Islington Free School - a Solution in Search of a Problem

Steve Arnold's picture
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Whilst I am Chair of Governors at Highbury Grove school in Islington, I am writing in a personal capacity.

If the proposed Free School proposed for Islington goes ahead, it will have a major detrimental impact on the Borough and I am keen, personally, to do what I can to oppose it.

In May this year Michael Gove granted two private companies the right to open the ‘Islington Free School’ on the old Ashmount School site. The consortium who are planning to open the Free School are currently conducting a ‘consultation’. It seems that the only people they are contacting to ask for responses are people who have previously registered on their website as supporters! They don’t provide much information for people to base their responses on, and there are only five questions to respond to.

It’s crucially important that as many parents, Governors and other concerned local residents make their voices heard by responding to the consultation on the Free School consortium’s website.

A few points you might like to consider when responding:

1 There is no evidence of parent led demand for a Free School – this bid seems to be led by the interests of two private education companies, not the wishes of a large number of local parents.
2 Unlike other Boroughs, Islington does not have a shortage of school places. In fact 99.35% of Islington residents applying this year have been offered a place at one of their preferred schools. The Borough's future planning shows that subsequent need for places will be in the South of the Borough, not in the North, where this development would take place.
3  This Free School will mean less money to invest in Islington’s schools. Across the Borough, we stand to lose £3M which the council was planning to use for school repairs. That means windows, roofs and other basic improvements.
4  The old Ashmount school building is not fit for use as a school. The school was rebuilt down the road because the old building was beyond repair and would cost millions to bring up to any kind of acceptable standard. It has no disabled access and is freezing in the winter and boiling hot in the summer.
5  This Free School will risk lowering educational standards. Islington is currently the fourth best local authority in the country in terms of the number of good or outstanding schools we have. But Free Schools can employ unqualified teachers, and to the best of my knowledge this consortium have not yet even found a head teacher or wider leadership team for their school.
6  This school would be built on a site which the council had earmarked for social housing - with plans to build 82 family homes. So, in addition to threatening the Borough's education services, it will have a major detrimental impact on local housing.

If you wish to respond to the consultation, you have until 28th October. Ask friends to make their voices heard too, especially local parents.

Thanks for your time.
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