I was pleased to see that I am not the only person perplexed by the promise made by nearly all free school proposers that the teaching in their school will be outstanding. This claim appeared most recently in the website of the school
being set up by my former colleague Peter Hyman. Now Laura McInerney, author of the excellent pamphlet
'The Six Predictable Failures of Free Schools and How to Avoid them' has applied a more forensic approach to this claim in a post here
Most heads and governing bodies spend a great deal of their time focussed on how to become a good or outstanding school, the key feature of the latter being a very high proportion of outstanding teaching. Unfortunately excellent intentions don't always translate into reality. As Laura McInerney points out finding good or outstanding teachers in shortage subjects isn't always easy and keeping them can be a problem. She asks of the free school proposers : "The puzzle is this: how
will you guarantee outstanding teaching? Are your local schools so packed with surplus super-human teachers that they will flock to your gates? Even if they do, will they honestly be instantly brilliant even though they have never worked with the management team or the students before?"
Free school proposers also like to make grand claims about their small class sizes. I find this incredible too. Delivering small class sizes requires extra teachers. Even if they are not qualified , they will still need to be paid ( unless free schools are proposing to use volunteers?) so where is the money coming from? Moreover the small size of some free schools may militate against excellence. Higher teacher turnover in US charter schools is partly due to the limits that small schools put on professional development.
All schools, whether free or otherwise, have the potential for great teaching if they are well led, recruit good staff , then nurture and develop them. However it is nonsense to claim that this can be guaranteed before a school has even opened,
Visionary statements about outstanding teachers and small class sizes may be very seductive to anxious parents but I wonder how many of these will be translated into reality, and how many parents are being sold a false prospectus?