MP raises concerns over Beccles free school plan with links to Carlton Colville

Waveney MP Peter Aldous is writing to the schools minister to tell him that he believes Beccles is the not the right place for a free school.

Mr Aldous had been invited to make a submission to Lord Hill of Oareford about the proposed high school and has spoken out against the bid from the Seckford Foundation.

'Free schools are a good thing and have an important role in raising educational standards across the country, but that is in the right place and right time, and this is not the right place and right time,' he said.

Mr Aldous said that he had concerns about capacity and demand issues when the bid was first made in October, particularly because of the recently opened Pakefield High School.

'There is an overcapacity of high schools in the Waveney area following that work and there is not a need for another high school,' he said.

'I think the main requirement to consider on whether there should be a new high school, to allow the free school, is the effect on other educational institutions, and I think there are issues that are cause for concern.'

Mr Aldous is particularly concerned about the effect on the Sir John Leman High School, with the potential of fewer pupils hitting their range of curriculum.

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The school's potential withdrawal from the North Suffolk Skills Centre, a local schools partnership, would also impact on pupils in Bungay, Stradbroke and Leiston. He also highlighted the added expense of taking the school to Carlton Colville for two years.

Mr Aldous has made his submission a week after being given a petition against the school. Last Friday, Jeremy Rowe, head teacher at Sir John Leman High School, presented him with the petition that featured 2,016 adults and 717 under 18s.

Mr Rowe said: 'The fact that thousands of local people have been prepared to put their name to a petition demonstrates the huge overwhelming support for Sir John Leman and other local secondary schools.'

However, the group behind the bid hit out at the petition and those who they say are opposed to offering a choice for young people.

Graham Watson, director of the Seckford Foundation, said: 'We know people are opposed to providing young people with opportunity and choice, however the Foundation believes firmly in offering all young people choices.

'Much of the information in circulation about the free school is inaccurate. Any petition based on this information will need to be seen in that context.'

The free school would open on the site of Carlton Colville Primary School for two years before moving to the site of Beccles Middle School.

A consultation into the bid has now concluded and the Department for Education will make the final decision.

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