Dismay as plan for Chichester free school is rejected

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Devastated parents have expressed dismay after learning the Government has rejected their bid to set up a free school in the Observer area.

The proposal – which would have seen the creation of the county’s first free school – has been axed despite the fact that it would have covered the Bognor Regis constituency of schools minister Nick Gibb, known to be in favour of free schools.

Those behind the plans told of their disappointment after fewer than 80 out of 250 applications for free schools nationwide were successful.

Stephanie Jones, who co-ordinated the Chichester free school bid, revealed she would be now stepping down from her voluntary role.

She said: “We’re disappointed for all the families who filled in surveys and had wanted this school to happen.

“I’m now not going to be able to carry on with my role so another parent, Helen Humphry, is taking over and they will try again for 2013.

“I could pick holes in the feedback that we got but all it really said was that we were not able to match the standard of others, but there were no specific reasons given.”

The failure has left many concerned by a perceived lack of choice of schools within the area.

And according to Ms Jones, the proposal had even gained backing from Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie, who rated its prospects as a strong means of offering greater educational choice.

“We’d had support from Andrew Tyrie and initially from MP Nick Gibb, though I don’t think he can comment on events in his own area,” she said.

“This leaves me and many others in a difficult situation as my son is ten now and we will have to try and look for another school for him.

“There is just not enough choice in Chichester.”

Had the plan gone ahead, it would have been the only free school in West Sussex offering non-selective education to the entire pupil age range of 4-18.

A spokesperson from the department of education said: “We are unable to respond to specific applications but all applications were considered carefully against each other.

“Those who were not accepted will be given advice how to improve their applications.”