We all know that only 27% of pupils who are receiving free school meals get 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including English & Maths which is less than half those pupils that are not. Labour put in place a policy to expand academies and looked carefully at the levels of achievement and raised standards by allowing the school to broaden its curriculum and as long as it included English and Maths, the restrictions on them following the national curriculum were slackened.
In Pinehurst the Labour government working with the council provided funding and the will to build what can only be described a flagship building, this is now working hard to educate children form 0 years to 19 years. This educational freedom that was extended by the last Labour government will go along way in closing the gaps in educational acheivement by different groups.
However “Gung Ho Gove” is determined to rush in and using his “Prussian Railway Timetable” impose so many changes in such a short space of time anyone might think he was indoctrinated in a Soviet Tractor Factory! Is he is so driven to impress Dave and Gideon that he is as clever as they are, that he is driving a coach and horses right through the middle of common sense with his free schools agenda?
He is going to make it so easy to set up a school that I believe it is an indecent haste, by allowing them to set up in any existing building. This is without planning permission to change its use. Perhaps he was impressed with the film Fugitive and thought to himself I can set a free school up in any gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, hen house, outhouse and doghouse? Yes you may smile but any post office, pub, bank, shop, bingo hall, village hall, community centre, can also qualify. The government speaks much of localism and yet in this case is prepared to avoid any local engagement and marginalise local democracy by closing the door on a communities involvement with planning of any school in their midst.
This is important as the environment or location of any of the above buildings may have impacts on the pupils and local residents. It may be in an unsuitable location due to traffic volume and road danger, for example the school may not be required to carry out a traffic impact assessment. This omission in itself can put pupils and visitors as well as local residents at risk.
If free schools are to be located within our community and aren’t to be resisted from day one by concerned local people. Gove must surely realise that it is important that any free schools are good neighbours and contribute positively to the environment and community in which they are situated? The argument about the merits of free schools is only just beginning, but the desire that Gove has; is to parachute into any location a school that can occupy any building. Is from experience in danger of meeting with resistance from local people and politicians alike who are concerned for the well being of the whole community.