In May 2011, a report on secondary education in Stamford commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) confirmed that the current secondary education system was not meeting parents’ expectations, stating:
‘the feeling among parents is that there is not the same reliable and realistic range of options available as there might be if they lived elsewhere in the county … Many parents contemplate the primary-secondary transition with genuine dread. There is tangible anxiety and frustration among parents that will continue to grow until the arrangements for secondary education in Stamford are addressed robustly. Many head teachers and governors substantiate this view’
A group of Stamford parents decided to campaign on the basis that there were limited options in the Stamford area providing a high-quality education from 11–19. They refused to accept the fact that hundreds of pupils had to travel long distances in order to access the quality of education they deserve and are entitled to. The resulting costs and disruption incurred by this unnecessary travel has a detrimental effect not only on the families involved, but also on the community within Stamford and many of the surrounding villages.
After exploring options available and many meetings with local authorities, education trusts, schools and other interested parties the parents formed a Free School Proposer Group and campaigned for Stamford Free School – a new truly comprehensive secondary school for the town. The parents were soon joined by education and legal professionals that strengthened the group with the necessary experience and skills to develop their vision for the Free School.
The vision was based on the belief that Stamford needed a high-quality secondary school committed to the achievement of every member of the town’s growing population of young people. The School would inspire students to realise their full potential and achieve the best possible academic outcomes through outstanding educational achievements which instil a love of learning. The curriculum would be focused on core subjects to give students a depth of understanding and knowledge, and which would act as a springboard for students to access university where they choose to do so.
The school would be outstanding in terms of teaching, leadership and governance. As well as the academic mission, the school would be a disciplined and caring environment, encouraging students of all backgrounds and abilities to flourish. This would begin through strong links with local primary schools, and a geographical location which enables students to remain in their established peer groups and their own town for secondary education. The school would encourage all students to contribute to the wider community, and inspire them to become engaged, healthy and responsible citizens. The school would draw on the town’s rich and vibrant cultural heritage to create a unique learning environment to inspire young people and help to strengthen and engender a sense of pride in the community and wider society.
The Stamford Free School Proposer Group chose CMAT (Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust) to be their educational provider to support them in making the bid, based on their excellent track record in delivery outstanding schools.
The bid, submitted in January 2014, consisted of a 100 page document detailing the Group’s Educational Vision and Plan, Evidence of Demand in the local area, as well as Governance Structures and a Project Plan of how a new school would be delivered. After about 12 month’s work in pulling together this document, the Group were delighted to be invited to interview in March 2014.
Three members of CMAT and two members of the original Proposer Group attended the interview by the Department for Education.
As many Stamfordians know, it was then a long wait to hear the result of the interview. The Department for Education decided in June 2014 that although a Free School was not financially viable, an unprecedented move was made to ask CMAT to take over the sponsorship of Stamford Queen Eleanor School from CfBT. The Stamford Free School Proposer Group were delighted with the result, which effectively meant that the vision that had been submitted in their bid, would be delivered in the town’s existing state school, with Stamford Welland Academy being established at the former Queen Eleanor site. So in essence Stamford Free School IS Stamford Welland Academy and CMAT is now delivering the school that Stamford parents need to meet their aspirations and those of their children in a fully inclusive and well rounded established comprehensive school.