Parents group call to open free school

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

PARENTS in Chester-le-Street are hoping to open a free school following the closure of their children’s state secondary.

The New Phoenix Free School is the idea of a group formed earlier this year during the fight to save Roseberry College and Sixth Form.

Despite strong opposition from the community, Durham County Council plans to shut the school at Newfield, near Pelton, at the end of this academic year.

The council said pupil numbers have fallen too low at the school, which serves to the north west of Chester-le-Street.

However, parents say it is a vital part of the community and provides a good education.

The group has submitted a detailed application to the Department for Education for a new free school and hopes it could educate 11- to 16-year-olds on part of the existing school site.

A group spokesman said: “The application is based on a cross curricular approach to teaching, similar to primary teaching, with teachers working jointly on the learning and needs of each individual student.

“Community focus, involvement and development are key for students to become work ready and life ready and reach their full potential.”

Group members are waiting to hear whether their plan will go through to interview stage due to be carried out by the end of July.

The spokesman added: “As the phoenix rises from the ashes, we will wait with baited breath to hear the future of New Phoenix Free School and see if it rises to again provide a thriving school for the area.”

“Since March the group has worked tirelessly to pull together a unique and inspiring application to become a free school for submission to the Department of Education this month.

“This has included hours of commitment to gather support and evidence of need throughout the Newfield, Pelton, Ouston, Perkinsville, West Pelton, Pelaw, Highhandenhold, Craghead, Grange Villa, Beamish & surrounding areas with a fantastic response.” A series of meetings are being held to explain the proposals and garner support. Information sessions will be held at: l Pelton Community Centre on Saturday, May 31, between 10am and noon; l a drop-in during a toddler group at Ouston Community Centre on Thursday, June 5; l a stall on Chester-le-Street Market from 9am to noon, on Tuesday, June 10; l a coffee morning on Wednesday, June 11, between 9.30 and 11.30am at the Brockwell Centre, Pelton Fell; l a stall outside Morrisons, St Cuthbert’s Walk, Chester-le-Street, on Saturday, June 21, from 9am to noon.

The group can be contacted via email at or on 07795-649716.

A facebook group is at

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