Plans for new secondary school have been put on hold due to lack of site

PUBLISHED: 08:08 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:08 05 February 2018

Archant

A proposal to open a new secondary school in St Neots - under the government’s Free School Programme - has been put on hold.

The Department for Education (DfE) has been unable to find an “appropriate site or building” for the school and made it clear it will not spend any “further time or money” searching for sites and has put the plans “on pause”.

Advantage Schools, the team behind the project, has voiced its frustration and issued a statement to parents. Originally it was planned to open the school in September this year.

“Obviously, we have argued strongly against the pause decision,” said Stuart Lock who is the executive principal at Advantage Schools Academy.

“We have made, and will continue to make, the case to the government for further choice for St Neots’ families.”

Although Mr Lock is still hopeful the project has some future he accepts the school will no longer be opening in St Neots this autumn.

“In practical terms, this means that St Neots Academy will not open this September and families should proceed with their current applications to existing schools. In the event of us being able to offer an alternative in the future, we would, of course, let everyone know immediately.

“We want to reassure you that Advantage Schools is still committed to significantly improving educational provision in St Neots. We know how keen you all are to see us open and we are extremely keen to do so, we will consider all proposals where we can make a positive difference.”

Not everyone in St Neots welcomed the news of the new free school as many felt there was already sufficient pupil capacity at town’s existing two secondary schools.

When the plans were first announced, town mayor, Cllr Derek Giles said: “The town is expanding and we will probably need another secondary school at some stage, but that may not be for some time yet.”

Rick Carroll, chief executive officer for the St Neots Learning Partnership, which includes Longsands and Ernulf secondary schools, said: “We will continue to focus on our priorities to provide the best education for pupils in St Neots.”

Mr Carroll told The Hunts Post that both schools had enough capacity to cope with future housing expansion in the town.

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