R4U and Saffron Walden Town Council support proposal by Saffron Academy Trust to take over former Friends School site

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) and the Saffron Walden Town Council are supporting a joint proposal by the Department for Education and Saffron Academy Trust, operators of the Katherine Semar and the Saffron Walden County High schools, to take over the former Friends/Walden School site.

The Walden (Friends) School closed at the end of its summer term last Friday 7th July. It then published a notice on its website notifying the public of its intent to ‘dispose’ of the school site on Mount Pleasant Rd in Saffron Walden.

Paul Gadd (R4U) Paul Gadd (R4U)

Residents for Uttlesford’s Paul Gadd, party leader at Saffron Walden Town Council, said “We are obviously very disappointed to see the former Friends School close because it and its Quaker ethos have been part of the DNA of Saffron Walden for so long. When it closed its doors last week it was a sad day for students, staff and former pupils, and particularly disheartening for the parents’ group that had been working hard to save the school.”

Cllr Paul Gadd continued “There is a 30% deficit in local state school places forecast over the next 10 years and so now it is important for the town that the site is saved for educational use. Families that live in Saffron Walden already can’t get their children into local schools. So when the former Friends School first announced it was closing in May, we urged the education authorities to consider taking it into the state-sector to plug the chronic shortfall in school places.”

“We understand that Saffron Academy Trust and the Department for Education are working extremely hard on a joint proposal for state education on the site. The Saffron Academy Trust, which operates the Katherine Semar and Saffron Walden County High schools, is our preferred option and R4U fully supports their bid. Both schools are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. We are delighted that there is also unanimously cross-party support on the Town Council where we and the other parties have approved a Labour motion to back a Saffron Academy Trust proposal.”

Cllr Gadd concluded “The former Friends School built a brand new primary school a few years ago. If the Saffron Academy Trust proposal is successful, a new state-school primary could quickly open on the site, with the potential for secondary school provision to follow. The site currently provides very much needed sports facilities for local students, sports groups and the community, and it is also vital to Saffron Walden that these are retained for community use to the fullest extent practicable. We wish the Saffron Academy Trust and DfE luck with their proposals and will work with them to try to help them achieve success.”

If local residents want to lend their support to the Saffron Academy Trust/DfE bid, they can email Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education via the House of Lords Inbox at contactholmember@parliament.uk.

See the recent BBC News Look East segment about the impact of the closure to local sports clubs and parents.

About Residents for Uttlesford

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) is the local independent party of north-west Essex towns and villages. Formed in 2014 by a number of residents’ groups, the party believes that on local issues residents should decide, not Westminster parties. R4U’s success has been based on the desire to give local people a voice and implement long range strategic and sustainable plans for their area.

R4U leads Uttlesford District Council (UDC). In its first election in 2015 it became the second party at UDC. In the May 2019 R4U gained majority control of UDC winning two-thirds of the seats. The result delivered the biggest loss of seats by any UK Conservative controlled council in the UK. In 2021 the party won half the Essex County Council seats in Uttlesford district.

R4U also leads Saffron Walden Town Council, where under its stewardship the council has rebuilt finances, invested in community assets, and won multiple awards, including the best run council in Essex. It is a minority party on Great Dunmow Town Council.

Residents for Uttlesford can be found on the web at www.residents4u.org.