What happened to the Ixworth Free School Bid?

Ixworth Middle School
It wasn't that long ago that this blog was full of posts about the proposed Ixworth (and Stanton) Free School. But now that the 2012 free school bid submission round has opened will they actually submit a bid?  Rachel Gooch has written an interesting article about this which is worth reading the title is "Free School Idea Ends in Silent Failure?"

Since Christmas nothing has been heard from the group and speculation that our friends at the Seckford Foundation would back this as their fourth free school bid has now been  dismissed by Seckford. It looks likely that they may not submit an application this time around but wait until next year with a possible proposed 2014 opening date.

In her article Rachel Gooch suggests three possible reasons for this:
  • Failure to do their homework: opening a school is a tough job and the DfE rightly expects the process to be rigorous. The team launched into the fray before doing proper research into the task ahead and so it made some crucial mistakes.
  • Insistence of an opening date in 2013: Suffolk County Council advised the free school from the start that this was not possible. The Ixworth site will not be available and the DfE would never risk a TUPE challenge if it looked like the middle school was just reopening with a new name.
  • Lack of credibility of the bid team: the DfE sets the bar high for free schools. As we pointed out from the start, a credible educational provider needed to give its backing to the school for the bid to stand a chance. Initially, the team ruled this out preferring to go it alone. Too late they approached the Seckford Foundation but by then they had already made too many mistakes and Seckford itself was in a messy, public fight with the community in Beccles who have turned out in force to defend Sir John Leman Academy, threatened by the upstart on its doorstep.
So the position is unclear and whilst I don't think the possibility of a school at Ixworth has gone away a much better quality proposal would be needed if it was to go any further. The "sell" to parents was characterised  by a great deal of mis-information from the proposers, for example that the school would receive much more funding (£12 000 per head was claimed when £5 500 would be more like it) than maintained schools. At the time I wondered if this was deliberate but I have now come to the view that it was simply that the proposers did not adequately understand the funding arrangements. I am not sure which is worse!

Once the DfE publish the names of bidders in this round (or the group chooses to come out of the shadows and make a statement) we will know more but as with the other free school bids when the proposers don't supply any information others tend to speculate and fill in the blanks. I actually don't think being unaccountable is helpful at all and if the proposers of this and other bids were to behave in a more transparent way I think everyone would benefit.
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