School plan still alive

SCHOOL campaigners are meeting Government education officials tomorrow to find out if their bid to push ahead with plans for a free school in Stoke-by-Nayland will get the green light, writes Anne Wise.

The Stoke-by-Nayland High School Academy Trust supporters are meeting with the Department for Education in London to hear detailed feedback on why their business plan, to set up a new school in 2013, was turned down.

Campaigners for the proposed 600-pupil high school, for 11 to 16-year-olds, say that out of 300 applications, theirs was one of only 100 to get shortlisted for final consideration.

They described it as “ambitious” to expect approval this year in the 2012 application round – when they are proposing to start a school on the present Stoke-by-Nayland Middle School site in 2013.

Trust chairman Ronan Connolly said: “We believe we are in a strong position and are fine-tuning our proposal. We will be re-submitting it in the spring.

“If we are successful, the high school will bring significant funding to our area to enable other local schools to remain a similar size as they are today.”

He said newly-announced Government rules on funding meant some secondary schools in the area, including Great Cornard Upper School, would be able to apply for new capital building costs if refurbishment costs were more than 30 per cent of the total re-building costs.

Mr Connolly said: “The bigger picture here is that our high school will help raise standards in education in a deprived area and possibly aid other local secondary schools. To oppose this is strange and illogical.”

Compass, a group opposed to the free school, said it would continue to maintain that a new school is unnecessary and would have had an adverse impact on existing schools.

Emma Bishton said: “The proposers of the school have stated that they will re-apply next year. New criteria was applied this year, resulting in 90 per cent of those free schools approved being in areas with evidence of need for more school places or areas of higher deprivation – neither of which apply to Stoke-by-Nayland.”