Free school plan launched in Fylde

John Cronin of the YMCA.
John Cronin of the YMCA.

Ambitious plans by a community charity to build a new sixth form college on the Fylde coast can be revealed for the first time today.

The YMCA College for Physical Education is a new project from YMCA Fylde Coast to develop a free school for 16 to 19-year-olds in the borough.

The charity has won a place on a national development programme which could see the first students welcomed in time for September 2016. If successful, it would be the first YMCA group in the country to provide mainstream 
education.

John Cronin, Fylde Coast YMCA chief executive, said: “We have a few reasons for doing this.

“One is because we thought there was a shortfall in sixth form provision in Fylde.

“Secondly, we as an employer have lots of young people coming to us who do not have the right skills.

“We specialise in physical education and work-based physical education and felt there was a gap there. We will focus on leisure and hospitality. The target is 2016.”

Mr Cronin added more information about the proposed school will be available in the coming weeks, including possible locations and funding, and could follow YMCA sports centres in St Annes, Lytham and Kirkham.

Free schools were first established in 2010 by then 
education secretary Michael Gove.

The schools are established as academies, independent of local authorities and with increased control over their curriculum, teachers’ pay and conditions, and the length of school terms and days.

The project comes after Fylde Coast YMCA joined the New Schools Network (NSN) development programme, which provides personalised support to free school groups.

Natalie Evans, NSN director said: “New Schools Network has supported hundreds of dedicated groups who want to set up free schools, supporting them as they prepare their applications to the DfE.

“The development programme provides intensive, bespoke support to groups that show particular promise and who are targeting 
pupils who need new schools the most.

“Free schools have now established themselves on the educational landscape, fast becoming firm favourites with parents across the country. Almost 300 free schools have now either opened or been approved to open. Once all of these schools are full they will provide 150,000 badly needed new school places.

“The development programme has been designed to help support each group in making their vision a reality, and I am delighted to be welcoming YMCA Fylde Coast on to the programme. We look forward to working with them as they develop their plans in more detail for their proposed new school.”

Fylde Council leader Coun David Eaves welcomed plans for the college.

He added: “It sounds like an interesting project.

“I would be interested to hear of other developments.

“It is always good to assist people in their future lives. This sounds like an excellent way of helping young people to achieve qualifications and can only benefit the Fylde.

“I would welcome anything to help people make their way in life.”

During the next two months, the YMCA will be seeking the views of the community on the project during a consultation phase. Information about the college will be available at the 1940s Weekend in Lytham on August 16 and 17, on Lytham Green.