Free school plans rejected by DfE

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HOPES for a new free school for vulnerable pupils in Thetford have been dashed after the Government turned down plans.

Despite support for the school from more than 300 parents, teachers and other professionals, plans for the Alternative Provision Free School for pupils with learning difficulties or behavioural problems were rejected.

Nico Dobben, director of additional learning at Thetford Academy, said the group of nine teachers, governors and education specialists behind the bid were ‘extremely disappointed’ with the outcome.

“It is not clear to us exactly why our application was refused and we are seeking clarification from the Department for Education (DfE) on this,” he said.

Only five schools in the country were approved – including one at a Premier League football club – and Mr Dobben felt it was difficult for the Thetford bid to compete.

“All these schools are in large towns and cities and are supported by established large charities, schools or professional football clubs.

“As it was a competitive process, it is now obvious that we were always at a disadvantage competing with the likes of Everton Football Club and its resources,” he said.

In their rejection letter, the DfE acknowledged that there was a ‘clear need’ for education for vulnerable people in Thetford and that the group had the necessary skills to provide it.

Mr Dobben said: “There is still an enormous gap in the support available to the vulnerable young people in the town with many of them accessing little or no appropriate education.

“Putting them on a minibus half way across the county to go to King’s Lynn or Norwich is not the answer.”

The group has no right to appeal but will be meeting in the coming weeks to decide whether to re-apply next year.