Failed free school bid is ‘great news’

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A PARENT who has seen a nearby school subjected to two failed free school bids has hailed the result as “excellent news” for social inclusion.

The Seckford Foundation had backed a second attempt by campaigners to gain approval from the Department for Education for a new free school on the site of Stoke-by-Nayland Middle School, but the bid was turned down two weeks ago.

Steve Maguire, whose children Rosie, nine, and James, eight, both go to Nayland Primary School, said: “I think the bid being turned down is excellent news.

“The Seckford Foundation only had one initial objective, which was to get better results than Great Cornard and Sudbury upper schools, as that would have vindicated building the school.

“Results are important but what is more important is that children get a social education and are able to communicate with people from all walks of life.”

Mr Maguire, who intends to send his children to Great Cornard Upper School, which will become The Thomas Gainsborough School in September, said the proposed high school’s feeder schools were all good or outstanding, with the exception of Monks Eleigh Primary School.

He claims that the foundation would have given priority to children from more well-off feeder schools and ignored lower-performing ones to maintain results, meaning pupils would have less of a rounded social experience, while the absence of these children from Great Cornard and Sudbury upper schools would have been detrimental to their educations too.

“The Seckford Foundation was going for this free school and brushing issues over social exclusion under the carpet,” he said. “It got it completely wrong and by building that school it would have set a social divide in the region.

“Great Cornard Upper School works really well as you have an eclectic mix of children there. It gives the children experience of mixing with people of different backgrounds, which lends itself to real life.”

Graham Watson, director of the Seckford Foundation, refuted the claims and said the proposed admissions policy was for an all-inclusive, non-selective school.

“Therefore, it is difficult to see how the school could be accused of being able to ‘cherry pick’ pupils,” he said.

“Feeder schools would only have had preference if the school was oversubscribed, so we do not consider there is any basis for the assertions made.

“We would point out that many parents were disappointed the bid was turned down.”