A multi academy Trust transforming education in Harlow has revealed plans to build a free school in the town.
Burnt Mill Co-operative Academy Trust (BMAT) already looks after a secondary and four primary schools in the Essex town, as well as another secondary in nearby Stansted.
It has now announced it is working on a plan to build and run a brand new free school across town, catering for 11 to 19 year olds.
The disused site of the former Passmores Academy has already been earmarked as the home of a new free school, with applications invited for potential hosts.
Helena Mills, head of BMAT schools, is producing an extensive proposal, with details of a curriculum including elite A-levels and the International Baccalaureate not currently found in Harlow, to be submitted to the Department for Education by March next year.
Ms Mills, who is in the process of meeting with Harlow’s other headteachers to gather their views, said: “There’s a massive population explosion in Year 3 and 4 which has meant most primary schools have had to expand. By 2018, even when all of Harlow’s existing secondary schools are full and even if they have all expanded by a class, there will still be more than 200 children without secondary school places.
“With Burnt Mill Academy very oversubscribed and parents constantly asking us to build another Burnt Mill, BMAT decided to look at expansion, but our site is not big enough. The old Passmores site is an educational site which has been mothballed for a few years which is the perfect location for a new school to meet the basic need.
“We could fill 500 first choice places at Burnt Mill so we know there is a demand in this part of town. The consultation process will show us whether there is a demand at the other end of town, too. We do not want to compete; this is about fulfilling a basic need.”
The new school, if approved, will open first with the sixth form provision from 2017 before the main school follows in 2018.
It will be named Burnt Mill Academy of Excellence, while the existing Burnt Mill Academy will be renamed Burnt Mill – The Academy.
A series of meetings will be held before the end of this year for parents and members of the community keen to hear more, to give their views or to sign their support for BMAT’s proposal.
The Trust must gather a total of 750 signatures from parents in Year 3, 4 and 10 before officially registering its interest.
Ms Mills said: “I think education in Harlow is very exciting at the moment. The town is growing far quicker than others in the south east and it is time for something new. It’s an exciting time for parents as they will have far more choice.
“Students are leaving Harlow for their post 16 education in Hertfordshire. We want to offer them something different so our young people can get the best education possible in their home town.”
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