Free School plans back in running

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PLANS for a Free School aimed at children with learning and behavioural difficulties could be back on track.

The group behind a proposed Alternative Provision Free School for Thetford had its plans dashed in November after reaching the final 10 of the Government’s application shortlist.

But the team of teachers, governors and educational specialists has regrouped to enter a second bid.

Nico Dobben, who heads the group and is currently director of additional learning at Thetford Academy, said: “We’ve given it another go and totally rewritten the application – it gave us a chance to respond to the feedback after our rejection letter last year.

“As a result our curriculum is now more focused on preparing the pupils for the world of work or college but with the same emphasis on practical subjects and changing their behaviour.”

The second bid appears to have impressed Department for Education (DfE) bosses who granted the team a second interview last Thursday.

Mr Dobben said the group had done ‘as well as we could’ during the hour and a half meeting.

A response from the DfE is expected by July.

The bid has been backed by Thetford Town Council, MP Elizabeth Truss and more than a 100 parents. Other schools have also pledged their support for the bid.

Only five schools were approved in last year’s bidding process.

With one of those being Everton Football Club, Mr Dobben conceded that with a relative lack of resources, it was difficult for the school to compete.

He added at the time that sending children to Norwich or King’s Lynn for specialist education was ‘not the answer’.

And in the DfE’s rejection letter, it confirmed there was a ‘clear need’ for education for vulnerable people in Thetford.