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Free Schools in East Suffolk ...why

(19 Posts)
justicewomen Fri 18-Oct-13 00:16:33

... did they allow them to open in areas where there are 38% and 28% suplus school places currently, rising to 45% and 31.5% in 2015 (and that is calculated without the Free Schools)?

The Dept of Education have finally released the impact assessments for Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools. See and

The reports admits that the Free Schools will undermine the viability of the closest alternative Academies, leading to instability and possible redundancies. For the next few years, these other schools, are given significantly lower per capita funding than the Free Schools, so cannot offer the pupil inducements that the Free Schools can. It will make planning difficult.

Meanwhile, seventeen miles away in East Ipswich there is a significant shortage of school places. To my mind this is absolutely bonkers!

LittleSiouxieSue Fri 18-Oct-13 00:31:55

But who says any government is sensible when planning school places??? Planning schools has, effectively, been taken away from locally elected authorities in the name of 'choice'. Many authorities are now struggling to provide enough school places and why bother if there is a Gove free school likely to pop up and disrupt everything? It is such a waste of money to have these 'vanity' school projects where they are not needed but unfortunately Gove is going to trample on everyone to get his way and support a tiny minority rather than do the best for the majority.

lljkk Fri 18-Oct-13 11:31:54

yanbu. smile

prh47bridge Fri 18-Oct-13 14:13:36

The clue is in the paragraph that says educational standards in Suffolk are below the national average and have been for some time. The government presumably believes that introducing new schools with a strong academic focus will help to resolve this issue. The question is whether we only allow new schools where there is a shortage of places or whether we also allow them where existing provision is poor.

Free schools have to find most (and in many cases all) of their startup costs themselves. Allowing free schools to open where there is no shortage of places does not necessarily mean that they cannot also open where there is a shortage.

By the way, free schools receive the same per capita funding as academies. This is a little higher than community schools to cover the services they do not receive from the LA and therefore have to fund themselves.

straggle Fri 18-Oct-13 16:13:39

'Free schools have to find most (and in many cases all) of their startup costs themselves'

I've never heard that before. Start-up expenses up to and including the first year paid by the state are here.

IES Breckland = £720,036
Beccles Free School = £2,093,628
Stour Valley = £1,048,167

straggle Fri 18-Oct-13 16:44:03

You're wrong about the quality of surrounding schools here too, prh. There are two schools near free schools in Beccles and Sudbury rated 'Good' but their viability is threatened in a low population density area if free schools open next door and their ability to offer the full curriculum is in doubt. There a Radio 4 programme you can download as a podcast that has an interview with the head of one of these neighbouring schools.

In Suffolk because there was a reorganisation that involved closing middle schools, sponsors including a private school foundation and a for-profit provider too advantage of available sites. But they did not do this out of a sense of altruism in lifting the standards of the sector as a whole.

prh47bridge Fri 18-Oct-13 17:21:59

straggle - I am not making any comment on the quality of surrounding schools, simply noting that the impact report states that educational standards in Suffolk are generally below the national average and have been for some time. Figures on the DfE website confirm that Suffolk is indeed below the national average and has been since at least 2009 with the gap widening every year.

The spreadsheet to which you link is measuring something a little different. I was talking purely about startup funding. I got my information from the government's response to an FoI request which can be found here. You have in any case highlighted some of the higher figures. The spreadsheet to which you link shows 1 open school with zero pre-opening expenditure and 5 with £25,000 or less. Even if we include post-opening expenditure there are still 6 schools with £50,000 or less, all but one of them below £25,000.

prh47bridge Fri 18-Oct-13 17:26:05

Just to quantify the gap between Suffolk and the rest of England, in 2012 50.5% of students in Suffolk achieved 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C or equivalent including English and maths. The figure for England as a whole was 59.4%.

prh47bridge Fri 18-Oct-13 17:27:22

Sorry - "below £25,000" should be "£25,000 or less".

morethanpotatoprints Fri 18-Oct-13 17:43:19

The gap between Suffolk/Norfolk and rest of England has always been so, even 15 years ago when my dc were there.
Many of the children in the small village schools came from farming communities and weren't very ambitious when it came to education. The parents seeking a better education/more robust sent them further a field.
I am not being mean because it takes all sorts and my dc enjoyed there time at there little school.
Their usual chant included:

We can't read and we can't write, it doesn't seem to matter.
We are Norwich City fans, and we can drive a tractor.

straggle Fri 18-Oct-13 17:48:58

prh that FOI data was incomplete and concealed other costs invoiced later. My spreadsheet was published by DfE too

prh47bridge Fri 18-Oct-13 18:53:10

I am aware of that. It is measuring something slightly different. The FoI reply, for example, was only about startup costs and did not include post-opening costs. My point remains that many free schools have to fund a significant proportion of their startup costs themselves.

pointyfangs Fri 18-Oct-13 19:36:51

You don't improve education in a county as a whole by building a free school in the catchment of two already good schools - you site one where schools are poor. So why doesn't Newmarket have a free school?

Sorry, but to my mind it feels as if the Beccles Free School has been set up because there are easy academic pickings to be had where it is so it can look good without much effort. If there had been any other intent, the school would have set up where it was truly needed, in an area where schools genuinely needed competition in order to raise standards.

justicewomen Fri 18-Oct-13 21:39:15

prh47bridge Your comments are interesting but I think the priority should be to ensure school places for all in areas of school place shortages, rather than some kind of competition in areas of over supply (particularly given there was hugh opposition to the Free School in Beccles, even from the Tory MP.)

With regard to per capita funding, I was advised that for the first few years, free schools are funded as if they were full to capacity (which last year neither Beccles nor Saxmundham were). The exisiting Academies are only paid for the students they actually had on roll. Given that there is such oversupply of school places in that part of East Suffolk, that difference gives the Free Schools an unfair financial advantage. A local blog (talking about another Free School in West Suffolk ) explains it

When considering Suffolk's education performance, it is worth remembering it is a huge county with very different performance depending on area. The report does not make that clear. If you wanted to raise performance in areas which required it, then there are better places in Suffolk to place a free school (such as West Ipswich).

OddSins Sat 19-Oct-13 08:03:08

I have no problem with choice and competition - the location may not address school places but I suspect if the local community get behind it and get involved, these schools will thrive. Its a sign of the times when Hackney is mentoring Suffolk (a failing county) on educational progress.

Isn't Saxmundham having another development at the top of Rendham Road anyhow that will boost numbers?

EmeraldJeanie Sat 19-Oct-13 13:13:14

Setting a Free school up in Newmarket is seen by many to be divisive. A Free School application in Newmarket has been turned down as would impact negatively on school nearby.

pointyfangs Sat 19-Oct-13 16:11:36

EmeraldJeanie there was a lot of opposition to the Beccles Free Scholl too, and that was pushed through - which makes me pretty damn suspicious.

I'm opposed to Free Schools in any case - I always was, and the Al Madinah affair has hardened that for me. The only exception I can see is Free Schools catering specifically for SEN, since the state sector is so bad at SEN provision (and that lies at the door of both the current and previous governments).

In every other case I feel that my taxes would be far better spent on improving what we have - and that includes buildings, DD1's school was on the BSF programme but is not on the new programme for better buildings and it is a disgrace - rather than on the vanity projects of a few people. I'm all for new schools where new schools are needed, and I definitely think local parents should be consulted, but the Free Schools programme as it stands is a disaster.

straggle Mon 21-Oct-13 07:46:17

Just checked the census (taken January 2013 so last school year) and there were the following numbers in year 7:

Beccles Free School: 27 (admission number 108)
Saxmundham Free School: 26 (admission number 108)

Both are operated by a private school foundation (120 pupils per year) and received £2 million in revenue up to and including their first year, not including capital costs. That's a complete waste of money but I don't even see how a mixed ability secondary school can be effective with 108 children.

EricaLevans Tue 03-Jun-14 16:17:34

Saxmundham Free School: The year 7 to start in September is already over subscribed (the school has re-organised to be able to take in more pupils than their previous maximum). They've just been OFSTED inspected and rumour has it it was an excellent one. If it's an Outstanding or Good when published, that will attract more parents and children. Does that change opinions at all I wonder?

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