Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Free school application submitted in South Yorkshire

Campeon school in Sweden
Image caption The Swedish model has influenced the government's free schools policy.

An application has been made for South Yorkshire's first 'free school'.

The new school would have 850 places for 11-18 year olds the Manvers area including Mexborough, Goldthorpe and Conisborough and if approved open in September 2011.

Free schools can be set up by parents or other groups. They are state-funded but free from government control.

The group behind the plan is the privately run Nationwide Independent College of Higher Education.

Niche operates from a main centre in Mexborough, and provides courses in several community-based settings in Barnsley and Huddersfield.

Niche's principal, John Morahan, said: "We have applied because we passionately believe there is a need for a new school at this level and quality of provision."

'No co-ordination'

The school is planned for the former Manvers Campus of the University of Sheffield.

Plans are subject to approval from the Department For Education, and agreement with the University of Sheffield to secure the premises.

The planned school would specialise in two particular areas, music and performance and behavioural sciences.

The plans have met some opposition. Former headteacher Ken Cook, said the Local Education Authority should be managing the free school system.

He said: "By doing it this way we are putting it in the hands of different groups to run these schools - but there is no co-ordination of that and that's what worries me the most."

The Free Schools programme attracted a lot of attention in the run-up to the general election.

The scheme is similar to the Charter School system in the United States and the situation in Sweden, where non-profit and profit-making groups can set up schools - funded by the government - but free from its control.

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