Council’s mixed response over ‘free school’

Bideford Town Council were split over plans for a new ‘free school’ in North Devon.

AN APPLICATION for a new ‘free school’ in North Devon has received mixed responses from councillors.

Bideford Town Council heard a presentation on the bid for a 500-place secondary school, called Route 39, on Thursday.

Cllr Peter Christie, a teacher at Petroc, said he was against the concept of the school which, if successful, would be situated between Welcombe and Bucks Cross.

He said: “I do not support free schools; I have been a teacher for 26 years and the �600 million for this is being taken from existing schools.”

His views were echoed by Cllr David Brenton, who said: “It will damage education for children now and in the future; it is an experiment that has not been tried and tested.”

If successful, the school will be funded directly by the government and free to set its own curriculum and style of learning.

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Anna Ward, presenting the plans to the council, explained the school would take a less conventional approach to learning.

She said: “We would aim to vary between one to one tuition, longer lectures, study teams, classes and workshops.

“We would begin by taking on just year seven students in 2013, and then stagger it with a new group each year.”

Councillors were concerned that with no catchment area, the school may struggle with finding transport, or how they would tackle selection of students.

But some remained positive about the proposed school.

Cllr Andy Powell said: “It all sounds great and very utopian. If you can find a way of improving education standards from what they are then good luck to you.”

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