Head teachers claim there is no need to set up two free schools in West Bridgford and Arnold
HEAD teachers have labelled plans for two new free schools in West Bridgford and Arnold as damaging.
The Post this week revealed how 1,200 extra secondary school places could be created by September 2018 under the plans.
Torch Academy Gateway Trust, headed by John Tomasevic, principal at Toot Hill Academy in Bingham, wants to open The Trent Bridge Free School in West Bridgford and The Nottingham Free School in Arnold.
Heads in those areas have questioned the proposals.
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Rob McDonough, head teacher at West Bridgford School, wants to build three new classrooms, at a cost of around £150,000 to ease pressure on places at his school.
He said: "We are open to giving parents more choice of where to send their child.
"These free schools could be damaging, in that it may count against our application for building funds, which would then deny many parents the chance to come to our outstanding school and possibly have to go somewhere which hasn't been tried or tested.
"The option of expanding our school would also be much cheaper for the taxpayer."
The head teacher at West Bridgford's other major secondary – Rushcliffe School – is also worried.
Phil Crompton said: "West Bridgford and the surrounding area is served by some of the highest-achieving schools in the region and it comes as a major surprise to hear that anyone is proposing to create a new school in the area.
"The demand for secondary places could easily be met by increasing capacity on existing secondary school sites."
Andrew Burns, principal at Redhill Academy in Arnold, also questioned the proposals. His school hopes to create extra space for 50 to 60 students in each year group, at a cost of £750,000.
"By expanding our academy, we will be able to cater for the growing demand for school places in Arnold.
"We do not feel that a new free school is something that this town and its people need," he said.
Robin Fugill, principal of Arnold Hill Academy, agreed: "You can't just plonk a new school into a community like you put a shop in a high street, because you are dealing with young people's lives that need to be nurtured.
"The Government should be building on the schools which have already integrated themselves in their community."
However, Linda Adcock, of the School of Education at Nottingham Trent University, said: "Free schools have a worthy place in society where groups of children have no suitable provision, for example children with a particular special need or where children have to travel some distance to go to school. They also provide a creative space where innovative educators can offer provision which is outside the usual educational experience.
"It is also a powerful way of supporting the drive to give parents and the local community more say in the education offered to young people.
"However, we need to take care that this does not fragment communities rather than join them together. We have to ask, whenever groups of children are taken out of an existing school population, what the effect is going to be on those remaining children."
John Tomasevic, chief executive of the trust seeking to set up the free schools, said: "We are proposing a small, personal school where learning strategies are tailored to the individual and where each child is important.
"The question parents need to ask is would they prefer to send their child to an existing school that is expanding to accommodate additional numbers and the numerous challenges that brings, or to a smaller, specialist school that focuses on the individual?"