PLANS to create two ‘free schools’ in Chester have been given Government approval to open in September 2013.
It was announced by the Department for Education on Friday that both the proposed University Cathedral Free School – based in one of the historic buildings in Abbey Square – and St Martin’s Academy had been successful in their bids to secure crucial funding to get their primary school ventures off the ground.
In total, the Government has given the green light for 102 free schools to open next year – an increase of 50% on the number approved in 2011.
In September last year the first 24 free schools opened their doors, while this September about 50 are due to be up and running.
Free schools are state-funded and can be set up and run by education experts, trusts, charities, parents or community groups to address a specific need.
The University of Chester Academies Trust and Chester Cathedral are behind the free school plan in Abbey Square, while Delamere Primary Academy headteacher Steve Docking and education leader Ian Colledge are spearheading the St Martin’s Academy scheme under the name ‘North West Academies’.
The pair have earmarked two potential sites for their school – one in the city centre and the other just outside – with negotiations over a purchase ongoing.
A period of statutory public consultation will need to be undertaken and planning permission sought by Cheshire West and Chester Council before the free schools can open next year.
There is currently only one free school in Cheshire – Sandbach School.