Saxmundham: Free school bid gets charity trust boost

A community group’s bid to open a free school in Saxmundham has received a boost from an education charity.

Fromus Valley Educational Trust (FVET), which aims to open a high school for 11 to 16 year olds in place of the town’s middle school, revealed its proposal had gained support from the Seckford Foundation.

Founding member Belinda Moore said the group now had “infinite confidence” the bid will succeed with the backing of the foundation, which awards grants in the community and already supports Woodbridge School.

The trust was formed in June 2010 following the announcement that Suffolk County Council intended to close Saxmundham Middle School in 2012 as part of its move from a three to a two-tier education system.

Also vying for permission to move into the vacant site is the Saxmundham and District Community Interest Company (SADCIC), which hopes to open an enterprise centre providing leisure, sport, social, learning, health and employment facilities.

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SADCIC volunteer director Don Tricker said that though the two bids were mutually exclusive, competition for the contract was healthy.

Saxmundham Town Council chairman Marian Andrews welcomed both proposals, saying: “It’s better to have two in the race than none at all. One thing we have to be sure about is that we retain the building.”

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If successful in its bid to join the Government’s “free school” initiative, FVET will move on to preparing a detailed business case for the school.

Mrs Moore hoped support from the Seckford Foundation would help ensure the application succeeds, adding: “The foundation’s experience in education really is unparalleled.

“Our objective has always been to continue post-11 education in Saxmundham. Of course there is a conflict of interest with SADCIC but it is not a bad conflict.”

FVET submitted a formal bid to the Department for Education last December but, following the tightening-up of application rules, are now required to resubmit at the end of May.

The Seckford Foundation, Suffolk’s oldest charity, which is also supporting a bid to run a free school in Beccles, will lend its expertise in running Woodbridge School and other community projects, to assist the applications.

A spokesman for the foundation said: “We are delighted to support the creation of two new schools by bringing the foundation’s extensive experience and integrity to these initiatives which will provide further choice for children in the north Suffolk area.”

Meanwhile, Mr Tricker said SADCIC had started work on a business plan and met with Suffolk Coastal District Council to discuss the local development framework. “We hope the free school bid is made by August at the latest,” he added. “Otherwise it begins to compromise our plans.”

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