, an independent school in Luton, became a flagship free school in September 2011 but Dr Andrew Cook, who led the prep school for 20 years, and his Vice-Principal, Ginny Bradwell, left the free school after just over two terms. Dr Cook said he was unhappy at the influence wielded by Barnfield Federation over the now re-named Barnfield Moorlands School.
Barnfield Federation supported Moorlands School during the application process and in March 2011 Dr Cook told Luton Today
that the free school would only be an associate member of Barnfield Federation. Moorlands Free School, he said, would keep its independence. It is now, however, an integral part of the ever-expanding Barnfield Federation which is led by recently-knighted Peter Birkett who has plans to run a further education college for profit
Barnfield Federation told Luton Today
that Moorlands was always expected to become a fully co-opted Federation member but Dr Cook denies this: “It was never anticipated that the school would be wholly taken over by the Barnfield Federation or indeed by anyone else.” He added, “I’m legally prevented from commenting on the conversion process as a result of the confidentiality clause in the agreement I signed when I left.”
Dr Cook told TES
that he had made an “unplanned” decision to leave the free school in August 2011. This suggests he was already disillusioned with the transition from independent to free school status despite telling Heart
in September 2011 that he believed passionately in the ability of Moorlands to help disadvantaged children. True to his word, 20% of the free school’s intake was eligible for free school meals
However, the parents of children in the predecessor school, some of whom had presented teachers with flowers when they discovered they would no longer have to pay fees, later expressed concern about the more diverse intake. One parent, who will be moving her child to a new independent school set up by Dr Cook, told TES
that there were now “behavioural issues”. She felt that teachers didn’t have as much time for the children now there were so many more in the school. However, Barnfield Federation
that class sizes of 18 had remained as did the “excellent standard of discipline and behaviour.”
This raises the question about what Dr Cook and supporters of the free school process were told by the Department of Education, the New Schools Network and the Barnfield Federation during the application process. It also raises questions about the expectations of the parents in the predecessor school – did they really think that selective admission arrangements
would remain in place so that the school remained exclusive?
The appointment of a new head at Barnfield Moorlands is trumpeted on the website of the New Schools Network
, the organisation which supports free school proposers through the application process. There is, of course, no mention of the resignation of Dr Cook or Ms Bradwell after only two terms.