The group behind a proposed new free school in Newmarket has decided not to go ahead with their plans.
Team members, made up of parents, headteachers and school inspectors, made the decision after consulting with the Department for Education, which found there was not a need for two secondary schools in Newmarket.
Julie Taylor, project leader, said: “It was clear from our discussions with them that the DfE needs to seek a solution to Newmarket College and believes that there are not the numbers of pupils in Newmarket to allow a free school without further damaging the college.
“The free school team has only ever wanted to improve educational provision in Newmarket and has always been concerned about what would happen to those children for whom the free school would not provide.”
She added: “Whilst we are obviously very disappointed, we do understand the line the DfE has taken. The purpose of free schools has never been to damage existing provision and it was clear from the very high levels of support that our project had the potential to further damage the college.
“None of us would have wanted that.”
It was back in April that the Journal first revealed the news that the group wanted to open a new school for 11 to 18 year olds - a plan which received the backing of Newmarket Town Council.
Ms Taylor said the group had emailed the council and parents earlier this week to explain their decision and had received many messages of support.
Diana Carroll, team member and one of more than 100 parents to back the free school in Newmarket, said: “We hope that by trying to establish another school in Newmarket we have focused attention on the fact that many parents are not happy with local provision and want and deserve so much more for their children.
“Although our school will not open we hope that we have contributed to shaking up attitudes to local provision. We just hope that the lack of competition that we would have provided will not result in complacency and a lack of change.”
The news comes after Newmarket College announced it was set to become an academy with a new executive principal.
Claire Coe, another advocate for the free school plan, said: “We were delighted to hear that there is to be a sponsored academy solution to Newmarket College and we hope that local provision finally improves so that parents don’t have to look outside Newmarket for school places for their children. That was always our motivation for this project.
“We want to thank all those hundreds of parents who supported our project. We hope that the DfE’s solution to Newmarket College results in the secondary school provision that this community so richly deserves. We have been deeply moved by the response from this community and would have loved to have had the chance to help them shape the future of education provision in this town. We wish the very best of luck to those who are now in that position.”
She added: “Our message to them is please do everything you can to give this wonderful community the very best secondary school for its children.”
What do you think? Was there a need for another secondary school in Newmarket? Send your letters to Newmarket Journal, 40 The Guineas, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8SY, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.