Free schools are supposed to be an expression of people power, but how will they work when local people are against the plans?
Questioning Michael Gove on his Education Bill a week ago I found out that Hammersmith & Fulham was to be blessed with not two but three free schools. Only one of these schools, ARK Conway Primary, is anywhere near getting its application to the Government for funds in order.
The West London Free School, is proving controversial not least because it is ousting 22 charities and a school for severely disabled children in its rush to open.
However, less well known, is the latest edition to H&F’s free school experiment – the Rivendale Free School, which intends to take over the small health centre on Milson Road.
It was only when local parents and residents in the area contacted me last week, and came to my surgery that I found out the plan to close the health centre and open the new school by this Autumn.
There are many problems that have been identified with putting a school in this location. Perhaps the biggest problem is that there is so little space for a school here, that they’re putting the children’s playground on the roof!
The proposals are being so hastily rushed through that pupils are being enrolled before the school has the either the money or the permission to go ahead, and when they haven’t even finished consulting on whether they should have the school at all.
One local parent expressed their outrage about this, “The information put out by them is so overconfident that it begs the question of a foregone conclusion resulting from the’consultation’. And it is interesting to note that of the people I have spoken to, nobody on Masbro, Milson, Bolingbroke, Addison Gardens or even Minford Gardens (the office of the Rivendale) knew the consultation was in process.”
Local parents and residents left the free school’s owners in no doubt about what they think of the proposals at a meeting on Tuesday night at the Masbro Centre. The hall was full of people protesting that they don’t want the school in the area, not least because of the three very good schools already in place have adequate places for demand for the foreseeable future. See the link to their website here.
In its prospectus the free school says that it will compete with local primary schools with the effect of taking away money and other resources from them. Understandably the parents at Addison and Lena Gardens are up in arms about this.
Elsewhere, the ARK Conway Free School in Wormholt is under attack from local residents for the disruptive effect it will have in its equally inappropriate site.
Free schools are supposed to be about ‘Parent Power’ in action. So if the parents don’t want them how else will you sell them Mr Gove?