Ambitious plans to open a new free school in Doncaster have been given the green light by Prime Minister David Cameron.
New College Doncaster, a sixth form college for 16-19 year-olds, has been pencilled in to open in 2016 as part of 500 new free schools in England, announced by the PM yesterday.
The school will be free of local education control and would become the town’s second free school, joining the XP School which currently operates out of a base at the Keepmoat Stadium while a permanent building is constructed nearby.
Mr Cameron has committed the Conservatives to creating an extra 270,000 school places in free schools, if re-elected, by 2020.
The prime minister says the state-funded, start-up schools are “raising standards and restoring discipline.”
But shadow dducation Secretary Tristram Hunt says free schools lead to school places where they are not needed.
Mr Cameron said that New College Doncaster was one of 49 new free schools approved and promised further expansion if re-elected in May’s general election.
He said: “Free schools are not only outperforming other schools, but they are raising the performance of those around them, meaning more opportunities for children to learn the skills they need to get on in life.”
Free schools are set up by academy sponsors, charities, teachers and groups of parents, and operate outside local authority control.
The school will be run by the senior leadership team of New College Pontefract, recently judged outstanding in all areas by Ofsted.
Free schools are not only outperforming other schools, but they are raising the performance of those all around themPrime Minister David Cameron
Principal Pauline Hagen said: “The team believes that Doncaster needs a 16-19 free school because its young people are missing out on outstanding learning opportunities and on an outstanding sixth form experience.
“We will strive for excellence together.
“The founders of the College have an established reputation for very strong exam performance and we are passionate about sustaining and improving teaching and learning so that every student’s results represent their best possible achievement.”
Mr Hunt said: “Parents and teachers should be able to set up new schools. But we want it to be in areas of need, we want the money to be put into areas where we need to create new institutions.”
Natalie Evans, Director of the New Schools Network, commented: “In just five years more than 400 free schools have been approved, which is an incredible achievement for the programme. Free schools can only be set up where local parents want them, so it is a testament to the popularity of these new schools that so many have been opened.”
A spokesman for Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “The 49 free schools announced today would go ahead under a Labour government, but the other 500 David Cameron has talked about would be axed.
He added: “The number of pupils taught in classes of 30 or more is increasing, yet the government has spent £241 million on free schools in areas that already have enough school places. Labour would invest in new schools where they are needed most.”
The new school will be much bigger than Doncaster’s current school sixth forms and school chiefs say it will bring opportunities not currently on offer to the town’s sixth form students.
The college’s website says that opening is planned in for September 2016 with an opening roll of 500 year 12 students, growing to 900 in 2016.
The XP School became Doncaster’s very first free school last year, opening within a base inside Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium in September.
Work is currently underway to create a brand new school building on wasteland near the stadium.