Stamford parents reveal plan to set up a free school

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A group of parents concerned about the state of secondary education in Stamford have launched a campaign to set up a free school.

They are worried about the number of Stamford primary pupils leaving the town after Year 6 – 70 per cent of the total – and hope to attract enough support to secure Government funding to open a new secondary school in 2015.

Parent Daniel Evans, 41, of Exeter Gardens, said: “We believe the creation of Stamford Free School will expand secondary school provision in our community and give greater choice to parents.”

Free schools are funded by the Department for Education and exist outside local authority control. They can be set up where there is clear demand from parents.

Across the UK 145 free schools have opened in the current academic year or are set to open in September.

The Stamford parents’ group is made up of five people, four of whom have children at Malcolm Sargent and St Gilbert’s primary schools. Mr Evans, who works as an illustrator, has a daughter aged six at St Gilbert’s.

They set up a website on Wednesday to explain their concept and attract support and have already had inquiries from other parents.

“We have a clear vision for Stamford Free School,” he said.

“It is a school with high expectations of staff, parents and students; a school which focuses on delivering high quality teaching and high academic standards, with an emphasis on traditional subjects.

“Studies have shown that the establishment of a free school has a halo effect that leads to improved focus and attainment at neighbouring schools too.

“In the case of Stamford, we believe that the rising demand for places due to population increases projected by Lincolnshire County Council means that the creation of Stamford Free School will not necessarily affect pupil numbers elsewhere.”

The proposed school would enrol 50 pupils per year, creating two classes of 25.

The parents group is looking at several sites but has not revealed where. Talks are also planned with several people with experience setting up free schools.

The next step is to get parents to pledge their support and say they would send their children to the free school were it to open.

To achieve Government backing, the group would have to demonstrate it has a team capable of setting up and running a school and that there would be sufficient pupils on the roll for the first two years.

Mr Evans said: “There is a lot of hard work ahead and we want to involve all members of the community in the application process, so if you feel you can help the project in any way at all please get in touch via the website.”

Parents in Stamford have been pushing for an improvement to the secondary options in the town since the abolition of the Stamford Endowed Schools scholarship scheme in 2006.

The scheme, which was funded by Lincolnshire County Council, offered 50 pupils a place at the private schools every year.

But since the scholarships were scrapped some parents have raised numerous concerns about the perceived lack of options for brighter children in the town.

According to Lincolnshire County Council 70 per cent of primary pupils in Stamford move to secondary schools outside the town when they enter Year 7.

A 2011 report into the end of the scholarship scheme, commissioned by the county council, echoed the parents’ concerns. It said improvements to Stamford’s only state secondary school, Queen Eleanor, had not increased its reputation enough to attract the brightest pupils and as a result attainment there was limited.

Exam results at Queen Eleanor have improved in recent years. The school hopes to introduce a sixth form at some point in the future and has partnered with New College Stamford to create a sixth form centre.

Full details on the proposed school along with methods to get in touch with the group can be found at the Stamford Free School website.