ATHERTON could have its own 'Free' High School by autumn term next year.

Independent Councillor Norman Bradbury, who has campaigned for the retention of Hesketh Fletcher High earmarked to become a centre for 14 - 19 year-olds under now axed Wigan Building Schools for the Future plans, says the school could 'go it alone'.

He said: "Wigan MBC is still determined to close the school, but the governors, teachers, and parents at Hesketh Fletcher High are determined that they will have a High School in Atherton for the sake of future generations of local children, even if this means breaking away from the control of Wigan MBC.

"The Coalition Government has made it possible to apply for a Free School, and they are well on the way to making an application for such a school with the backing of the Independent councillors in Atherton.

"Are our local MPs going to back the community who elected them or as usual are they going to back the Party Line? Stand up to Peter Smith for once and help Atherton get what it deserves, its own High School."

Atherton Demands Its Own High School Group spokesman Mark Dudley said they were demanding a Council rethink about Hesketh Fletcher.

He said: “ADIOHS fully supports the moves of parents and community members who are enquiring about setting up a “free school”.

“New legislation means that communities can now apply to set up their own schools and local authorities can no longer veto such applications.

"While this provides hope for the future we still call on Wigan Council to reverse their decision to close Hesketh Fletcher and help us work towards finding a sustainable model for secondary education.

"The school is to be congratulated on its recent improvement. It is nothing short of miraculous considering the difficult circumstances they have been working under. It is testimony to all the staff they have continued to work as hard as possible for their pupils despite the uncertainty surrounding their own futures.”

"Campaigners appreciate the need for a new model of running the school if it is to be sustainable now the Diocese no longer wishes to be involved."

A Wigan Council spokesman said: "The school will stay open until August 2012 and what happens to the site after that date is still under discussion."