New all-age school plan revealed for Blackpool

Pupils at Unity Academy in Blackpool. A similar school is being planned for the south of Blackpool
Pupils at Unity Academy in Blackpool. A similar school is being planned for the south of Blackpool
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A new all-age school is being planned for Blackpool, The Gazette can reveal today.

The Fylde Coast Academy Trust (FCAT), which runs four schools on the Fylde coast, is planning to ask the Government to back plans to establish a new all-age school.

We are looking forward to being able to make the same offer to parents and carers in the south area of the town.

Felicity Greeves

If the proposal is accepted the facility will be up and running by September 2017 and cater for 1,090 students at full capacity.

It will be the first purpose-built new school of its kind in the resort in decades.

No official plans have been drawn up yet but it will be modelled on Unity Academy pn Warbreck Hill Road, which caters for pupils from nursery age up to 16.

Although no specific area has been identified – the Department for Education is responsible for allocating the site – it is understood that the new facility will be in the south of Blackpool and would have a catchment area spreading as far as Lytham and St Annes.

The last new school in Blackpool was the £5m Gateway Academy, which opened in September 2103 but that only caters for primary age pupils. Schools in south Fylde area are already suffering from a rise in pupil numbers and FCAT bosses say that plans for more housing will increase demand for school places.

A number of major housing developnments are underway in south Blackpool and Fylde – with large scale housing schemes being built on Marton Moss, close to Whitehills Business Park and on Clifton Drive North, namely the former Pontins site.

A scheme for more than 1,000 homes in St Annes as part of the Queensway development are also still in the pipeline.

A primary school is also part of plans for a ‘garden city’ at Whyndyke Farm near the M55 in Marton, which will see 1,400 homes built – adding to demand for school places.

If it goes ahead the joint primary/secondary school will provide places to children from the age of two years and officially launch with a nursery class, a reception class and a Year Seven group of pupils.

Like all free schools, it will be financed by the Government and run independently from the local authority.

Felicity Greeves, chief executive of the academy trust said: “The new school will build on the outstanding practice which already exists in our academies.

“One of our existing schools, Unity Academy, is a joint primary/secondary school and this is proving to be very popular with the community.

“We are looking forward to being able to make the same offer to parents and carers in the south area of the town.”

The proposal is expected to be submitted to the Department for Education in March and in the meantime the Trust is planning to launch a public consultation into the idea.

Unity Academy is a co-educational school and was originally an all-boys institution named Warbreck High School.

In 2000 it became co-educational and was renamed Beacon Hill School.

Under the Building Schools for the Future programme in 2010 it was planned to merge with nearby Bispham High School, however this was cancelled and in March 2010 the school was renamed Unity College and converted to academy status in September 2013, sponsored by the Fylde Coast Academy Trust.

FCAT was established in 2012 by Fylde Coast Teaching School, a partnership of Blackpool Sixth Form College and Hodgson Academy.

It runs Unity, Aspire Academy and Montgomery High in Bispham.

It bills itself a Multi-Academy Trust working in partnership “ with educational institutions at the heart of our local community, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing which is critical to our culture of continuous improvement.”

The public will be able to comment via the ‘South Blackpool Proposed School’ link on the FCAT website www.fcat.org.uk