Stories + Views
Bankers’ free school story underlines that free school policy will favour the rich
There’s a lot of noise about the proposed Northcote free school, the Bolingbroke Academy, at the moment with recent press reports of the GMB union branding it to the bankers’ free school:
‘The bankers who were “bailed out” with £850 billion of public funds have acquired a taste for using public money to fund their pet projects. 30 of them have gone public on the council’s website supporting the “banker’s “free” school” in Battersea’
One of the bankers involved is reported as saying that while the area was popular with City workers, the school was in no way restricted to those with parents working in finance. I guess we should be grateful that admissions policy can’t yet be manipulated to that degree!
As we have mentioned on this site before, there is lots of evidence that this school will be much more affluent than existing local schools that are shunned by parents in the area (with only 27% of secondary aged kids in the area attending Wandsworth state schools) with concerns about the feeder school admissions policy that has excluded the most deprived school in the Borough.
However, there is a bigger question rearing its head – how many free schools will be set up by similar groups of powerful, affluent parents who have the time, influence and expertise to set up a school? And, how could the vast majority of ordinary parents possibly do it? It seems by definition that this way of creating additional schools is inevitably going to favour certain parents (who frankly already have more choice than most people). Given the achievement gap between children from the poorest families compared with the richest, how can it possibly make sense to make extra resources available based on who is most able to organise a campaign?
Back in April, the parents in the Bolingbroke case were featured in an article pointing out exactly this issue:
‘Simon Fitzpatrick – who is leading a group of parents who want to set up a school in Wandsworth, south-west London, if the Tories win the election – said that to get help, “you ring mates and talk to people”.
The managing director of a management consultancy firm said: “We have asked for favours. Without too much work, you can find people who know folk. You make some calls and stuff happens.” He said he was sending about 50 emails a day to get the project started.
Alright for those who have mates in high places but what about everyone else?