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AIBU to think this particular Free School is a bad idea?

(86 Posts)
nlondondad Fri 17-Jan-14 11:17:15

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?

read on......

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 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....

I'll have a look. How did you find out about it?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Fri 17-Jan-14 11:27:26

Generally speaking, most Free Schools are a bad idea, often due to the sort of scenarios you outline above.

StanleyLambchop Fri 17-Jan-14 11:39:16

Its happening all over. Our central library is going to have to give up the bottom 2 floors storing reference books, to make way for an academy. They are at least proposing to pay rent for the building space though. (have totally outed as to where I live now!)

nlondondad Fri 17-Jan-14 12:24:34

@empress, an islington Council Officer, a man rather good at his job, who works in school place planning, came back from an extended Christmas and decided to plough through the whole Whitehall Park School website to see what announced developments there had been. There was no reference to the new consultation on the Home page, or under announcements, or news but there was a button, "Consulation" and which, until recently had referred to the original and first consultation.

So it is "on the website" but not obvious. Moreover people interested in being on their email list for news updates can register for updates. I am registered and up until the closing date for application was getting reminder emails daily, and various other announcements but no reference to the consultation.

They also held a briefing meeting for parents a week ago, and never mentioned it there.

So almost as if they wanted to be able to say to the DFE "we put it on our web site and got a minimal response"....

spritesoright Fri 17-Jan-14 12:42:16

Well it all sounds rather underhanded and sneaky to me. As someone who lives in an oversubscribed area of London I understand all too well the consequences of adhoc free schools being prioritised. It's absolutely ridiculous when certain areas actually need schools but can't build them due to the push towards free schools.
And diverting council funds towards what are clearly private firms is infuriating, even IG they aren't making an initial profit that is obviously the intention.
I will definitely have a look at the site you mention and do what I can (not sure if I can sign the petition as I don't live in Islington).
Thanks for drawing this to our attention.

I do live in Islington and I'm going to comment. Thank you.

MsAspreyDiamonds Fri 17-Jan-14 13:18:41

I would edit the thread and put 'in Islington' so you can attract the attention of more people who live in the area. Also if people pasted the thread onto their facebook page with dates of meetings etc, it would help draw more attention.

nlondondad Fri 17-Jan-14 13:33:34

The full text, its not long, of the consultation is in the OP.

But here are the consultation questions and how you respond.

(Deadline noon next Tuesday so best do it now!)

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

And the comments are to be sent by EMAIL to:-

Floggingmolly Fri 17-Jan-14 13:40:22

Other side of London, but; Hammersmith Council are proposing closing down Sulivan Primary School, demolishing it and selling the land to be used as a free school. According to the local MP, it's currently rated as one of the best performing schools in England...

Retropear Fri 17-Jan-14 14:19:38

Could you ask HQ to edit your title and put URGENT and Islington parents in?

I'm not an Islington parent but this kind of issue makes me see red.Also have you contacted your local schools( and MP). Surely a few irate HTs would help.

nlondondad Fri 17-Jan-14 14:31:10

I have been asked by PM to put in links to the Whitehall Park School website with the consultation, So here goes.

Which should talk you direct to the consult.

the homepage is

nlondondad Fri 17-Jan-14 15:46:09


Thank you for your kind comment. However I would hold that this issue as it involves the misallocation of public money applies to a much wider area than Islington. Its about money being spent to set up a school where it is not needed, while for shortage of cash schools are not being set up where they are needed.

Its true that Islington parents have particular reason to object as their schools budget looses three million, but anyone anywhere in a part of London with a shortage of places has reason also.

NewtRipley Fri 17-Jan-14 15:49:02

Thanks for this. I live in a neighbouring borough.

The whole Free School thing stinks to high heaven.

Farewelltoarms Fri 17-Jan-14 19:50:45

Oh god agree 1000 times. It's such a misappropriation of public funds. It's got the benefit of being so outrageous as to be beyond credibility so will probably get through on that.

You're right, it has implications way beyond Islington. As does the case of Sullivan, which I've also heard about. What have these free school proposers got on Gove? Blackmail seems like the only explanation.

Farewelltoarms Fri 17-Jan-14 19:51:34

Sorry, Sulivan - auto correct added extra l

Meerkatwhiskers Fri 17-Jan-14 19:54:45

Good luck. One in my area has just been closed by ofsted. They are planning on opening a secondary in the area from September (different funding) so will see how that goes.

nlondondad Fri 17-Jan-14 22:28:58

Also @retropear

"Also have you contacted your local schools( and MP). Surely a few irate HTs would help."

Oh yes, the idea behind posting on mumsnet was to broaden it out.

But emails have been circulating amongst Heads and governors in Islington, but its also a numbers game, the more who respond the better.

Seabright Fri 17-Jan-14 23:56:57


BillyBanter Sat 18-Jan-14 00:04:56

I think all free schools are a bad idea.

nlondondad Sat 18-Jan-14 11:20:27


Thanks for the bump!

JustGettingOnWithIt Sat 18-Jan-14 13:04:10

Argue for and against free schools all you like, but trouble is there’s a bigger issue here being hijacked by the anti free school using the site group.

Nlondon dad repeats the very disputed claim that people in that area don’t need a school as theirs has been forcibly removed from them to pay for expanding one that people buy into catchment for further away as cheaper than repairing and upgrading theirs in the current economic climate.

For him and a small group of vociferous parents why shouldn’t an educational site and school they never considered for their children, be sold of to back up their preferred schools and turned into more high density social housing in an area where social housing tenants are fighting against further ghettoization?

Stopping the development of the site as a non educational resource was a result of huge protest against the loss of a space big enough to host a school for the future as a result of current financial woes.

The senior school a block up from it, is so desperately short of teaching space that the children are forced to trek to an old church building on a major roundabout for teaching space, as well as another trek in the opposite direction to use a Haringey schools playing fields as theirs got sold of for housing.

Parents in neighbouring borough schools close to the border already can’t get spaces in their local schools, exacerbated by sharp elbowed Islington parents taking up places, yet still the cry of no school is needed there, and by those who are all right and want the resources for themselves.

Building more multiple occupancy estates whether low cost or luxury in an area already heaving with them and struggling with some of the issues of so many so close, is a quick way to increase the number of children desperately needing even more school places.

It’s all short term politics, that doesn’t look at the local picture and tries to set the affluent middle class Crouch end, against Hornsey and other borough estate tenants when it’s people on the estates and Social Housing across the three affected boroughs Islington, Haringey and Camden, that desperately don’t want another estate there, but even more desperately don’t want to lose that educational site, even though they've lost their current school, just because there’s not enough money to upgrade it now, but new spaces large enough to build or rebuild schools on, don’t happen easily and once it’s gone you don’t get it back.

That is why there was an appeal to government to intervene and prevent the an educational site from being asset stripped from local people, regardles of which side of the three borough divideing line (just up the road) they lived on.

The fact that a fee school is trying to get use of it in the meantime is a bit of a red herring in the real local argument of should a London council be allowed to remove a much needed school sized site and build on it, replacing it with even more people needing school places?

Local people don't particuarly want a free school, they'd rather the state maintained that one, but if they can help a school premises remain on that site, and another estate not be added to the sprawl, they'll take it or a private school using for now.

The fact that there have been questionable tactics both by the 'anti free school' 'we're having the money from that site for us' group, and by the free school currently seeking use of it, doesn't make either group's agenda the real issue.

This is the real argument that's being effectively hiden by articulate people with a different agenda.

Nlondondad is a seasoned campaigner and I know from past tactics there's little point in me trying to engage in debate, but please do be aware there is a much bigger issue here and don't just believe all you're being presented with as the only facts and a done deal about Gove and free schools. Thank you for reading.

JustGettingOnWithIt Sat 18-Jan-14 13:12:56

fee school should be free school btw

nlondondad Sat 18-Jan-14 15:24:16


You certainly present an alternative version of events. And you do so at considerable length. As you also make a considerable number of errors of fact, dealing them all in one post will not work. So I will have to respond in bits which I will do over the next while. But I hope this does not divert from the main two points:-

1. Moving Ashmount School ten minutes down the road has not created a shortage of places in the area of the old site. As a matter of fact it did not do this, this year (admissions to reception Autumn 2013). All the relevant projections of demand from Islington, Haringey and Camden indicate that this will continue to be true in the future, given the school resources in the area. If the school were needed then there could be an argument as to how best to provide it, but it is not needed.

2.The particular proposal is to take land for the school from Islington without compensation. The financial loss, as it is school land, falls on the Islington Schools Capital budget. So every Islington Community School suffers a reduction to its capital budget. That is why governors and headteachers in Islington oppose the proposed Free School.

JustGettingOnWithIt Sat 18-Jan-14 16:16:56

I apologise for the conssiderable length of my post. Like most in opposition to the permanant loss of this school site for all time, I'm not articulate enough to put things neatly and all tied up as undisputable facts and done deals the way you can. (I am also currently ill which doesn't help) But you have chosen to use a site I too use for your campain so I've done my best on behalf of all those with very different views.

Your/those facts are disputed, as you know from the many meetings about it, but I'm not in a position to counter you with carefully crafted argument.

We all understand that Islington just assumed they could go ahead and do what they were doing based on the way objections were swept aside and that has left a financial problem because they may not have been correct and now the solution is to say look at the damage caused if we aren't allowed to continue.

I don't want to get into big arguments with you, we've all been there before, and I don't have the time and energy to sustain it and you do. I am not a spearhead and as others will see if they look back at all your you are.

I'm not here to fight you point for point, indeed daring to oppose you is quite enough, just wish to inform people that there is a very different view of events held by many people directly affected, and I've done my best to put some of them here, because you're presenting yours as uncontested by any but free school supporters, and hope people will research things for themselves before accepting what is presented as 'fact' and jump on any bandwagon, whatever their eventual descision.

As you know this has been a nasty fight and I would have said nothing had you put all sides of the argument, then oppose the use of the site by a free school.

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