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Wednesday 11 July 2012

The Tory Choice in Secondary Education: Take it or Leave it.

When a Tory MP, at a public meeting, answers the question 'are we being railroaded into choosing a free school?' by saying

'well, it is government policy to fund free schools'

...then you know the whole 'parental choice' pack of cards has come crumbling down. But that's what happened at a Public Meeting I attended last night.

Organised and hosted by Zac Goldsmith (and attended by one Tory and two Lib Dem councillors as well as the new Education, Children's and Cultural Services Director), the meeting in North Kingston was organised to discuss the urgent need for 240 new school places in Kingston. An agreement in principle has been reached to build a new school under the previous government's BSF programme, but with the demise of this scheme fresh funding is needed.

Centrally this could come from the Basic Needs programme - but we were told this tended to be given to primary schools and for refurbishment, rather than secondary or new build.

So that left the only option (other than cutting £25million from other services or raising Council tax by 5%) - a Free School.

Now I'm not going to rehash all the arguments here about whether Free Schools are in themselves a good or bad thing (there's a comments section - knock yourselves out).

But as one parent put it tonight - "I'm not political, I have no axe to grind abourt Free Schools one way or another, but where's the choice?'. He had the issue in a nutshell.

Indeed, such is the desperation for funds, one Lib Dem councillor said - 'you're right - we're being given no option at all. But I have to get this school built - even if it ends up getting called the Michael Gove Free School'. She was joking - but clearly very angry.

So next time I hear Michael Gove (or Toby Young) say that the establishment of Free Schools is all about parental choice, I will put my foot through the TV.

Its a Free School, hurt the needy, raise taxes (oh, very Conservative) - or nothing.


This >


  1. Do we have any idea who has expressed an interest in running a Free School here? There was a rumour a while ago that Tiffin might be interested but I think this was denied by them. It would, I think, be a popular choice locally.

    It's a while until we can get rid of this government in the next General Election so, sadly, we have to take what we are given at this stage - however angry and frustrated it makes many of us feel.

    The problem with local school places will be highlighted even more in Sept 2014 when Grey Court reduces its intake to 200 places. Its not just the current Year3 bulge classes that a new school is needed for: the current Year 4's will feel it too

  2. They didn't say who the other suspected free school applicant was - although the Tort councillor expressed some very anti Tiffins sentiments tonight which makes you wonder...

    1. What did they say about Tiffin? Part of the school places issue has always been that the council include the intake at Tiffin in the overall capacity when many pupils are not remotely local. There are boys in my son's year coming from as far as Buckinghamshire, Berkshire etc.

    2. The Tory councillor was very clear about this - she said the whole problem was a direct result of the existence of Tiffin, that we all boo whenever its mentioned, and thats why we're in this mess. She was quite definitive about this - unusal (and refreshing) for a politician to be so clear!

      I have to say it is ludicrous that we have a brilliant school like Tiffin on the doorstep that is paid for by local council tax and yet coach loads of kids arrive everyday from Wembley!

  3. If there needs to be more than one free school and they're not going to be large 8-form entry ones then might Latchmere House be considered again despite its access issues.

  4. Andree

    Zac also told the meeting that while it wasn't out of the question, the Ministry of Justice had decided to sell Latchmere House for a housing development, to maximise the return on the value.

    Which i thought was actually the most shocking thing of all