Seckford Foundation label opponents as against "opportunity and choice for young people"

Graham Watson

After a huge petition was handed to Waveney MP Peter Aldous yesterday and a crowd of over 300 people at Any Questions? at Sir John Leman High School made clear the strength of feeling against the proposed Beccles Free School. The proposers, Woodbridge based private school charity the Seckford Foundation yesterday hit back angrily accusing their opponents, in a statement reminiscent of Gove's "enemies of promise" label, of being opposed to opportunity and choice:
We know people are opposed to providing young people with opportunity and choice; however the foundation believes firmly in offering all young people choices. Much of the information in circulation about the free school is inaccurate. Any petition based on this information will need to be seen in that context. 
This seems a desperate last attempt by Seckford to discredit the genuine local views from Beccles. These views were articulated recently in an article in the Beccles and Bungay Journal by local councillor and Suffolk County Council Leader Mark Bee:
In politics, I think it’s important to follow your heart and reflect the opinions of the people that elect you. As a local councillor, I’ve met and discussed the proposals with both the Seckford Foundation and the head at Sir John Leman High School.

Many of my constituents have expressed concerns about the Beccles Free School proposal. The concerns being raised are ones which I share, which is why I’ve taken the personal decision not to back the proposal. Mr Bee said that that he was behind the principle of free schools and encouraged parents, teachers and organisations to be more involved in offering education, but said that there needed to be the demand for it.

He said: “I’ve had a lot of correspondence and all apart from one or two exceptions were against it. If there is not local take up this is clearly not the place for this to happen.” Mr Bee added that he was surprised to see the initial bid given the go ahead and raised concerns about the plans to initially open in Carlton Colville, saying it was difficult to call it a ‘Beccles Free School’ if it is opened there.

Mr Bee has added his name to a petition signed by headteachers in Lowestoft and Beccles and thousands of parents and carers against the proposals.
Baroness Warsai's attempts at Any Questions? yesterday to make a similar argument to Seckford resulted in laughter from the Beccles crowd who know better than any of us not from the area what the best thing for their town and their children is.

But I expect Seckford's comments were aimed at the likes of Jeremy Rowe and others who have organised the petition. No matter that they have, in fact, devoted large parts of their lives to providing opportunity and choice for all children in Suffolk. Having visited Sir John Leman school yesterday it is clearly a place committed to nothing other than that.

The people of Beccles are not stupid and it ill serves the Woodbridge based Seckford Foundation to suggest genuine local views in Beccles are the result of mis-information. I am assuming Mr Watson made these comments before Any Questions was broadcast.

The Seckford Foundation Chairman promised in a letter to me:
We have consistently made clear that if, contrary to our understanding, the desire is not there, then we will have no wish to impose a free school on the community.
Time for Seckford to wake up and smell the coffee. Beccles doesn't want the Free School and what they are trying to do is impose it against the wishes of local people.

Seckford Foundation 6343694159967184020

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