Flagship free school has only signed up 37 pupils

 

One of the Government’s flagship free schools has only signed up 37 pupils - despite civil servants being told over 500 parents had expressed an interest in the school.

Headteachers and local education chiefs are now questioning the viabilty of the new Beccles free school in Suffolk, which is scheduled to open for the first time in September taking in 11 to 14-year-olds.

Jeremy Rowe, headteacher of nearby Sir John Leman school, accused the Government of “wasting millions of pounds” of government funding on the scheme. 

His school is also taking in 11 and 12-year-olds for the first time this September as a result of a local government reorganisation which has seen the closure of middle schools in the county.

“There is alreasdy over capacity in the local area now,” he said. “Now I’m receiving ‘phone calls from some of the parents who have chosen the free school asking if I can take them in because they realise it is unviable.”

The free school has recruited just 10 pupils in years seven (for 11 and 12-year-olds - “not even enough pupils for a football team” as one teachers’ leader put it, 15 in year eight and 12 in year nine.

It was to have started up in the former middle school but has been forced to accept temporary accommodation on the site of a fomer infants’ school, which can house 162 pupils. The capacity will be more than doubled when it moves back to its permanent site in two years time.

It is understood to have taken on 14 teaching staff - which would give it one of the most remarkable pupil/teacher ratios in the history of education - with a new headteacher arriving on Monday.

A consultation exercise over the plans to open the school saw 3,000 people registering their opposition to it only only 21 supporting the bid.

“There was clearly no appetite for this school yet (Education Secretary) Michael Gove pressed ahead with it regardless,” said Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

“The Government’s free school policy is a dreadful waste of public money and interferes with proper school placement planning.

“They are being opened up at vast expense to the taxpayer to serve tiny numbers of pupils when other schools are being starved of funds.”

She called for a public inquiry into the free schools policy.

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education spokesman, added: “There is real concern that in pursuing his pet projects, the Education Secretary is wasting money.

“Michael Gove should explain to Parliament how much money has been spent on this project and whether he will allow it to continue if all the places are not filled.”

Local education experts predict it will cost up to £2million to carry out all the necessary refurbishment to its proposed building.

They argue that the “Beccles 37” could be transferred to a second free school being opened by the Seckford Foundation, which is behind the plan for Beccles free school, around 20 miles away as a temporary measure - if they do not want to transfer to other neighbouring schools.

In a briefing paper, Graham Watson, director of the foundation - which also runs the nearby Woodbridge independent school,, said a campaign against the school had impacted on demand for places.

He added that over 65 per cent of parents had expressed an interest in having a place at the school.

“The experience of other free schools is that once the staff have been appointed, and the building confirmed, demand increases,” he added.

Its saga. though, is in marked contrast to the West London free school, the first secondary free school to be given the go ahead by Mr Gove, which is now one of the most oversubscribed schools in the country.

The Department for Education said free schools were initially funded according to their planned admission numbers - but that money would be recouped if these turned out to be lower than expected.

A spokeswoman added: “We expect pupil recruitment to increase steadily (at Beccles) now parents have certainty that the school will open later this year.

“Standards in Suffolk have been below the national average for the last four years.  The establishment of this free school will drive up standards and provide grea\ter opportunity and choice for parents and pupils.”

Mr Watson added that the school had received 106 expressions of interest from parents, saying:  "We continue to remain committed to providing a free school for Beccles.

"It is not unusual for a free school to have a slow uptake, moving your child to a new school is a significant decision and only one month has passed since we were given the go ahead."

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: After School Club Worker

£40 - £45 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: Our client in the Newp...

Randstad Education Cardiff: English Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education Cardiff is...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin