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Free school plans ‘a risk to future of two secondaries’ in Godmanchester and Soham

The future of two secondary schools could be harmed if plans to build two new free schools close by are agreed.

County council documents say that free schools planned in Godmanchester and Soham would have an ‘adverse impact’ on existing schools in the area.

Director of education, Jonathan Lewis
Director of education, Jonathan Lewis

And the authority has appealed to the Department for Education to prevent the creation of the two new free schools in areas where is is no ‘demographic need’.

Cambridgeshire’s Service Director for Education, Jonathan Lewis, says: “The challenge is school finances are so tight now that losing a small amount of children could have a real impact.

“We are not well funded as a local authority so even the smallest change could lead to differences around the way the school needs to deliver its curriculum, such as less subjects available for its students. There’s real risks around it although they are hard to quantify but schools are not well funded and a small change could make all the difference. In both of these areas the schools are good and doing well.

“Soham has some fantastic results at the moment it is at the top end of our schools and it has not always been up there. We obviously don’t want an impact going forward because it is good leadership that has made a difference in that school and these schools can be vulnerable with just a very small change in pupil numbers.”

Cambridgeshire County Council is now waiting to hear back from the Department for Education whether the proposed Godmanchester Secondary Academy, from the Cambridgeshire Educational Trust, and St Bede’s Inter-Church School, planned for Soham, will go ahead.

The schools that the council believes could face the worst impact are Soham Village College and St Peter’s in Huntingdon.

The two projects remain in the pre-opening stage, meaning the government has given them initial approval, however they have yet to secure land for the school and receive final approval.

The council has heard no further information about a third free school proposal from the Cambridge Educational Trust for a Cambridge Post-16 Maths School.

Jontahn Lewis adds: “We are making representations to parliament and they are considering our views but at the moment we are pretty uncertain about whether they will or wont happen.

“We have to meet demographic need. In both of these circumstances we think there is a growth need but not the need for a new school. In both areas you could extend existing schools for much better value for money and meet the need, so we have challeneged that back it is not our decisions whether these schools are opened or not.

“If they are agreed we will work with them but otherwise we are worried about the impact it will have.”

A new wave of free school applications has seen proposals for primary schools in Waterbeach, March and Northstowe, as well as secondary schools in North Ely or Littleport and Dt Ives. A sixth form college is proposed for Ely.

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