Saffron Walden County High could run another secondary school in Uttlesford


- Credit: Archant

Saffron Walden County High School could run a new secondary school in Uttlesford.

Blueprints were released last week which revealed an additional 2,100 homes pencilled in for land between Elsenham and Henham - including provision for a new secondary school.

Approval of Uttlesford District Council’s draft Local Plan is still some way off but, were it to be ratified, the proposal would help alleviate the pressure on the County High and Newport Free Grammar.

Both schools are already “heavily over-subscribed”, according to Essex County Council, and last week the authority held a meeting with the headteachers at all four of Uttlesford’s secondary schools to discuss how to tackle the problem.

It will be further exacerbated by around 6,000 new homes planned for Uttlesford by 2031.

County High headteacher John Hartley told the Reporter that Saffron Academy Trust, which runs the school, would be interested in lobbying Essex County Council about the possibility of taking another secondary school under its wing.

“Saffron Academy Trust is committed to the idea of building a family of schools, which may well include both primary and secondary schools in north west Essex,” he said.

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“If there was a need for a new secondary school in Uttlesford, whether in Saffron Walden, Elsenham or elsewhere, then the academy trust would be interested in promoting it.”

The school wrote to parents back in March and suggested this was a potential way of meeting demand for secondary school places.

A joint statement, issued by Mr Hartley and chair of governors Mark Hayes, said: “The new school would be under the leadership of County High’s headteacher and share the same aims and ethos as SWCHS.”

The final decision about secondary school provision rests with Essex County Council. A spokesman for the authority told the Reporter expansion requirements would be formulated “once there is a greater degree of certainty concerning housing allocations”.

Previously the Local Plan had earmarked land off Thaxted Road as a possible site but this was removed in the district council’s March position statement.

Essex works to a formula that 800 new homes require a primary school, provision for which exists on land between Radwinter Road and Thaxted Road, while 3,000 would necessitate another secondary.

In theory, it means a new school in Elsenham would solve the need for secondary school places for at least the next 20 years.

There had been talk of the County High expanding slightly on its existing site and, although Mr Hartley was quick to insist pre-16 expansion was a no-go, he did not rule out the sixth form growing.

Saffron Walden’s county councillor John Lodge acknowledged a secondary school in Elsenham would be enough to meet Uttlesford’s need but said it would likely lead to catchment areas being readjusted.

When asked about this, Mr Hartley said: “We are committed to ensuring that families who live in our traditional catchment area of 12 parishes continue to have access to a County High education.”