Opposing proposed free school

Georgina Sait's picture
 11
I live in a small market town in Suffolk where we have a very good high school, the county have undergone a programe of closing middle schools which is now in its last couple of years. A group has got together an are proposing a new free school to act as an alternative to the local high school. This free school will be small (about 550) and offer a narrow academic curriculum and they want the middle school building, which is due to pass over to the current high school. This will be a very divisive step for the town and drain money and resources from the current high school, the groups is being helped by a local "education company" who claim not to be profiting from the arrangement. We have written to the steering group to get minutes of the meetings but have been told that as they are so informal they haven't kept any. Any advice or ideas most welcome.
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Tracy Hannigan's picture
Sun, 03/04/2011 - 19:36

Hi Georgina! We just had some success in opposing a local free school effort which was going to be very detrimental to the immediate area schools - check out our website www.parentsallianceforcommunityschools.org

Where is the proposed school in its process? Is it proposing to open this year or next? If they are proposing under the new process, they have a mere two months to get it together for the new application - if they are still so 'informal' that they have no records, they may have a hard time putting it together and you may find it an ideal time to lodge objections.

If you don't have this information yet, collect the contact information for all of your local involved cabinet people, councillors, MPs, the DfE contact, the contact for the people in charge of sale of the building, the people in charge of freedom of information in your local area etc. Who is this 'education company'?

Who are your 'we' ? Is everyone in contact (via an email list etc?) What are everyone's strengths? Some are better at phone calls/asking tough questions. Some have schedules that are better suited to writing materials for your effort. Some might have contacts which are useful, etc.

I'm happy to discuss with you what we did and how we did it, just contact me.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 03/04/2011 - 21:18

I think communication is the key. Get the real facts out there to everyone, the press, politicians and councillors, schools, civil servants, residents affected by traffic etc, and the poor taxpayer who has to pay for this insanity!

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Mon, 04/04/2011 - 12:11

Absolutely. There are a lot of potential branches to follow. Neighbours to the site may object for reasons which may be different from the reasons that parents attending area schools object which may be different from the others whose taxes are being spent in a way that is not sound. Giving relevant information to people helps them make up their own minds and can build common ground for the cause between people who might have otherwise not rallied together (may be less of an issue in a smaller community).

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 04/04/2011 - 13:52

It appears from what you say that the proposed school has its eye on a particular site. It might be worth searching your local planning permission requests to see if anyone has asked for planning permission for the site and, if so, who and when. You can easily search for such info by going to your local planning authority site and finding the link which will allow you to look at planning permission requests. Any change of use application to D1 (includes education) for a building not previously used for education could also indicate that someone wants to use the building for a school.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 04/04/2011 - 15:46

A letter from the Principal of West Cheshire College in the Times Educational Supplement, 1 April, ended with:

"I am not sure why, in these times of budget cuts, the Government is not considering this cost-effective option [ie using schools/colleges already in existence] rather than setting up new schools."

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6075477

I'd second that.

Georgina Sait's picture
Mon, 04/04/2011 - 21:26

Thanks for the suggestions it's very early days so we don't have a campaign group yet- i'll keep you posted

Georgina Sait's picture
Tue, 05/04/2011 - 09:08

Hi
Another question I'm afraid,at the meeting I went to the steering group setting up the free school said it was going to be run as a charitable trust, however I see on the application form it asks for company name and directors. Does this mean they will have to from a company? also this calls into question the role of the company who are helping them put the bid together as they are claiming this person is involved purely on a personal basis even though the free school is being advertised on the website of this marketing company as one of their projects.

Emma Bishton's picture
Sat, 16/04/2011 - 21:44

Hello Georgina. which Suffolk town? I'm very involved in a campaign group opposing a new high school (similarly set to occupy the site of a middle school due to close in 2013) - and that's in addition to a new free high school in Clare already set to open this September . Would be good to liaise further. look at our website www.compass-suffolk.org or email me thanks Emma

Georgina Sait's picture
Thu, 21/04/2011 - 18:44

Thanks- will e-mail you -we live in Beccles

School Duggery's picture
Fri, 14/10/2011 - 10:10

Hi Georgina. I am also now faced with an unneccesary free school being set up on the site of a closing middle school at either Ixworth or Stanton. Suffolk seems to be at the vanguard of this issue.

Paul Reeve's picture
Mon, 20/02/2012 - 09:39

http://www.saxmundhamfreeschool.org.uk/

The consultation document from this site makes interesting reading.
Some of the advantages to the local community are listed....

The proposed School may create additional career opportunities and/or an enhanced career paths for teachers by making available a greater breadth and depth of teaching jobs
The establishment of the School may result in an increased contribution to the local
economy from professional families moving into the area (e.g. teachers and parents of
children attending the School)
The School will increase economic opportunities for local businesses to supply services and products to it
The School may result in an increased spend in the town's economy resulting from students’ presence in the town especially during retail business opening hours.

I particularly like the last one!! Lunch time? After optional Latin?

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