.....And I'd give it to my local primary to combat these ill informed yet dangerous attitudes.
There seems to be a general feeling that state schools are second best; they are where you go if you can't afford to do otherwise, certainly not a place you'd send your children to if you had a different choice and/or really valued their education. There is not enough celebration of all of the various things that our local state schools bring to the education and life experience of children (and their parents!). Good education is what people feel entitled to - so when they get it, there is no celebration. If they feel they are not getting it, they groan and it is the groans that remain in the air even if they are a minority.
My case in point is Addison Primary School. The fuel for Rivendale Free School doesn't seem to be in the hard numbers - there is already surplus capacity locally and on the demand front they told supporters recently there were 22 people interested. This is not heavy support. Part of the perception of 'need' for a school like this seems to be that they are new, different, glossy and therefore somehow better than the state school next door. They have a £24K marketing budget to create this vision of a 'need' and then aim to try to fill it.
Addison has come incredibly far in the last couple of years, but in some eyes the reputation of the school has not caught up with reality, and that is due to the lack of celebration for our community schools. Addison just finished its parent survey, and the response was large - over 2/3 of parents, and more coming in. The results are absolutely wonderful:
95% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that their child likes Addison Primary
98% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that Addison's teaching this year is good
96% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that their child makes good progress at Addison
96% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that their child enjoys Addison's innovative International Primary Curriculum
98% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that Addison expects their child to work hard
98% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that Addison helps their children become more mature, responsible and independent
97% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that Addison's staff treat all children fairly and with respect
96% of parents Agree to Strongly Agree that Addison's values system has improved their child's behaviour and attitudes
Despite this obvious good feeling for the school, people still seem stuck in old or inaccurate ideas. The people in the school know it is great - the satisfaction figures show it. We need to get the word out. If we had a £24K budget to sell the real story of our local primary was doing, I am convinced that no truly unnecessary free school could come in and generate 'demand' that could compete with the demand that would organically exist for stable, experienced schools like Addison. And if there really were a need for places to the point it was harming standards (against the interests of schools), any school expansion or new school initiative (properly and fairly and openly done etc) would be collaborative instead of competitive.
Many free school proponents claim that the competition will drive standards up in schools. As it stands, this is not a fair competition. According to Nick Gibbs' response to Andy Slaughter on 28 Feb, you cannot help but wonder if any free school has a blank cheque for consultants and marketing and facilities. Meanwhile, local school budgets are squeezed to the limit for the basics like facilities, books and staff - we don't get a budget set aside so that we can compete in perception in the way that well financed government backed free schools can.
We have to make do with our smaller budgets and our grassroots efforts to lift the perceptions of our local schools to where they ought to be, so they are in line with the quality of education and experience they provide. I'm keen to share ideas on how to do this with others who have the same concerns.