Will free school plan make progress?

CAMPAIGNERS hoping to turn a doomed secondary into a free school to save it from closure are to waiting to hear if their project is making progress.

Education chiefs are considering an application from parents and governors who are fighting to save Roseberry College and Sixth Form in Chester-le-Street.

The school at Newfield, near Pelton, is being closed at the end of term, by Durham County Council, despite public opposition.

The team behind the New Phoenix Free School is waiting to see if they will be called for interview by the Department for Education.

Parent governor, Donna Zepernick, a director of New Phoenix Academy Trust, said: “We are waiting to hear about the interview stages to see if we have been successful so far. It will probably be between July 7 and the end of July.

“If so, we will have to go to answer some more questions about the application and our plans for the free school.

“Some of us will go down to the interview process and answer more questions about what we have put in the application.

“Then they would discuss that and decide if we are approved for pre-opening and we would have to go through the pre-opening stage where we look at the premises and put policies and procedures in place.

Ms Zepernick’s 15-year-old daughter is a former pupil of the school, but now attends North Durham Academy at Stanley.

The group has submitted a detailed application to the Department for Education for a new free school and hopes it could educate 11 to 16-year-olds on part of the existing school site.

If approved, it will open to 60 year seven pupils in two forms in September 2015 and then take on 60 pupils a year subsequently.

Ms Zepernick said: “Not all children thrive in the same environment. A lot of the children in our community prefer a smaller area for learning.

“We will be looking at using part of the existing site, but there are no guarantees that we will be able to use it although that is our preferred site.

“If we are successful, the Education Funding Agency will have to liaise with the local authority on our behalf.”

The group can be contacted via email at phoenixproject14@gmail.com or on 07795-649716. A Facebook group is at facebook.com/2014phoenix

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