Do schools swap badly-behaved pupils for a day? And can Mr Gove appoint free school heads? These are just two of the many questions raised at a meeting on 18 July about the proposed Michaela School in Lambeth, but they may have been the oddest.
Ms Birbalsingh, proposer of the free school, claimed that schools routinely swap badly-behaved pupils for a day rather than excluding them. None of the teachers present had any knowledge of the practice (but to be fair there were only about 25 people at the meeting according to Lurker
who observed proceedings). Is this practice really widespread?
The second question revealed a lack of understanding of how free schools appoint staff. Ms Birbalsingh responded to a question about free school freedoms. The exchange was recorded as follows:
KB: “I may not be the head of this school. It is proposed that I might be. It all depends on the Department for Education.'
Anna Tapsell: 'Can I ask whether it is the Department For Education that appoint the head?'
KB: 'From what I understand.'”
I thought the proposers of the school recruited, interviewed and appointed the staff, but Ms Birbalsingh seems to think the headship is in the gift of Mr Gove.
Ms Birbalsingh also seemed to be ignorant of the Extended Schools
initiative established by the last government which allowed any school to extend their school day. Ms B maintains that only free schools and academies can do this, yet Extended Schools
claims that 98% of schools offer this service.