Church sect pays £1.2m for site to create private school

A religious sect paid £1.2million for the site of a redundant middle school, it has been revealed.

The Plymouth Brethren, an evangelical Christian church group, purchased the former school in Stoke-by-Nayland and its four-acre playing field.

Suffolk County Council sold the school to the Focus Learning Trust, an education trust set up by the Plymouth Brethren which plans to open a private school for 150 children.

Included in the sale is £60,000 of fixtures and fittings, but the council has retained two cottages on site used for the school’s caretaker and groundsman.

These will be used for social housing for villagers, with Stoke-by-Nayland Parish Council chairman Una Oakes confirming she is set to meet county council officers on September 2 to discuss how this would work.

County councillor James Finch, who lives in nearby Nayland, said he believed the sale represented the best outcome for the community. The school is set to open in September.

“We are in close contact with the project manager,” he said. “The Focus Learning Trust wants to work closely with the village and there will be employment opportunities.

“The school will be known as Focus Learning Trust Stoke-by-Nayland Campus and is a combination of the group’s primary school and secondary schools in Ipswich and Colchester,” he added.

Councillor Colin Noble, Suffolk’s cabinet member for finance and property, said: “The sale of the site is now complete, and it is already working to reopen the building as a school. We have retained ownership of two cottages on the land, which we plan to make available for social housing.

“When a school site becomes surplus to the county council’s requirements, it’s important that we secure the best value for money from any sale or ensure sustainable community use for years to come.”

The Plymouth Brethren was unavailable for comment.