Plans for secondary school gaining support

North Devon parents bidding to create a new comprehensive school in Torridge have been impressed at level of support so far.

A group of local parents bidding for Government cash to create a new secondary school say the response so far to the scheme has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Route 39 is a community group aiming to win funding through the Government Free School initiative to build the state comprehensive school somewhere along the A39 between Welcombe and Bucks Cross.

Free schools are similar to academies, funded directly from Westminster and free to set their own curriculum, teachers’ pay and most aspects of how the school is run.

During the past few weeks the parents of Route 39 have been visiting parishes around North Devon and say so far the response from fellow parents has been good, with some 90 per cent in favour of the scheme.


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There will be further project presentations at Abbotsham Village Hall on Thursday, January 5, at 8pm. On Saturday, January 14 there will also be a Free Family Day at the Milky Way, for a fun day out plus the opportunity to find out more, free with a voucher available from the Route 39 website.

A bid has to be submitted to the Department of Education in February and the vision is for a school of around 500 students, plus a sixth form. If successful it would be hoped to open in 2013 - with mainly a year 7 - growing the school up from that point.

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Mother of three Sophie Poklewski Koziell, one of the founding parents for the project, said the bid had to include three possible sites and the aim was to find a four to five hectare site somewhere on the A39 on the Devon side of the border.

“It will offer GCSEs and A-levels, as well as a range of vocational qualifications, and encourage children to become independent and life-long learners,” she said.

“It seems new, but many other groups have done this now, with 94 new free schools set to open by September next year.

“This would be a non competitive, non-selective school for the area, just like any other – it’s just a state school that would manage its own budget, just like Torrington and it would operate with the same admissions policy as any other local school.

“Route 39 has shaped a proposal, but without community engagement and support, it cannot go to the next stage. The free school presents a massive opportunity for investment in the area, and a potential for the community to shape a school that fits their needs.”

The parents of Route 39 would not be running the school or teaching there, although some might become parent governors. Also on the steering group are retired teaching couple Gus – a former headteacher - and Sue Grimshaw, who have added experience and knowledge to the groups’ bid.

If the initial application is accepted, it will go on to an interview stage in the spring and the result should be known in the summer.

Anyone who wants to find out more about Route 39 or have their say can go to www.route39.org.

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