Free school causes problems for established secondary

Janet Downs's picture
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Beccles Free School, which has been given approval by the Department for Education (DfE) to open in 2012, is already causing problems for a nearby academy – the only other secondary school in the area. Sir John Leman High, in the small market town of Beccles, Suffolk, has been planning for scheduled expansion for years. It was expecting to take over a soon-to-be-vacant middle school to house its larger number of pupils.

But the building is likely to be allocated to the free school. Mr Rowe, the head of Sir John Leman High, was reported in the TES as saying, “I have nowhere to put my new intake without that building. I may as well drop them off at the DfE and let them deal with it.”

The free school has the potential to cause even graver problems for Sir John Leman High – it could threaten its existence. The newly-converted academy is a successful school with a good reputation. It offers a wide curriculum and a sixth-form. But the projected number of pupils in the area is falling. There is no need for two secondary schools.

Mr Rowe told the TES that the reduction in pupil numbers will affect both schools. Either both will be half empty, with a knock-on effect on the range of subjects offered, or one would have such a small intake it would become unviable. The local authority has no power to close either school – only the Secretary of State could do that. But which one would face the axe?

 
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JimC's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 09:14

How can you say there isn't a need for two secondary schools when the existing one hasn't got enough room to fit everyone in?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 09:30

It's far cheaper and more effective to expand existing provision; larger schools tend to get better results than smaller ones.

JimC's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 09:42

I'll agree that it likely to be cheaper but effectiveness will depend on the quality of the existing provision and the quality of the new school once it is up an running.

Isn't the argument that bigger is better an argument for academy chains or empire building head teachers?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 09:57

The reason Sir John Leman High is unlikely to have enough room for the pupils is that the site they expected to be allocated to Sir John is likely to be given to the free school. The TES article made it quite clear - planning for the expansion of Sir John Leman High has been going on for years because Suffolk was re-organising their middle school/secondary provision. The expectation was that Sir John Leman High would take the middle school pupils using the site vacated by one of the defunct middle schools. This planning has now been thrown into chaos.

In answer to Jim's question then - the present secondary school won't have enough room if the free school is given the vacated site which the present secondary was relying on.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 10:06

JimC - if you follow the link to Sir John Leman High you will find that they offer a broad, balanced curriculum and a sixth form. It has good GCSE results and its recent OFSTED found it to be "good with outstanding features". The link to the free school makes it clear that it will be a small secondary school with fewer subjects being offered (ICT is "optional"). It will not be offering vocational exams and there appears to be no plans for a sixth form.

Given that pupil numbers are expected to go down in Beccles, there is no need for a second secondary school. As the head of Sir John Leman High said, either both schools will be half empty or one will have such a reduced roll it would become unviable. Even if the Secretary of State agreed that both schools remained opened (only he has the ability to close academies or free schools, and it is extremely unlikely he would close the latter - the political fall-out would be tremendous), the reduced rolls would mean fewer teachers, fewer options and less likelihood that either school could offer a broad, balanced curriculum).

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 10:13

Jim - it doesn't follow that an argument in favour of expanding a school to meet the need for extra places caused by a rise in pupil numbers is also an argument for academy chains or empire-building head teachers. The point being discussed is the ability to provide sufficient places to meet an area's need. In the case being discussed (Sir John Leman High) the ability to meet increased demand caused by the closure of middle schools is being jeopardised by the possibility of a free school taking over premises which Sir John had expected to use.

JimC's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 10:45

Lets be clear I'm not arguing for one thing or the other here. The actual 'need' here is for extra school places today. The free school and expansion of Sir John Leman are both solutions to this problem. The only explanation for why it is immediately obvious that one solution is 'needed' and the other isn't is that you are are biased.

"Given that pupil numbers are expected to go down in Beccles, there is no need for a second secondary school."

Then there is no 'need' for expansion either as the provision won't be required in a few years time.

"the reduced rolls would mean fewer teachers,"

My experience is that smaller schools lead to higher employment and smaller class sizes. Of course there are drawbacks to smaller schools but there are benefits as well. If there aren't any benefits then you may as well demand that every school in Beccles is closed and all children attend Sir John Leman from age 4.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 10:57

JimC - I'm sorry if I haven't made it clear enough. Suffolk have been planning reorganisation for years. Sir John Leman High was expected to expand so it could accommodate the pupils who would no longer go to the closed middle schools. It relied on being able to use the site of one of the closed middle schools - this had been planned for. Now another school which has not been planned for years is likely to take over the site required by Sir John Leman High. This will leave the latter with insufficient room for its increased intake (planned over a number of years).

In other words, the appearance of a free school has thrown the plans drawn up over a number of years into confusion and chaos.

Your second point: smaller schools do not lead to higher employment. Money follows the pupils - if there is insufficient money to pay for all the staff then staff are made redundant. It is a pattern seen again and again in secondary schools with falling rolls. The smaller the secondary school - the fewer the subject options and a decreased likelihood of the school being able to offer a viable sixth-form.

JimC's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 11:39

Again I'm not arguing for one thing or the other and I'm sure there is a very good argument to be made against the free school. My objection is with the language used - that there is 'no need' for a particular solution instead of 'this solution is better'. You may have 'no need' for a free school because you don't like them but that doesn't mean everyone feels the same way.

"Money follows the pupils – if there is insufficient money to pay for all the staff then staff are made redundant. It is a pattern seen again and again in secondary schools with falling rolls."

This isn't an argument against the free school. Sending all the pupils to a giant school will still lead to a falling roll and staff redundancies.

"The smaller the secondary school – the fewer the subject options and a decreased likelihood of the school being able to offer a viable sixth-form."

I've already acknowledged that there are drawbacks to small schools. Not only are you repeating yourself but you seem to be arguing for larger schools catering for several thousand students - you do realise that such a system means less local schools right?

JimC's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 11:06

You and Francis have suggested that larger schools leads to a broader curriculum and better results - surely an academy chain or group of schools under an executive head can pool resources to offer an even broader curriculum and presumably even better results?

"The point being discussed is the ability to provide sufficient places to meet an area’s need. In the case being discussed (Sir John Leman High) the ability to meet increased demand caused by the closure of middle schools is being jeopardised by the possibility of a free school taking over premises which Sir John had expected to use."

Opening the free school doesn't obviously 'jeopardise the ability to provide sufficient school places to meet an areas need' so this isn't the point being discussed is it. The point being discussed is 'what is the best way to meet the demand for sufficient school places'.

Adam's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 12:54

There seems to be some confusion JimC. The article was misleading. Sir John Leman is not expanding - it is getting smaller. Their PAN has been halved (from about 400 to 200 I think) due to another new school opening nearby and their catchment being changed. They still have these large year groups going through the school and have been ordered to take an additional two year groups due to school reorganisation so they need another building temporarily for a year or two before moving back to a single site.

If they split their cohort with a Free School there will be at most 100 kids in each year in each school - this will result in narrowing of the curriculum praised by Ofsted and no chance of maintaining a local Sixth Form.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 13:29

According to the Department for Education, Sir John Leman High is a 13-18 schools which had 1250 pupils in 2010 - 327 pupils were at the end of Key Stage 4 and 248 were in the sixth form. It converted to academy status on 1 August 2011 with a capacity of 1399 pupils. However, as Adam says, the school needs extra room to accommodate 11 and 12 year-olds. That's why it was relying on being able to use the site which may be allocated to the free school. This brings short-term problems for the Sir John Leman of where to put their Year 7s and 8s.

In the long term, the school faces falling rolls due to an expected downturn in student numbers. With a free school opening in the area, this will likely reduce the number of pupils going to the school. As Adam rightly says, this will lead to a narrowing of the curriculum in Sir John Leman and could make the sixth form unviable. So the choice of parents who want a school with a broad, balanced curriculum and a strong, viable sixth form has been put at risk by the establishment in the area another school.

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/performancetables/school_10.pl?No=93...

http://www.education.gov.uk/establishments/urn/137055/sir-john-leman-hig...

JimC's picture
Sun, 06/11/2011 - 14:56

"this will lead to a narrowing of the curriculum in Sir John Leman and could make the sixth form unviable. So the choice of parents who want a school with a broad, balanced curriculum and a strong, viable sixth form has been put at risk by the establishment in the area another school."

I've acknowledged that there are drawbacks to small schools - why do you keep repeating this?

"So the choice of parents who want a school with a broad, balanced curriculum and a strong, viable sixth form has been put at risk by the establishment in the area another school."

Choice is a double edged sword here isn't it and I'm surprised you've bought it up since you seem to be against it. Not everyone wants to send their children to a state mega school which specialises in creativity and has 30,000 pupils - What about the parents who want to send their children to a small school?

Sarah's picture
Mon, 07/11/2011 - 14:08

The key argument here is that local authorities have the statutory duty for the planning of school places and that is exactly what Suffolk have been attempting to do - reshaping provision in the area based on a two tier rather than three tier system. What has happened is that opponents to the closure of the middle schools have hijacked the current deregulation instigated by Michael Gove to attempt to prevent this. In a number of cases it has been applications from the middle schools to conver to Academy status and in a number of other cases it has been free school proposals. This is preventing the local authority from fulfilling its statutory duty in a rational way.

Gove says he sees the local authority as the future commissioner of school places - but how can that work if he prevents them from planning the provision across an area based on their professional judgements about where pupils places are needed and what the structure of education in the area should best be to secure high educational standards.

I understand that Gove has paused the Academy conversions in Suffolk to allow the planned reorganisation to be factored in - but there appears to be no such good sense around the free schools. The plans that Suffolk have made are being thwarted - handing over free school sites where the local authority had taken account of the potential capital receipt will thwart the implementation of their long planned, well consulted upon and rational proposals.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 07/11/2011 - 14:47

Sarah has hit the nail on the head - how can local authorities fulfil their statutory duty to plan for school places when a group (or groups) working outside the local authority structure can propose to open schools? Either LAs ignore the possibility of free schools opening in their areas, in which case they could be faced with surplus places; or if they factor in the possibility of a free school opening and it doesn't happen then LAs could have too few places.

Once the Education Bill is passed, local authorities which need extra places will have no choice but to approach a group to open an academy/free school. In many cases this will be an academy chain rather than a stand-alone group. And Mr Gove has made it clear that he wouldn't mind if a profit-making firm like Serco took over schools.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/10/gove-is-in-favour-of-profi...

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 07/11/2011 - 14:50

A question yet to be answered is: what will happen in an area where the majority of schools are academies if there is an area-wide fall in pupil numbers? The only schools that the LA could close would be those which it maintains. Would an LA be put in the position of having to close a popular, successful school because that would be the only one that they could legally close? And what if the school with the largest fall in numbers is an academy/free school? The only person able to close the latter is the Secretary of State. But would he? And if he did attempt to do so would local people accept a decision made by central government? Doesn't this fly in the face of "localism" - local decisions made locally?

Suffolker's picture
Mon, 07/11/2011 - 16:32

"The plans that Suffolk have made are being thwarted – handing over free school sites where the local authority had taken account of the potential capital receipt will thwart the implementation of their long planned, well consulted upon and rational proposals."

That comment cannot go unchallenged. The SOR in Suffolk was the result of a change from a LibDem/Labour council, who had regularly reviewed, and declined, a change to 2-tier over a long period, to a Tory council who wanted to flex political muscles; and found this a good method of showing "who's boss".

The "consultation" was gerrymandered in every possible way, middle school parents were ignored or lied to and bullying, gagging and other tactics were used on anyone who didn't agree with SCC.

The plans were laughable, and whilst primary and secondary heads might have been gung-ho for more capitation etc.,a lot of parents were deeply suspicious of the secondary system and the apparent wish for ever-larger schools.

I think that when parents, educators and others are "dumped on" by a county council for political reasons, they may well come to wish for alternatives to these plans.

It has been mismanaged from start to date, and anything based on such shaky premises has little to commend it. You may also find if you look that the whole of teaching in the county, at all levels and in both systems, has been radically changed for the worse since the Tories took over the council.

Sarah's picture
Mon, 07/11/2011 - 20:37

This is a very parochial response. Middle schools have been in serious decline for many years in both Labour and Tory areas. It's widely acknowledged that the double transition - particularly when it cuts across key stages - can lead to poorer outcomes for children than one would otherwise expect. School organisation reviews are consulted upon rigorously and many have been challenged on just the grounds you claim - however the Schools Adjudicator and the courts have supported local authorities where they have sought to move from three tier to two - and their processes have found to be very robust - unlike the consultation undertaken by Academy converters and free school proposers.

Sarah's picture
Mon, 07/11/2011 - 20:40

Essentially there is now no vehicle for reviewing the provision across an area if that area is dominated by Academies. At some point the Department will have to get to grips with this or the system will become moribund with Academies frozen in time and local authorities unable to fulfill their statutory duty. The government have been warned about this from day one but are so hell bent on deregulating the 'market' that they have failed to take account of the long term ramifications. It seems that even if an Academy agrees to be part of a restructuring it cannot be closed or changed without the SoS approval - it certainly does make a mockery of the notion of local decision making.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 08/11/2011 - 16:30

Another free school is likely to cause problem. This time in Rotherham – if only the Under-Secretary of State for Education, Tim Loughton, knew where Rotherham was. The MP for Rotherham, Denis MacShane, complained in the Commons that a faxed letter about the opening of a free school in Rotherham had been sent to the MP for Rother Valley. “I have had no communication on the matter, and it is going to cause real problems. We have falling rolls in Rotherham, but we had the best GCSE results this year.”

Yet another free school is being allowed to open in an area with falling pupil numbers.
Mr Macshane added: “The proposed head teacher, Miss Charlotte Blencowe, is a failed Conservative municipal candidate who was rejected from a job at Clifton comprehensive and wants to open the school on a disused B&Q site next to one of the busiest and most fume-filled roundabouts in south Yorkshire.”

Whether the Rotherham Central Free School will, as Mr Gove claims, allow Rotherham pupils to “benefit from the high quality of education” is unknown. Their website, given on the DfE list of successful free schools, goes to Go Daddy.com. But then the school is being sponsored by one of the Chuckle Brothers – it’s enough to make you laugh.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111010/debt...

http://www.rotherham-central-free-school.co.uk/

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/at-a-glance/main-section/free_school...

JimC's picture
Tue, 08/11/2011 - 20:03

So as well as having a problem with free schools and academies you've got it in for middle schools as well. You do realise that some middle schools are state schools?

Sarah's picture
Tue, 08/11/2011 - 23:15

If by 'got it in for' you are asking whether I think that one should blindly support government policy to introduce 'choice' even if it means riding roughshod over careful strategic planning then the answer is a firm no. Where outcomes are at least as good across the local area as one would hope and expect then local authorities generally aren't interested in reorganisation of provision - it isn't done for the sake of it, it's done to ensure high quality sustainable education. If that aim is derailed so that a small number of objectors can prevent school closures that are needed to achieve restructured provision then the free school and academy process is being used for a purpose it was never intended for. In Suffolk it's plain that the Middle School Academy conversions and free school proposers wanting to use Middle school premises have simply found a different way of preventing the closure of schools which have been deemed unsustainable or not delivering the right outcomes.

JimC's picture
Tue, 08/11/2011 - 20:14

The hypocrisy here is getting ridiculous

Are you seriously suggesting that state schools have never;

a) employed a Conservative
b) employed someone who was once rejected at interview
c) used a brownfield site to develop school buildings
d) been built near a busy road

Sarah's picture
Tue, 08/11/2011 - 23:18

I'm sure Janet was suggesting nothing of the kind. I believe she is suggesting however that when local authorities establish schools they do it with a firm basis of need evidenced by robust pupil number forecasts - if they did otherwise they would be accused of wasting tax payers' money to create surplus places - something most authorities have spent the last ten years trying to reduce in order to be more efficient.

JimC's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 07:26

Then why is Janet using this rhetoric (by quoting Denis Macshane) to attack free schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 08:38

a) No b) No c) No d)No

To summarise the argument:

1 The letter re the free school was faxed to the wrong MP.

2 The free school (another one) has been approved in an area with falling pupil numbers.

3 The MP was highlighting what has already discovered by University of London research. This revealed that “nearly all the lead teacher-proposers appear to aspire to become the free school's head teacher ... For most it would represent very rapid promotion." It would also mean extra remuneration which, as they are free schools, can be set by the school itself.

http://www.ioe.ac.uk/newsEvents/53603.html

4 Although the MP didn’t stress this point, the proposed head teacher appears to have already been settled without proper recruitment procedure. The fact that she’s a Conservative activist is, as you say, irrelevant. But if she’d been a prominent Labour supporter, Mr Gove would not have hesitated to point it out – he would regard it as a PR coup and would trumpet it in the Commons.

5 The MP is not criticising the school’s proposed site because it is “brownfield”. He is criticising it because it’s near a heavily-used roundabout, polluted and dangerous.

6 The school’s website, which appears on a DfE list, is not working. It is, therefore, impossible for anyone to discover anything about this school. And yet it has been approved by the DfE. So much for transparency.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 10:54

Michael Gove's wife took to Twitter last night to rage against Denis Macshane who apparently misrepresented some comments her husband made about Libya. Given Gove's habit of misrepresenting PISA reports, data on Charter Schools, key events in modern history to name but three examples, I'd say some pots are busy calling some kettles black.

Lilly's picture
Sun, 04/03/2012 - 20:21

What is that twitter account?

Suffolker's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 17:11

I much enjoy being accused of being "parochial" in a forum containing the words "local schools" in its name.

Nothing to do with Suffolk's changes to 2-tier has been "robust", as anyone living in the county, interested in education and not wearing a blindfold will vouch. A book, mostly containing "how not to", could be written about this particular episode.

As for politics, we have have endured the unedifying spectacle of a Tory county ramming through changes for reasons wholly unconnected with educational achievement (a fig leaf for cuts, career advancement and political dogma), to be financed by the mostly defunct BSF money provided buy a Labour government they hate and despise. Is this pragmatism or opportunism? I doubt it's "rigorous consultation".

No doubt you know better, but I, for one, do not consider changes such as increasing lessons from 55 minutes to 100 minutes, for reasons of "crowd control" and movement around a school, to be for the best. These are the sort of things which motivate parents to take the opportunity to use the free school option, and not a subscription to the "awkward squad".

As the SJL has just become an "academy" outwith local authority control, many of the arguments about this seem either redundant or specious.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 17:42

The head teacher of Sir John Leman has said that he will have no room to put his extra pupils if the free school is allowed to have the premises he had been promised. This is a real problem - not a "redundant or specious" argument. The school's new status as an academy is irrelevant in the context of the head's concern about where to house all of his pupils.

Sir John Leman, according to the TES, has GCSE results which place it in the top 25% of schools in the country. The argument, put forward by Mr Gove and his supporters, is that free schools are essential to raise standards. Yet here is a case of a free school being allowed in an area where there is an existing school with high standards. This is also the case in Rotherham - the MP has said GCSE standards have risen there. And in both these cases (Beccles and Rotherham) there is an anticipated fall in pupil numbers.

The approval of free schools in these areas is nothing to do with increasing the number of places to meet a shortfall. On the contrary, it has everything to do with ideology - let the market decide.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 17:52

Mr Gove used the debate above to demonstrate a rather biased view of one particular key event in history. He said, “…thanks to the inspirational leadership of Baroness Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, we won the cold war.”

Mr Gove is very keen on teaching history to pupils. He should, therefore, be wary of putting forward simplistic ideas – they might end up being the only ones taught in English classrooms. The end of the Cold War has generated conflicting theories which he, as a politician, should know - namely the debate between constructivists, who argue that the end of the Cold War is better explained by ideas, ie Mikhail Gorbachev’s ‘‘new thinking,’’ and the neorealists who focus on anarchy and security concerns.

And if that’s too academic, there’s a succinct summary from the BBC with handy bibliography which Mr Gove might find useful.

http://graduateinstitute.ch/webdav/site/political_science/users/jovana.c...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/coldwar/soviet_end_01.shtml

JimC's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 21:05

What argument are you summarising - the argument against free schools or the many unrelated arguments you've started on this thread.

1. The argument here appears to be that a person is ignorant.

2. Well its related to free schools but really does undermine your earlier argument about choice.

3. You said you were summarising but here you introduce a new point.

4. Frankly pot...kettle...black.

5. So you would support a campaign for the closure of all state schools built near dangerous and heavily polluted roads?

6. So you would support a campaign against any state schools that have a crap website?

JimC's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 21:12

For pity sake who on earth do you think is going to listen to you if your only contribution to the educational debate is 'Gove is stupid'.

JimC's picture
Wed, 09/11/2011 - 21:19

"use Middle school premises have simply found a different way of preventing the closure of schools which have been deemed unsustainable or not delivering the right outcomes."

I understand Micheal Gove wants to close schools that are 'not delivering the right outcomes'. With this in mind do you approve of replacing failing state schools with academies and free schools?

Adam's picture
Tue, 22/11/2011 - 07:11

From the sublime to the ridiculous ... Suffolk LEA has admitted that this proposed Beccles Free School has only 60 vague expressions of interest (not applications) in total for places in Years 7, 8 and 9. This represents fewer than 60 families as some have more than one child in that age range. Even if these all convert to applications there will be an average of 20 children per year group. Those children will get a very poor deal in mixed-ability classes taught by unqualified non-specialists with no choices of options.

http://www.backbob.org/beccles_free_school_money_could_fund_completion_o...

Suffolker's picture
Wed, 23/11/2011 - 09:50

Somewhat inaccurate, I'm afraid.

The website of a disgruntled, unseated and ex-Labour MP with a reputation for troublemaking, stirring and selective views is not perhaps the best source of true and unbiased information.

Daniel Smith's picture
Fri, 02/12/2011 - 02:43

Just because you might not share Mr Blizzard's views doesn't mean that you should let it could your reasoning on every issue.

His article isn't biased, it's a fair account of what's happening.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 09/02/2012 - 12:57

UPDATE

In his November 2011 Newsletter , Jeremy Lowe, headteacher at Sir John Leman wrote: “I am very aware of the anxiety which the proposed free school has caused our community. I am very confident that we will be using the Beccles Middle School building from September 2012. … From meeting parents in all our partner primary schools, I have been gratified by their faith in our ability to do a good job, and in the incredibly low number of people who have said they might apply if a free school does ever get off the ground somewhere.”

The proposed free school has said in its consultation document that it does not now intend to use the Beccles Middle Schools building until September 2014 when it would be vacated by Sir John Leman High School. It hopes to use the current Carlton Colville Primary School site which will become empty in February 2012.

Although the site problem has been settled, the free school, if allowed to go ahead, would cause overprovision of secondary places in the area with the result that both schools would be too small to offer the range of courses currently offered at Sir John Leman.

http://www.school-portal.co.uk/GroupDownloadFile.asp?GroupId=259143&Reso...

http://www.becclesfreeschool.org.uk/Portals/1/pdf/Beccles%20Consultation...

Adam's picture
Thu, 09/02/2012 - 22:22

Not sure November 2011 is very up-to-date Janet!

This describes the latest farcical situation:

http://blog.hargrave.org.uk/2012/02/beccles-free-school-newsagent.html

Suffolker's picture
Sat, 11/02/2012 - 10:47

Whatever happens with the Free School and wherever it goes, it will be interesting in Beccles come September 2012.

In amongst some of the logic (?) of the Free School supporters was the concern that the 3-tier system is in some regards to be perpetuated for another 2 years in Beccles. This is because the Middle School building (at some distance from Leman) is to be used to house Years 7 and 8. They will thus be separated from, and not integrated into, the main school, which many people consider not a good thing.

There was some surprise that the Middle School isn't to be used for the Leman 6th Form.

Currently the Middle School has about 430 pupils, aged 9-13. I believe the roll has never exceeded appx. 450. As of September, the buildings are apparently to accommodate approximately 500 children of ONLY 2 year groups, 7 and 8. This not likely to be a very happy or manageable situation, and the logistics are a nightmare.

Admittedly this arrangement is due to last only 2 years before the Middle School is given up (to be flogged off to speculative builders, no doubt, if the Free School doesn't take it). However, it is unlikely to benefit the pupils who are compelled to pass through this extraordinary process.

As a past Suffolk Middle School and Leman parent, I would have serious misgivings about putting my child into a 2-year group, 500 strong segregated schooling. Much as I support the State system, for all its faults, I would feel compelled to consider what the Free School might offer against what is proposed by the Leman Academy.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 11/02/2012 - 13:06

If I were a Beccles parent I think I'd have some qualms after reading the long-winded consultation document. It's supposed to promote a new school which is being sponsored by a trust that boasts about the high standards of education in its private school. I would, therefore, not expect to read howlers like "who's" instead of "whose", or "comprising of" instead of "comprising". But perhaps that's just nit picking. More serious is the error about EBac which according to the consultation comprises five subjects. It actually comprises six - there are two sciences, not one, in EBac.

And there's the worrying policy regarding those children not deemed capable of getting a GCSE C in English. They will be given lessons in "Functional Skills". Now functional skills are important but they comprise only a small part of English. As an ex-English teacher I taught GCSE English and English Literature to mainly sets three and four. These pupils, which at the proposed free school would be set a diet of functional skills, were expected to tackle plays (including Shakespeare), poetry, novels and short stories. There was no question of their being relegated to a narrow curriculum of "functional skills".

James Catchpole's picture
Sat, 11/02/2012 - 14:23

Your information is wrong Suffolker. There will be fewer than 400 students in Year 7 and Year 8 at the Leman (a LOT fewer if Seckford have their way!!) so the size of the former Middle School building is fine. The school will not be segregated as the younger students will have some lessons on the main site and staff will teach at both sites.

You should probably read this blog which may give an insight into what is really going on:

http://blog.hargrave.org.uk/2012/02/is-loss-making-seckford-foundation.html


Adam's picture
Sat, 18/02/2012 - 10:40

It gets worse. Now Seckford have disowned the Beccles Free School spokesman!

http://blog.hargrave.org.uk/2012/02/seckford-foundation-disown-callaghan...

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 18/02/2012 - 14:23

The Seckford Foundation is right in distancing itself from the angry, bigoted parent who acted as a spokesman for the proposed free school. However, he was once associated with the proposers and he is an outspoken man. The Foundation could not have been unaware of his views especially towards state schools and disadvantaged children. His hatred of the latter is obvious. This raises the question as to why the Foundation didn't discourage his support earlier.

The Seckford Foundation might also want to distance itself from its own consultation documents for the two proposed free schools as Beccles and Saxmundham. As I wrote above, the consultation document for Beccles contains several errors which readers would not expect from a Foundation which claims that its private school has exceedingly high standards. The Saxmundham consultation is almost word-for-word the same as the one for Beccles, which means Saxmundham parents reading the document will think that the EBacc comprises only five subjects including just one science. And Saxmundham pupils not deemed capable of GCSE C in English will receive the same diet of "functional skills".

And Rachel Wolf writing in this week's TES says free schools will offer a higher standard of education. Since when have "functional skills" alone been a high standard of education?

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6179249

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Tue, 21/02/2012 - 13:58

James and Adam - Followed the Hargreaves blogs from your links....what a hero - shame he can't go for Telegraph blogger of the month

James Hargrave's picture
Tue, 21/02/2012 - 21:11

Thanks to everyone who has visited by Blog. I have just posted a further article today about Beccles free school proposer Melanie Tucker and MTM Consulting

http://blog.hargrave.org.uk/2012/02/beccles-free-school-proposer-melanie...

Also yesterday news broke that Seckford plan a fourth Free School for Ixworth:

http://blog.hargrave.org.uk/2012/02/seckford-foundation-take-over-ixwort...

Arsinh's picture
Sun, 26/02/2012 - 17:36

Detailed response from a parent to the Beccles Free School consultation:

http://wikisuffolk.org.uk/beccles-free-school-consultation-response-fro

Disgracefully, the Seckford Foundation are now advertising for a Principal and Headteacher even though the consultation period is not yet over. The "independent" company in charge of the consultation are involved in making these appointments.

http://www.tes.co.uk/job/principal-52416/

http://www.tes.co.uk/job/headteacher-52415/

Mr Chips's picture
Sat, 03/03/2012 - 16:09

Unfortunately by going down the academy route in the first place, which undermines other schools, the Headteacher at Leman has little room to now complain at the introduction of a free school.

Education is full of management who have become so removed from the intellectual value of education that they now ONLY care about the figures and their school's place in the tables, despite their heavy protestations about 'the children'.

Tough luck Mr Lowe, you reap what you sow when you go it alone for your own benefit. And no one else cares anymore do they? No,they only care about their schools and the league tables. I expect they're having a little chuckle...

James Catchpole's picture
Tue, 06/03/2012 - 18:21

Mr Chips, it is Governors who decide whether to pursue Academy Status not Headteachers. By offering bribes of several hundred thousand pounds to large secondary schools that convert, Michael Gove guaranteed the "success" of his pet project. Governors are obliged to do the best they can for their school (not the County as a whole) so it is not suprising that they almost always choose the Academy route as it prevents redundancies and degradation of the quality of provision offered to the children they are responsible for. I don't think it is fair to condemn Rowe (or Lowe!).

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