The Government has told the trust behind plans for a new secondary school in Stamford to instead work with Queen Eleanor School.
The Department for Education announced its decision on the Stamford Free School bid yesterday (Friday).
It turned down the proposal to build a new secondary school in the town, instead inviting the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust, known as CMat, to work to improve Queen Eleanor.
A statement from the Department for Education said: “The Department and CfBT Schools Trust recognise that the Stamford Free School application received strong parental demand for a school which would deliver the vision offered by CMat.
“Having considered the local circumstances, we believe that the best value-for-money solution would be for the trust to seek to become the sponsor of Stamford Queen Eleanor, rather than establish a new school.”
Among the reasons given for the Department’s decision were the basic need for school places in the area, the potential impact on Queen Eleanor and the costs to the public purse.
One of the reasons the free school idea was initially proposed was because of a perceived lack of opportunities for high-ability pupils at Queen Eleanor.
But headteacher Wendy Hamilton and chair of governors Jonathan Selwyn have always maintained that with the right support Queen Eleanor could become an outstanding school.
Mr Selwyn said: “This is a new chapter for Stamford Queen Eleanor.
“We are excited about the opportunity of working with CMat and feel there is a good match between their vision and passion for education and the ambition of the governing body and staff.
“We are very proud of the achievement of our pupils and staff and we now look forward to building on that success through the proposed partnership with CMat.
“We also respect the work and commitment of the proposers of the free school and believe that now is the time to come together to deliver truly excellent and continually improving education for Stamford.”
Mrs Hamilton will leave Queen Eleanor at the end of this year, moving to Aireville School in Skipton, North Yorkshire. She came to the school in 2009.
CMat joined the free school bid after being impressed by the vision of the original proposer group, made up of Stamford parents.
Kevin Brooks helped form the group. He said: “This is great news and a pragmatic solution. If it goes through, Stamford gets the school that we campaigned for, but actually delivered more quickly than planned and using existing infrastructure.”
CMat executive principal Mark Woods said: “This was not the approach we had planned as it was not an option that was originally on the table, but we are delighted to have the opportunity to take forward our vision of education in Stamford, and thank everyone that supported our original application.
“The original proposer group have worked incredibly hard on this project, and we very pleased that they will support us in pursuing this alternative solution.
“Stamford Queen Eleanor has made significant progress in recent years and we believe our ethos will help drive this forward positively and rapidly.
“The trust has a very clear vision for all its schools – to provide high-quality education for all at the heart of our communities.”
Stamford and Bourne MP Nick Boles (Con) praised the move, calling it a “brilliant solution.”
Queen Eleanor is currently run by the CfBT schools trust. If the academy transfer is successful the school will apply the same admissions code, and all pupils already attending the school will continue to do so.