Ipswich, United Kingdom (PressExposure) February 28, 2011 -- A BID to create Suffolks first Free School catering for children with specialist needs, is to forge ahead in the face of a frustrating setback for the experts leading the proposal. Despite a strong case and considerable community support in the early phase of the campaign, the Department of Education has this week rejected the first-round application by former Suffolk headteacher, Eithne Leming.
With more than 30 years working within mainstream education and special schools, Mrs Leming had submitted an application to the Department last month and recently staged a well-attended public meeting for those interested in the initiative.
However, the application has been rejected at this phase, with the Department explanation citing the need for more evidence of parental demand. It stressed that the proposal has a number of strengths, including the strong emphasis on high expectations for this underachieving group of pupils, the curriculum being broad and balanced while suited to the particular needs of these children as well as the educational expertise the proposers would bring.
Mrs Leming is invited to apply for the next phase for opening in 2012.
Unique to this particular Free School proposal is that the school would have a particular emphasis on meeting the needs of those youngsters with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, and those with dyslexia.
Mrs Leming has already gathered a vast amount of professional and parental support for the concept, and believes the school still stands a very high chance of being approved at a new application round if the demand of Suffolk parents can now be proven more substantially.
She said: It would be wrong to say I am not disappointed by the first-phase rejection, but I remain convinced that this is a facility which parents in this part of Suffolk want and that we can get the go-ahead if we can prove the case more strongly.
It has been identified at significant level, several times over, that in this particular county there is a gap in the provision for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.
I am certainly not alone in the belief that a free school of this nature could significantly change the lives of so many young people growing up in this area, but the challenge now is for me to get more families actually stepping out of the shadows and speaking out for the kind of facility which could benefit them.
A recent public meeting, held at the Co-op Education Centre, showed a great deal of passion for the concept among teaching professionals, community members, and those heading charities associated with behavioural and learning difficulties.
Eithne is determined to build on that momentum and strength of feeling to submit a new and stronger application, which would include more case studies and evidence of parental need.
She added: I would urge parents to get in touch with me if this is something they support and that they would benefit from having.
We want to ensure that the school is something that the wider community regard as an enormous asset, whether that is through additional out-of-term activities we are able to stage at the venue, or through the potential for our services to be purchased by mainstream schools and nurseries.
The overall objective is that we foster a great sense of social inclusion for our pupils and that they feel well integrated within the community around the school.
For further information about the project, contact Eithne@e-l-a.co.uk.