Plans to create Doncaster’s biggest sixth form by opening a 1,200-pupil free school for 16 to 19-year-olds have been drawn up.
The proposal has been submitted by a team of leaders and teachers from New College Pontefract, which has just been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, and has been put forward for Government approval.
The people behind scheme are hoping that, if the plans are approved, the school – which will be called New College Doncaster – will also achieve ‘outstanding’ status.
Pauline Hagen, principal of New College Pontefract, who is leading the bid, says if the bid is successful parents and students will have state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and resources including a purpose-built theatre, dance studio and modern science labs.
If built, New College Doncaster would offer both A-levels and vocational courses in the town. It would be a free school, which means it would be a standalone institution funded by the Education Funding Agency.
The team behind the bid says it was submitted because they felt there was not enough ‘outstanding’ education for the 4,000 sixth formers in the borough.
But a total of 1,000 Doncaster parents need to support the bid in order for the Government to give the go-ahead for the college.
Ms Hagen believes the bid, and the school, would be successful and parents would support it.
She said: “The teachers and staff putting forward this bid do have a track record – an excellent one. We are simply replicating an already proven model.
“Ofsted said last year that there was an ‘encouraging start to the free schools programme’.”
If the bid is successful the college will open in 2016, but its exact location in the borough is yet to be determined.
It is hoped it will be able to offer 500 places in its first year, rising to 1,200 by its third.
At least 34 A-levels and vocational courses will be offered, including accounting, film studies, geology, childcare and game design.
But the plans have drawn criticism from officials at the National Union of Teachers.
Ian Stevenson, regional secretary of the union, said: “The free school project is an experiment and I don’t think children’s education should be the subject of an experiment.
“I believe we should see if there is a need for more provision and, if there is, the funds for that should go to existing providers. To set up a free school from scratch there will be huge costs involved to the taxpayer, and there are cheaper alternatives.
“Why would parents want to send their students to a college with no track record and which doesn’t even exist at the moment?”
He rejected New College’s claims that there was not enough ‘outstanding’ education for sixth formers in the borough.
The team behind the bid will be holding public consultations during July, August and September, before submitting their final bid to the Government in October.
n Visit www.ncdoncaster.ac.uk for more.