Teachers unite to fight new free school plan

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HEADTEACHERS from across Chorley have united to fight plans for a new free school in the town.

In an open letter to the Guardian, the heads of all six high schools, Albany Science College, Holy Cross, St Michael’s, Bishop Rawstorne, Southlands and Parklands, strongly opposed the proposals put forward by academic Dr Bulvinder Michael.

The group claims the new school, which is earmarked for Chorley Council’s Bengal Street site, would take away vital funds from their own pupils, and that the project is not warranted in the town.

The letter, signed by all the heads, reads: “I think it is important that parents and the local community understand the views of the current schools on this proposal, and the potential damage it could cause to the education of pupils in Chorley.

“There are currently six secondary schools in the Chorley area, all of which are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.

“There is also exceptionally successful post-16 provision at Runshaw and the Preston colleges.

“A free school is designed to meet the needs of the community in areas where there is a lack of quality or choice.

“This is clearly not the case in Chorley.

“There also seems to be a lack of clarity with regards to the vision behind the proposal.

“Initially, it was going to be a 14-19 vocational provider, but this has now changed to be an 11-19 provider.

“One gets the distinct impression that the driving force behind this venture is to set up a school of some type, rather than to address a non-existent gap in the provisions.

“A new school is therefore unnecessary, and is not based on need or demand from the local community.”

The letter adds: “Should this application be successful, resources and funding will need to be allocated to setting it up and running it.

“This means that already scarce resources will be diverted from the current schools into the new establishment.

“At a time of financial instability and reduced funding for education generally, any further loss of income can only be damaging to the children of Chorley.”

Chorley’s Labour Group has already spoken out against the plans, as has former education chief Alan Whittaker.

Dr Michael was unavailable for comment when the Guardian went to print.