Parents applying to create first free school in Devon

Parents in north Devon are applying to open the first free school in the county.

The parents, from near Holsworthy, want to set it up between Kilkhampton and Clovelly to attract pupils from both north Devon and north Cornwall.

The parents, who have set up a group called Route 39, want to take 500 pupils up to the age 16, as well as set up a sixth form.

Free schools receive funding directly from the government.

Free schools allow groups of local parents, teachers or charities to establish their own schools; and, like academies, are outside local authority control, receiving money directly from the Department for Education.

They are able to set their own curriculums, term dates and timetables.

Route 39 said it had spent months researching the work of the best state secondary schools.

It said its aim was to "incorporate these findings with ideas from the local community, and establish a free school that complements the existing secondary schools in the area".

The exact location would be based upon community demand, it added.

Twenty-four free schools opened this September in England, but critics said they feared such projects took money and pupils from other schools and led to more segregation in the community.

'Breaking down barriers'

David Fitzsimmons, the head teacher of the Holsworthy Community College, said: "We need rationalise education spending.

"One thing we seem to to be doing here is increasing expenditure on a very small number of schools which will benefit a small number of pupils nationally."

The government said no child should be denied an excellent education where teachers were free to decide what was best and where standards were high.

It has insisted that, through free schools, it was breaking down barriers to make this a reality for some of the poorest and most vulnerable children in the country.

If approved, the school would be the second such secondary institution taking students from Cornwall.

St Michael's Catholic Secondary School in Truro is planning to relocate to Camborne and open as a directly state-funded school in September 2012.

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