Heads oppose plans to set up a new school

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ALL secondary headteachers in Fareham are fighting proposals to build a new school on their patch.

They say the idea of another school for four to 16 year olds in a disused office on the Solent Business Park, Whiteley, would be detrimental to children in the area.

And they argue there is no need for more secondary provision in the area – as good-performing schools are not full.

The heads of Henry Cort Community College, Brookfield Community, Neville Lovett, Crofton, Cams Hill and Portchester schools will sign a letter this week outlining their concerns to Fareham MP Mark Hoban.

Phil Munday, of Henry Cort, rated ‘good’ by Ofsted but whose intake next year is 30 students short, said the plans for the so-called ‘free’ school ‘hadn’t been well thought out’.

‘The criteria for a free school is there being no adequate provision, but this is not the case here as there are lots of spaces at good schools,’ he said.

‘Do parents think a converted office block with a car park for an outside play area and no specialist provision for subjects like science is preferable to the full range of facilities at our comprehensives?’

The Whiteley Academy Group (WAG), made up of teachers and parents, is behind plans for the state-funded independent school.

Mr Munday said: ‘A 120-a-year secondary would need five science labs. They do not have the capacity for that. They don’t even have an obligation to employ qualified teachers, which is concerning.’

Heads fear if they lose students it could harm their funds.

Ria Allan, of Brookfield, said: ‘We’re already being asked to look at cost efficiencies to protect front line services. Putting huge amounts of public money into a free school will take money from good schools.’

Despite a surplus of secondary places, up to 30 children are turned away from Whiteley Primary each year – forcing them to make journeys further afield.

There are hopes the long-awaited North Whiteley redevelopment with 3,000 homes will bring a new purpose-built school with it – but heads say the ‘free’ school could scupper this.

Geoff Walls, co-director of WAG, said the headteachers were making valid points and would consider them as part of the consultation which ends on May 31. He added: ‘We are doing this for the families in the Whiteley area, but we are committed to working with local schools that are very good. If we don’t have their support we may need a rethink.’