The executive mayor, Mayor Lutfur Rahman, of the borough I live in, Tower Hamlets, has many issues on his plate, not least the £72m cut to the council's budget, but he took time to answer my query about his views on free schools this week. It's heartening to see that he prefaced his views with a staunch defence of the record of local schools in Tower Hamlets, which have flourished under LA control during the last decade or so. He clearly takes a dim view of the free schools programme but since Canary Wharf College
-- a small Christian school -- is due to open in September and the Wapping High School's
proposal is in the pipeline, he needs to tread carefully.
He said: "Education is one of my priorities for the borough, so I'm pleased to say that in recent years, our pupils have achieved outstanding results. Last year our GCSE results were their best yet and we are improving at a rate faster than the national average. This success is down to the excellent partnership work between our schools and key teams within the council.
In my view, our existing schools are best placed to give local children the education they need, and the council has an extremely important role to play in supporting them to provide the best education services possible.
Having said that, as we currently do with the independent schools in Tower Hamlets, we will work to support any new free schools where possible."