With 400 spare places, proposed new school is branded ‘unnecessary’

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Chorley will have more than 400 surplus high school places by 2016.

The shock figures, obtained by the Guardian, support claims by campaigners that the planned free school is not based on ‘need or demand’ from the local community.

The statistics, from a report compiled by Lancashire County Council, show there are already more than 457 free spaces at the six secondary schools in Chorley and that trend is set to continue in to 2016.

The headteachers of the schools have already raised their concerns about the impact of the plans in an open letter to the Guardian.

In it they claimed that the new school is ‘unnecessary’ and would take resources away from their own schools and pupils.

And new estimates suggest that figure could be as much as £3m a year.

Jon Hayes, headteacher at Albany High School, said: “There are less children that are at high school age and so nationally we have seen a dip in the number of pupils.

“It isn’t because children don’t want to go to schools in Chorley – quite the opposite.

“In fact, we have pupils travel in from outside the borough – from places like Bolton and Horwich because they want to come to Albany.

“The fall in numbers has already hit primary schools and now that is feeding through to us and of course the new school wouldn’t help.”

He added: “Funding is assigned per pupil and so we would lose money for every student that decided to try the new free school and ultimately my concern is that a lot of what is promised on the website is un-substantiated.

“We print our GCSE results every year and so parents can make an informed judgement based on those, but there is nothing to base their decision on when deciding to send their child to the new school.

“We have now got a petition together that we will ask our parents to sign and also anyone in the community who opposes the plans.”

The governors at Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy claim that they have received 500 registers of interest.

However, as parents do not have to apply through the usual channels to Lancashire County Council, it is not known how many official applications have been received for the 2012 in-take.

Former education chief, Alan Whittaker said: “The new school would be a disaster for those already established in Chorley and we are proud to have an excellent education provision.

“The schools get money paid per child, around £6,000 at high schools, and so if the free school fills its 500 proposed places that would be £3m.

“I think it is significant that all of the headteachers have come together to oppose the plans and believe parents should be aware of the significant impact the new school could have.”

- For a full special report about the free school, including new blows after plans to site it on council land were scrapped, and a governor quitting his role, see this week’s Guardian.

- What do you think? Email guardian.newsdesk@lep.co.uk