Bid for free school in former Carr Street Co-op rejected by Government

The former Ipswich Co-op Department Store in Carr Street. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The former Ipswich Co-op Department Store in Carr Street. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Plans to establish a new free school in the former Co-op department store in Carr Street have collapsed after a bid was turned down by the Department for Education.

The former Ipswich Primary Academies Trust, now known as A Suffolk School Education Trust (ASSET Education), announced its intention in June last year to create a new free school in Ipswich which would act as a sister school to the existing St Helen’s Primary School in Woodbridge Road.

School bosses said it could not currently cope with the demand for places at St Helen’s, and the empty former Co-op store in Carr Street was soon identified as an ideal location.

But during Wednesday’s announcement by the DfE that 131 new free schools had been given the green light nationwide, ASSET was told it’s free school bid had been unsuccessful.

Clare Flintoff, executive principal of ASSET Education, said: “Our application in wave 12 was unsuccessful, and that’s really down to the fact of proving the demand is there in the centre of Ipswich.

“We wouldn’t want our application to be approved if the demand for places wasn’t there yet, but we will make an application in the future when we can prove there is a demand there.”

Read more:

Trust announces new free school plansFormer Co-op could become free schoolTalks begin in January for free school planActive Learning Trust to open new free school in IpswichEast of England Co-op regeneration plans

If plans had been approved, the school would have catered for 460 students, with the intention of opening by September 2018.

Once approved by DfE, the Education Funding Authority would then have to provide the necessary finance.

A new free school – Central Ipswich Free School – has already been given the go-ahead by the DfE in the last round of bids in 2016, with the Active Learning Trust at the helm for the 400-capacity school.

Most Read

The Carr Street building is still owned by the East of England Co-op, which has been working to fill the unit as part of its regeneration efforts across Ipswich that includes an extension to Rosehill Retail Park, up to 130 homes on the former Coastal Building Supplies site in Derby Road and demolition of vacant stores in Upper Orwell Street.

The East of England Co-op also revealed that Sports Direct had shown an interest in the building two years ago, but the deal failed to progress after it opted to remain in its existing unit.