Free School Application Process Tightens Up

Shane Rae's picture
It was bound to happen, the free-for-all model just couldn't last. Shades of sanity are appearing in the process where an actual viable business plan is now being required before an application will attract planning funding.

Toby himself now admits that he doubted the proposals for his school would have made through the new process (according to TES).

A BBC article goes on to say...'Groups that meet minimum requirements will then be judged against each other and scored on the strength of their proposals.

Then shortlisted applicants will be called for an interview to discuss aspects of their proposal.

Interview panels will be made up of Department for Education officials, financial experts, education advisers, headteachers and organisations with a track record of setting up and running schools. '

Hmm, I wonder who those 'organisations' will be?
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Toby Young's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 18:43

They'll be multi-academy sponsors, I imagine, not for-profit providers.

I was misquoted in the TES. I made it clear to Richard Vaughan that our group would have made it through the new process, but it would have taken us longer and been harder.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 22:57

Shane -

I think this illustrates how ill conceived and executed the free school policy is.

Here is what Toby Young said on 18th March on his Telegraph blog -

"Under the old system, you only had to submit a fairly short document and the Department would decide on the basis of that document – as well as an interview – whether to approve your application. If your proposal was approved, you were then given an opportunity to work with a project management company, paid for by the DfE, who could help you flesh out the proposal and turn it into an Outline Business Case. Once the OBC had been approved by ministers, you could then move to the final stage which was the signing of your Funding Agreement. That’s the stage the West London Free School is at – we’ve signed our FA.

Under the new system, groups will have to submit something that looks much more like an OBC before their proposal will even be considered by the DfE and only once that document has been approved will the groups then be eligible to work with a project management company. The OBC is a very detailed document, setting out your admissions policy, your curriculum, your business plan, what site you hope to end up in, etc. Ours runs to 34 pages and includes 17 appendices. "

It is staggering that a full business plan, complete with mission statement and detailed budget was not required by the DfE from the word go. If you went to a private sector investor with "a fairly short document" to secure capital and start up funds for your new enterprise you would be laughed out the door.

I wonder if the tightening up of the procedure isn’t a reaction to “higher than expected demand” but because the government has just woken up to the fact that the Education budget is insufficient to either nurture it’s grandiose plans or sustain it’s responsibilities to the existing system, so they have to now dissuade groups from applying. Michael Gove negotiated a 60 per cent cut to his department’s capital budget. This was a baffling concession given that many of the problems facing the English school system require capital to solve them, and Mr Gove’s own grand plans – with free schools at the helm - require upfront capital spending.

Given the devastating cuts inflicted on public spending, the education budget is now best spent on sustaining, nurturing and growing the system already in place rather than risk precious tax payer’s money on an unconvincing and haphazardly implemented scheme.

Toby Young's picture
Sat, 26/03/2011 - 23:02

"it’s grandiose plans"? Tsk, tsk. Back of the class, Beavis.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sun, 27/03/2011 - 00:51

'....organisations with a track record of setting up and running schools. ‘

Local authorities perhaps? Plenty of track record there! Ho ho...

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