This posting will be of interest to anyone in London worried that there may not be any primary place for their child because it involves the expenditure of public money to set up a Free School in an area where it is not needed, thereby diverting money which could be used to set up a school where it is needed.
It will be of particual interest to anyone with a child in an Islington School as the proposed Free School will result in a reduction of 3 million pounds in the capital budget for islington schools. Puzzled?
Whitehall Park School is a proposed Free School for the London Borough of Islington. It was announced in June 2013.The proposers are a for-profit company, Bellevue Ltd who run a number of fee paying schools, both in the UK and Switzerland. The main shareholders of Bellevue are a hedge fund based in Zurich. They have stated that their preferred site is the old Ashmount Primary School site. This site is vacant because Ashmount School has moved a short distance to a new building, on a new site. Bellevue have asked that the vacant site and building be obtained for them by the Minister; the Minister has power under the Academies act to appropriate it without paying any compensation to Islington Council.
Islington wanted to use the site for social housing, as the particular area is well supplied with school places with the capacity for more if required in existing schools. They could expect to get a bit over three million pounds from a Housing Association for the site – money required for repairs to Islington Schools.
So if the Free School goes ahead on this basis there will be no three million for Islington schools for repairs, no extra social housing to relieve overcrowding, and the loss of other housing related Government grants some of which would be spent on education.
It now seems that a consultation is being held about this by Bellevue except they have not told anyone about it. The only mention of it is on their website, but not on the home page but several clicks in, under a button labelled "consultation" which before pointed to a brief note about a previous consultation saying it was over...
This is the announcement: I am not clear when it was actually made.
Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET) is entering into an additional period of consultation relating to the site of the proposed Whitehall Park School. The consultation period is open now and will run until 12 noon on Tuesday 21st January 2014.
Following discussions with the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency, BPET is now able to name the preferred site of the school as the site of the former Ashmount Primary School at Ashmount Road, Islington N19 3BH.
The Trust welcomes any comments in respect of the plan to locate the proposed school on this site. To participate in the consultation, please email any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org Specifically, we would like your answer to the following questions:
Do you think the proposed Whitehall Park School should open on the site of the former Ashmount School at Ashmount Road, Islington N19 3BH Please explain your reasons for your answer to question 1 Please give any further comments that you would like to be considered in our consultation All comments must be received by 12 noon on 21st January 2014"
My own views on this are well known, I shall respond by opposing it. By posting it here I am giving you the opportunity to express your own opinion, for or against. An opportunity Bellevue seem to wish to limit....
Are you printing notices out and spreading over area? Local press need copy of above. It is truly shocking how a local authority can be bulldozed into something that will likely be very damaging to local community cohesion and local schools.
I'm against, but am really bad at writing. I imagine you have a million things to do, but if you could come up with a template letter I would amend and send that. Is that cheeky? Otherwise I'll just say no thanks, I would like social housing.
Have you contacted the Tufnell Park Parents Support Group?
Do you think the proposed Whitehall Park School should open on the site of the former Ashmount School at Ashmount Road, Islington N19 3BH
Please explain your reasons for your answer to question 1
There is no evidence of a shortage of places in the immediate area. In Autumn 2013 there was a surplus of places, and the Local Authority expects this to remain the case. The local authority view on this was supported by an Independent Planning Inspector. Including the current surplus of school places in the area, were the Free School to open in 2014 then for all places to fill in that year would require an increase of 30 per cent in demand for reception places.. In a single year with no new housing. This is not credible. As all the existing community schools in the local area are rated at least "good" by OfSted, one is rated outstanding, this means there is no shortage of places in "good" schools either. As the majority of local schools are secular, adding an extra secular school does not increase variety of provision.
Please give any further comments that you would like to be considered in our consultation -
1. If the site is taken from Islington without payment then there will be a financial loss to Islington Community schools. Children who go to the Free School will be in premises secured by in effect, rendering the facilities in Islington Community Schools underfunded. The anger this will cause amongst parents will be enormous, and so will be the hostility faced by this project from the community. This is clearly undesirable.
2. The school building was left because even refurbished at great cost it would produce an inferior environment. So it is surely not right to use as a Free School and could not be value for money. A demolish and rebuild would make more sense but the cost of doing that would be large. If the school does not fill, and all the evidence is it will not, that would be a waste. There would be a public scandal in the context of an existing climate of ill feeling.
3. Building a new school where it is not needed is not a reasonable use of public money when other parts of London have a shortage of places.
By all means add a bit of your own, better that way.
I agree and I know our HT agrees too (broadly; can't speak for HT's views in detail obviously) - this will not only cost the public money and cost the opportunity for housing, it will undermine other schools - well-performing, and not over-full, schools - because they would have fewer pupils (and so reduced funding). Why do we tolerate so much public funds being diverted to private hands? It's crazy.