Clare: New free school will be part of “Suffolk family”
FREE schools and academies should be “welcomed into the family of Suffolk schools.”
That was the verdict from Suffolk director of children’s services Simon White as the county prepares to offer help to its first free school.
The county council is set to work with the promoters of the new Stour Valley Community School to convert the current Clare Middle School into a new 11-16 free school.
A final decision from the government is expected before the end of the year – but after positive indications from ministers it would be a major surprise if the project was rejected.
If the proposal gets the green light, Suffolk will work with the backers of the school to carry out millions of pounds of improvements to the current school to have it ready to open in September next year.
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Ian Brown, head of schools infrastructure, said that if the county’s cabinet approved the move at next week’s meeting Suffolk would effectively be acting as an agent for the Department for Education to get the school ready for use.
The county had the staff and expertise to draw up and oversee the changes – which would cost between �4.3 and �4.9 million depending on how large the new school would be.
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Cabinet member with responsibility for children and young people Graham Newman said: “We know the ropes and the local contractors. There are clear benefits from using our experience.”
Mr White said that the county recognised the education landscape was changing – and said the council would work with anyone providing state-funded education.
He said: “We want to give academies and free schools an assurance they will be welcomed into the family of Suffolk schools.”
While the new school would be run independently of the council, Suffolk would retain some regulatory responsibilities and the county would have a role in ensuring every youngster had a school place.
It would also have a role in ensuring that students were able to get to the school if it was the nearest high school to them.
Time was critical because the middle school is due to close in July and the new high is expected to open in September – so building work will have to be going on while middle school pupils are still in their classes.