Seckford’s plans for Free School chain shaken by rejection and low uptake

Seckford Foundations failure to get approval for a Stoke-by-Nayland Free School last week must be causing it to look very carefully at its ambitious plan for a chain of Free Schools.

Not only has it failed to to get the go ahead to open Stoke-by-Nayland next year but they are facing problems in recruiting sufficient pupils for the two schools — Beccles (but at Carlton Colville for two years) and Saxmundam — planned to open in September.

On Friday, faced with national coverage of low recruitment (only 37 pupils) for the Beccles school, they updated the figures and gave them to Archant’s regional papers. The headline was a a very positive “pupil numbers rise by 48%”.

But read the story, they have gone from 37 to 55, spread across three age-group years.

The Saxmundham school has enlisted fewer than 100 pupils and parents have been invited to a “consultation” on Thursday this week at the middle schools site which is being taken over. Looks very much like a recruitment session.

If the foundation has been concerned by bad publicity over the Beccles school they must be terrified about what could happen in September. I can pretty well write the headline now (just drop in the appropriate multi-thousand pound figure).

Gove Free School places cost £XX,XXX each pupil

Not much of a guess as the websites for the the schools (Beccles and Saxmundham) list 14 teachers for each school. Three of the teachers are shared. Presumably the contracts are signed and sealed as there are photos and biographies of all the teachers.

News update from Stoke-by-Nayland Free School website

Latest news on Stoke-by-Nayland Free School website. July 15

Since the thumbs-down for the Stoke-by-Nayland plan they clearly been too shocked to update the site.

The ambition of the foundation’s plans is clear from the certificate of incorporation of The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, registered at Companies House in May.

The rules of the company say: “There shall be a minimum of 2 Parent Directors for every 10 or fewer Academies.”

The chairman of each of the Academies will also be directors. But there is an added proviso: “If the number of Academies exceeds five, the chairmen of the Local Governing Bodies shall elect five persons from amongst the1r number to be the Academy Directors.”

These are not boilerplate company rules but have been written specifically for Seckford.  In addition to running Free Schools, the rules allow the company, which is limited by guarantee and for the public benefit, to “to carry out research into the development and application of new techniques 1n education…” and publish it, and to provide educational facilities and services to students of all ages.

James Hargrave who has campaigned against the Beccles Free School, but not all Free Schools, wrote on his blog yesterday:

By persisting in opening a school almost nobody wants or needs the Seckford Foundation have brought themselves and indeed the whole free school programme into disrepute.

Rob Cawley, principal of The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, told Archant newspapers:

The foundation remains confident that numbers will continue to rise for places at the Beccles Free School in the coming weeks as more and more people take up the freedom of choice in their child’s future education.

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