Free School to Exclude Poorer Children Nearby

Local Schools Network's picture
This article is reproduced with permission from the No to Kings School, Hove web site. It describes how the decision of the school to base its catchment area on its original site (2.5 miles from the current one) excludes the local poorer community:


At last night’s King’s School prospective parent evening at Aldrington School, the King’s team admitted that the chances of getting their preferred site of King Alfred were “very low”. Despite this, the school will still use King Alfred as the location for their catchment area. Up to fifty percent of places at King’s School will be open to children from families of no faith or other faith. These will be offered in order of distance from the school. The school’s prospectus states:

“…if the school becomes oversubscribed, which is likely, half of the available places will be offered in order of distance from the school (in the first year, we will use our preferred site, the King Alfred, as our reference point for this) and the remaining half will be offered using a church reference.”

We think it is very cynical to use the more affluent King Alfred catchment, rather than their likely actual location. Brighton and Hove Council have offered the school Portslade Sixth Form Site – about two and a half miles from King Alfred. The families that live close to King Alfred are unquestionably more affluent than those who live in Portslade.

So how does this exclude poorer children? We know there are no shortage of parents prepared to feign a faith to get their children into what they perceive to be a better school. Typically these parents are from the so-called sharp-elbowed middle class. King’s School will also prioritise those from more affluent homes for their non-faith intake. Combine these two ways of prioritising the majority of their pupils and King’s School will effectively have a gated community of non-diverse, middle class children to teach. It’s a scandalous abuse of public funds – and completely at odds with the stated intent of Free Schools to help improve education in deprived areas.

We’ve noticed a question on the King’s School Facebook page from a Portslade-based parent querying the use of King Alfred as the point to measure distance. It’s five days old and still remains unanswered. Not surprising King’s School might not want to draw attention to this particular sleight of hand.

We should point out that King’s School may yet be located at King Alfred, and there is the possibility of their finding their own premises much closer to King Alfred than the Portslade Sixth Form Site, however for now it feels very cynical and self-serving.
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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 07:45

The King’s School, Hove, is being partnered by the Russell Education Trust (RET) which is sponsored by Education London (EL), a private limited company.

RET partnered the Bristol Free School which, according to Wikipedia (admittedly not the most reliable of sources) countered claims that it was exclusively for the middle-classes by allocating 20% of its places to pupils in less advantaged parts of Bristol. Although it had spaces for 150 Year 7 pupils, its first intake in 2011 was only 80. RET also partnered the Becket Keys C of E Free School, which has a head with no experience of secondary education, was opposed by local head teachers and opened in September 2012 in an area where the number of secondary school pupils is declining.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 13/10/2012 - 23:25

Depressingly typical of the marketing execs in the Alpha parent BFS founders to use wikipedia to distort their manipulation of the admissions area as some "philanthropic inclusive" gesture.

Just to clarify :the Bristol Free school was located adjacent to a "less advantaged area". against the wishes of the founding middle class parents who had originally anticipated a site within their more affluent area to the south-west ( this site fell through much to their dismay) .
The admissions area comprises mainly the further away affluent area and they allow only 20% of pupils to come from the area immediately surrounding the school.

It would seem this 20% is still too high for the affluent parents who have failed to take up the places they must have previously registered an interest in.

The admissions map showing how the area is distorted to suit the founders can be found here

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 08:16

The King Alfred’s {site} is in Central South Hove, which is the least served area in the city in terms of secondary schools. Hove is also one of the areas which will face a shortage of school places in the near future.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 08:25


We met early on with the schools planning officers at Brighton and Hove Council who told us that BN3 had the highest educational need in the city. In the imminent future, there will be not enough secondary school places for children in BN3. City wide, we have a shortage of places as of 2014.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 09:03

Why is a free school better than the other options Ricky?

Or are other options not allowed to be explored because a free school will be better than them because it is a free school. And free schools are better because they're free schools....

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 09:13

The proposed site of the free school is not in BN3 but BN4.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 11:09

The postcode of the proposed (and preferred) site is BN3 2WW.

The BN4 site is one the council is offering.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 11:22

What other options?

The free school is approved, ready to go and can open in September 2013.

It would take ages for the LA to find an academy chain willing,then formally commission a school and then build it. And why bother, if there's a free school on hand?

You ask if the free school is, anyway, a better option.


An LA commissioned academy would be the expression of what the council and the academy chain between them want.

The free school is an expression of what parents want.

Far healthier, in my view.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 11:51

So are you saying some parents here are expressing a wish for a school that excludes poorer children? Doesn't this prove that the Free School programme was always designed to pander to the advantaged and further exclude the disadvantaged? Data on Free Schools already analysed bear this out. It seems the government was concealing the truth, as they concealed so much about their real intentions when it comes to the economy, the NHS, welfare and even their relationship with Murdoch and his companies.

Sarah's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 11:57

A free school is the expression of what a small group of parents believe they WANT.

An LA commissioned academy would be the expression of what the democratically elected council (as the statutory commissioner of provision) has determined through careful analysis and consultation with all stakeholders in the the local community is NEEDED.

Far more democratic, strategic, and better value for money in my view.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:54

There are already three secondary schools in BN3 according to the Council although one selects by faith:

There is one secondary school in BN4.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:16

There is no evidence that the school is going to "exclude poorer children".

When the parents signed-up to support the school, no particular site or catchment was established, so the idea that these were parents intending to exclude the poor is another one of your nutty fruitcake conspiracy theories.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:32

The evidence is there, so no conspiracy theory. The school is now planned to be set up in a more affluent area and is thus excluding the children from the poorer area. When the free school policy was announced, one of the main arguments was that they would serve the underpriveleged. This is another example, to add to the many, that Free Schools are in fact serving the already advantaged and sharp elbowed. The parents behind Free Schools tend to be a minority of the most articulate, able and resourceful and push for the type of school they want. Hardly democratic and inclusive of the whole community, which is better represented via open and transparent consultation led by local government.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:45

No, Allan, you have once again misunderstood the facts and the issue.

Let's run through it again to make it clear:

1. When the school applied to DfE for approval, its preferred site was the King Alfred site. This is in the area identified by the council as having greatest need. The chances are, therefore, that many or most of the parents who signed up for the school live in that area. It was their enthusiasm for the school that got it through the application process.

2. Since then, the local council has offered another site some distance away. The school still prefers its original site, but may have to make do with the one the council is offering.

What is the school to do about all those parents who signed up for it originally? Is it going to throw away all their pledges and start signing up new parents closer to the new site? Or, will it honour its commitment to the first lot by leaving the distance criteria as they were when these parents gave their support to the school?

It's a no-brainer really.

In fact, these distance criteria will only come into effect if the school is oversubscribed. That seems unlikely in its first year.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 12:49

A free school is the expression of what a small group of parents believe they WANT.

If that "small group" is big enough to fill a cohort (two successive cohorts under the present rules), then they should get what they want.

You say "believe they want" as if these poor deluded folk were suffering from some sort of false-consciousness. Typical Marxist claptrap.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:02

I've understood perfectly Ricky.

The chaos that this Free School proposal has created shows precisely why tax payer funded schools should not be left in the hands of a minority of parents ill equipped and lacking in real power to coherently and succesfully found a new school that can serve the local community it is supposed to serve. This where Free Market "enterprise" goes wrong when it gets into the hands of a few parents. Even when their motives just might be for the collective good, as opposed to advantaging the cluster of more affluent parents in a poorer neighbourhood, the fact that sites are dictated not by actual location where need is greatest but by what is available miles way from the original location shows just how nonsensical the Free School project is. THey all somehow end up favouring the more affluent. And this brings into question Gove's motives for this in the first place. Despite Gove's pledge at the beginning, Free Schools don't really serve the poor.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:04

There are many "small groups" big enough to fill a cohort in a brand new maintained school. How come they don't get what they want? I fail to see how Sarah's comment is Marxist. Are you a fascist then?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 08:52

According to the New Schools Network, Brighton and Hove has an expected shortfall of secondary places in 2014/15 of 191. Providing a new 875 place secondary school would, therefore, result in an oversupply.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 09:17


All 875 don't arrive at once. A new school will typically admit 120 to 150 in Y7 each year.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 09:24

So what's the shortfall of places in year 7? Anybody got a link to the data?
You're welcome to answer my other question too Ricky....

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 09:33

According to the New Schools Network, their data (culled from the DfE) "shows the 20 local authorities which are projected to have the greatest deficit of mainstream secondary school places by 2014/15." Brighton is 20th on the list behind Rutland.

The NSN doesn't make it clear that these are Y7 places or places in the entire 11-16 phase of secondary school. Perhaps you could answer Rebecca's question and find this out.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 11:05

Janet, I'm assuming they are Y7 places, but will look into it further if I have time.

My assumption is based on the remarkable level of political agreement reported locally.

The provision of a new secondary school for Brighton & Hove was a pledge in Caroline Lucas's Green Party election campaign.

Greens have spent more than four years campaigning for new secondary education provision In the city. Caroline as the local MP is determined that long term barriers to central Brighton's access to school places is resolved. Green councillors have......called for a new secondary school in the city...

I doubt if the Greens would want the carbon footprint of a school that wasn't needed.

Labour councillor Gill Mitchell has said:

“What are needed are two new secondary schools for the city.”
(The Argus, 12/3/12)

and Conservative councillor Andrew Wealls agreed:

“It is well known that the city needs two more secondary schools by the second half of this decade.” (Argus 14/7/12)

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:00

I don't understand the objection to a school that is created to serve an intended area, but which cannot be situated in that area and is then built at a distance which is commutable, and then maintains an admissions policy to take children from the intended area.

The faith issue is another matter.

If a lot of poor children from Portslade want to go this new school and it is oversubscribed why not just allow the free school to expand?

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:07

What if it can't expand? It's difficult enough for Free School proposers to get an original site and some buildings to begin with, never mind one that allows for "expansion". If all existing schools had the capacity to "expand", there might be less urgency about schools places, Ben. You really do live in a bizarre Utopian Free Market Neverland.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:53

Or they could just open another new free school with the same or similar concept of operation, which could be organised by the King's School or someone else

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:18

Is this a summary of the situation?

Brighton needed a new school.
They are are using the free schools route because that's the way to get it done. Had the LA route been the way to get it done they would have used that.

It's going to be a middle class school because it's the middle class parents who got organised to get it going. Which is annoying because Gove said that wouldn't be the case.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:30

It’s going to be a middle class school because it’s the middle class parents who got organised to get it going.

Are they all middle-class? How do you know?

I suppose that now the middle class is the largest class and even John Prescott sees himself as middle class, the chances are that most parents in most schools are middle class.

As for the three women who were the prime movers of this school: one used to be a teacher; another set up a benefits advice centre; and the third works for a disability charity. If they are middle class, they don't seem to be particularly sharp-elbowed.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:31

I didn't say they were all middle class. I'm referring in brief to it being linked to an affluent catchment area and it being a faith school.

I also didn't use the phrase sharp-elbowed.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 13:43

Perhaps not. But efforts in setting up a new school in areas of greatest need is best initiated by local government with adequate funding from central government. That is most democratic thing to do but democracy is being eroded by this government.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 14:16

I’m referring in brief to it being linked to an affluent catchment area

What do you mean by 'affluent'?

It's in the poorest third of the indices of deprivation.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 14:10

Re the need for extra secondary places in Brighton and Hove:

1 The New Schools Network (using DfE figures) says there will be a shortfall of 191 places in 2014/15

2 Local MP, Caroline Lucas, wrote that Greens had "Called for a new secondary school in the city or a satellite annex to an existing school." (link provided by Ricky who missed out the bit about "satellite annex" in his selective quote above).

3 Two quotes by Ricky (unlinked) show Labour and Conservative councillors lobbying for two new secondary schools.

So we can choose between calls for 191 places or one new secondary school or two new secondary schools.

If there is a need for a new secondary school (and that's not clear from the evidence above - the MP thinks a satellite to an existing school would suffice), then it's not best provided by a school which would select half of its pupils using a faith criteria and in a part of the city which, if the proposers have their way, would be in an area (BN3) where there are already three secondary schools.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 14:24


if the proposers have their way, would be in an area (BN3) where there are already three secondary schools.

Haven't we already established that the council identified BN3 as the area with the greatest need?

If there is a need for a new secondary school..... then it’s not best provided by a school which would select half of its pupils using a faith criteria

Why not? If there are 9 CofE primaries but no CofE secondary, what's wrong with having a CofE free school?

The Greens, the Labour Party and the Tories, plus local parents all seem to want a new school.

The council is co-operating and even offering land.......

It's only you lot (LSN usual suspects) who appear to want to deny the community their new school.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 14:50

At the moment, the "community" is defined by the small group steering a Free School. The community is surely better and more transparently represented by the local authority undertaking a consultation? Since Gove has issued what you would no doubt call a diktat by only allowing new schools to be Academies or Free Schools, he has effectively and undemocratically bypassed the mechanismn of local government and denied the voices and wishes of a significant numnber of tax payers who actually want an LA maintained school above schools which are under the thumb of central government. This situation in Hove once again shines a very unflattering light on the chaos caused by the Free School movement and those involved in it, especially those who see a free market, free "choice" opportunity in the state school sector. It doesn't work for the collective good. And that's not a Marxist statement, any more than your pronouncements might be construed as vox box-ing for the Oligarchs. The "usual suspects" here are advocating for equal access to great education for everyone; we are not advocating - and have never advocated - dumbing down, or Racing to the Bottom, we are not the Enemies of Promise but wish to have every young child and young person being promised a good start in life. Gove says he wants to improve attainment, so why does he implement policies which exclude more children from attaining?

You appear very rattled lately, Ricky, in much the same way as Cameron has been going red-faced, on the defensive and out of control lately.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:50

Perhaps it would be better to rely on what Brighton Council actually says rather than what the proposed free school's website says it said.

Brighton Council’s consultation on school provision said: “there is sufficient capacity in secondary schools until September 2014 when there will start to be a shortage of 17 places (2FE) in Year 7. Proposals for Dorothy Stringer and Cardinal Newman to expand by one form of entry each would resolve this deficit.”

To accommodate extra numbers after 2014 the Council is considering the following options:

1 developing the two Hove Park school sites as separate schools federated under one head/governing body;
2 refurbishing Blatchington Mill;
3 developing a new site;
4 establishing a “virtual” secondary school.

In addition, a University Technology College (UTC) had been suggested but the Council was concerned that this would recruit from a wide area and not benefit many Brighton pupils.

The council spoke of the uncertainty caused by not knowing if proposed free schools would actually open or not.

If numbers were to continue to increase then the Council says it would need to expand existing secondary schools and/or build new secondary schools. These new schools could be in a refurbished vacant Council building or converted office block, a new-build secondary school (site unknown) or a free school.

Another local action group recommends that the extra provision would be better provided by the Council’s plans than by the establishment of the King’s School, Hove. This group is concerned that the proposed free school would not be for the locals but is "intended primarily for the existing nine CofE primary schools across the city":

Council consultation downloadable from:

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:52

This isn't so much "what the council says" as what the council said before the free school had even applied to the DfE, let alone been approved.

All rather out of date.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:08

But the local authority has had years to open a new school, but hasn't done so. (There are always many claims on an LA's time and money).

That's why the community group behind the free school acted.

This is democracy from the bottom up.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:37

If the present government funded schools properly, rather than slash 60% off its capital budget, and had a coherent and long-term vision to improve schools in all local authorities, then this and other LAs would have sufficient resources to open new schools in areas that most needed them. Under Chairman Gove, LAs have seen their budgets amputated, been demonized and now their services to education neutered. He has falsely tarred all LAs with the brush of incompetence and breaking our education system in order that he could seize absolute control of schools under the guise of empowering communities, parents and teachers when the reality is that, once these schools are established, parents are excluded from influencing the governance of these new schools because the middle tier of local stewardship has been taken away.

This is not a "community group" because it has not been elected by the local community via democratic nor transparent means. And its hands, it has caused a rift in the community as well as uncertainty and chaos. Just like the coalition's economic, health and welfare policies in fact. Would Andrew Mitchell see Free School proposers as being democracy in action but the rest of us who support equality as "plebs" who ought to "know our place"?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:53

Ricky - see my post above which summarises what the Council is considering. You'll note that it is not until 2014 that extra secondary places are needed so there was no need for the LA to "open a new school". The Council also makes it clear that the initial shortfall in 2014 can be accommodated by two schools expanding by one form entry each.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:54


B&H's primary intakes are increasing by 2 FE per year. It makes perfect sense to open one new school next year and to start plans for another one.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 17:02

Ricky - read the consultation document by Brighton Council. It gives projected pupil numbers and sets out how it plans to deal with them. In the first instance it calculated that the 2014 shortfall could be met by expanding two schools by one form entry as I said above. The Council then laid out its strategies for meeting future shortfalls.

"It makes perfect sense" to follow the Council's ideas. It does not make "perfect sense" to open a new school in 2014 when there is only need for two extra forms. This allows time for a more considered approach for any extra provision which doesn't rely on an interest group pushing forward their idea of what is needed.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 12/10/2012 - 13:54


The free school will indeed be "free" - in the sense that it will not cost the council a penny.

They should like that.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:29

I really hate all this political posturing on both sides.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:38

You might hate it Rebecca but when politics define policies, its inevitable. Surely politics are more relevant to these debates than Coronation Street?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:47

You can always talk about reality.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 15:54

Thanks Janet :-)

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:04

We have been talking about the reality of the coalition government's effects on schools, Rebecca. It is unavoidably political.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:09

We are talking about Brighton in particular. The conversation could be focused on reality. Political point scoring is clearly going to get you nowhere and will just alienate new readers to the site who might otherwise contribute.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 16:54

You're sitting in a glass house throwing stones, Rebecca. I'm not going to get drawn into one of your protracted asides which go nowhere and make for uncomfortable reading as well as go completely off post. I'm very sorry indeed to be so blunt as I think we are broadly in support of the same things but I think you are both naive and misguided to divorce your interpretation of reality from policies and politics. Let's leave it at that.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 17:16

I like to explore real situations to better understand the perspectives different people have and build relationships.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 11/10/2012 - 17:36

Go and interview parents and children from WLFS then and stick it on youtube


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