Ixworth: Parent defends new free school in west Suffolk
12:00 23 September 2014
A parent who has been involved in bringing a free school to Ixworth has stressed that the new education establishment is needed.
Stephen Larder, who currently has two children at the recently-opened Ixworth Free School in west Suffolk, refutes claims the new school has put education in west Suffolk “at risk” and there were already surplus places in the area.
Mr Larder, from Bardwell, said: “This has been a three-year journey. It’s the most amazing news we have actually got our school open, and we have got children getting on really well there.
“We have got a great headteacher and staff there and I fully expect the school to grow and be well-subscribed into the future and be a good use of money for the free school programme.”
He added: “I just think now we have got the free school I really believe it will help all the schools to improve their standards and it’s a shame that some people are not able to embrace that fact.”
Ixworth Free School, which is operated by the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, opened at the site of the closed Ixworth Middle School this term.
Graham White, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), has said the new school has “put education in the west Suffolk area at risk” as it is taking pupils, and therefore money, away from schools in the surrounding area, such as Thurston Community College.
And Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, has said he has concerns about free schools being opened in areas where there are already places.
Mr Larder said there were not surplus school places in this area, and claimed numbers of students had been rising at the community college.
Helen Wilson, the principal of Thurston Community College, said: “We are delighted by our strong numbers this year which involved many students really from out of catchment and feel this confirms our reputation in the wider community as an outstanding school.”
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said, for those living in Thurston Community College’s transport priority area, students only qualify for free transport to Ixworth Free School if that is their nearest school.
“Free transport is available to the community college if either Thurston or Ixworth are nearest,” the spokesman added.
Mr Larder, who said there had been nothing wrong with the middle school system in the area, believes this criteria for free transport is unfair.