Plans for ‘ambitious’ free school to serve Mid Sussex and beyond

Rachel Alderman, secretary of the Hugh Latimer School group (left) with other members
Rachel Alderman, secretary of the Hugh Latimer School group (left) with other members

A group of volunteers are making an application to set up an ‘ambitious’ free school and have identified the former Haywards Heath college site as an ‘ideal’ location.

The Hugh Latimer School proposal is being headed up by Fulham Boys School – an English Church of England free school for boys aged 11 to 18, which they say is already established, oversubscribed, and successful.

The former Central Sussex College campus in Haywards Heath

The former Central Sussex College campus in Haywards Heath

Rachel Alderman, secretary of the group, said: “We are a local voluntary group making an application to set up an ambitious free school to provide our children and young people with an outstanding local education in Mid Sussex, Lewes and Crawley, for ages 11 to 18.

“We are keen to draw parents’ attention to this project in the hopes of attracting as much interest as possible, so those who will benefit from the proposal can have as much of a say in the blueprint of the school as possible.

“There is such a need for a school like this in the area. What we are putting out there is completely different and innovative – a private school model that is free for everyone.”

Hugh Latimer School would provide secondary and sixth form education to both boys and girls from within the Mid Sussex, Crawley and Lewes districts, they say,

What we are putting out there is completely different and innovative

Rachel Alderman, secretary of the group

A Christian ethos would be the basis for the school’s values and would be integral in nurturing all students into ‘outstanding citizens’. The school would be open to students of all faiths and none.

There would be a longer school day, which would include more teaching and a rich variety of sporting, academic and practical co-curricular activities, giving the opportunity to stretch all students.

High expectations of behaviour, dress and commitment would be required and a love of learning would be encouraged with the aim of GCSE results comparable to the independent sector.

Emphasis would also be on enterprise – a ‘can do’ culture, which would be personal, social and business orientated.

The proposed logo for Hugh Latimer School

The proposed logo for Hugh Latimer School

Rachel, 34, who lives in Newick, said the Government has recognised a need for a school in Crawley, but there is currently nowhere to build.

She added: “Here in Mid Sussex – it is right in between. The former Haywards Heath college site is an ideal location, especially as the Government is now looking into bringing the site back into use. There is a massive need for sixth form education in Mid Sussex.”

The mum-of-three said she’s worried about where her children will go when they are old enough to move on from their current school.

“For me, I want to see my boys getting the best education,” she said. “They are in a very lovely Church of England school with a fantastic Christian ethos, but where does that go when they leave?

“The Christian ethos is so lost, and we have had feedback from about 25 churches who have agreed there is a need for a faith school.

“We want it to be a community school and we want to know what the community thinks – we will reflect that in our application.

“We believe that we have got a vision to provide an outstanding education.”

There are ten members in the group currently. Its local lead is Geoffrey Main, who has a background in senior management of both private and state schools and is also an Ofsted inspector.

He said: “Earlier this year we visited Fulham Boys School and were very impressed with the Christian ethos and high standards.

“The school is in a working class area surrounded by high rise social housing, with 20 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals and yet, the standards at the school are first class and on par with independent schools.

“There are now six applicants for every place. We came away thinking, this is excellence in education – we’d like to do it too.”

The group’s visit at Fulham Boys School coincided with a Government announcement inviting submissions for the next round of free school applications.

Applications must target areas having a basic need for a high proportion of additional school places and ‘lowest standards and lowest capacity to improve’.

One of Hugh Latimer’s key aims is to establish as a specialist science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) school.

It says it is important that its plan ‘meets the current and projected demand of the local area’. It highlighted that occupations within the STEM field were growing at a faster rate than other fields.

Alun Ebenezer, headteacher at Fulham Boys School, said: “I am really excited about the prospect of the new Hugh Latimer School. Parents should have a real choice in the type of school they want for their children and I imagine, like Fulham Boys School, Hugh Latimer will prove very popular and oversubscribed.

“We have been impressed by the local team’s rigour and commitment to academic excellence.

“We look forward to working with them over the next few years in establishing a school that is built upon the Christian faith and nurtures enterprise that will serve the areas of Crawley, Lewes and Mid Sussex for generations to come.”

The group will be submitting their application on November 5.

If people would like to register their interest, or have any questions or feedback, they can email admin@hughlatimerschool.org.uk or visit www.hughlatimerschool.org.uk.

They say people’s thoughts will be taken into account and will be used for the purpose of the application only and will not be passed to third parties.

Free schools are innovative independent schools set up by parents, teachers, existing schools, businesses or charities. They are regulated under the Ofsted inspection regime.

They were introduced in 2010 and are funded by the Department for Education at the same level as other local schools.

If secondary schools, they must take a minimum of 120 students per year with 50 percent of these designated as ‘faith’ places.

Hugh Latimer’s aim is to offer extra places at 16+ to those from other schools who wish to study A-Levels.

If Hugh Latimer’s application is successful, a pre-opening year will commence in September next year, with the first intake of Year 7 students in September 2020.

READ MORE: Hope for Haywards Heath college site as minister recognises ‘need’

Government to look into bringing Haywards Heath college site back into use