CAMPAIGNERS hoping to bring a pioneering free school to Ingleby Barwick have changed their application to include only half the original number of pupils.

The application for a 900-place secondary school and 300-place sixth form was submitted to the Government in the summer.

But those behind the school say they have decided to downgrade it to a 600-place school, to allow for future expansion, and also to allow nearby Conyers and Egglescliffe Schools to keep enough pupils on their falling rolls.

Stockton councillor Ross Patterson, of Ingleby Barwick Independent Society (IBIS), who is spearheading the bid for the free school – one of the Conservative’s main election pledges – said: “We are resubmitting the bid from a 1,200-place school to 600, so it doesn’t close schools elsewhere.

“If we didn’t get this school the money is going to go elsewhere in the country. If we are building a £10m school that brings £10m of badly needed work into the area.”

Coun Patterson said a partner had been found to run the school, which runs several other successful schools, but he said he was unable to name them yet. He said he expected the Government to make a decision on Ingleby Barwick’s free school as early as December.

There are more than 1,800 pupils of secondary school age in Ingleby Barwick, but the town’s current secondary school, All Saints, can only take 650 pupils.

Stockton Council has been looking at increasing capacity at All Saints to 1,200, its maximum possible number.

However, free school campaigners say with the potential of another 2,500 houses on Ingleby Barwick in the future, it is better to build a second school which can increase its capacity when needed, along with All Saints.

More than £250,000 is spent every year bussing 1,100-plus pupils from Ingleby Barwick to Conyers, in Yarm, and Egglescliffe School, in Eaglescliffe, which rely on the numbers coming from Ingleby to keep their rolls high.

If another secondary school is not built by 2013, campaigners estimate that 620 children from Ingleby Barwick will go to Conyers, 400 to Egglescliffe, 125 to St Patrick’s in Thornaby, and another 100 to Thornaby Community School.

Campaigners from BO2SS (Barwick’s Own 2nd Secondary School) have argued during the past five years for expansion at All Saints, or a second secondary school.

Free schools were one of the Conservatives’ main election promises.

They are set up by parents, teachers, charities or voluntary groups, who then find an education provider to run them.