It's happening already -- the Free Schools policy is causing admissions chaos

Francis Gilbert's picture
As we have been arguing for a while on this site, you only have to look at the haphazard way Free Schools are being set up to see that the programme is going to cause chaos with the admissions' system -- and much else. Here's an interesting story from Bradford, where the King's Science Academy, a secondary free school due to open this September, is causing real problems with pupil admissions throughout the city. To quote from The Yorkshire Post:

"Councillor Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children and young people’s services, has voiced fears that hundreds of children could be left without a place if they have only applied to the King’s Science Academy and up to 140 children could be withdrawn from other state secondary schools if they have been offered places elsewhere.

He said: “This uncertainty is creating chaos in the system. If local Government conducted our affairs in this way central Government would send in the boot boys. If we are to have free schools can we at least set them responsibly. I do not blame the proposer of the school – he has been put in this position by the Government."

There are many problems at the moment. The school is awaiting the final go-ahead from the DfE, it hasn't tested its prospective pupils in the "fair banding" tests it proposes to admit, and it isn't part of the Co-ordinated Admissions in the local area. One suspects that a great deal of "cherry picking" will go on in this first year. And, of course, fair banding only really works if the LA administers it. It's a dogs' breakfast quite frankly. Slip-shod, over-hasty, ill-conceived.

The King's Science Academy also appears to be causing further problems with primary schools in the area because it's proposing to have a "primary school" wing. This has caused consternation because there's capacity in the existing primary schools. See here for more.
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Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/03/2011 - 08:59

The folowing article quotes the The New Yorker magazine which "took a long, detailed look at the UK coalition's "big society" plans and could not resist a measure of scepticism. "Cameron envisages a garden-fence government in which little platoons of concerned citizens, unhindered by senseless regulations and sclerotic bureaucracies, band together to conceive and execute the governance of their own communities," it said.

The magazine likened it to "Wikipedia government, collectively created by the impassioned, the invested or the bored". "

Welcome to the chaos theory of government.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 08:42
Not sure if the Toby Young blog has been posted elsewhere or whether this is the right place for it but here it is anyway!

I have no idea why Mr Young thinks free school proposers should not be challenged in their approach to setting up free schools. It is certainly right that they are but whether this approach is enough remains to be seen. It is certainly a step in the right direction.
I share the view expressed by Francis about the mess that the free school concept is causing and will cause in the system. This has always been my concern and continues to be.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 12:28

Rosalyn –

Of course free school proposers should have their applications rigorously prepared and scrutinised by the DfE. We are talking about tax payers money here and the education of a whole generation of children under an untried and hastily thrown together initiative which could have a profound effect on the way children are now to be educated and how they ultimately view the society they will grow up and live in.

As Francis says, the process of setting up free schools has been haphazard but many people are beginning to wonder whether this has not been deliberate on the government’s part. Enough applications have got through for them to muddle along and before too many questions from too people are asked, the juggernaut of free schools is already crashing through our towns. The process now might be more difficult as Toby Young claims but a more responsible system of vetting should have been implemented right from the very beginning. Only last week the DfE were back on the defensive about organizations with a creationist and possibly “anti-science” agenda abusing the system to set up free schools. The government made it clear they would not allow this to happen but what other social and political agendas from applicants WILL they pass through? Announcements about toughening up on applications are just the government’s way of deflecting criticism of the whole free policy and its inherently divisive foundation.

So, are we to suspect they will be tough on rejecting applications from proposers whose agenda does not match the “traditional” and academic one proposed by Toby Young? If the WLFS is the role model, then it seems likely that applicants with a genuine mission to provide education for the benefit of all abilities and backgrounds in their area won’t stand a chance.

The chaos surrounding free schools up and down the country cannot obscure the fact that, like most aspects of the ConDems budget announcement yesterday, this is all about dispensing with any consideration of equality and all about straight redistribution - taking from those at the bottom to subsidise those in the middle.

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