Paces bid for city’s first Free School

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A GROUNDBREAKING campus teaching children with cerebral palsy is bidding to become Sheffield’s first Free School - a move which could bring in up to £200,000 a year in extra funding.

High Green’s Paces School is applying to the Department for Education to make the change, which is expected to be ratified by September 2012.

Paces is a non-maintained special school, with its level of funding dictated by individual ‘statements’ which assess pupils’ needs.

The school currently has 27 students, each attracting an average £21,000 funding.

With Free School status cash will come instead directly from the Government and each child could receive at least £28,000, as well as money to maintain and improve its buildings.

Paces is moving into expanded premises and staff believe it is capable of doubling in size, taking in up to 64 youngsters.

Ray Kohn, who has acted as a consultant to the school for the last 10 years, said some councils refused to refer children to Paces, meaning parents had to go through tribunals.

He added: “We have been through 14 tribunals in recent times and all have found in favour of Paces.

“Just the process of getting a statement for a child can take a year.

“But as a Free School, parents would be able to come to us directly. Around half of our pupils are from Sheffield and we have good relations with the authority here, but we have children too from places like Hull and Rochdale.”

Paces believes there are around 750 youngsters in South Yorkshire with cerebral palsy but most of their families will never have heard of the High Green campus.

As a result, the school is keen to seek a higher profile and is holding an open day on Monday, May 16 with parents free to drop in between 9.30am and 8pm.

Paces must have its application in by the middle of June and staff are hoping the move will not prove to be controversial.

Two Free Schools planned for Rotherham are being opposed by the local council and surrounding secondaries as it is argued they will lure pupils away from existing schools.

Mr Kohn said: “With the potential to gain more funding and extra independence, the Free School option is a no-brainer for us. We hope too to be able to take on more support staff. We just want to help more children with cerebral palsy.”