Stoke by Nayland: Free school bid is turned down

SUPPORTERS of a proposed free school in west Suffolk have spoken of their disappointment after the Department for Education rejected their application.

Educational charity the Seckford Foundation submitted the application earlier this year after working closely with a parent group on plans for a Free School in Stoke-by-Nayland for students aged 11-16.

The proposal was for a school to open in September 2013 with capacity for 540 students.

But on Friday the submission was not named among the 102 free schools nationally that have been given the go-ahead.

The rejection leaves a question mark hanging over the plans, as this is the second application for a free school in Stoke-by-Nayland to be turned down.

The announcement has also surprised many people in the area who believed the involvement of the Seckford Foundation would lead to a successful outcome.

The charity, which also manages Woodbridge School, last year successfully applied to run two Suffolk-based free schools, at Saxmundham and Beccles, which will open in September 2012.

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Director of the Seckford Foundation, Graham Watson, said: “We were approached by the parent group in Stoke-by-Nayland as they wanted to have the opportunity for choice in the future education of their children. We joined the project to take the bid forward and naturally we are very disappointed with this decision.”

A vocal supporter of the school plans, South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo called the news “a very poor decision” and admitted chances of the school ever going ahead had diminished.

He said: “I need to talk to the people involved and if they want to give it another go I will support them fully.

“But one can understand if after putting in so much work they have been unsuccessful, whether they would want to put themselves through it again.”

Parent campaigner Ronan Connolly said it was too early to decide on what would happen next but said he was convinced the growing population in south Suffolk and north Essex would necessitate an additional school in the area in the coming years.

But at COMPASS-Suffolk, a group of parents based at Great Cornard Upper School that campaigned against the proposal, members expressed their relief at the news, which they said would enable them to focus fully on the transition of local schools from a three-tier system to a two-tier set-up.

School governor Sue Shackell said: “We recognise that some parents will be disappointed by this news. However, we can now turn our energies to supporting our existing local schools through the schools re-organisation.

“We know that building work is already under way at Great Cornard Upper School and in our primaries which take in year five pupils for the first time this September.”

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