The headteacher of a proposed free school in Chorley has hit back at claims there are already 400 surplus places in the town.
Dr Bulvinder Michael, who is behind the controversial new Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy, says education chiefs need to prepare for a soaring pupil population in the coming years.
Figures revealed last week show there are already more than 457 free spaces at the six secondary schools in Chorley.
And, under the statistics in a report by Lancashire County Council, it said that trend is set to continue in to 2016.
But Dr Michael says an announcement by the Government that the number of pupils is expected to soar to a 50-year high in the next decade backs her views that a new high school and sixth form is crucial.
She said: “We keep hearing that there are surplus places in the town and the academy isn’t needed.
“It is about preparing for the long term future as well as for tomorrow.
“The number of school places has been cut back but the figures show that they are going to go up again.”
Headteachers from the town’s existing schools have already raised concerns about how the new school may impact on their resources.
In an open letter, they branded the plans ‘unnecessary’.
And new estimates suggest the amount of cash diverted away from Chorley’s existing high schools could be as much as £3m a year.
The Chorley Career and Sixth Form is due to open in September.
Dr Michael said: “The Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy will deliver a first class education, with smaller classes, outstanding teaching and an education package tailored to their individual needs.
“We want to inspire our pupils and raise attainment across all subjects. It is not about ensuring a high percentage of children pass their exams – we want all our children to do well.
“The sixth form will be a real asset to the borough and we will work with the local groups and businesses to give them a sense of ownership in the academy, making it the focal point of the Chorley community.”
She says the equivalent of more than 3,200 new primary schools will be needed across the country by the end of the decade as the pupil population soars to a 50-year high.
She also said despite a declining secondary school population in recent years, figures also showed numbers will start to increase again in 2016 because of the effect of rising birth rates.
Dr Michael said: “Clearly the government’s own forecast predicts a huge rise in pupil numbers over the next eight years.
We need to ask ourselves if we are equipped to deal with this because if we are not it will mean larger class sizes or a reliance upon temporary classrooms.
“The Chorley Career and Sixth form academy will help manage this demand for school places.”
A free school can be set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, trusts or voluntary groups and, unlike regular high schools, are funded directly by central government. They do not need to follow the national curriculum.
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