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Norwich headteacher's anger at impact of England's first free school

Kings House in Surrey Street, Norwich, where the Norwich Free School will be situated.

Kings House in Surrey Street, Norwich, where the Norwich Free School will be situated.

©Archant Photographic 2011

'Free schools' - including England's first, in Norwich - have been strongly criticised by a city headteacher.

As revealed in the Evening News last week, Free School Norwich will open in Kings House on Surrey Street in September.

But the move is understood to have caused concern among nearby state school headteachers, who fear it will soak up their money and take away some of their pupils.

Sue Banbury, headteacher of Tuckswood Primary, at Tuckswood Centre, said there was “huge disquiet among school leaders”.

Tuckswood Primary is one of the schools that could be competing for pupils with Free School Norwich, which will eventually have 168 four-11-year-olds.

Mrs Banbury said: “It is my personal opinion that there is huge disquiet amongst school leaders as the ‘free schools’ are diverting money away from maintained schools such as ours.

“It seems to me to be inappropriate to use savings for free schools at a time whilst grants to maintained schools are cut.”

She said that it had been recently reported that one of the first wave of free schools was getting £28m from the government to buy and refurbish a former south London hospital.

She said: “That money would, at current costs, maintain our school for the next 28 years. And I would not have to be making staff redundant due to cutbacks in grants made to children’s services.”

Free School Norwich’s principal, Tania Sidney-Roberts, said the school would get the same per-pupil funding as mainstream schools, and added: “Because we are open to applicants from all over Norfolk, and because most of the parents will be travelling into Norwich to work, we do not anticipate having a significant impact on other local schools.”

Meanwhile, the government and Mrs Sidney-Roberts would not reveal how much money had been spent on it so far.

Mrs Sidney-Roberts said: “The costs associated with the eight new free schools are not yet in the public domain, and so, unfortunately, I am unable to comment on this at this point in time. I did take advice on this from the Department for Education (DfE).”

● What do you think? Write to Evening News letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, email steve.downes@archant.co.uk or follow @stevedownes1973 on Twitter.

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