Research published recently finds that expecting pupils to go to their local school has the net effect that poorer children are much less likely to attend high-achieving schools. This is demonstrably not the case in Islington, despite it being one of 10 most deprived boroughs in London. Pupils in this borough can go to their local school, regardless of postcode and receive an excellent education. Perhaps its not surprising to hear that many locals are resisting proposals for new academies.
The proposal by William Tyndale primary academy for a secondary school has raised particular objections with local parents. There is no need for this school. The existing schools in Islington are already providing the kind of education that the government says it wants to see. Creating a new free school will divert funds away from these schools.
The government document Free Schools: How to Apply
from May 2014, states:
'We want to improve our education system so that all children thrive and prosper, regardless of their background. The free schools programme is helping us realise this vision. The programme introduces greater local choice by establishing new schools and increases competition to drive up standards. The programme is responsive to:
· the need for pupil places;
· the need for an alternative to low quality local provision; and
· local demand for new provision (including innovative and distinctive models).’
But there is currently no need in Islington for more secondary places, nor will there be in 2016 when it is proposed to open the William Tyndale secondary academy. In fact there is a significant surplus. The 2013 'Islington School Roll Projections Report' suggests there is potentially a need for secondary places in 2020.
Islington’s school place planning policy states that the council’s plans are first and foremost to expand popular and successful schools. A second option would be to reinstate places at schools where reductions were made as a result of surplus capacity. A final option would be to consider building additional capacity through the provision of bulge classes. However the council does not consider that there will be a need for a new secondary school in 2020 or before.
Neither is there is a need for an alternative to 'low quality local provision'. Every secondary school in Islington is graded either Good or Outstanding by Ofsted. Parents can choose from community secondaries, church secondaries, academies, co-ed and single sex schools. The choice on offer in Islington is as wide and as good as any borough in the country, and includes innovative and distinctive schools which are models for best practise, as well as schools that are among the top 100 performing state schools in England.
Finally, there is scant evidence of local demand for new provision. In fact there is local opposition to it (as there was to William Tyndale's conversion to academy status in 2011, well publicised at the time in the local press). The proposed William Tyndale secondary academy, to open in 2016, would perhaps do nothing more than divert pupils and therefore funding, away from LBI’s existing schools.
Parents who support Islington’s state schools want to tell everyone how good they are. Comprehensive education under local authority control is working brilliantly in this borough, for all children.