Does St Neots need a new secondary school?

St Neots

St Neots - Credit: Archant

Plans to open a new secondary school in St Neots have been met with a mixed response.

The proposal, to open the St Neots Academy, under the government’s Free School Programme, in 2018, is being driven by the team behind the Bedford Free School.

The news comes in the wake of the prime minister’s policy announcement on the introduction of grammar schools, which would effectively allow schools to select pupils on the basis of academic ability.

Mark Lehain, who is the principal of Bedford Free School and heading the project, told The Hunts Post that while he and his team recognised the hard work and successes of the existing two St Neots’s secondary schools, there were “compelling

reasons” why the town needed a new educational facility for 11-16 year olds.

“We have decided to propose this new school because we believe that it will massively benefit the town.

“Local children do well in their SATs when aged 11, yet don’t seem to do so well by the age of 16. It is heartening to hear local schools announce improvements this summer, but we feel that if children in St Neots are ever going to match, or do better than their peers elsewhere, something significant needs to change. We are confident that the St Neots Academy could be a big part in this change.”

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Mr Lehain plans to submit a proposal to the Department of Education at the end of this month, which, if approved next spring, could mean the school will open in

September, 2018.

St Neots mayor 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. He also pointed out that Longsands’ A-level results this summer were “well above the national average” and Ernulf “continued to show improvement”.

“We have no intention of allowing this to distract us from working hard for our learners.”