Call made for Saffron Walden County High School to take over Walden School
Councillors in Saffron Walden are calling for Walden School to be taken over by an education trust which also runs Saffron Walden County High School (SWCHS).
The Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) party has urged Essex County Council to adopt the private school in a bid to re-open it in September.
Walden School, formerly known as the Friends School, was founded 300 years ago in the town by Quakers.
While it is extremely rare to have new state schools following a presumption in favour of free schools from the Department for Education, R4U has also suggested that the Saffron Academy Trust – which runs SWCHS, Katharine Semar junior and infant schools, and a Braintree high school – be asked to adopt the site.
Councillor Paul Fairhurst, district councillor and deputy mayor of Saffron Walden, said: “We are sad to see such a historic institution close – the Walden Friends School is part of the fabric of our town. It is an especially worrying time for the staff, pupils and their families, as well as the local sports clubs that use the facilities.
“However its closure presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Parental choice disappeared long ago in Uttlesford and there is a school places deficit forecast of 30% over the next 10 years.
“Last week we wrote to the county council to urge them to turn the school over to a state sector operation.
“We’ve also asked them to consider asking the Saffron Academy Trust to run the school. This would immediately fill the primary and secondary school places deficit in Saffron Walden and the surrounding villages, restore parental choice, and offer an outstanding SWCHS education to many more pupils.
“A new secondary school is needed in Uttlesford and buying an existing school site is more efficient to local tax-payers than funding the £40million cost of a brand-new school.
“But time is of the essence. If the county council fails to act quickly this unique site would likely be lost to new housing, and many staff will have lost their jobs.”