New 450-place primary prep school in Norfolk among 111 new free schools approved by government

Wymondham College

Wymondham College - Credit: Archant

A new primary prep school for 450 pupils - and 30 boarders - is to open in Norfolk as part of a wave of newly-approved free schools.

An aerial view of Wymondham. Picture: Mike Page

An aerial view of Wymondham. Picture: Mike Page

A new primary prep school for 450 pupils - and 30 boarders - is to open in Norfolk as part of a wave of newly-approved free schools.

The government has announced plans for 111 free schools around the country, which will create about 69,000 places for pupils.

Among them will be the Sapientia Primary Prep School, which will be sponsored by the Sapientia Education Trust (SET), the academy chain behind Wymondham College and Old Buckenham Primary School.

The school, for five to 11-year-olds, will create 450 places, 30 of which will be boarding spots for year five and six pupils, making it the first state-funded primary boarding school in the east of England.

Wymondham College principal Jonathan Taylor.

Wymondham College principal Jonathan Taylor. - Credit: Archant

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Though a site for the school has not been announced, Wymondham College principal Jonathan Taylor has previously said public consultation revealed a 'strong public view' that it should be on, or near, the college site.

Education secretary Justine Greening said the new schools gave the 'places we need for the future' and offered parents more choice.

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But shadow education secretary Angela Rayner described the free schools programme as 'enormously expensive' and an 'inefficient' way to create places.

During the consultation process, Mr Taylor said members of the public had questioned whether pupils at the primary would gain a highly-sought spot at the college, but that SET did not yet know.

Education secretary Justine Greening.
PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Education secretary Justine Greening. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Admissions data for pupils starting year seven this September revealed that, having filled its 82 places, Wymondham College had 97 pupils on its waiting list.

In total, 18 new free schools have been given the green light in the east of England, creating 8,875 places. Though there are eight planned in Cambridgeshire, there is just one in Norfolk.

Meanwhile, Suffolk was also confirmed as one of 20 local authorities given the go-ahead to create a new special school through the free school process.

In total, there have been 124 free schools - state schools not under local council control - opened since 2015, with 373 more, including the 111 announced today, on their way.

Local free schools

According to Department for Education (DfE) data, there are seven free schools up and running in Norfolk.

Four - Charles Darwin Primary School, Jane Austen College, Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form Free School and Trafalgar College - belong to the Inspiration Trust academy chain.

Another is the Free School Norwich, which became one of the country's first new free schools when it opened in 2011.

The Pinetree School in Thetford and University Technical College (UTC) Norfolk, part of the Transforming Education in Norfolk (TEN) Group, are the remaining two.

But there are six more in the pipeline for the county, including the Sapientia Primary Prep.

Four other primaries, three run by REAch2 and another by the Right for Success Trust, are planned for the north of Norwich.

Meanwhile, the all-through special school The Wherry School, which will support children with autism, is due to open in Norwich in September.

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