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Saxmundham: Governors declare free school concerns

PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 January 2012

A SUFFOLK high school has expressed unease at the prospect of having to share its catchment area and compete for pupil registrations from September.

Leiston Community High’s board of governors declared “no need for additional school places in the area”, as consultation on a new free school in nearby Saxmundham continues.

In a statement regarding the impending shake-up of the Suffolk education system and closure of middle schools in both towns, governors said a proposed school would “undermine existing provision for other local students”.

The educational trust behind the free school bid is due to hold public meetings this week, before formally submitting a final report to the Secretary of State in February, and vowed to “provide many new opportunities for students, staff and the wider community.”

Leiston Community High, which changes its name to the Alde Valley School in September, currently takes pupils from Leiston and Saxmundham Middle Schools - both due to close in July, from when Alde Valley School will begin teaching pupils from age 11.

The Seckford Foundation Free School Trust, which is behind the proposal, has so far gained the support of more than 500 families, as well as the local MP. But Lesley Hill, chairman of Leiston High’s 16-member board of governors, said in a letter to parents: “There is simply no need for additional school places in the area. An extra school would create a further surplus of school places. That would be wasteful and extravagant, particularly at a time of public expenditure cuts.”

She went on to add: “Our school and the other existing secondary schools in the area already have more than enough capacity for all students from Saxmundham.”

Consultation for the Saxmundham free school has been under way since December 21. The Seckford Foundation Free School Trust said it aimed to capture as many opinions as possible and seek views on the impact of establishing the school. Graham Watson, foundation director, said: “The proposed free school will provide many new opportunities for students, staff and the wider community but we do need everyone to help shape that bright new future. There are many ways people can take part and we will welcome their input for a project which could really make a difference.”

Proposers will be hosting a question and answer event on Thursday at 7.30pm and a drop-in on Saturday from 10am to noon at Saxmundham Town Hall.

Leiston High will meanwhile hold ‘transition curriculum’ meetings and parent consultations in the coming weeks at Saxmundham and Leiston Middle Schools.

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