Pioneering school plans launched

A COMMUNITY group fighting to protect the future of learning in their Suffolk market town is set to take advantage of new Government plans and launch a pioneering bid to run their own school.

Parents and residents in Saxmundham have formed Fromus Valley Educational Trust with the aim of establishing a community high school for 11 to 16 year-olds.

It is the first of its kind to be launched in east Suffolk and could end up being a blueprint for other communities who want to take more control of their children’s education.

Currently most youngsters in Saxmundham are sent to either Leiston High School or Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham when they have finished at the town’s middle school.

However that building is set to close in the summer of 2012 as the county council pushes ahead with its plans to change from a three to a two tier education system.

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It means Saxmundham will have no post-11 education in the town and residents will lose a vital facility used for clubs, adult courses, sports and recreation.

As a result Fromus Valley Educational Trust – made up of parents and other members of the local community – are hoping to establish a new high school on the Seaman Avenue site when the middle school finally shuts its doors.

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The group want to take advantage of the coalition government’s “free school” initiative, which enables interested parties to create new schools that will be funded directly by Whitehall, bypassing local authority involvement, as long as they have sufficient support.

They will be following in the footsteps of people in Clare, near Sudbury, who have already announced plans to create a Stour Valley Community School when the town’s middle school closes next year.

Fromus Valley Educational Trust is hoping to hand in its formal application in November and is now sending a rallying call to local residents.

Chairman John Fisher said: “We think this is a very exciting project but the key to it is community – that’s at the very heart.

“We are confident the support is there but we have to show there is demand for the school.

“Over the next two or three months we will be gathering signatures and talking to parents.

“It is vital we get people to sign up to the idea and we would ask anyone who is interested to get in touch.”

Mr Fisher, who is also a town councillor, said they would be liaising with education chiefs in Leiston and surrounding villages to create a school everyone could be proud of.

“We don’t want to push ahead on our own,” he continued. “We want this to work for Leiston as well. It means that if we have a school here Leiston won’t need to use its middle school [which is also set to close in 2012] as an annexe for extra pupils and could be more focused towards the needs of Leiston.”

The group also believe the creation of a new community high school would make environmental sense as children would not have to be bussed to other areas.

Town councillor Cheleigh Trotter-Langlois, who also heads up local youth group Savvy, said: “A lot of pupils who go to the middle school here in Saxmundham walk or bike. If we had our own community high school that would continue and it is something we should promote.

“Not only does it help them keep fit and healthy but it is also good for the environment. People are trying to encourage that in other parts of the country but we already do it here.”

A spokesman for the county council declined to comment on the plans but said they would offer any support they could.

Bosses have previously said the move to a two tier education system will increase pupils’ standards.

For more information on the proposals contact Mr Fisher on 01728 603144, email or visit The Store at 46 High Street, Saxmundham.

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