YMCA boss unveils free college plans

John Cronin of the YMCA
John Cronin of the YMCA
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Ambitious plans by a community charity to build a new sixth form college on the Fylde coast have been revealed.

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 said 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, as well as bespoke support to groups that show particular promise and who are targeting 
pupils who need new schools the most.

Natalie Evans, NSN director, said: “Free schools have now established themselves on the educational landscape, fast becoming firm favourites.

“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.”

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.”