A NEW secondary school is set to provide places for 900 children in Barnsley.
Trinity Academy, due to open in 2021, has been approved by the Department for Education after a successful bid by Halifax-based Trinity Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).
The free faith school will be a non-selective school specialising in maths and science, supported by the Church of England Diocese of Leeds, for 11 to 16-year-olds.
And while it will meet a demand for places that will be increasingly felt over the coming years, the faith school has attracted some concern.
Charity Humanists UK, which campaigns for inclusive education with no religious discrimination, has criticised the decision by the DfE to approve the school along with six other state-funded faith schools nationally – a quarter of new schools approved.
Education campaigns manager for the charity Dr Ruth Wareham called the decision ‘disappointing’.
“Far from meeting parental demand, the creation of more faith-based places tends to restrict parental choice,” said Dr Wareham.
“With many parents forced to apply for faith schools when they would prefer community schools with no religious bias.
"We urge the government to rethink the decision to introduce more faith schools into the state system and ensure that every new school that opens is inclusive and welcoming to all pupils irrespective of background.”
But Trinity MAT said the academy, while having teaching rooted in Christian values, would not be restricted to pupils of the Christian faith.
Rob Marsh, principal of Trinity Cathedral Academy Wakefield, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring a cutting-edge dimension to education in Barnsley.
“At Trinity MAT we have a ‘no-excuses’ culture – this means the quality of teaching and learning is paramount, aspiration for each student in our care is the norm and student outcomes are exceptionally high.”
Luke Tryl, director of charity New Schools Network, which supported Trinity MAT’s application to the DfE, said: “The application process to set up a free school is extremely rigorous so it is a testament to Trinity MAT’s hard work that they have been approved to open.”
Barnsley Council will welcome the school, which should account for the 900 places it said were needed to prove adequate for demand in the town centre over the next seven years.
Forecasts from 2020 to 2027 predict an extra 657 secondary school places will be needed in on top of the 4,100 currently supplied by Horizon Community College, Barnsley Academy and Darton College.
Three options were discussed at a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet in December – a free school built and run by a MAT, one built by the council and run by a MAT, or more spaces created in existing schools – and the council had understood that two MATs had registered interest with the DfE to open a free school in Barnsley.
Coun Margaret Bruff, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, said: “We’re aware that the DfE has approved the Trinity Academy bid.
“The council has been looking at how we address current, and future demands for school places across the borough due to demographic growth and developments within the Barnsley Local Plan, and will continue to work with a range of providers on options to meet this demand.”
Trinity MAT will be working with the council to specify a suitable site for the school.