Stoke-by-Nayland: Trust will not make new free school bid

THE Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust has confirmed it will not be re-submitting a new bid for a controversial free school at Stoke-by-Nayland.

After taking on a project launched by local parents which had seen an initial bid turned down, the trust submitted revised plans earlier this year for a school to open in September 2013 with capacity for 540 students.

The project, which split the community, would have used the site of Stoke-by-Nayland Middle School, which will close next September as part of the three-tier to two-tier School Organisation Review.

But in July the submission was not named among the 102 free schools nationally that were given the go-ahead by the Department for Education. No reasons for the refusal were released.

Rob Cawley, principal of the trust, said: “After very careful consideration and following discussions with the parent group, we have advised them that we will not be going forward with a further bid for a free school in Stoke-by-Nayland. We would like to thank everyone who supported this project during the bid application process.”

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The trust’s similar schemes at Beccles and Saxmundham were approved in July but were under-subscribed when they opened at the start of term.

Emma Bishton, of COMPASS, a group of parents based at Great Cornard Upper School that campaigned against the proposal, said: “Clearly, it has now been turned down twice and obviously, our position is that we’re very relieved that was the case.”

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She said efforts should now be concentrated on helping all the schools in the area through what is a time of great change.

Graham White, branch chairman of the Suffolk NUT, said he was “really pleased” that the trust would not be making another bid and that he hoped it would be the end of the saga.

He said: “If Seckford aren’t going to back it, it makes it even less likely that there would be a successful bid in the future.”

One parent, who asked not to be named, said he was “happy” to learn that the trust would not be re-submitting its plans as he could never see it obtaining permission from the Department for Education.

He said: “Risking another application by Seckford at Stoke-by-Nayland was not desired by many parents and I am appreciative to Seckford for listening to our community’s wishes.

“However, it is a travesty for our large rural community that surrounds Stoke-By-Nayland, not to have the choice of a local rural state secondary school. Not having such a needed school is ripping the heart out of our community.”

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