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'Free school' offers glimmer of hope for school place crisis in Three Rivers
PARENTS are being urged to support proposals for a new 'free school' which could ease the shortage of pupil places crisis in Three Rivers.
As reported in the Gazette, Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) earmarked Â£82.5million to increase school places where pupil numbers had risen, after forecasting that 259 children would be unable to secure a secondary school by 2016.
Following a public consultation, two sites in Croxley Green and Mill End /Maple Cross have been declared as the preferred locations for a new school. The project will not be completed for at least another five years.
But frustrated parents have been given a glimmer of hope by Reach Learning, which is working to open a new 'free school' in the WD3 area as soon as next year.
The non-profit organisation is led by experienced teachers Natalie Simpson, Richard Booth and Martyn Essery, who told the Gazette: "It's really important that all children will have access to a great education locally but this may just not be possible in WD3, and this situation is set to worsen.
"We hope to fill the gap by delivering a non-selective secondary school dedicated to children in Rickmansworth, Maple Cross and Mill End from 2012 onwards, giving them the high quality education they deserve. Children will be admitted solely on catchment area, no other selection criteria will apply.
"We have been looking at sites and are either considering converting an existing building or using modular school classrooms, which are made in factories.
"We will slowly increase numbers for the first seven years until we have 840 pupils in total, significantly below other schools, as we pride ourselves on offering a personalised education."
To receive funding from central government, Reach Learning must prove there is a strong demand for a new school.
Two public meetings about the scheme were held in Mill End and Maple Cross last week, achieving an 'very positive' response, according to Mr Essery.
He added: "We had a great turnout with dozens of parents registering an interest, but we haven't quite hit our target yet, so we need as many people as possible to show their support."
A third meeting will take place on Wednesday night (18) at Croxley Green Community Centre in Community Way, at 8pm. Reach Learning will also be at the Rickmansworth Festival this weekend.
The scheme has been backed by WD3 School Action Group, which has led an ongoing campaign for a new secondary school in Three Rivers.
Group vice chairman, Carolyn Venn, said: "We've been campaigning for more parental choice and more secondary places - the proposed Reach Learning free school will deliver both of these objectives in a time scale needed by children in the WD3 area, something that HCC and TRDC have been unable to deliver."
For more information and to register your support, visit www.reachlearning.co.uk
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