing its mind last year.

Last year’s decision said that originally it was “not satisfied the access to religious services was sufficiently open to the public and thought the religious doctrines and practices of PBCC limited the engagement of PDT with the community beyond the Brethren themselves and had a limited beneficial impact on the wider community”.

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