The proposed Free School on the old Ashmount site, Islington

David Barry's picture
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This is a copy of an email sent out to all Chairs of Governors of Islington Schools.

I am writing to you as a fellow Chair of Governors at an Islington school.

You may be aware that there is a proposal to establish a new "Free School" using the Old Ashmount primary school site and building on Hornsey Lane to the North of the Borough. I happen to be well briefed on this project and the adverse consequences of it for every other Islington school. It may well also have a direct adverse impact on at least some of the children attending your school. (it is for these reasons that Islington Schools' Forum, a non political body, objects to this particular proposal) In any case I think we should all be opposing this particular project as a misguided use of public money, and in this note I will explain why.

First the Consequences

1.Mr Gove proposes, using recently acquired legal powers, to take the old Ashmount site and use it for a Free School. He can take it without paying compensation to Islington. As it is former council school land the loss of at least three million pounds funding falls on the schools capital account. This means that for every school in Islington in need of building repairs and improvements there will be less money.

2.The Council want the site to be used for social housing, with a particular aim to build housing that will free up family council social housing and would therefore mean that some of our currently over crowded children, which every school has would have better accommodation

3.Building housing itself attracts government grants, some of which is spent on school improvement. Again another loss to all schools.

4. Of course if the extra school places were needed then there would be a case to try and use the site for a new school, even though that would be very expensive. However as you know Islington is very unusual amongst London boroughs in not having a demand for school places greater than can be met using current schools. It is expected that over this year some of Islington's schools, reduced in size in the past will be able to expand again and so draw in extra resources for the additional pupils. (And even this is mostly in the south of the borough while the old Ashmount site is in the extreme North). Given that Ashmount school has not moved far, and given that Hargrave Park has capacity. what this means is that the new Free School will add an extra 58 places which will be surplus. So as a matter of arithmetic there will be 58 places vacant somewhere. It is difficult to say where they would be, but each vacant place will mean a loss of funding for the school with it. The potential for expensive disruption is obvious.

if you agree with me that this is a really bad idea, then I would ask you to:-

NOTE that there is a public meeting on 7pm Thursday 24th October Church Hall, Christ Church, Crouch End Hill, N8. It has been convened by our Local MP Jeremy Corbin. Programme details on the flyer attached as a pdf to this email. Please come if you can.

SIGN the Change.Org petition

If you want to know more, and have the time READ (and by all means comment on) these web postings on the Local Schools Network here  (a post by the chair of Highbury Grove) and here (I wrote this one).

PASS THIS MESSAGE ON

Copy it to your fellow governors

Ask your PTA to send it out to their own email list, so that parents may know, it is their children who will feel the effects.

Copy it to any local email lists you may know of.

David Barry

(note. I am not inviting you to oppose Free Schools in general. Free Schools as a policy are a matter of political controversy on which Islington Governors. parents and teachers will hold differing views. It is this particular school I urge you to object to.)
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