ALTRINCHAM’S North Cestrian Grammar School is set to end its private status, opening the door to non fee-paying students.
North Cestrian, founded in 1951, is bidding to become a free school which will enable it to offer ‘independent education without fees’.
Free schools were introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove as part of education reforms introduced by the Coalition Government.
They receive their payments directly from the Government, but are not controlled by the local education authority.
School leaders told staff, pupils and parents about their plans to apply for the change later this year so that from September 2015 there would be an end to fees of more than £9,000 a year.
Pupils on roll at the point of conversion to free school will remain on roll and will cease to pay fees from September 2015.
If North Cestrian is granted permission it will still be able to set its own extended curriculum, term dates and length of school day. Its governing body will oversee and operate the school, but pupils will not have to sit an entrance exam.
Lee Bergin, headmaster at North Cestrian, said: “We’re excited about the opportunity we have to provide the same high standard of education we’re known for across Trafford and Cheshire and the same levels of pastoral care but without having to charge fees.
“This will allow more pupils to come to the school and we plan to grow in size initially to 500 pupils which we believe we will be able to do with the existing excellent facilities and physical space we have available.
“North Cestrian will also be able to realise the vision of our founder, Walter Hamblin, of offering a free, non-selective independent grammar school education for the children of the South Trafford area.”
Ian Parrott, North Cestrian Grammar School’s chairman of governors, said: “We will build on our existing traditions and culture of excellence, developing an 11 to 19 publicly funded co-educational independent school of 500 pupils with the ability to grow further if demand dictates.
“We aim to stimulate and fully respond to the aspirations and abilities of our pupils. We will create a greater number of places for pupils across South Trafford, regardless of economic background.
“This will enable them to benefit from a school with high expectations and outstanding modern facilities.”
Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, said: "Trafford has the best state schools in the country. If North Cestrian's bid for Free School status is successful it will add even greater diversity to the excellent educational opportunities on offer. With a growing population there is a pressing need for more school places in Altrincham and Sale this is an imaginative solution and I wish it well."
Cllr Matthew Colledge, leader of Trafford Council, said: “I am fully supportive of the proposal by North Cestrian Grammar School to convert to free school status and move into the state funded sector.
“I have had extremely positive discussions with the school about how we can work together and identified a number of benefits to children and parents within Trafford.North Cestrian is a high performing school with achievement that is well above national average at Key Stage 4 and will further enhance the top rated educational offer to children and young people in Trafford.
“We are currently consulting on options to ensure future capacity within the secondary sector in Trafford through a sufficiency review.
“Information gathered for the review shows a growing pressure on secondary places in the Altrincham area with projections for that to grow to a critical level by 2017.
“The proposal by North Cestrian provides another opportunity to manage this capacity issue and expand the number of places available to secondary school age pupils in Altrincham.
“North Cestrian also has a well established reputation for its inclusive approach and already has a number of Trafford pupils with statements of special education needs (SEN).
“Our discussions with the school have indicated they are keen to build on this strength and work with us on increasing mainstream opportunities for pupils with SEN.
“North Cestrian wants to be part of the ‘Trafford family of schools’ and work closely with their counterparts in our schools to establish strong relationships for the benefit of the whole education system in Trafford.
“This proposal can only be beneficial to enhance the fantastic provision that is already available in Trafford and gives another option for parents.”
If successful the new status would take effect from September 2015. A decision is expected later this year and the next academic year would be the last one with fees.
The catchment would be from around the South Trafford area and based on the Government’s national admissions code.
The school is sharing details of its plan at a series of events. To reserve your place or to ask questions email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the website at www.ncgsfreeschool.co.uk or call the school on 0161 928 1856.
Consultation sessions will take place across the following days and times: • For all current parents, February 3, 7pm – 9pm.
• For all interested parents and pupils not currently attending North Cestrian, February 5, 7pm – 8pm or February 10, 7pm – 8pm.
• Open Evening, February 13, 6.30pm – 8.30pm.
• Open Morning, March 1, 10am. – 3.00pm.