Beccles/Saxmundham: Free schools attract just two new pupils in month

NEW free schools set to open next week have attracted just two pupils in the past month, figures have revealed.

The Beccles Free School will open with 66 youngsters across years seven, eight and nine – just two more than were signed up in late July.

The Saxmundham Free School is proving more popular with 104 children signed up but has not added any numbers to its roll since last month.

Both schools are being opened by the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust.

The Suffolk NUT has said the decision to push ahead with the schools is “scandalous” and urged parents to rethink their decision to send their children to the sites or face further disruption to their education.

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Rob Cawley, principal of the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, said both sites were “well on track” and that he hoped more pupils would join the schools once the term begins. Both were launched with a target of opening with 150 pupils, a revised and reduced total from when the schools were first proposed.

He said: “It is a very exciting time for us with the opening of two brand new schools. We are all working hard to ensure that pupils at both schools have a good experience from the moment they first walk through the doors.

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“Saxmundham will open with 104 pupils on roll and Beccles with 66, in years seven, eight and nine. We are confident that pupils will join us through the year as more and more people learn about the quality of education we will be delivering in these schools.”

Graham White, branch secretary of the Suffolk NUT, said the free schools were a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money and “completely the wrong system” for Suffolk.

He said: “They are funded on potential places, although they have only got 100 odd pupils enrolled. It’s taxpayers’ money for a school that’s not needed, which will not provide a broad and balanced curriculum for the community.

“There are already good local provision, there are qualified teachers available to teach these pupils and we are going to end up with a system where there is a strong possibility of unqualified teachers teaching pupils.

“My advice to parents is even at this late stage, don’t send them to a free school – send them to a local school instead.”

Mark Bee, the county councillor for Beccles, added: “These figures demonstrate that this is not the right time for a free school in Beccles and that the Seckford Trust should be focusing its efforts on making the Saxmundham school a real success.

“I have some serious reservations about the sustainability of Beccles Free School.”

Saxmundham Free School will open on the site of the former Saxmundham Middle School and Beccles Free School will initially be based at the former Carlton Colville Primary School site before moving to Beccles in September 2014, when the Beccles Middle School building is made available.

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