Does north Westminster need a 2nd free school?

Susanna Rustin's picture
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Constable Educational Trust opens a primary free school (2 reception classes) in north Westminster in September, the second primary free school to open in the same area in 2 years (Ark Atwood primary opened in Queen's Park, but will move to Maida Vale.)

Today the Guardian reports figures that have been cropping up in council reports for some time, ie that up to 17% of children currently living in Westminster could be forced to move due to the housing benefit cap.
So who is going to fill all these new school places?

The council has cited pressure on existing schools as the reason for supporting the creation of new schools. But if large families forced out of privately rented accommodation in north Westminster are replaced by smaller households of higher earners, as seems almost certain, does the council now risk creating a surplus of places?

Perhaps the demand can meet even this new supply? But I can't help wondering if Westminster council's wish to prove its credentials as the truest bluest council of them all is behind its zeal to snap up every free school proposal going.

In fact it looks from this report in the Evening Standard (and Constable's own website) as though Westminster was not even on the charity's initial shortlist of five boroughs in April last year, each of which was described as a schools black hole lacking places.

Just six weeks later in June the trust submitted an application to set up a school in Westminster, presumably because Camden, Kensington and so on had rejected its proposal. Why did Westminster want a school that none of these other councils except one (Tower Hamlets) did?

I suspect this was at root an ideological decision: this council supports free schools, therefore we will have them regardless of the fact that we may not need them because large numbers of children are set to move out of the borough.
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