Say No to Free Schools in Notts
The Torch Academies Group headed up by John Tomasavic ‘Executive Headteacher’ from Toot Hill Academy is holding public meetings to try and gain support for two free schools near Trent Bridge in West Bridgford and in the Arnold/Sherwood area on the following dates.
• Trent Bridge Cricket Ground Monday 29 October 5pm to 7pm.
• Rushcliffe Arena 6pm to 8pm Wednesday 31 October
• Trent Bridge Cricket Ground Friday 2 November 5pm to 7pm.
5pm, Bonnington Theatre, Arnold Leisure Centre, Tuesday, October 30th
5pm, The Place, Melrose Street, Sherwood, Friday, November 2nd
5pm, The Foreman Suite (Indian Community Centre), Hucknall Road, Carrington, Wednesday November 7th.
Questions to ask at these public meetings include:
1. Will you be conducting an impact assessment and will the results be available for the public to scrutinise?
“The Secretary of State must take into account what the impact of establishing the additional school would be likely to be on maintained schools, Academies and institutions within the further education sector in the area in which the additional school is (or is proposed to be) situated. (The Academies Act 2010, section 9)
2. How much will the new school cost? What will be the cost to the taxpayer? Is it value for money?
3. Who are the sponsors? What will the sponsors get out of the deal? Is it really about children’s rights or private profit?
4. How can a school which doesn’t exist offer:
• High expectations
• Achievement for all
• Outstanding teaching
• Focused, engaging learning
• Strong discipline
• Wide-ranging extra-curricular opportunities? (claims made on the website)?
5. How will you attract ‘outstanding’ teachers if you offer them detrimental working conditions such as longer working hours (till 4pm – whereas West Bridgford School, for example, currently ends at 2.45pm)?
6. Will you recognise the rights of your staff to organise for union activity?
Free schools take away the democratically accountable ability of the local authority to make proper strategic educational planning and provision. Instead they replace it with the chaos of a market free-for-all.
The Torch Academies group claims to be responding to a need for more pupil places in the catchment areas but as Phil Crompton headteacher of Rushcliffe school told the Nottingham Post:
“The demand for secondary places could easily be met by increasing capacity on existing secondary school sites.”
A new free school is likely to create a problem of surplus places leading to unnecessary competition and schools with many places unfilled.
The Trent Bridge Free school doesn’t exist, yet it has managed to provide photos of non-existent pupils and claims to offer ‘outstanding teaching’, ‘achievement for all,’ ‘focussed, engaging learning’, ‘strong discipline’ and ‘wide-ranging extra-curricular opportunities’ (claims made on the website)!
But, in spite of a non-existent school logically being unable to deliver ‘outstanding teaching’, the proposed school will threaten to draw potential pupils away from already existing good and outstanding schools, threatening their viability and leading to potential job losses. It will also jeopardise current planning proposals for new build in local schools, for example Rob McDonough, head teacher at West Bridgford School has submitted plans for three new classrooms, at a cost of around £150,000. He told the Nottingham Post:
“These free schools could be damaging, in that it may count against our application for building funds, which would then deny many parents the chance to come to our outstanding school and possibly have to go somewhere which hasn’t been tried or tested…The option of expanding our school would also be much cheaper for the taxpayer.”