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Top school in spin-off plan to meet clamour for places.

Byline: KATKEOGH Education Correspondent

A Birmingham head teacher who saved a failing school from closure is bidding to open two more in the city.

Perry Beeches in Great Barr was threatened with closure five years ago amid poor exam results when Liam Nolan took over.

But it has since been named the most improved school in the country after grades soared.

In September, Mr Nolan oversaw the opening of Perry Beeches II in the Jewellery Quarter, the first Birmingham city centre school to open in more than a decade. It was opened under the free schools model, which allows teachers and parents to open sites away from local authority control.

Now Mr Nolan is applying to the Department for Education to open two more free schools in the city within the next two years. He said the new sites would help ease pressure on existing schools struggling to cope with Birmingham's rising birth rate.

A baby boom across the city over the past decade means an extra 10,000 secondary school places will be needed by 2020.

"What parents want is a Perry Beeches education, a really good style of education in our city," said Mr Nolan. "By 2015 we are going to be 7,500 secondary school places short. We are not going to have enough spaces for 7,500 young people in secondary school education. The way to support good quality education is supporting the free school movement and supporting the Perry Beeches movement.

"We are putting in applications in currently and we would look to be considered to open something, certainly by 2014, if not 2013.

"We are looking to open Perry Beeches III and IV. They would be secondary schools, because that's our specialism."

Perry Beeches II is based in the listed former Severn Trent offices on Newhall Street. It has 115 Year 7 and sixth form pupils from areas including Ladywood, Lozells and Winson Green.

Mr Nolan said both Perry Beeches schools were "extremely popular" with parents for September 2013 entry.

"Both Perry Beeches I and Perry Beeches II are oversubscribed," he said.

"The two schools together have space for 280 Year 7 children, and we have more than 1,200 parents applying for those places."

Perry Beeches II was given the seal of approval by Education Minister Lord Hill, who visited the site this week ahead of the Academies Show at the NEC.

He said Perry Beeches II was a "standard bearer" for the free schools movement nationwide. He added other organisations hoping to set up their own free schools could learn from the success of Perry Beeches.

He said: "In the future people will come here and they will learn from what is going here and think 'if they can do it in Birmingham, we can do it in Manchester, Leeds and elsewhere'."

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Liam Nolan outside Perry Beeches II
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 29, 2012
Words:478
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