THE creation of a Durham free school will not draw funding away from other secondaries, its first headteacher has claimed.

In his first interview since being appointed, Peter Cantley said Durham Free School would bring extra investment to the area and increase parental choice and he wanted to work with other schools.

“I personally believe much more can be achieved in education through collaboration than through competition,” the former Department for Education official said.

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He conceded there were surplus places at nearby schools but said the threat to 11 to 16 education at Durham Gilesgate Sports College had nothing to do with the free school.

“The funding we receive will not draw away funding from other schools,” Mr Cantley said.

The Free School is set to open in September 2013, initially with 60 Year Seven pupils.

Mr Cantley said he hoped a site would be announced in late January. Securing a location is the responsibility of the Education Funding Agency.

Mr Cantley said he wanted a site which would provide excellent teaching facilities, was reasonably close to sports fields and easily accessible.

The former deputy head said the Free School would provide an inclusive Christian secondary school for pupils across Durham and serve villages south and east of the city where parental choice was ‘restricted’.

It will begin with three teachers before expanding by one year group each academic year to an 11 to 18 school and sixth form for up to 840 students.

If the school was oversubscribed, places would be allocated first to siblings of existing pupils, then to children living in the local parishes. Religion will not be considered.

Mr Cantley, who will take up his post on January 7, hopes to hold a presentation evening in late January and appoint fully qualified teachers who are sympathetic to the school’s ethos in the spring.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be the first headteacher of the Durham Free School because it’s going to be a small, quite unique secondary school providing a high quality of education in a close-knit, caring school environment.

“I share the view of many headteachers that free schools empower local communities, responding to their educational aspirations.”

Families can still apply for places at Durham Free School via durhamfreeschool.org.uk

A school Christmas fair held in Bowburn on Saturday raised £192 for animal re-homing charity Stray Aid.