First hurdle for ‘free’ school is crossed

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THE first Governmental hurdle in the move to create the borough’s first ‘free’ school, has been cleared.

Independent Coun Norman Bradbury says the decision to push the plan for Atherton to the next stage in the process is “great news” for parents.

Free Schools are all-ability state-funded schools set up, say the Coalition, to satisfy parental demand.

The most important element of education is the quality of teaching and Free Schools will enable “excellent teachers to create new schools” and improve standards for all children, regardless of their background, insist the Department for Education.

Under the new plans it will become much easier for charities, universities, businesses, educational groups, teachers and groups of parents to get involved and start new schools and parents and some councillors in Atherton say a free school in the town will go a long way to allaying the upset caused by the closure of the LEA’s Hesketh Fletcher High School this Autumn term.

They have yet to decide whether to apply to the Metro to base the school in Hesketh Fletcher’s buildings or to look elsewhere for accommodation.

Coun Bradbury, whose group have now become the official opposition on the council after the resignation of Tory Henry Cadman, said that he was personally “overjoyed” that the initial application for a Free School in Atherton had now been approved by the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove on January 14. They will now progress to the business case and the planning stage.

Councillor Bradbury said “This means that we could have a Free High School in Atherton as early as September or at the latest, September (2012), and what is now needed to make this bid successful is the support of the local community, so our message is to please get behind the Atherton Community for Education (ACE) which is leading the bid together with Chapel Street.”

A Metro spokesman pointed out that only if the full business case is accepted, can a Free School be set up.

Cabinet member for CYPS and Atherton councillor Susan Loudon said: “Although we are not responsible for deciding whether the Free School goes ahead we will respond to any consultation that takes place with the hope of influencing any decisions and ensuring that the best interests of Wigan children are met”.