New ‘Wisbech Free School’ approved by Department for Education

The ‘Wisbech Free School’ has received government funding after gaining approval from the Department for Education. Thomas...

The ‘Wisbech Free School’ has received government funding after gaining approval from the Department for Education. Thomas Clarkson Academy is pictured. - Credit: PAUL TIBBS PHOTOGRAPHY

The Department for Education has granted Government funding to build a new “once in a generation” secondary school in Wisbech. 

The Brooke Weston Trust – which already operates Thomas Clarkson Academy and Peckover Primary School – was granted the funds to open ‘Wisbech Free School’.  

They applied under wave 14 of the department’s Free School Application Process in 2019 and after several delays the announcement was made today (February 5).  

Unity Howard, director of the New Schools Network, told Schools Week: “The groups planning these new free schools should be proud today. 

“The free school application process is demanding, and this year they have dealt with additional uncertainties owing to the pandemic.” 

Free schools are new schools, set up by parents, teachers and charities in response to the demand from the local community.  


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More than 40 per cent of free schools are in the 30 per cent most deprived communities in the country.  

The Wave 14 criteria continue to focus on areas where there is both a need for more school places and low education standards. 

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Wave 14 was first launched in January 2019 by former education secretary Damian Hinds, and applications were supposed to open in the spring of that year with a deadline of September 30.  

However, despite the publication of detailed guidance for applicants in April 2019, the application process never actually opened, and a deadline extension until November 11 was announced.  

Prime minister Boris Johnson re-launched the wave of applications in September 2019.  

Applicants to wave 14 were required to demonstrate a “basic need” for places in their area, as well as evidence that their school would serve an area of educational underperformance.  

Applicants with existing schools also had to demonstrate a “strong educational track record”.  

The government said 10 of the 21 schools approved were in “some of the most deprived areas”. 

In 2019, Dr Andrew Campbell, Brooke Weston Trust CEO, said: “Education in Fenland is a top priority and the trust has already demonstrated its commitment to both Thomas Clarkson Academy and Peckover Primary Schools, which both have very clear plans and aspirations for the future.”  

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