Government gives support to Knebworth school campaign

A CAMPAIGN to build a new secondary school in Times Territory has taken a step forward – after the proposals received Government backing.

Members of the We Need A School (WNAS) campaign were celebrating this week after their plan – to build a secondary school in Knebworth or Woolmer Green for local children and those in the surrounding villages of Welwyn, Datchworth, Oaklands and Codicote – was given a provisional go ahead by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The campaigners have now been invited to submit a business plan to the Department for Education under Mr Gove’s Free Schools programme, which provides funding to educational charities, independent companies and groups of parents or teachers to start and run their own independent schools.

If the bid is successful, the school could be open in the village as early as 2013.

“We’re delighted to be given the chance to forge ahead with our campaign,” said WNAS chairman Juliet Pomerance.

“The school will solve serious problems with the provision of secondary education for our children. It will also strengthen the self-sufficiency and independence of our villages.”

However, the decision is likely to divide opinion in the village, where a counter campaign group in both Knebworth and Woolmer Green, has been set up to oppose the school plan.

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And even though Hertfordshire County Council this week publicly backed the Free Schools programme, county councillor Richard Thake, executive member for education and skills, said the Knebworth scheme would not find support within County Hall.

“The Government is clear that to have a laissez faire situation where Free Schools are springing up whether they are needed or not is hardly desirable.

“We’d be looking to support a Free School only if it’s in the right place, and a school in Knebworth or Woolmer Green is not where the most demand is.

“That’s what we’ll be saying to the Government when they ask us.”