I've been very involved in our local school debate over the last 3 years. Its been a time of massive transition, all very controversial, and its still ongoing.
I'm a supporter of the Accord Coalition
I prefer to see the faith school debate focused calmly and intensively on issues of access and fairness, because when it strays into the territory of Secularism v Religion it quickly becomes hyperbolic, and the politicians and other influencers are scared off.
The Free School policy has certainly been divisive. However, I think it will have some great successes as well as some monumental failures. I prefer to judge each Free School proposal on its own merits, and in its own local context.
Many people on this Network assume 'Local Authority Knows Best'. However, in our area the (Conservative) Council has made a very unpopular, controversial and expensive decision. The Free School policy has allowed local people to focus their frustration and energy into creating something positive to mitigate against that decision, and in that sense it has been 'a good thing'.