Stoke-on-Trent’s MPs are lobbying the Government to back a new free school that would ease the pressure on secondary places.
If approved, Florence MacWilliams Academy is likely to be built on the site of the former Longton High School in Meir.
It is now the only Stoke-on-Trent bid in the running for the latest wave of free schools.
Alpha Academies Trust confirmed today it has withdrawn its application to create a new secondary school in the Berry Hill and Eaton Park area.
Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton raised the squeeze on school places during an adjournment debate in Parliament this week.
He highlighted the experiences of families in 2019, when just 82 per cent of Year 7 pupils got into their first-choice school in the city.
“Dozens of local parents contacted me to say that not only did their children not secure their first preference, they didn’t secure a place at any of their chosen three,” said Mr Brereton.
“This means more than twice as many children missed out in Stoke-on-Trent than in the rest of Staffordshire. Every one of the city’s 14 secondary schools are full.”
This year, slightly more families have been allocated their top choice after more than 100 extra secondary school places were created in Stoke-on-Trent.
But Mr Brereton said projected pupil numbers show a need for an additional school. He is championing the Florence MacWilliams Academy bid, led by Educo Academies Trust.
The plans – first revealed by StokeonTrentLive back in December – would see a new school built for up to 900 pupils, aged 11 to 16. Named after the Potteries-born mathematician who pioneered work on coding theory, it could open in 2023.
Locations previously considered include the former Edensor Technology College site, in Longton. But Mr Brereton said the Meir site – which is also home to Abbey Hill School – still has plenty of room.
The free school would offer a broad curriculum, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and maths.
Mr Brereton added: “I went to see the Secretary of State for Education with other local MPs and the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council to make sure that officials in Whitehall understood exactly why we need this new school.”
He stressed it wasn’t just about creating additional places. During the debate, he called for a renewed drive to raise education standards in the city. The MP said he was concerned about the number of schools judged to require improvement by Ofsted.
But Parliament heard about some of the successes too, with both Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, in Blurton, and Whitfield Valley Primary Academy, in Fegg Hayes, praised for their phenomenal improvements.
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Mr Brereton added: “We must open up new education options for children from deprived backgrounds across the city. And with industries full of exciting new prospects calling Stoke-on-Trent their home, ensuring our young people have the best possible education is vital for the future prosperity of our city.”
School standards minister Nick Gibb said: “The Stoke-on-Trent area is one of huge potential and an area targeted by the Government for additional support.”
With more than 80 applications to open free schools received in the latest round, a decision will be made ‘in due course’.
Mr Gibb added: “Stoke-on-Trent has been allocated something like £32.7 million to provide new schools and new school places between 2011 and 2022.”