Government gives green light to Beccles Free School

Parents in Beccles have been given the go-ahead by the government to set up their own free school in the town.

It means the proposed new high school, for youngsters aged 11 to 16, could open as soon as September 2012.

The Beccles Free School – which would be called Waveney High School and would cater for about 540 pupils – was one of 55 free schools approved by education secretary Michael Gove yesterday.

He described the groups behind them as 'true pioneers' who are 'leading a revolution in the education system'.

'These new schools allow talented and experienced people to be imaginative and bold in creating great new schools,' he said. 'They will offer more choice to parents in the type of education their child receives, and will raise standards in many communities where the need is great.' The driving force behind the Beccles Free School is a group of local parents who hope to create the new facility on the site of Beccles Middle School, which is set to close under Suffolk County Council's reorganisation of schools.


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Although the town already has the Sir John Leman High School, the group believes the free school will provide parents with a choice for their youngsters.

They also hope it will respond to concerns from some people about the transitional arrangements under the school organisation review. Earlier this year, the plans won the backing of educational charity the Seckford Foundation.

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It also supported the bid for a site in Saxmundham, the second Suffolk free school to be approved in yesterday's announcement.

But the Beccles proposals have proved controversial, with the headteacher and chairman of the governors at Sir John Leman High School expressing their 'profound reservations' about the proposed scheme. In a letter, Jeremy Rowe and David Castleton said they felt it was important to urge caution. Free schools are funded directly from central government and, although subject to Ofsted inspections, are free from local authority control.

They operate in a similar way to academies and have control over the curriculum, how money is spent and the length of the school day.

The Free School Norwich became one of the first in the country to open this September and remains the only one approved in Norfolk, although others are proposed.

victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk

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