Dorset

Purbeck school campaigners propose Swanage free school

Campaigners who unsuccessfully opposed a move to scrap middle schools in Dorset are planning to open a free school in Swanage.

The school - being proposed by Education Swanage - would have an annual budget of almost £2m and take in 375 pupils.

The scheme was put forward after councillors ruled four middle schools would close.

Education Swanage is hoping the government will approve the plan.

Paul Angel, from Education Swanage, said: "We may offer local skills-based subjects, such as sailing or dry stone walling."

He added: "Within the budget we would be able to provide the correct amount of staff to cover the curriculum, as well as these additional options."

Education Swanage will continue talks with parents and other community groups ahead of a decision by the Department for Education, as to whether they will approve the free school proposal.

"This could be in a matter of weeks," Mr Angel said.

Free schools work outside of local education authority control and receive money direct from the government.

Raise standards

The Purbeck schools' overhaul - which also affects Bovington, Wareham and Sandford - was approved by an independent adjudicator.

Dorset County Council said the change, which affects children aged nine to 13, would reduce the 1,250 surplus school places to 125 and raise education standards by giving students access to a wider curriculum.

The new primary schools and secondary schools would get a £36.5m upgrade and the change would cost £2.3m, the local authority added.

The new system will be implemented by September 2013, following a two-year transitional period.

The area's 13 first schools, for four to nine-year-olds, will become primary schools for four to 11-year-olds.

A series of meetings will now be held with the headteachers and chairs of governors of all schools in the Purbeck area, a council spokeswoman said.

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