Teachers’ union is against plans for new free school in Rutland

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Plans for a new free school for sixthformers in Rutland have been criticised by the county branch of the National Union of Teachers.

Pauline Town, the Rutland branch liaison officer, says the union is against the proposal put forward by Catmose College and Uppingham Community College because it will cause problems over funding. It is also concerned about the standard of teaching and the effect it will have on other schools.

The two schools revealed last month they are in discussions over launching the free school, called Harington School. It would be for students throughout the county and offer A-levels and enrichment activities, such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme.

The schools are in the process of consulting teachers, pupils and parents and hope to submit a bid for the new facility to the Department of Education in January.

Mrs Town says the union is against the plans because free schools can employ unqualified teachers in buildings that are unfit for purpose.

She also believes that the development could have a damaging effect on the county’s only state-run post-16 college Rutland County College, in that it may lose out on funding, which could have a knock-on effect and even lead to staff redundancies.

Nationally, the union has spoken out against free schools.

Mrs Town said: “We’re opposed to this new facility because many of these free schools are set up without strategic planning.

“They allow unqualified teachers to teach anyone and often are housed in buildings that are unfit for purpose.

“The funding pot for schools is not growing by the day and such extra provision will undermine what is already being provided, and the possibility of Rutland County College becoming unviable, leading to redundancies of staff.

“The school will also narrow the provision of courses available for students in Rutland.”

In 2010, Rutland County Council voted to create a new college for the county, Rutland County College, based at the former Tresham College site, in Barleythorpe Road. The college has since moved to Barleythorpe.

The council chose Casterton Business and Enterprise College to run the new college despite concerns Catmose and Uppingham Community College were being ignored by the council.

However, in response to the union’s views, Catmose College principal Stuart Williams says funding will come from central Government and should not affect other schools.

He is also confident that his teachers will be fully equipped to make the step-up to teach at A-level, and he will recruit qualified staff externally where needed.

He said: “The free school would not impact on what’s currently in place, but rather complement it.

“We have fully qualified staff with great expertise and I have no doubt they will be able to deliver A-levels.

“There is a great demand for another sixthform provision in the county. The current situation is untenable.

“Students have to travel significant distances or choose the independent schools with high educational costs. We need to meet the local need.”

Mrs Town says the three schools and the council could form an agreement to extend what is already in place to offer more courses to a larger number of students.

Mr Williams said he had invited Rutland County College to talk about solutions before the free school plans had been drawn up in July last year but the college did not respond.

However, Rutland County College principal Victoria Crosher said talks were held but the problem was not resolved.