CHICHESTER Free School has defended itself against a condemning report from a parent-led campaign group.
Sarah Maynard, from West Sussex Academy Watch, claimed the opening of the free school in September last year ‘coincided’ with teachers’ redundancies caused by falling numbers of pupils at Chichester High School for Boys and Chichester High School for Girls.
She described the free school as a ‘costly and dangerous dismantling’ of the state education system – claiming the free school did not have a ‘forecast need’ for places.
Dan Sartin, from UNISON West Sussex, said the redundancy payouts caused by the county council’s ‘proliferation’ of the free school was a ‘huge and unnecessary drain on the public purse’.
But Chichester Free School has hit back, arguing parents have ‘more choice’.
“For parents of secondary-age pupils, until September there was no non-denominational mixed school in Chichester,” said a spokesman.
A spokesman for the high schools, which are both run by the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), said the decline in intake had ‘coincided’ with the expansion of ‘alternative secondary school options’.
“The high schools would not use a word like ‘blame’ in connection with Chichester Free School; we are all colleagues doing the best for the students in our local community.
“However, it would be true to say that the opening of a new secondary school has inevitably had an impact on our intake.”
A spokesman for Sussex Education Trust, which runs the free school, said: “The idea that Chichester Free School’s opening is the cause of the loss of 70 teaching jobs in the two local high schools is unfounded.”
He said the loss ‘cannot be placed at the door’ of a school which has just over a dozen teachers for 90 secondary-level pupils.
West Sussex County Council said it was ‘committed to working with all schools’ to help pupils receive a ‘high standard’ of education.