The flood of concern against the proposed opening of a “free school” in Burnley culminated in a meeting at Burnley Town Hall.
Representatives of faith groups, teachers and teaching unions, expressed their opposition to the Burnley High School, which will have a Christian ethos and will be the town’s first free school.
So far no site has been earmarked for the building and Chapel Street Schools Trust, which will run the school, has said negotiations are still ongoing with the Department for Education though they said it will be in the BB12 postcode.
The proposed school, which could open with as few as 60 pupils, at a projected cost of £5m., would be funded from a budget currently allocated to existing schools and colleges in the town.
NUT executive officer Simon Jones said: “Burnley must learn from the mistakes that Blackburn with Darwen has made on this issue where the introduction of five ‘free’ schools has had a devastating effect on primary and secondary school provision.”
Bea Foster, member of the Building Bridges Group, countered the Chapel Street’s argument that there was no faith provision in Burnley by highlighting the existence of Blessed Trinity RC College.
She added: “I also want to make sure that parents understand that if this proposal is not opposed, resources will be taken away from the majority of children in Burnley to fund a tiny minority.
Council leader Coun. Julie Cooper said: “Improvements have been hard won. With stringent cuts being imposed from central government, it would be nonsense to divert £5m. away from existing school budgets, placing them in jeopardy, to fund a school which the vast majority of educationalists and faith groups in the town oppose.”
People who wish to register their concerns about the proposed school should write to Mark Sloan at the Department of Education, Free Schools Group, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3B.