It appears that Beccles Free School is not the only one dogged by controversy
. In August, the Guardian revealed how the DfE pressurised a council
to “release” part of a playing field belonging to the closed Woolston High School for the King’s Leadership Academy, Woolston. The closed school was earmarked for special schools and the field is used by sports clubs. A council document showed it feared the DfE would commandeer the whole site if it didn’t agree to the proposal.
The King’s Leadership Academy, which has 120 spaces in Year 7 but opened with only 38 pupils, has already upset Ofsted
. The school used the Ofsted logo and claimed to be “outstanding”. Warrington Borough Council has complained to Ofsted over the newsletter, alleging it was misleading prospective parents and pupils. The school explained it was a “misunderstanding” because the Academy, like other free schools, had to pass an Ofsted pre-opening assessment.
Other free schools seem to have suffered from a similar “misunderstanding”. The Advertising Standards Authority has warned Beccles Free School
over its claim to be “outstanding” before it even opened. Sandymoor Free School
, Runcorn, says it is “outstanding from day one”. Sandymoor had a proposed Published Admission Number (PAN) of 90
a year but opened with just 20 year 7 and 8 pupils in temporary buildings
which arrived just two weeks ago from Ireland. The school is still hoping to attract pupils
even though it has opened. Its website says, “Still accepting admissions for September 2012. If you are not happy with your allocated place for September, Sandymoor could be the school for you.”
Hawthorne’s Free School, Merseyside, formed from the amalgamation of two schools, is at the centre of a row about teachers’ loss of jobs
. The teachers, who have neither been made redundant or sacked, are in limbo. Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said the teachers were “being denied entitlement to redundancy payments.”
The Tiger School, Kent, shares premises with the New Line Learning Academy, an undersubscribed sponsored academy purpose-built for secondary pupils. Critics claim it threatens existing primary schools
A governor at St Michael’s Catholic Secondary School, Cornwall, a free school formerly an independent, has caused controversy
by saying, "Gays would be welcome to the school, but we would not encourage it."
And Bedford Free School opened its doors to its proposed intake of 200 despite having no planning permission
, Becket Keys C of E Free School, which has a head with no experience of secondary education, was opposed by local head teachers
and has opened in an area where the number of secondary school pupils is declining…
There are a few free schools that have opened in areas where extra school places are needed but the majority have not. And some make existing oversupply of school places worse. Others misleadingly claim they are "outstanding". Some have opened despite a very small intake even though they were supposed to be set up in response to "demand". It's difficult to see what demand is being met when schools attract only a small number of pupils.
The question is: "How many more free schools are as equally controversial as those cited above"?
UPDATE 12/9/2012 14.32
Re decline of secondary school pupils in Brentwood where Becket Keys C of E Free School has just opened: an Essex County Council consultation
(November 2009) said: “The latest data for the total number of children by year of birth, resident in the area served by the schools, shows a continued decline beyond the current Reception year which suggests the number of children needing a secondary school place each year in the Brentwood area will continue to drop, possibly to under 700, up to at least 2020.”
An Essex County Council document, Commissioning School Places 2011-2016
, said “Pupil numbers are forecast to decline over the next 5 years and hence with the closure of Sawyers Hall College the surplus places are forecast to be considerably reduced by 2015/16.”
So the surplus places in Brentwood were “considerably reduced” by the closure of one secondary school. But another secondary school has taken its place so the Council is now back to square one.