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Five more free schools for Devon and Cornwall approve

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: July 14, 2012

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Five new free schools are set to open in the Westcountry after the Prime Minister announced 100 successful bids to Education Secretary Michael Gove's controversial scheme.

The approvals will bring to almost 200 the total number of the new-style primary and secondary schools in the country, which are state-funded but independent of local authorities.

Devon will see a new all-age Steiner school in Exeter, the All Saints primary school at Sparkwell, and a new secondary school near the north coast serving both sides of the Cornish border, called Route 39.

Plymouth can expect a new Marine Academy primary school and an all-age School of Creative Arts.

With Cornwall already set for a new private catholic secondary school at Camborne, called St Michael's, this brings the number of new schools in the two counties to six, and nine across the greater South West.

Unveiling the list of 102 approved applications yesterday, most due to open in September 2013, David Cameron hailed a "revolution" in British schooling.

"Free schools work and parents and teachers want more of them," he added.

Supporters of Route 39, named after the A39 road, said "wheels have now been set in motion" to create another rural state secondary school for 500 pupils plus a sixth form, located between Welcombe and Buck's Cross.

Spokeswoman Emma Morrison said: "This is a unique opportunity to design a school from scratch, to take the best educational practice and put it into a local context,"

"We want this new school to be a flagship of excellence and 21st century education."

Free schools are established by groups including parents, teachers, faith groups and charities and have powers to decide how they spend their budgets and set their own curriculum, teaching hours and term-times.

Teaching unions have claimed that they adversely affect neighbouring schools when they open in areas with no shortage of spaces.

The Department for Education said that 88% of the primaries approved today are in areas with a shortfall of places and 63% in an area with a severe need for more places.

But educational expert and director of the Yeovil-based schools networking site WorkingInSchool, Nigel Gann, said the region does not need new schools.

Mr Gann added: "They are not catering for the whole swathe of the population and tend to meet the needs of a narrow interest group from certain sectors of the population.

"I don't know of any particular need for new schools – the vast majority of parents are generally satisfied with their children's schools."

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