Saxmundham: New free school’s out to prove itself

“WE’RE ready to let the model speak for itself.”

Following a summer of debate, a few resilient words ushered in the first generation of pupils at one of Suffolk’s newest schools.

Saxmundham Free School shut out speculation and opened its doors with the intention of Providing a Foundation for Life.

As one pupil remarked, questions surrounding the opening of a non-selective foundation-backed school in place of the town’s state-maintained middle school had been “a distraction”.

Principal Rob Cawley yesterday took the chance to address some of those questions, saying: “The children are our main focus and I passionately believe our model will speak for itself.

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“Educational is incredibly personal and everyone has a right to be involved in measured and professional debate. Now we should be allowed to prove that our model does work - that it can provide students with an excellent education, regardless of how it is funded.

Last week, The EADT revealed that both Saxmundham and Beccles Free School would open with less than half of their places filled by pupils.

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With space for 216 pupils, Saxmundham Free School was expecting to enrol just 106, leading critics to argue the model was not sustainable. But the Seckford Foundation, which runs the schools and has supported independent Woodbridge School for around 150 years, said it was confident more pupils would join throughout the year. Mr Cawley added: “The Department for Education would not have allowed us to proceed had we not been ready and financially viable. We expect a higher intake as we prove that parents are making the right choice by sending their sons and daughters here.

“We gain from the expertise of the Seckford Foundation and the experience of our fully qualified staff, who come from state-maintained schools. We can benefit from the best of both worlds.”

As well as subscribing to the three Rs, Saxmundham Free School will promote the six Cs: cooperation, commitment, confidence, community, challenge and celebration - an approach already being fostered by pupils, including former middle school pupils Joshua Swords-Ludlow, Jessica Keeble, Tommy Smith and Daniella Hurren, who all declared their excitement for the year ahead.

Tommy, who would otherwise have chosen between Thomas Mills High, in Framlingham, or Alde Valley School, in Leiston, was particularly pleased that having a school in his home town meant not having to wake up earlier for his paper round.

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