Gloucestershire

Stroud free school plans submitted despite pupil place surplus

Plans to build a new free school in Gloucestershire have been submitted to ministers - despite a surplus of more than 1,500 pupil places in the area.

Steiner Academy Five Valleys wants funding for a 600-place school in Stroud, which it hopes to open in 2015.

Gloucestershire County Council said there were currently 1,228 primary surplus places and 319 secondary in the Stroud district.

Steiner Academy Five Valleys said it predicted demand would rise.

There are almost 9,000 primary school age and 7,000 secondary age children on the school roll in the Stroud district.

The free school - which would be state-funded and independent of local authority - would be open to pupils aged from four to 16.

Tarra Gilder-Rai, from Steiner Academy Five Valleys, said the organisation had considered future demand for school places in the area.

'Considerable' cost

She said this included looking at future housing developments in the area.

"The result is a 6% growth in demand for both primary and secondary places over a period of six years from 2015," she said.

"To facilitate the optimum surplus of places as required by our local authority, there will be a need for a new school in Stroud by 2016."

She said they hoped to hear from the Department of Education next month as to whether the school has got through to the next stage - with a possible final decision in May.

However, Andy Woolley, from the National Union of Teachers, said he believed the school was unnecessary, "as are many free schools".

He added: "Particularly in this case as it's in an area with surplus places in other good schools.

"The cost to the public will be considerable and this money could be better spent on existing Gloucestershire schools."

Free schools have the freedom to decide the length of school day and term, the curriculum, teacher pay and how they spend their budgets.

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