New 420-place free school planned for Larkbear or Tews Lane could open in 2018

The Government has approved plans for a new free school in Barnstaple.

The West Barnstaple Free School, proposed by Newport Community School Primary Academy, could open in 2018 and provide a 420 primary and nursery school places.

It would be built at either at Larkbear or Tews Lane at Roundswell, although the exact location is still to be decided by the local authority.

Plans, revealed by the Gazette in February, were given the green light on Friday by the Department for Education as part of the Government's Free Schools programme.

Tews Lane, Roundswell.Tews Lane, Roundswell.

Newport head teacher Andy Cotton said: "We are absolutely delighted to have been approved to open; Barnstaple is a growing town and with the current and planned new housing developments local families and their children are in need of more school places.

"The Newport team will be working with the local authority and Government to establish a preferred site following our public consultation meetings earlier in the year.

"I am very pleased that a significant investment will be made into the local economy, providing high quality education to local children.

"We will endeavour to work sensitively with other neighbouring schools, local people and community groups to take account of local opinion in establishing the new school.

Detailed plans have been submitted for 'phase one' of a 820-home development at Larkbear. Picture: Andy KeebleDetailed plans have been submitted for 'phase one' of a 820-home development at Larkbear. Picture: Andy Keeble

"I would like to thank members of the local community for their support during the process."

Free schools are state-funded schools that are independent of local authority control. They have the freedom to decide the length of school day and term, their curriculum, teacher pay and how they spend their budgets. They are free to attend and open to all children; they do not make a profit or select pupils on the basis of their ability.

Free schools are accountable to the Department for Education, Ofsted and financial auditors.

Sarah Pearson, interim director of New Schools Network, said: "The application process to set up a free school is incredibly demanding, so it is a testament to the hard work of the Newport Community School bid that they have been approved to open."

Newport SchoolNewport School

Outline plans for 350 new homes and a primary school at Tews Lane were passed in May 2013.

Plans for up to 820 new homes and primary school were approved by North Devon council in October the same year.

Mr Cotton said a decision on the new school's location would ultimately be decided by the local authority.

"Both sites look really interesting," he said.

"They have large housing developments planned and you could make a good argument for both sites."

Which site do you think would be most suitable? Email your thoughts to newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk