North Westminster free school -- (A Guardian journalist signals her concerns)

Susanna Rustin's picture
I've written in today's Guardian about the "free school" shortly to open in my street - Third Avenue in north Westminster.
Local press reports last year suggested a group of parents was involved but the Ark school turns out to have been solicited by the local authority - as I think is envisioned in last week's Education Bill.
The whole process was so rushed that the Ark school hasn't received many applications for this year but thinking about all this some more since I wrote the piece, I think other local schools - one of which is virtually next door - can expect problems related to pupil numbers in 2012.
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Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 01/02/2011 - 13:55

Thanks for this Susanna. It is so worrying that the local people know nothing about schools being set up in their area; it feels like all the deals are being done in dark corridors when no one is looking!!

Melissa Benn's picture
Tue, 01/02/2011 - 17:56

A great piece Susanna, very balanced, and really showed up the problems that Free Schools are going to create in local areas. If new school places are needed, then provision should be planned and consultations carried out with other schools/heads in the area.

It's really galling, all this emphasis on parent choice, especially when it turns out not to be parent choice at all, but what looks like a rather covert collaboration between a local authority and a charitable education provider! It certainly goes against the idea that all free schools are the result of local parents highly dissatisfied at existing provision... this is just the new education establishment stepping in, with government licence, to undercut existing maintained schools.

Underneath it all is the real fear that these schools will further polarise communities and let's be frank provide 'safe havens' for the worried middle class in areas where high social advantage and disadvantage co-exist. If we can't find a way to create schools that embrace the children from all types of families, with each learning from the other, we are storing up endless trouble for society in years to come..........

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