Council bosses seek providers for new secondary school in Bury St Edmunds

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Council bosses are seeking expressions of interest from organisations to open a new secondary school in Bury St Edmunds ahead of a major education shake-up and massive development of housing.

Suffolk County Council is looking for approved providers to set up the 11-16 school in Moreton Hall for September 2016 to accommodate up to 1,200 pupils and a sixth form.

The move is part of the proposed closure of middle schools in Bury in three years’ time and development of almost 6,000 homes in the next 20 years.

County and borough councillor Trevor Beckwith, who represents Moreton Hall, said: “We need an upper school in Moreton Hall. How it comes about might be a matter of debate but we will have to see what comes forward.”

Under national legislation new schools are expected to be academies, including special types such as free schools run by independent academy trusts, which are already approved by the Department for Education, rather than the county council.

The trusts can be set up by organisations such as religious groups, educational specialists, employers, charities and community groups, according to council documents.

Existing academies can also apply to run new schools.

The school would initially offer 120 places in each year group with a total of 600 pupils and would potentially take 1,200 as the town expands becoming large enough to sustain a sixth form.

The county council is negotiating a site and would pay for the first phase of building with developers expected to fund further work through Section 106 agreements.

The Bury Schools Partnership, set up to smooth the transition to two tier education, is ‘keen’ to work with the new school’s provider.

Geoff Barton, head at King Edward VI School, which is unable to expand to take on extra year groups due to space constraints, said: “Whoever the provider is we think it would be in the interests of the town, parents and children if they work closely with the Schools Partnership so parents are reassured they’re going to get a school of high quality.”

Outline expressions of interest must be received by September 27.

The proposers will present their plans to the public towards the end of the year before the council’s cabinet selects the preferred bidders in February to be assessed by the Department for Education for final approval.