CAMPAIGNERS for a free school say their plans are progressing “fantastically well”, as they prepare to launch an intensive round of public consultation.

Parents in Bowburn, Coxhoe and surrounding areas want to set up a state secondary school covering the south of Durham City, as they have struggled to get their children into Durham Johnston.

They say all of Durham’s four state secondary schools are north of the city, putting them bottom of the pecking order. They went public with their plans in March and the campaign gathered pace over the summer.

Now, just days after Education Secretary Michael Gove gave the go-ahead for 55 free schools, project leaders are planning a series of four public meetings over four consecutive evenings later this month.

Lead proposer John Denning, a teacher and father-offour from High Shincliffe, said: “The plans are going fantastically well. It’s really coming together. We’re really excited.

“The public meetings are to keep people informed of the progress we have made, build up evidence of demand for the school and bring the idea closer to parents and hear their views.”

It is hoped the new school, which would be County Durham’s first free school, will open in September 2013, with at least year seven classes, before later expanding up to year 11 and possibly sixth form level.

It would have a “traditional Christian ethos” and be responsible to the Government, not Durham County Council.

Pupils would not be selected on performance grounds.

A number of possible sites have been considered, but Durham City’s Elvet Baths and Old Shire Hall have been ruled out.

Campaigners say they are planning admissions criteria to reserve places for those in the “worst served areas”.

They hope to submit their proposals to the Government in the spring and anticipate getting the go-ahead next autumn.

The public meetings are as follows: Bowburn Hall Hotel, in Bowburn, Monday, October 24, at 7pm; The Kicking Cuddy, Coxhoe, Tuesday, October 25, at 7.30pm; St Bartholomew’s Church, in Croxdale, Wednesday, October 26, at 8pm; and Durham Rugby Club, in Durham, on Thursday, October 27, at 7.30pm.

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