Petition against Beccles Free School bid handed to MP

A petition featuring the names of more than 2,700 adults and children has been presented against a proposed free school bid.

The petition against Beccles Free School was given to Waveney MP Peter Aldous as he prepares to make his submission to schools minister Lord Hill of Oareford.

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

A consultation concluded this week into The Seckford Foundation's bid to open a free school, and Mr Aldous has been invited to write his own recommendations.

Yesterday he admitted he had concerns about the bid as he was presented with a petition featuring the names of 2,016 adults and 717 under 18s.

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Mr Aldous said: 'I have to weigh up all the issues in coming to my conclusions but right at the beginning I had concerns about the capacity and the demand, and these concerns are still at the front of my mind.'

However, he added: 'The Seckford Foundation have put forward an alternative model which does have some attractions to people, and people have written to me in support of that.'

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There has been a campaign against the proposed free school with headteachers and Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee speaking out against it.

Jeremy Rowe, headteacher of Sir John Leman High School, in Beccles. who presented the petition, 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.'

He added that he feared for the future of his school if it went ahead and said they would withdraw from the North Suffolk Skills Centre, a local schools partnership.

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, which would be a high school, would open on the site of Carlton Colville Primary School for two years before moving to the site of Beccles Middle School. The Department for Education will make the final decision.

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