Earlier in the year, the Lawrence Sheriff School Academy Trust decided to submit an application to sponsor a free school, The Sheriff School, in Nuneaton. Top of our reasons for submitting the bid was the desire to give pupils, parents and families in Nuneaton an opportunity to attend a school with the ethos and values of Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby. Although the school that we proposed was not selective, we were confident that we could still capture the distinctive ‘way that we do things around here’ in the free school that we proposed to open, not least because we had done something similar in a variety of different schools and settings over recent years.
The Department for Education (DfE) has now come back to us to say that they do not wish to take us up on our application.
The DfE’s concerns centred on what they felt was our failure to take ‘account of the difference between the existing cohort of pupils in Rugby and the community the school will serve in Nuneaton’. They suggested that our bid wrongly relied upon ‘an assumption that good teaching alone would be sufficient for pupils to meet high academic standards’.
The DfE goes on to argue that in the light of this our aspirations for pupils in Nuneaton were too high, questioning whether it was ‘realistic or deliverable’ to have a target that ‘85% of pupils achieve 5 or more grades 4 to 9 at GCSE’.
The DfE felt that the strong local support for our application arose only from ‘aspirational parents’. Equally, they argued that there was not ‘sufficient demand for the sixth form provision’ that the new school would provide.
We continue to feel that our high aspirations for pupils in Nuneaton were both realistic and achievable and that we were right to base them upon high quality teaching, but given the feedback from the DfE, we have no plans to resubmit our proposals. We would like to send our good wishes to the people of Nuneaton and say how sorry we are that we have not had the opportunity to work in partnership with them. Equally, we wish the DfE every success as they now seek to find an alternative provider more in tune with their vision and aspirations.
Lawrence Sheriff School Academy Trust