Video: Good schools in Suffolk have nothing to fear from free schools – Michael Gove

Schools which are neighbours to new free schools have nothing to fear if they are good, the Educatio

Schools which are neighbours to new free schools have nothing to fear if they are good, the Education Secretary said during a visit to Ipswich yesterday. - Credit: Archant

Schools which neighbour new free schools have nothing to fear if they’re good, the Education Secretary has said.

Speaking in Ipswich yesterday Michael Gove said education in Suffolk “isn’t good enough” and that free schools were being set up by people who wanted to make things better.

He insisted the financial viability of schools situated near some of the free schools which have opened in the county would not be threatened, “if it’s a good school”.

Mr Gove was responding to revelations in yesterday’s EADT that all three free schools which opened in Suffolk last year are in areas with a surplus of pupil places.

Beccles Free School, Saxmundham Free School, and IES Breckland are all in areas where schools already had surplus capacity.

Ian Flintoff, headteacher at Alde Valley School in Leiston which is five miles from Saxmundham Free School, said pupils in his school would lose out.“We will have less money to spend on providing an improved learning environment and reduced curriculum choice without significant external investment,” he said.

However yesterday Mr Gove suggested that only inadequate schools would suffer.

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“I don’t think that the financially viability of any existing school is threatened if it’s a good school. If it can command the confidence of parents and secure the commitment of students to come there, then it needn’t have anything to fear.

“If people are voting with their feet and not going to that school then the question needs to be asked, how effectively is it being led? How good is the teaching there? Parents won’t wilfully take their children out of a good school and put them in a poor school.”

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Mr Gove also rebutted claims that demographic decline made opening new schools counterproductive.

“One of the reasons why there is demographic decline in some parts of Suffolk and in some parts of the east of England is because educational and other opportunities haven’t been good enough,” he said.

“One of the things we want to do is to invest in those areas and say we believe there’s a future for them and we believe that young people can succeed in those communities.”

He also said: “I know for example in Beccles there was a lot of criticism of the Seckford Foundation setting up a free school, and a lot of adverse publicity, but I think that that school is filling up as is their school at Saxmundham.”

He added: “I think there have been some challenges in the past in Suffolk, there are some communities where it’s not just the case that incomes have been low but ambitions have been low for too long, luckily we now have political leaders who are committed to tackling that.”

Mr Gove was in Ipswich for the official opening of Ipswich Academy’s new building in Brazier’s Wood Road. The £16 million facility welcomed students for the first time this month.

He later visited Ravenswood Community Primary School where he received a tour from pupils.

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