Letters: Free school not needed as college already offers excellent teaching

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I wish to congratulate Mr Wills on his excellent piece on the proposed free school sixthform in Rutland which outlined clearly and without bias why this school is not needed (Personally Speaking column, Mercury January 3).

I am a teacher with 25 years experience of teaching sixthform students and have read all the conflicting views and statistics used by both Mr Williams from Catmose and Rutland County College as we have a son who we needed to place in sixthform education for this academic year.

I found that, contrary to the skewed use of statistics by Mr Williams of Catmose, Rutland County College was performing very well indeed especially using the measure of “added value” ie students were making better progress than most sixthforms in the country and had excellent provision for the more able.

I also listened to friends whose children attended Catmose College and was again dismayed by the misinformation they had been given by the school concerning Rutland County College and surprised that students were being advised to travel large distances for their sixthform education including to the school at which I teach.

Despite all of this we sent our son to Rutland County College and both he and we have been delighted by the education he is receiving from a committed and experienced staff.

He is certainly receiving an education the equal of that offered by my school, which is an outstanding academy 15 miles away.

So what would another sixthform in Rutland achieve?

It would find it difficult to be viable in terms of numbers and would be difficult to staff with people experienced in teaching sixthform students.

Peter Rowbotham

Main Street,

Great Casterton

I attended the Stamford Free School meeting on Friday 10 January.

The presentation was professional and persuasive.

However, there is still no need for another secondary school in Stamford.

The presenter said the number of places at Casterton available for Stamford pupils would be restricted in the future because of Rutland’s population growth.

But even if every single one of Casterton’s feeder schools were full (which they’re not) and every single pupil went to Casterton (which is unlikely) there would still be nearly 50 places per year available on distance measured by the shortest walking route.

Stamford’s newest estates are very near the Rutland border – Casterton is the nearest secondary school. The shortest walking route would take in a large proportion of these estates.

And Stamford Queen Eleanor has unfilled spaces. At the present time there’s a surplus of secondary school places in Stamford.

The National Audit Office report in December 2013 found 81 per cent of secondary free schools had been set up in areas where there was no need.

It estimated this had cost the taxpayer £241m.

This spending cannot be justified.

It is likely the Department for Education will give more weight in the future to whether there is an immediate need for extra places.

Any future need for extra secondary school places in Stamford could be provided more cheaply by expanding Stamford Queen Eleanor School and Casterton Business and Enterprise College.

Janet Downs

Wingate Way,