Beccles Free School Head Teacher Personal Statement

Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools have announced their first set of GCSE results today.

At Beccles Free School, 39% of students achieved 5 GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths. 29% achieved the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance measure, this is A*-C grades in the five core EBacc subjects (English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language). In total, 49 Year 11 students sat GCSEs at the school.

Nigel Youngman, Headteacher at Beccles Free School, said: “This group of students joined us as Year 9s when the school first opened and our aim has been to help each young person develop their ambitions and to reach their personal as well as academic goals. Whilst we are disappointed with the overall results, a number of students have received outstanding results and each individual should be congratulated for their hard work and achievement.”

At Saxmundham Free School, 28% of students achieved 5 GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths. 19% of students achieved the EBacc performance measure. In total 47 Year 11 students sat the first GCSE exams at the school, which opened in 2012 at the same time as Beccles Free School.

David Lees, Headteacher at Saxmundham Free School, said: “The group of Year 9 students who joined us when the school opened in September 2012 faced a lot of individual educational challenges with 45% at the time being below the expected levels in literacy and 55% below the expected levels in numeracy. Over the last three years we have been able to increase the expected attainment levels of these students, who should be congratulated for their hard work.”

Year on year growth of Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools, which were both rated ‘Good with outstanding features’ by Ofsted in 2014, means that from September 2015 there will be 330 students enrolled at Beccles and 315 enrolled at Saxmundham, with around 100 new Year 7s being welcomed at both schools.

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust is disappointed with the overall statistics and recognises that it hasn’t done as well as it wanted or expected to. However the Trust stresses that both schools have added considerable value to their students’ education since opening in September 2012, and there are some fantastic results for individual students. An external review will begin when term starts in September 2015 so that the Trust can put in place and take all the actions it needs to seek to improve on these results next year.

Dr Robert Cawley, Principal and CEO of The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, commenting on the GCSE results at Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools, said:

“Each of our schools has a shared sense of ambition and a broad and balanced traditional curriculum. They are underpinned by strong pastoral care and an exceptional breadth of enrichment activity which challenges each student to aspire to personal and academic goals. Our expectations are for each student to make above average progress and achieve to the very highest level in all that they do.”

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust opened Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools in 2012 and a third Free School in Ixworth in September 2014. Students at Ixworth Free School, which recently celebrated a successful first year, will sit GCSE exams for the first time in 2017.

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The most popular secondary schools in Suffolk revealed as 300 Ipswich parents miss out on their first choice

PUBLISHED: 09:10 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:17 03 March 2017

Matt Stott

Ixworth Free School, placed in the bottom 10 of sought-after schools in Suffolk for September 2017, according to school places data. Pictured are headteacher Nikola King and Graham Watson, of the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust.


Almost 300 Ipswich parents missed out on their preferred secondary school this year while more than half of the total places at Beccles, Ixworth and Saxmundham free schools were not filled.

The exclusive Suffolk County Council (SCC) figures expose the growing pressures on places and intensifying competition among parents seeking the best schools for their 11-year-olds as they move into Year 7.

There is a soaring demand for secondary school places in east Ipswich, with almost 300 parents denied the first choice for their children because Northgate, Copleston and Kesgrave are full.

However, the data also shows how free schools in Suffolk remain undersubscribed after struggling to attract parents deciding on the future of their children. Allocations are made up of first, second and third choices.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer has disclosed initial plans to build two new schools as heads warn they cannot keep adding Year 7 classes.

It comes after 93% of Suffolk families found out they had secured a place at their top choice of secondary school for September 2017.

The verified SCC data is correct as of March 1. It shows more than half of the total places at Beccles, Ixworth and Saxmundham free schools were not filled (196 out of 360). They comprise three of the bottom 10 schools in Suffolk, along with six academies and one maintained school.

Free schools, a legacy of former education secretary Michael Gove, are a type of academy funded by and accountable to the government. It is thought the Beccles and Ixworth free schools each cost the taxpayer £5-7 million.

NUT executive member for Suffolk, Graham White, said “notable examples” of undersubscribed were free schools near other schools.

He said: “Free schools were expensive to set up, funded unfairly and, based on these figures, not needed.”

Geoff Barton, headteacher at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, added: “Far too much money is being spent on pet projects such as free schools.”

Beccles and Saxmundham opened in 2012. Ixworth opened two years later. At Saxmundham, 37% of students gained a grade C or better in English and maths last summer. It was 47% at Beccles. Ixworth has its first GCSE students this year.

All GCSE students study philosophy and ethics, as well as art, music, design technology and traditional subjects.

A statement from Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, which runs the free schools, said their figures were based on applications made by last October and expect figures to “increase significantly”.

It added: “All three schools have had considerable interest over the past month with many families visiting with a view to applying for September 2017.

“The Beccles, Ixworth and Saxmundham communities identified the need for additional opportunity and choice of education for their children and our three free schools are responding to that need.”

Meanwhile, there were 291 refusals for school places at Northgate, Copleston, St Albans, in Ipswich, and Kesgrave High School. Only 250 places remain at the town’s nine high schools.

Mr Gummer said: “I am well aware of the pressure on numbers, and the situation will only get more difficult as there is population growth coming through primary school.

“That is why today I am having two separate meetings about two new school sites where I am bringing developers from the councils together in order that we can bring forward the construction of the schools, in one case by a matter of several years.

“I hope that in the weeks and months ahead, we will have some good news.”

He said one would be a primary and the other would be a “big” secondary. No further details were disclosed.

David Hutton, headteacher at Northgate High School, said governors agreed a 10-form entry for 2017/18 as a “one-off”, with a nine-form entry placing “great strain” on the timetable. He said: “We simply cannot repeat this.”

Kesgrave High School has added an extra year seven class for the last three years. Head Nigel Burgoyne said it would be difficult to add more, saying: “We are trying to cope with the growth.”

Elsewhere, East Point Academy principal Richard Dolding said the figure was “meaningless” as they are a “hangover” of the Lowestoft revamp of schools, and said student numbers are rising.

An Alde Valley Academy spokesman said: “The number of spare places available at the academy is largely due to the increase in school places within the catchment area.”

A spokesman for Ormiston Endeavour Academy in Ipswich said: “There will be a significant number of applications in the second round. We are a rapidly improving school.”

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