Academy trust plans to open free school in Littlehampton

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An academy trust has announced plans to open a free school in Littlehampton.

Schoolsworks, which already runs River Beach and Rustington schools, as well as others in Selsey and Bognor Regis, has applied to open the primary school in September 2018.

If approved, it would initially cater for 60 Reception children plus 30 nursery places, rising to more than 400 places by the mid 2020s when the school would be full.

Chris Seaton, CEO of Schoolsworks, said the academy was invited to apply to open a free school by both West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and the Department for Education (DfE).

He said: “The process was that we had been speaking to the DfE and WSCC about our plans, saying we thought we had capacity to expand and they both asked if we had considered opening a free school. The answer was we hadn’t.”

Under the Academies Act 2010, all new schools have to be opened as academies or free schools.

The idea stuck and Schoolsworks has until March to submit an application, but it will not receive a response until July.

If approved, the free school would be built in the north of the town in one of the housing developments in the area, though no exact site has yet been chosen. It would be jointly funded with money from the developers and central government.

A planning application, approved by Arun District Council, to build more than 1,200 homes as part of the North Littlehampton development, included a site for a new primary school

If approved, Mr Seaton said the project would be run directly with the DfE while working in collaboration with WSCC.

Schoolsworks plans to hold a public consultation into the proposal in the New Year, though no details are yet available. Representatives also met with other Littlehampton headteachers on Monday evening (December 14) to explain the proposal.

Mr Seaton added: “We’re trying to get the message across that this is not a competitive project, it’s very much going to be collaborative.

“We’re not planning to take children away from existing schools but to enhance the provision already in the locality.”

He added the trust already taught 2,200 children and employed 370 staff.

Judy Grevett, headteacher of River Beach Primary, and Schoolsworks director, said: “We are excited by this opportunity. It will allow us to continue to work closely with parents in Littlehampton to provide the best possible education for children in our town.

“Our aim is to provide the highest quality education to give our children their best possible life chances.”

Schoolsworks is currently based in Bognor Regis but plan to relocate its offices to Littlehampton in September.

What do you think of the plans? Leave your comments below or contact the newsdesk.

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