THE Church of England is forging ahead with a rival bid to create a free cchool on the site of a village middle school.

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The Bishop’s Council of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese has confirmed it will proceed with an application to the Department for Education for a school for 11 to 16 year olds in Ixworth. The middle school is due to close as part of the county’s move to a two-tier education system.

The Church of England is already a major educational provider in Suffolk, with 91 church schools throughout the county. But it is facing competition for the Ixworth site from a parent group working with the Seckford Foundation - which has already opened free schools at Saxmundham and Beccles.

Spokesman for the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, John Howard, said: “Working closely with the Thurston Partnership of schools, the diocese has been developing its vision for a new secondary school. We have been delighted at the response so far from local parents to our proposal.

“Our vision is to offer education with a distinctively Christian ethos and an inclusive approach, rooted within the community.

“We will be meeting with parents to discuss the proposal further, and then submitting our bid to the DfE for consideration.”

The Thurston Partnership is a group of 18 schools including Thurston Community College and the 17 primary schools in the area. Fourteen of these are Church of England schools. If it gains Government approval, the church would open the Ixworth school in September 2014.

A total of 79 free schools have opened in England so far, including four in Suffolk. They receive funding direct from the Government rather than from the county council.

A spokesman for the Seckford Foundation’s Ixworth free school campaign said: “The imminent restructure to a two-tier system of education in this area will leave our children, for the first time in living memory, with no choice when they leave primary school.

“If we all join this campaign and support the proposal, then we can retain that choice which we have all come to value so highly.”

For more information about the church free school visit www.ixworthstmarys.org or for details about the Seckford Foundation-backed school, go to www.ixworthfreeschool.co.uk

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