‘PARENTS deserve the chance to vote with their feet’ on their children’s education, a new free school proposal for Northwich has said – despite opposition from the town council.

An application for a free school for 11 to 16-year-old will be lodged with the Department for Education by September – something its supporters say would help push the town’s schools to improve.

But town councillors will not be lending their support to the project, saying at a meeting on Monday that the area is well-served by high quality schools.

They also say the schools have the capacity to accommodate pupil numbers now and in the future – something Edd Williams and Andrew Howard of Duart Consultants disagree with given the new homes being built and planned.

Edd said: “Houses are continuing to be built and they had to expand the primary school places.

“They have not planned for growth but for stagnancy and I think it’s naïve. We can’t just throw up a school in 10 minutes on a whim because we have run out of space.

“We have got four major schools – two church schools that are at capacity, one outstanding school that is over capacity, and one school that is not performing brilliantly well and is undersubscribed.

Northwich Guardian:

“These schools are staffed by dedicated and committed people who are I believe thoroughly sincere in their work with their students.

"However the material need for additional places is there and will only grow greater over time, as is the right to choose the kind of education you would want for your children.

"The parents of Northwich deserve the opportunity to vote with their feet based on what they want, not just what is available.”

Free schools are government-funded and all-ability, but are run independently of the local authority, meaning that – like an academy – they don’t follow the national curriculum and can set their own school days and terms dates.

The two key factors behind them are to accommodate pupil number and create an alternative provision.

Edd said that any Northwich free school would improve links between businesses and students and focus on technology, preparing ‘citizens of the world’ for future careers.

He said: “Sometimes you have to blow away the cobwebs and try something different.”

Cllr Sam Naylor said that Cheshire West and Chester Council’s education department had advised that there was not enough demand to warrant a new high school.

Cllr Naylor said: “The schools in Northwich are efficient and effective, and the feeling I am getting from all the relevant people is that there is no need for this kind of educational requirement in Northwich.

“I don’t see any point in taking it any further – there is not enough demand for places now or in the future to warrant a new school.”

According to government figures, Northwich’s five public high schools are at 88 per cent capacity, although this is skewed by Rudheath Senior Academy being 42 per cent full.

The County High School, Leftwich, is just over capacity, with Hartford, St Nicholas and Weaverham high schools at 91, 97 and 99 per cent, respectively.

Cllr Derek Bowden said: “The children and parents of Northwich are well-served by their schools.

“We are very fortunate to have a good cluster and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to destabilise that.”

But Edd added that further competition would help to boost the quality of schooling further still.

He said: “Schools are competitive – they want to attract students because that’s how they get their funding and how they justify their existence.

“A good school should not just rely on its history – they need to be doing something innovative.”