Plans for Winchester's first free school pass major milestone

Hampshire Chronicle: Plans for Winchester's first free school pass major milestone Plans for Winchester's first free school pass major milestone

PLANS for Winchester’s first free school have passed a major milestone.

Organisers won enough support from prospective parents to submit a bid for Government cash to start a free school for 60 reception pupils in September 2014.

Although the ‘New Winchester Academy’ has not yet secured a site, it has registered an interest in the new primary earmarked for the controversial giant housing estate at Barton Farm.

If the Department for Education gives the go-ahead, it could run the two-form primary instead of the county council as currently planned.

Either way, the new primary will be built with money from developer Cala Homes as a condition of planning consent for 2,000 new homes on the green field site.

Building work on the new school is due to start when the first 50 homes are built in early 2014.

Winchester could then host Hampshire’s first free primary school and the first county-run ‘all through’ primary and secondary school at The Westgate in Fulflood to meet a growing demand for places.

Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine welcomed the move, saying: “The free school application is right to focus on Barton Farm because that’s where we need a new primary school.

“I hope they are working closely with Cala and above all, Hampshire County Council.

“The important thing about any free school bid is that it comes from, and is absolutely for, the community it will serve.”

As a free school, Winchester Academy would be state-funded but not under local authority control.

This means it can decide its own curriculum, length of school day, and admission criteria.

The Winchester free school plans to have a compulsory extended school day that runs from 8.30am to 4.30pm to provide extra-curricular activities for all pupils, including languages, sport, drama, music and dance at no cost to parents.

The school’s philosophy includes a strict “no tolerance” behaviour policy to ensure high standards of uniform, attendance and homework.

It plans a traditional model of education, focusing on basic skills in maths, reading and writing.

But it also promises a life skills programme to ensure pupils leave as “aspirational citizens of the future”.

However, the free school would follow Hampshire County Council’s admissions policy which is based on geographical catchment areas with those living closest to the school gate having priority.

Bournemouth-based Laura Dickson, an education consultant and former headteacher, is project coordinator for the new school.

She said: “We don’t want to step on the toes of any other schools and would work alongside and in partnership with them.”

If the Winchester Academy bid is accepted, organisers will be interviewed by government officials in March.

If it all works out, the free school will have 60 pupils in reception classes and grow to 420 students aged four to 11.

Mrs Dickson said about 40 prospective parents had already registered an interest in the reception places for September 2014.

Organisers have to show evidence of parental demand to win Government funding. The DfE is keen to start free schools where there is a shortage of school places.

However, Hampshire County Council has just approved plans to provide hundreds of new school places in the city at a cost of £10m.

In addition to the new two-form entry at The Westgate, it plans to expand St Peter’s Catholic Primary in Oliver’s Battery and Winnall Primary.

Free schools are the controversial brainchild of education secretary Michael Gove.

Twenty-four were opened in September 2011, another 55 in 2012, and 102 more will open this year.

Many are religious schools, including one where pupils practise transcendental meditation, but they have also included a specialist music primary, bilingual primary, and a “creative and unhurried” Steiner school.

Some have been over-subscribed, but many have opened with far fewer students than hoped.

Comments (5)

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4:40pm Sat 9 Feb 13

Yves1977 says...

Why is a free school needed? Plenty of good ones in Winchetsre run perfectly well by the council. This is just snobby parents, seeking some sort of public school cachet, with taxpayer's money!
Why is a free school needed? Plenty of good ones in Winchetsre run perfectly well by the council. This is just snobby parents, seeking some sort of public school cachet, with taxpayer's money! Yves1977
  • Score: 0

12:24pm Mon 11 Feb 13

J Cooper says...

There is a real shortage of primary school places in Winchester, especially in Abbots Barton area of the city largely down to a failure of HCC to forecast demand for pupil places. I don't think it is anything to do with snobby parents, just parents wanting a school nearby and not somewhere the other side of the city for their young children.
There is a real shortage of primary school places in Winchester, especially in Abbots Barton area of the city largely down to a failure of HCC to forecast demand for pupil places. I don't think it is anything to do with snobby parents, just parents wanting a school nearby and not somewhere the other side of the city for their young children. J Cooper
  • Score: 0

2:56pm Mon 11 Feb 13

800Jimbo says...

If people want a free school then I suppose they could go and have one, but not at the expense of everyone else. There is a school planned for Barton Farm already, so if they have that as their free school it will be at the expense of everyone else who is not quite so enamored of a "zero tolerance" approach and would rather be within the state system. After all, Hampshire County Council education department has a reasonably good record of managing schools, if not planning for them (and again lets not forget this one is already planned).
If people want a free school then I suppose they could go and have one, but not at the expense of everyone else. There is a school planned for Barton Farm already, so if they have that as their free school it will be at the expense of everyone else who is not quite so enamored of a "zero tolerance" approach and would rather be within the state system. After all, Hampshire County Council education department has a reasonably good record of managing schools, if not planning for them (and again lets not forget this one is already planned). 800Jimbo
  • Score: 0

1:50pm Tue 12 Feb 13

The School Boy says...

I'm not entirely sure but I think any new primary provision has to either be a "Free" school or an "Academy" under central government's new rules. The only exception being a "Faith" school, so it may be that we'll get one of these in any case. I'm in favour of placing the school where the places are needed to minimise the need for long dangerous walks across town for 4-11 yearolds. Building a new 420 place extension to Westgate, making a 4-16 school, will mean lots of car journeys across a town already suffering from heavy traffic.
I'm not entirely sure but I think any new primary provision has to either be a "Free" school or an "Academy" under central government's new rules. The only exception being a "Faith" school, so it may be that we'll get one of these in any case. I'm in favour of placing the school where the places are needed to minimise the need for long dangerous walks across town for 4-11 yearolds. Building a new 420 place extension to Westgate, making a 4-16 school, will mean lots of car journeys across a town already suffering from heavy traffic. The School Boy
  • Score: 0

9:46pm Thu 14 Feb 13

canonstreet says...

If Hampshire county council hadn't sold all the schools off for hosing we wouldn't be in this dire position of having to rush a solution through. I recall only 3-4 years ago they sold two school sites on Andover rd. one at Greenacres and the other opposite bereweeke rd. both of them have been built on ....lost forever.

On the upside..free schools are good. Especially if they get a suitable site at Barton farm. Though I suspect the county will try and block it.
If Hampshire county council hadn't sold all the schools off for hosing we wouldn't be in this dire position of having to rush a solution through. I recall only 3-4 years ago they sold two school sites on Andover rd. one at Greenacres and the other opposite bereweeke rd. both of them have been built on ....lost forever. On the upside..free schools are good. Especially if they get a suitable site at Barton farm. Though I suspect the county will try and block it. canonstreet
  • Score: 0

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