PLANS to open a new school have been announced by a Tyneside church – with hopes of restoring one of the region’s best-known private schools.
Jesmond Parish Church yesterday unveiled a bid to open a free school, a new Government scheme in which public funding is used to set up independent schools.
And leaders of the bid said they wanted to site the school in the old La Sagesse buildings in Jesmond, Newcastle, which closed in 2008. They envisage taking 700 pupils.
But the building’s current owner, former Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd, stated he was “not interested” in selling the site to the church.
Last night Jonathan Pryke, executive minister of Jesmond Parish Church and a trustee of the Jesmond Trust, said they are yet to secure funding for the project but confirmed they had made an application to the Department for Education for cash that is likely to stretch into the millions.
Mr Pryke said: “We’ve had a vision for Christian education for a long time and the coalition Government want more choice in education.
“What we want to do is provide parents on Tyneside with more choice in quality education.”
There will be no entrance exam and no fees for youngsters attending from reception through to sixth form.
The school – which will operate with a “Christian ethos” – hopes to recruit from across the region and would also target those from deprived areas.
The introduction of a school in the Jesmond area could put them in potential conflict with three nearby private schools, the Royal Grammar School, Church High and Central Newcastle High School. Should it gain the Government funding, the school, which would be called Clayton Academy, could welcome pupils as soon as September 2013.
Mr Pryke said: “Our legal vehicle is a private company limited by guarantee. It’s a non-profit-making company and ultimately it becomes a charity.
“The Government would provide the funding if it gets approval. They would provide the funding for the process of getting a school set up and the refurbishment of any premises selected.
“La Sagesse has been a school and we would like to see that continue. We hope that the school would be a positive addition to the family of schools in the local area. It would be a smaller school than many of those nearby – with about 50 students per year – meaning we can provide education on a more individual basis.
“Also the school would provide education for those between reception and sixth form and this might help wipe out the negative effects of changing schools.”
Former Newcastle United owner Mr Shepherd bought the £5m site, which includes the former La Sagesse School, in 2009.
Last night he said he was “not interested” in any approach by Jesmond Parish Church to allow the 700-pupil school to be placed on the site. Parking and traffic problems nearby could also present problems for residents.
La Sagesse was put on the market after the school’s closure was announced in the summer of 2008 . Now the Tyneside tycoon has plans to turn the Jesmond Towers building into luxury housing.
For more information on the school go on to www.claytonacademy.org.uk