Litigation now hovers over Free Schools.

Allan Beavis's picture
The Observer  article here is self explanatory. Many of us on this site have been derided by the supporters of these schools as being scaremongering, leftist, indoctrinated, against “choice”, undemocratic. We have been warning for a very long time that the Coalition government’s education policy is divisive, a smokescreen for selection, unlikely to guarantee improving standards across the board where maintained schools have not, expensive, harmful to the most disadvantaged, prescriptive, results fixated, paving the way for free market influence. Just like Charter Schools in America. And just like those, we can add the threat of litigation as well.

Bullet points of the article:-

•A third of "free schools" will open in the most affluent areas.

•Less than a fifth of them are opening in the north of England, while half are set to open in the more affluent south and southeast.

•Most have been established by "sharp-elbowed, well-off parents" in affluent areas for middle-class children.

•Free schools in poorer areas will drain other schools of high-attaining children with the most advantaged backgrounds, creating two-tier education.

•Schools are considering legal action to block free schools opening in their area. Clare Bradford, headteacher of Henbury School in Bristol, has written to the DfE to warn that she would seek judicial review should Bristol Free School's funding agreement be approved by the secretary of state since it will attract middle-class parents away from her school, which will then struggle with numbers.

•Bristol Free Schools has not consulted with Henbury, and they have a legal obligation to do so

•David Wolfe, a barrister at Matrix chambers who specialises in education issues believes some free school projects were now being rushed through to circumvent battles in the courts: "It takes time to take legal action and some of these projects appear to have only been given the green light very late on, making it difficult for anyone to put together a legal case. The Bristol Free School received approval for its business case in May. There may be some cynical thinking going on."

•Where is the equality? Michael Foley, headteacher of Great Cornard upper school in Suffolk, says "No consultation, no consideration of what the impact is of the school opening in that area and, when every school is making cuts, to hear that the local free school is being given £4.5m for its buildings and has just 178 students but guaranteed funding for two years.”

•Admission open to all? “The minute you put Latin on the curriculum for the first few years or put pupils in stripey blazers, you will only recruit one kind of child, regardless of how many times you say your school is for everybody."

•Rachel Wolf, of New Schools Network (funded by the DfE) blames “hostile” council for the lack of buildings in deprived areas rather than the government’s lack of foresight in anticipating of schools setting up business with no shop
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Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 13:25

It's also likely that pupils in free schools will get more per-capita funding than pupils in other maintained schools. Ben Taylor, on the "fact check" into free schools thread, wrote that Toby Young had revealed on TV that pupils in the West London Free School would be funded at a cost of between 5K and 6K each. This is up to £2000 more than the average estimated cost of £4082.88 for a child in an English School. (scroll down to Pupils: Per Capita Costs]

Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 13:52

Funding per pupil in London is higher than the English average and probably more like £5-6 K and I assume ( although since we can't get any figures we can 't know) that free schools will be funded at the same rate as their local maintained schools. If they are not to be funded in this way, that would be very unfair but may explain why so many of them claim they will have smaller class sizes. However the confusion could be easily settled if all the information about funding, including the sums given to replace the local authority spend (LACSEG), and the funding agreements were made publicly available.

Andy Smithers's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 13:39

From the Observer Article you missed the following important facts..

"The fact is that a third of the most advanced projects are in the most deprived 20% of communities in the country, and almost two-thirds are in the most deprived 50%."

If local schools are so great why is everyone saying that free schools will "drain other schools of high-attaining children with the most advantaged backgrounds".

I found the article in the Observer to be poor tabloid reporting at best.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 15:46

Andy Burnham asked Michael Gove 23 May 2011 how many of the 26 approved free schools in England came from the 10 most deprived local authority districts.

Michael Gove: ..."All the free school applications that we have received are either in areas of deprivation and educational underachievement or in areas where pupil numbers are rising fast and there is a desperate need to see new school places. Whether it is Bradford or the east end, Slough or Tower Hamlets, in every single one of those areas poorer children are benefiting as a result of our radicalism."

Note how Mr Gove lumps together "areas of deprivation and educational underachievement" with areas where pupil numbers are rising. The latter areas are not necessarily areas of deprivation. And I loved the rhetorical flourishes in the last sentence (pattern of three, hyperbole, alliteration).

Mr Burnham was not impressed with this conflation. He gave the answer as just two. Mr Gove did not contradict him but deflected the discussion to Mr Burnham's apparent U-turn on free school policy. The speaker had to remind Mr Gove (this is becoming a common happening) to stick to answering questions and keep them succinct .

Earlier in the session Mr Gove had said, "I have to say that the coalition Government are unleashing a wave of radicalism the like of which will not have been seen since 1944."

Reminds me of the sorcerer's apprentice.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 19:44

Thanks for reminding us of this exchange Janet.

Sadly typical of Gove not to answer difficult and probing questions head on but to deflect them. And "Unleashing" suggests to me having to cower as something violent, unwanted and destructive comes hurtling towards you. Like the Apolycapse Now that the US unleashed on Vietnam. That was radical as well and what good did that do?

Ben Taylor's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 21:39


How about this new free school:

"It will be a non-denominational, mixed school in Lambeth for 11 to 18 year olds. "

Guess who and where? Is this free school ok?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 13/06/2011 - 06:05

Andy Burnham asked Mr Gove a question about the 26 free schools already approved. Mr Gove dodged the question by talking about "free school applications". This is not the same as free schools that have been approved. The reason Mr Gove avoided the question about how many approved free schools were in deprived areas is because the answer was only two (according to Mr Burnham). Of course, Mr Burnham may be incorrect, but Mr Gove didn't contradict him.

Ben, I see you're following Mr Gove's example and asking rhetorical questions. However, I will do my best to answer. You asked me where this new free school will be. It's in Lambeth - that much is obvious from the question. As for who - I presume you're referring to Katharine Birbalsingh, but this is only a guess, and guessing does not provide good evidence.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 13:47

Almost as poor as your reasoning and your grasp of social cohesion Smithers! You are only comfortable for aspiration for the deserving only though aren't you?

Andy Smithers's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 13:59

No Allan that is not true, but do keep insulting everyone with a different view to your own narrow left wing agenda.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 14:33

Smithers -

If you presume me to have a far-left agenda, shall we presume you have a far-right agenda that the EDL would envy?

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