A new free school will be built to serve the areas between Manchester and Wigan.
One of 22 new schools announced by ministers last week, it will be operated by the Great Schools Trust which also has sites in Warrington and Liverpool.
A specific location has not been confirmed, but the Department for Education (DfE) said the areas identified in the east of the borough were those in greatest need of new school places.
The new facility, which will be called the King’s Leadership Academy, will focus on developing ‘leadership skills and resilience’ along with a ‘broad academic curriculum’, a spokesperson added.
‘No engagement’ with local authority
However, the new addition has received a cautious welcome from the town hall’s education lead, who has questioned the effectiveness of the government’s free school approach.
Free schools, a key aspect of education reforms introduced by the Conservatives, operate outside of local authority control but are funded by central government.
Coun Jenny Bullen, cabinet member for children in Wigan’s ruling Labour group, criticised that the new school had been announced without ‘prior notice or engagement’ with the borough’s Local Education Partnership.
She added: “In Wigan borough over 90 per cent of our schools are good or outstanding.
“Our excellent track record deserves appropriate national government investment – our children deserve it and our schools and school staff deserve it.
“We know from experience that local decisions by local elected representatives, who know the education needs in their communities, prove far more effective than decisions taken in London without consulting local education leaders.”
The 22 new free schools across the country will provide 19,000 new places, with five created in the North West, providing 4,500 places.
A ‘different way’ of thinking about teaching
Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “Free schools have revolutionised education in this country – through their innovation and a different way of thinking about teaching and learning they are a fantastic addition to our education system.
“Many parts of the country have already taken advantage of the Free School Programme and have reaped the benefits.
“I look forward to seeing the schools as they are built, and how the young people studying there flourish and go on to succeed.”
The council has consistently backed campaigns calling on ministers to reverse funding shortfalls experienced by schools.
The government has previously said there is more money going into schools ‘than ever before’.
A spokesperson for the Great Schools Trust said: “The trust is delighted to have been successful in its bid to open a leadership academy in Wigan and is in the very early stages of talks with the local authority regarding the next steps.
“More details will be made available in the near future.”
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