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Governor defends plan to open free school in Herefordshire
A SCHOOL governor has defended plans to open a new high school in Herefordshire after council leaders voiced their concerns it might not live up to expectations.
As previously reported by the Hereford Times, Chris Baird, assistant director of Herefordshire Council, and Councillor Graham Powell, cabinet member for education, say a new school will take pupils and money away from existing schools.
Councillor Chris Chappell went further to claim the proposed Robert Owen Vocational School would “decimate” education in the county.
But Jim Crane, chairman of governors for the Robert Owen school, says the initiative is good news for the future of Herefordshire.
He said it would give students more opportunity to study core subjects and a chance to study for a VocBac qualification which would then lead to apprenticeships.
“We have a wonderful opportunity here to offer our young people and their parents another choice for 14-19 education,” said Mr Crane.
“This school will provide a new style of learning, equipping students with the skills employers need.
“It will improve their prospects of employment or self-employment.
“Students will study in an environment which offers a different approach to the delivery of core academic subjects with a variety of vocational studies and the opportunity to study in the real world of work.”
After retiring from a senior management role at the Herefordshire College of Technology in 2001, Mr Crane led the EU-funded national Training and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI).
“This was regarded as one of the most successful programmes nationally,” said Mr Crane, “with Herefordshire recruiting over 1,000 students between the ages of 14 and 16, until the funding came to an end.
“TVEI opened the way for the development for vocational diplomas at ages 14-plus and the Young Apprenticeship initiative, each of which flourished in Herefordshire schools and colleges, again until the demise of government funding.
“I believe this gives an indication of the need for specialised vocational education to complement core academic subjects.
“Young people in Herefordshire are now disadvantaged in that they cannot access this type of training.”
As a free school, the Robert Owen Vocational School – which secured Whitehall’s outline approval back in July but has yet to secure funding – would receive its money directly from central government, not the local authority.
But, as schools are funded per pupil, any students who leave existing schools to join the Robert Owen site, would result in that school losing money.
For information on the proposed school, the location of which has still not been revealed, visit robertowen school.co.uk.