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Cambridgeshire County Council calls for 17 new schools

County council hoping to launch new free schools
County council hoping to launch new free schools

Sponsors for a new wave of free schools are being sought to cope with expanding numbers of pupils in Cambridgeshire.

The council believes up to 17 new schools are needed across Cambridgeshire and those approved in this selection process could be opened within three years.

Council officers have drawn up a wish list of areas in need of new mainstream schools, borth primary and secondary, and is now welcoming applications from academy groups who want to open more sites

Jonathan Lewis, Director of Education at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “My wish list is very large.”

He explained that pressures of a growing population and the planned 60,000 extra homes in the Local Plan meant that new schools were needed urgently.

“One statistic that is startling is we have we have about 2000 more children in reception starting primary school this year than in year 11,” he said.

“Our demographic is getting bigger and the birth rate is increasing all the time.

We also have quite a strong rental market in Cambridgeshire so lots of people arrive with children. We are seeing a lot more children come through our schools and it is tough to manage.”

The population of Cambridge has increased by four per cent between 2011 and 2016, and the county council has already added 10,000 new primary places. There has also been a seven per cent increase in the number of children entering year seven, at secondary school, this year.

Mr Lewis added: “We are meeting our need but we want to manage the process and get the right schools in the right place. We have a statutory requirement to provide enough school places so there is no option to fail

“We would be looking at opening thi new wave of schools in 2021. It takes about three years to get a secondary off the ground.”

New free schools already going through the approval process from the previous round of applications include: Cambridge Post-16 Maths School, to be sponsored by The Cambridgeshire Educational Trust. An as yet undisclosed site to the north of Cambridge has been identified for this free school.

St Bede’s Inter-Church School have out in a bid to open another school under their leadership, but no site has yet been identified; Cambridge City Free School, to be run by the Knowledge Schools Trust, which will be part of the airport development; and Northstowe Special Academy, under the leadership of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust.

There will also be a new primary school required as a result of housing development on the Marshalls site north of Newmarket Road in Cambridge. Called Wing Primary, the scheme is to be delivered by the Council, although it is anticipated that it will be fully funded by a combination of a S106 contribution from the housing developers and an allocation from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) as it has received approval from the Department for Education (DfE) under the government’s centrally administered free school programme.

Post 16 schools are not covered by the free school provision, however Mr Lewis added that the county would also be talking to current secondary providers, FE colleges and the HE sector about creating a sixth form.

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