A bid for a long-awaited new high school in Radcliffe has been approved by the government.
The proposal for the new facility – submitted by Star Academies and backed by Bury council – is one of four new free schools to have been given the green light across Greater Manchester.
A further ten of the region’s schools are set be rebuilt as part of a £1 billion scheme to boost education.
The town has been without a high school since Radcliffe Riverside shut in 2014, meaning hundreds of youngsters have been forced to attend schools in other areas ever since.
The former Radcliffe Riverside site, in Spring Lane, has been earmarked as a possible location for the school, which will accommodate 750 pupils and is expected to open by 2024.
Coun Tamoor Tariq, Bury council’s cabinet member for children and families, added: “This is what we’ve all been waiting so long to hear, and it’s nothing less than local residents deserve.
“For many years councils have not been allowed to build or run new schools, which must be Free Schools, operated by a Sponsor Trust. This is why we put our full weight behind the bid by Star Academies, and our support has been crucial to the Government’s decision.
“Demand for secondary school places across the borough is increasing, with limited capacity to meet current and forecast need. Coupled to this is forecast additional demand from residential growth in Radcliffe, which will put additional demands on pupil places in this part of the borough.
“Also fewer young people in Radcliffe achieve five good GCSEs than the Bury average. The new school will play a crucial part in giving our borough enough pupil places at local schools and level up the education attainment of young people in Radcliffe.”
A new school is viewed as an integral part of ongoing plans to regenerate Radcliffe.
Councillors in the town have long lobbied in favour of one, while Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South, made securing a new high school for Radcliffe one of his key pledges when he was elected in 2019.
Last year, he presented a petition signed by more than 3,000 Radcliffe residents to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
In a Facebook post, Mr Wakeford declared the news a ‘huge victory for the people of Radcliffe.
He added: “This will mean children can get the good local education they deserve, without needing to travel for miles out of the borough.
“I look forward to working with Star Academies and the residents of Radcliffe as we deliver this brand new school and in doing so kickstarting the regeneration the town desperately needs.”
Proposals to build a new free school in Farnworth, Kings Leadership Academy, have also been approved as part of the government’s School Rebuilding Programme.
Bids have also been approved for new schools in Manchester – Dixons Manchester Academy – and Oldham – Caderton Primary Academy.
Announcing the schools which make up the first phase of the government’s School Rebuilding Programme, Mr Williamson said: “Today we are launching the first phase of our ambitious new schools programme, with 50 rebuilds and 21 new free schools.
“The rebuilding projects are just the start of our major ten-year programme, transforming hundreds of schools and improving the education of tens of thousands of children. Alongside this, over 15,500 children will now benefit from 21 new free schools across the country as we look to build back better after the pandemic.
“I am determined to get all children back into education as soon as possible, and will make sure we do not let the pandemic stand in the way of giving every young person the opportunity to succeed, progress and fulfil their potential.”
Among the schools earmarked to be rebuilt is St John Fisher Catholic High School, in Wigan.
Headteacher Alison Rigby said: “We cannot express our sheer delight that our young people will have access to modern, state-of-the-art facilities in the future.
“We all know buildings don’t educate children, people do, but the environment in which children learn and are encouraged to grow is vital in producing decent human beings.
“It is great that our school has been identified for this investment – we have a unique sporting heritage – we have produced international Rugby league, Rugby Union and Netball players and athletes – despite our modest sporting facilities!
“This new build project will boost our curriculum offer and provide fantastic facilities in which our learning community will continue to flourish, and, most importantly, build confidence in our young people because they will feel valued and invested in and – ultimately, loved.”
The new free school projects approved in Greater Manchester are:
Kings Leadership Academy, Farnworth, Bolton (Secondary) – The Great Schools Trust
Star Leadership Bury (Secondary) – Star Academies
Caderton Primary Academy, Oldham – The Harmony Trust Ltd
Dixons Manchester Academy (Secondary) – Dixons Academies Trust Ltd
The school rebuilding projects approved in Greater Manchester are:
Sandilands Primary School, Manchester
Kingsway Park High School, Rochdale
Littleborough Community Primary School, Rochdale
Newhouse Academy, Rochdale
St John Vianney School, Trafford
The Byrchall High School, Wigan
Fred Longworth High School, Tyldesley, Wigan
St John Fisher Catholic High School, Wigan
St Thomas’ CofE Primary School, Leigh, Wigan
Whitworth Community High School, Lancashire