What are free schools and why does Ipswich want them? Two new primary schools in the pipeline for the town

Active Learning Trust is proposing to open the free school, which will cater for around 400 pupils a

Active Learning Trust is proposing to open the free school, which will cater for around 400 pupils and will include a nursery, in September next year. - Credit: Getty Images/Purestock

Plans to open a new primary school in central Ipswich have been given the go-ahead – and another one could be on the way.

Gary Peile, CEO of the Active Learning Trust

Gary Peile, CEO of the Active Learning Trust - Credit: Archant

Active Learning Trust (ALT) is proposing to launch the free school, which will cater for around 400 pupils and will include a nursery, in September next year.

And later this month the Ipswich Primary Academies Trust (IPAT) will also submit an application to the Department for Education to open another free school in the centre of the town to address the huge demand for primary school places.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer welcomed the news, and said there may be other schools in the pipeline for the town.

“I think we need several new schools in Ipswich and I’m glad that ALT is ambitious about wanting to provide new space in the town,” he said.


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“There are several bids in at the moment and I want to see as many agreed and approved as possible.

“The free schools programme so far has a good track record of producing good new schools and I’m confident that ALT, which is doing good things elsewhere in the town, will be replicate that success in a new school.

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“I very strongly support the IPAT application and I think the combination of these new schools will provide considerable new benefits to children in Ipswich and it shows we are investing in the future.”

ALT already runs Sidegate Primary School, Gusford Primary School, Chantry Academy and Hillside Primary School.

The trust’s proposal for its latest school was given the green light by Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Gary Peile, CEO of ALT said: “We are delighted that our proposal for a new free school to support pupils in Ipswich has been supported by the Secretary of State.

“When opened, it will join our four existing schools serving pupils and parents across Ipswich.

“We believe alliances of schools are hugely beneficial, and as such collaboration between the Trust schools that are already operating in our Ipswich ‘hub’ – Hillside, Gusford, Sidegate and Chantry – is a daily occurrence.

“The benefits of this are far reaching, from the sharing of knowledge and best practice, to support for newly qualified teachers, to Trust events such as sports tournaments. We are therefore very much looking forward to integrating the new school into the Ipswich hub and adding to the already successful group of schools in the area.”

Mr Peile said the trust would work with the DfE and Suffolk County Council to bring the school to reality.

Graham White, secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Suffolk, said he had concerns about free schools because they could follow their own curriculum, dismiss teachers without adequate reason and claiming they could be “secretive” about the way they spend their money.

He added: “I think if you have a system whereby taxpayers’ money is used to fund the school and pay for a school we have a right to know what is going on.”

Why does Ipswich need more schools?

Ipswich has been labelled a “hot-spot” where schools are unable to cope with a growing population.

Many schools in the town are already reaching full capacity and have identified a need for expansion.

The situation is expected to get worse over the next five years as new housing and business developments get underway, attracting more families to the area.

With major housing projects like the Northern Fringe, provision for new schools will be included in their plans.

However, smaller developments of 150-200 homes can put pressure on existing schools, but are not in themselves large enough to trigger the need for a new school.

Three new primary schools and a new high school are planned for the Garden Suburb development, or Northern Fringe, where hundreds of homes will start to be built from 2019.

The IPAT plans

A second new free school could be created in the centre of Ipswich to address the demand for school places.

Ipswich Primary Academies Trust (IPAT) said yesterday it would submit an application to the Department for Education this month.

The trust currently runs St Helen’s Primary School, The Oaks Primary School and Whitton Primary School, and has announced plans to create a “sister school” to St Helen’s due to high admission applications.

The new school would be overseen by Clare Flintoff, principal of St Helen’s and executive principal of IPAT.

Mrs Flintoff said the trust believed there was enough future demand for school places to warrant two new schools in the centre of Ipswich.

She added: “We are pleased that ALT have been given the go-ahead and expect our submission to be equally successful. We always strive to work in collaboration with other academy trusts to meet the needs of Ipswich families and our aim will be to provide an excellent education for the children in this area.”

To support the proposal, visit: www.ipswichprimaryacademiestrust.org/home/free-school

What is a free school?

Free schools are Government-funded schools that are independent of local authority control.

They have the freedom to decide the length of school day and term, their curriculum, teacher pay and how they spend their budgets.

A free school can be set up by teachers, parents, independent schools, educational charities, universities, businesses or community and faith groups.

They are often run by an “education provider” brought in by the group that set it up, but the provider cannot make a profit from the school.

Student outcomes are still monitored by the education watchdog Ofsted.

Free schools do not have to respond to Freedom of Information requests.

Academies are different from free schools because academies cannot be set up by parents and teachers.

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